20181018_seoulbeats_musicandlyricstwice3It is very easy to dismiss Twice‘s song lyrics. At first glance, they appear to be very basic, unoriginal, ditzy and silly love songs devoid of any real meaning. However looking at them in that way means that you are missing out some interesting stuff. The lyrics of Twice are often very illuminating on the topics of modern romance and how gender norms and the impact that media and culture have on it. Their songs carefully place us a position where we can see the difficulties of navigating the world of romance from a point of view of a young woman, with both expectations about it and many expectations placed on her. In general, there is a constant habit to easily disregard the lyrics of songs by cute concept girl groups and this is a small, feeble attempt to change that.

But I hope you understand,

I’m a girl after all.

My favourite example is their mega-hit single of 2016, “Cheer Up” and one of the reasons for this is how it cleverly sets out the traditional expectations for young women in romance. It may not be intentionally put in there but it is there. The girl throughout the song is attempting to play by the rules of the game, “a girl can’t give her heart too easily, that’s how you’ll get to like me even more.”; she acts shyly, hides her feelings, makes sure to take her time to message him but then reassures him of her hidden affection. It is a tricky, little game of push and pull, one that is rooted in traditional ideas of femininity. The girl has to be modest, reserved, innocent and gentle, an object of desire placed on a pedestal by the boy in the song.

20181018_seoulbeats_musicandlyricstwice4According to the song, the process is both a source of frustration and power. In “Cheer up”, the girl comes across as repressed and struggling with her emotions. “It’s still a little too early, too early for my heart to feel the same.” and “I’ll act calm, as if it’s nothing. So you won’t know that I like you.” are the most obvious evidence for this.  Repression is merely regarded as part of the game even with the frustration that comes with it which shows the impact of societal expectations on women. But it is also displayed as a source of power for the girl as she in a sense is in control. She can set the pace and her own expectations on the boy as the chorus suggests, “Be a man, a real man. Gotta see u love me, like a real man.”

When you see this, make a smile, and press hard,
On that cute red Heart Heart down there.
This may be a surprising thing to say but one of the greatest strengths of Twice’s 2017 song “Likey” are the lyrics. For me, the song worked well as a very modern, unique love song. This is because “Likey” explores how social media impacts romance for young women. Primarily the song suggests that social media has meant that women feel the need to be picture-ready at all times. The girl in this song is shown to be making a lot of an effort to be pretty but also clearly struggling with this-“It takes so much effort to get the perfect look.” Yet she still regards it as necessary (“But it’s something I can never give up”). For her, it is all about the like that she can get on social media.
There is a clear feeling of glee when you get to the rap segment and you hear Dahyun and Chae-young rap about getting a like-“Oh wait wait I finally got an answer. Woo! My mind is swaying all day long. One moment I’m crying, then I’m dancing with excitement again.” Our need for likes on social media may be a new thing but really it is of course also a continuation of our need to be loved. For this girl and every other girl in the world, being loved is tied to being seen as beautiful by the wider society.
  in a movie, in a book or in a drama,
  I feel love,
  I learn about love.”

20181018_seoulbeats_musicandlyricstwice6Twice’s 2018 song “What is love?” goes back to look at one of the sources of these romantic expectations, culture and how it displays romantic love. In this song, Twice sing about how “they” have learned about love from books, TV, and movies and as a result, they are desperate to fall in love and know true love for themselves.

It is a well-known fact that many popular romances in culture many of which they refer to in their music video (Ghost, La Boum, Romeo + Juliet etc.) set unrealistic, often problematic romantic expectations. Some of these romantic expectations are very clearly exhibited in this song. In the girl’s mind, romance comes across a some-sort of happy pill that will brighten up your world and gives you a permanent emotional high-“How it keeps you smiling all day? How the whole world turns beautiful?” Also the eagerness of the girl in the song to find out what love is, “I’m so dying to see you. I can’t take it much longer.”-does show how for women, romantic love is supposed to be the priority, the main goal for our lives.


“Think I’m all grown up now,

I’m free to make my own choices, but why?

Why can’t I have it my way?

“TT” is set at the different stage to “What is love” beyond its wishes and dreams for romance. Instead, it functions as a harsher and arguably more realistic portrayal of romance and a parallel tale to “Cheer Up” which is all about dealing with reality when it fails to match up with expectations. While in “Cheer Up”, the girl is more or less in control of the situation and the push and pull game is working well for her, for the girl in “TT”, the situation is much more frustrating. It is an almost complete reversal here, as the girl is shown to have the overwhelming feelings while the boy remains oblivious to this-“You don’t know how I feel, so mean, so mean.” The game that the girl has is clearly not working at all perhaps leading to her realising that the traditional, so-called correct methods often do not work.

The girl is also dealing with the boy’s expectations as he says in the song that the girl is “ridiculous” and “does not live up to her looks.” It is a clear clash of beliefs here, the girl stubbornly believes that her way is the way but it is struggling but the boy has clearly got other views on how a woman should behave.

The world of romance that Twice navigate in their songs is one where many different expectations clash and either fall apart or are maintained in the face of the realities of romance. Romantic expectations may work well in your imagination but in the real world, it is very different.

(LyricsTranslate, Photos via JYP.)