Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

Twice – Cheer Up

The latest big Korean hit has some mixed messages…


Leonel Manzanares de la Rosa: You heard it right: That’s a 16-bar pre-chorus with a reggaeton beat and a key change. Yes, “Cheer Up” tries so many different things, it loses focus at times, and the chorus is comparatively underwhelming — and by that i also mean the vocals are kind of iffy — but few songs this year have such brilliant moments. Twice is still a very young group with a long way to go; they’re still trying to find their very own sound, but we can finally see the extent of their potential. And chart success doesn’t hurt. 

Jessica Doyle: (10) No. (9) Ow. (8) Songs should not improve when the halfhearted rapping starts. (7) But there was nowhere to go but up from that chorus, which must be JYP’s fault, as I refuse to believe Jihyo and Nayeon would have chosen to go that shrill and off-putting on their own. (6) Unless they were trying to match the thin and unpleasant backbeat (5) and the shallow and juvenile politics. (4) “But it’s a new girl group with a cute concept — does thoughtfulness actually make a difference?” Yes. (3) I hope Sana is getting Suzy-esque money for managing to pull a meme out of this morass. (2) At least the costumes are cute.

Alfred Soto: I cherish the rhythm change before the chorus — somewhere Pitbull is crowing about his rhythms having a global reach beyond the 305.

Anjy Ou: I like that the pace picks up from the verses through to the chorus – brushing past rock and reggaeton beat signatures (and an unexpected pre-chorus key change) and eventually landing on peppy drum ‘n’ bass. I almost wish there wasn’t a breakdown because it breaks the symmetry of the song, ostensibly to emphasize the cheerleader concept and mirror “Like Ooh Ahh” (though I thought the breakdown there was better). The vocal performances are good, as usual – Twice, like Red Velvet, are a little bolder than their peers when it comes to vocal arrangements. But the aegyo (“cuteness”) is excessive and the lyrics confuse me. If you want someone, why keep them at arms’ length? It reads less as a reluctance to commit or get close and rather as “playing hard to get,” which I have never understood. Just be straightforward! It saves time!

Cassy Gress: As a feminist, but also as a bit of a cynic, I am torn about the sentiment of this song. Listening to the song by itself, and how so many lines end with a vocal hair-flip (except for the eyelash-fluttering on “baaaby”), I would probably parse this as a “lol we girls are such bitches, right? teehee” sort of song, one that would feed into MRAs’ masochistic friendzone complexes. But mix the video in, and watch them literally wave their pom-poms around with big sparkling grins on their faces while they chant “cheer up, baby!” and run through an assortment of cutesy dance moves. It pushes the whole thing over into parody or snark for me, which is better, I think, except for the part where it might not be parody, and my waffling over it is not promising. Contextual ambiguity aside, the I-iv progression adds a nice sense of the ominous, whether she’s really manipulating her new boyfriend or just making fun of other girls who do.

Iain Mew: The video isn’t the only reason for their breakthrough success, but it must have helped. Its concept of switching lenses bringing up different movie archetypes is a superb way to showcase a lot of group members, it’s visually exciting, and its changes are perfectly timed to complement switching modes for the song’s incredible range of hooks. The video also affected how I heard the song. With a common visual thread of playing established roles, it gets easier to read the song as being about playing established roles too. Maybe the point is the unclear borders between 1) actual feelings 2) playing a part according to constrictive gendered dating rules 3) actual feelings as a result of playing a part according to constrictive gendered dating rules. The soft-focus verses’ gorgeous sigh and sparkle makes me think of Lily Allen’s “The Fear,” and maybe “Cheer Up” is the answer to what happens if you react to being trapped by expectations not by easing into resignation but instead by lashing out, portrayed complete with a fixed grin and massive d’n’b-pop chorus. At least, that possibility is how I enjoy the cruelty it builds to, how I process Momo singing “I will be your baby” with gun pointing at the camera, how “I hope you understand, I’m a girl after all” and “be a man, a real man” become intensely sympathetic, and how I’ve been overwhelmed by feelings from my first listen onwards.

Madeleine Lee: I’m going to be the jerk that compares this to Twice’s miraculous debut single, “Like Ooh-Ahh.” It’s not a bad thing that they’re comparable, since everything “Cheer Up” has inherited from “Like Ooh-Ahh” is great: catchy sing-song melodies, a gang chant bridge telling the men in their lives to be more worthy of them, and pep for days. But I just don’t feel the same magic in it that “Like Ooh-Ahh” had. It’s a song that’s supposed to pump me up, but between the increase in tempo and decrease of a tune to balance out Jihyo’s tendency to yell, I find it exhausts me instead.

Gin Hart: This video is a masterpiece of what it is to be a girl having a feeling playing the role of a girl not having a feeling in order to feel something more interesting. Bubblegum Inception. Dream 1 — The girls in a kitchen, waiting for their pastel-surrealist cameraman to catalyze new ~Becomings~ with his gaze (note: the least real entity here holds the reins). Dream 2 — The kitchen has taken a Twilight cast. Nayeon, on the phone in the corner, would be crying in real life, too close to a feeling; we move on. Dreams 3 through 12 — Schoolgirls/magical schoolgirls/elegantly melancholic housewives/ASSASSINS/a stoner?? a quirky girl blowing bubbles/cheerleaders/Girls TM/a cowgirl/a girl in a court drama, all having too much aestheticized “fun” to call a boy back. Until the two-minute mark, this abundance of fun is enacted with dead eyes. Then there’s a glimmer, though nothing changed to precipitate it. It’s just practice. Girls are told to become so many archetypes of desirability when we like somebody, the willingness to flatten into a non-self acts in lieu of more earnest communication. But we’re good at it! Give us prop guns and we’ll teach ourselves to lift them with conviction (Momo) and twirl them with style (Chaeyoung)!! Twice grab the reins via mastery of each filter, leaving the cameraman confounded by the humanity that’s usurped his fantasy, and by the way fantasy still clings to reality once he lifts his lens. Cheer up, buddy. We are living things. 

Reader average: [6.55] (18 votes)

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5 Responses to “Twice – Cheer Up”

  1. Shy shy shy is the best thing to come out of this song honestly.

  2. The chorus seems to hit people very differently. For me it’s huge and sounded huge from the first listen and was certain it would become the monster hit it is now. I think the synth chords underneath give it scale. I never got into Like Ooh Ah – _that_ chorus felt flat and reminded me too much of another k-pop song.

  3. churro baby, churro baby ~

    r/kpop had an absolute field day with that. I think it’s a fantastic song, if for no other reason than the fact that it’s everything you could ever want in a fun pop song – cheerleader chants, meme-able moments (shashasha or die), and a message that is incredibly relatable for the target audience. I’m personally not sold on “gotta see u love me like a real man” because in my opinion it invites creepiness and part of me wishes Jihyo and Nayeon would stop screaming during the chorus but otherwise this song is a great bop.

    Also, Twice’s foreign line >>>> all of my faves

  4. let out an audible “fuuuuuuck” at Gin’s blurb

  5. aw barely listened to this now, and I missed out.