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TWICE shakes up the summer nights with ‘Taste of Love’

Following their acclaimed Eyes Wide Open album last year, TWICE continues to unravel their hidden charms by dabbling their newest release with bossa nova, disco-funk pop, and city pop.

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Photo from JYP Entertainment's official website

At a time when our windows are stained with nothing but fog and monsoon rains, TWICE takes us on a journey to their San Junipero and the summer night love affair we could have had. 

The queens of summer bops are back.

K-Pop girl group TWICE makes a refreshing and sultry comeback with their 10th mini album, Taste of Love. Within three days of its release, the six-track anthology has surpassed more than 3.5 million streams on Spotify and its title track, Alcohol-Free, amassed more than 53 million views on YouTube. 

Following their acclaimed Eyes Wide Open album last year, TWICE continues to unravel their hidden charms by dabbling their newest release with bossa nova, disco-funk pop, and city pop. 

With TWICE’s previous summer releases, Dance the Night Away and More & More, leaned more towards EDM. But this year’s summer anthem caters a more chill and laid-back vibe at the beach. Alcohol-Free pays homage to 1950s Brazil with their heavily infused bossa nova instrumentals that’s frankly similar to labelmates Day6’s Ouch

The bossa nova crossover to K-Pop is not entirely new. Yubin’s Yaya Me Time and Zico’s Any Song have both made their own modern twist with the genre. If Mamamoo’s Words Don’t Come Easy was slower and more sensual, then TWICE gives a more playful and (somehow) flirty bossa nova.

Vocal-wise, it is immaculate. Even so, I wouldn’t consider Alcohol-Free as one of their best releases. Although minimal instrumentals fit everyone’s alley more, there is a stark difference between minimalism and being underproduced. This track, unfortunately, is the latter. While it has its fair share of an earworm hook with tropical drinks, it’s definitely a slow burn song that will take a while to grow on me.  

Whatever the album lacks in the title track in terms of production is made up by the tracks that succeed it. The album’s B-sides delve into a retro, Future Nostalgia-esque sound with funky bass lines and guitar riffs that do not fall far from most of their tracks in Eyes Wide Open and More & More.

First Love, written by member Jihyo and co-composed by Little Mix’s Jade Thirlwall, relies on falsettos and bass lines for 90% of the song. Despite the outstanding vocals, the sudden bursts of “heys” feels out of place and overused, so much so that the latter part of the bridge is already unnecessary. But the fact alone that the members sing in falsetto throughout the song earns it a pass in my book.   

Rather than falsettos, ‘Scandal’ revisits their breathy, sultry vocals. The track speaks about a secret summer romance that is “fiery and provocative, but controlled,” which is greatly encapsulated by Chaeyoung’s whisper in the intro. It’s short and sweet, but leaves you longing for more. As with any of their disco-orientated pop tracks, the bass hits so well. But it’s the subtle addition of a high-pitched cowbell or beeps in the second chorus that really sets it apart from, say, a standard Dua Lipa record. 

Still keeping with the summer night club vibe, Conversation, penned by member Sana, talks about two individuals who feel an intense connection (obviously sexual tension) that draws them to each other. The lyrics alone arguably ranks it at the top in TWICE’s list of R-18 anthems, which further exemplify their capabilities as lyricists. 

This disco-funk track joins the likes of Woosung’s Your Face, NUEST W’s Dejavu, and Charlie Puth’s Attention for having a chorus that consists of vocals at the backdrop of a heavy and thick bass line. Jeongyeon and Jihyo’s lower range is exploited well in the chorus, elevating the maturity of the sound. While a TWICE track would be incomplete without a DubChaeng rap, having them as vocalists for this track was indeed more suiting. The musicality and diversity of vocals makes this, by far, one of their strongest tracks. 

After a wasted night at the club, any summer escapade would be incomplete without a drive through the city lights. Baby Blue Love, written by member Nayeon, draws from 1980s pop with the addition of synths and gated reverb drums. The funky bass lines are prominent, yet not too overpowering by seamlessly complementing the synths and the guitar riffs. 

Oddly enough, the vocal arrangement is reminiscent of Dua Lipa’s Levitating, especially with Jihyo’s part in the second verse. Although the song has a playful color, it would have been better if they opted for Sana and Momo to sing rather than rap in the  beginning of the second verse. However, this loophole is very much compensated by the pre chorus that takes out all instrumentals to give way for Tzuyu’s vocals. Despite clocking in at less than 3 minutes, the way that various musical elements and vocals were neatly arranged makes it title track worthy.  

For a listening experience that had a strong start, SOS was a more laid-back conclusion. It’s a song you would want to roll down your windows for and just feel the night air. Although it was quite underwhelming at first listen due to the lack of variation in the melody, SOS does justice to the city pop genre. Of all the album’s tracks, this was the best in terms of using Momo’s nasal tone and Sana’s soft, honey-like tone to its advantage. Dahyun’s songwriting is just the cherry on top. 

Within more or less 18 minutes, TWICE literally serves a taste of love by delivering five bite-sized chronicles that tackle the feelings and different stages of being in love. As with their previous albums, having the members pen their own words to their songs allows their fandom ONCEs and other listeners to see something that’s considered taboo in the K-Pop industry through their eyes and see them more as humans rather than sculpted products. 

 Given the general consensus of the B-sides, it would have been best if the title track was released as a stand alone single rather than have it oddly mixed with the disco-funk pop collective. Nonetheless, this mini album would have to be one of their strongest releases in terms of both vocals and musicality. 

Besides their charm, potential radiates from the nine-member ensemble, which is perhaps why they are beloved by many. Taste of Love really showcased  their growth as artists from a cheerful core to a more mature persona. As someone who has been watching from the sidelines since Like Ooh-Ahh, it’s more than satisfying and liberating to witness TWICE gracefully step out from their cute-sy stereotype. I like to believe that TWICE has a lot more up their sleeve and it would be interesting to see which genres they would decide to take on next. 

Listen to Taste of Love while treating yourself to some mojito with lime, tequila, or margarita. 

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Why we can’t ‘Live, Laugh, Love’ our way of addressing problems

Do I miss the “positive vibes” and “toxic-free” environment of the internet before? Sure. Do I want to return to that era despite knowing the atrocious conditions I live in? Not really.

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Artwork by Mikaela Gabrielle de Castro/TomasinoWeb

Let me take you back to the Tumblr 2009 era. When the internet was young and everything in this world seemed quiet and peaceful. All we—well, at least I—cared about was mindlessly posting daily inspirational quotes from Google or Brainy Quotes by a person whose name was oftentimes unknown to us. All I knew back then was that it sounded nice, looked cute on my timeline, and made some sense.

Did I miss the “positive vibes” and “toxic-free” environment of the internet before? Sure. Do I want to return to that era despite knowing the atrocious conditions I live in? Not really.

Screengrab from Netflix 

There’s a buzzword the internet coined for it: toxic positivity, a belief that even The Washington Post thinks we should sashay away from. 

When American gymnast Simone Biles competed in the recently concluded 2020 Tokyo Olympics, there were a lot of talks that went around emotionally manipulating ourselves into thinking that everything’s fine when it is not.

The public has a certain expectation, and if we don’t accomplish that then we’ve kind of been named a failure. But knowing that I’ve spoken out for mental health—it’s so much bigger than any medals,” says Biles, underscoring the need to move past this mindset, especially when the spotlight is directed to you and almost everyone is watching you closely.

True, there is an undeniable and transformative power that a positive outlook and mindset have for an individual. But neglecting other emotions and deflecting feelings only prevent an individual from overcoming the very same problem they desire to quell and quash. 

We put unnecessary spins on the problems and justify being victimized; it is a bottomless trap that paralyzes one’s willpower to change the things that need to change. 

Live, laugh, love—the case of modern desolation

Black Mirror’s Nosedive episode encapsulates the contemporary phenomenon of modern digital desolation. The story is set in a society where people rate each other from one to five stars based on their social interaction, which ultimately impacts their class and status. 

Lacie, is a young professional woman seeking to raise her rating of 4.2 to 4.5 to afford to live in her desired luxury apartment, attempting to please people around her in exchange for validation. Basically, it is a social credit system in and of itself. 

Going extra lengths, Lacie’s efforts backfires — causing commotion after failing to please some people, mishaps in the airport for her flight, getting imprisoned for grabbing a knife and threatening to behead a doll, among others. Her 4.2 rating drops below one star. It may be an exaggeration for some, but it paints a grim reality of the way in which we put pride on the facade of positivity and all these for the sake of looking pleasurable to others.

Perhaps, as one would imagine, the digital world we live in right now facilitates fostering the mindset of toxic positivity, which can be encapsulated in a three-word motivational phrase: live, laugh, love.

American author Zadie Smith in a conversation with The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino mentioned the changing morality in the age of the internet. “I understand it’s important to be appropriate in public life, in social life, in political life. But in your soul? No, this is a different thing,” she said.

Screengrab from Netflix

In this time of great social distress and political instability, can we really address the ills our society face daily without having to deal with the so-called toxicity? The short answer is no. 

But there’s a way around that. It is a long, arduous journey towards genuine social change. On one hand, it is very important to face the difficult and oftentimes taxing problems that hound us daily. Sometimes, we really can’t escape the perils of doomscrolling on our feed and timelines, especially now when our digital presence is heightened. 

On the other, it is also an act of self-care to choose the battles we fight online. Remember, the fight is not confined within our screens and it is not overnight, so saving energy and rationing it to things that matter make the difference. Striking a balance between maintaining a healthy amount of positivity is necessary while at the same time knowing when to speak up, feel every emotion, and act on things to make a genuine difference.

Paolo Alejandrino
Blogs Writer | + posts

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The beauty of the process in ‘tick, tick…BOOM!’

While the validation is sometimes short-lived, the longest form of validation happens in the process.

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Photo courtesy of Macall Polay/Netflix

Completed. Done. Finished. A runner completes a race with the sight of confetti in the air, and the finish line ribbon almost flies with victory. But in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick…BOOM!, the process is victorious enough. 

From the pages and mind of late musical theatre icon Jonathan Larson, tick, tick…BOOM! puts his journey in trying to birth a musical in 1990 New York City through the cinematic lens. Andrew Garfield further humanizes Larson in the autobiographical musical as Jon, and he starts to narrate his process in front of a live audience, helping blur the barrier between Jon and us, the audience behind our devices. Immediately, comfort and trust settle in as we see Jon’s life musically unfold. 

Dreams and delays

Anticipation becomes a familiar friend as we get to listen to the initial inner conflicts of Jon. The presentation for his original musical Superbia is coming up, but it’s still missing its most important song. He sets a deadline for himself: his 30th birthday, which is also coming up in a week. He feels left out and delayed, as he compares himself to the people already accomplishing their own “superbia” before reaching their 30s. And the first song of the musical ‘30/90’ puts these emotions in the musical staff. 

Pressure is the uninvited annoying neighbor that always asks you how you’re doing, making us overanalyze where we really are in life. And to see that, we look around and see people in the same place as time in a marathon, leaving a trail of accomplishments, milestones, and significant firsts in their path. But we’re running as well and we feel like our trail is empty but it has nothing else to do but to fill up eventually. In this particular “race,” a finish line is nonexistent. We can look around, stop a while to breathe, and accelerate when we feel like we need to. Time does not run against us in this race, it only accompanies us.

‘No More’ only fuels Jon’s motivation in finishing his missing song. His closest childhood friend, Michael (Robin de Jesús), joins him in a pop-punk duet of their hopes and dreams. They sing what they want no more of in thrash metal lyrics, and cut to a classical tone as they say hello to their dreams of “shiny new parquet wood floors” and “walk-in closets tidy as Park Avenue.” 

Photo courtesy of Macall Polay/Netflix

In the process, whether we manifest or fear jinxing them, dreams kick off our blankets in the morning to start the usual routines of our day. It keeps us focused on the horizon we dream of touching, so we won’t only have to look at it anymore. Whether it’s as grandiose as foreign penthouses, or as abstract as happiness, dreams can light a comforting fire in a burnout hour.

As time keeps ticking, Jon’s priorities are tossed to the side to make room for that one thing we’re all familiar with: procrastination. Jon throws a party and asks Michael to hang out. He clings to temporary bliss because it makes him forget about the ticking clock for a while. While many people, especially of drastically different generations, dismiss procrastination as just another form of laziness, it is so much more than that. Sometimes, procrastination helps forget the pressure that almost suffocates. To some, it’s a mental battle they didn’t choose to partake in, and crawling out of it feels like an escape from quicksand. 

Procrastination is an unrewarding pause that produces nothing but delays. And as stressful as the movie may seem at this point, Jon’s delays are strongly relatable. The part where we actually have to start on something is actually the most difficult. We toss and turn for the right place, time, and headspace, and it doesn’t always come in a zoom that gets the ball immediately rolling. It takes time, and as it stretches by, we shouldn’t lose sight of the horizon.

When time becomes too loud

‘Johnny Can’t Decide’ puts the alarming decisions into a slow pop melody reminiscent of ‘Life Support’ from Rent, the musical that immortalized Larson’s name in the map of musical theatre. The process tags choices we make every day, and even if some are easy to make, each one of them is vital. We choose to open up Zoom just in time for the 7 a.m. synchronous class. We choose to audition for a dance org. We choose to shift to another program. 

In the middle of it all, the unexpected stops your momentum. For Jon, his HIV-positive friend Freddy’s unexpected hospitalization leads him to a 20-second thought rampage of time, decisions, and an isolated existential crisis. The factors beyond our immediate control do not only put weight on our morality, but also push and pull the decisions we have to make.

Productivity also comes to play as Superbia has the clock ticking louder, making Jon think of the time he’s wasting.  We often think that not putting out significant pieces of work makes our life meaningless and our time wasted. But life creates a puzzle of both the momentous and the mundane complimenting each other. When we just let the day pass over us, and we simply exist in space, time is just consumed, never wasted.

Photo courtesy of Macall Polay/Netflix

When we don’t remind ourselves of that, our support system does. It comes in the shape of the family pet, the ice’s white fog from your iced coffee, or a significant other whose love translates out of video call screens under the moon’s late glow just like Jon’s girlfriend Susan (Alexandra Shipp). But in ‘Therapy, the support system crashes. Jon’s priorities are too upfront that an important business decision with Susan got pushed far to the back. Inside the system of those who support us, they are still human. The amount of care we treat our time and work with should also translate in our relationships with them.

After all the hurdles, Jon finally takes a break in ‘Swimming’. It tells us of a time when we finally push away the keyboards and let our backs fall flat and straight to the pillows. It is a time when we become more fully aware of what’s happening, of what we’re doing, and for what reason. 

Photo courtesy of Macall Polay/Netflix

As Jon sees swimming as a breather on the day before the storm of his upcoming presentation, he dives deep into rest. And in the waters, he sees a “30” on a swimming pool tile. He dusts away the sunken debris, revealing a musical note. This musical number shows that, in rest, we do not only gain back the energy we’ve squeezed out of ourselves. We also remember the goal we’re trying to mark. Like Jon with the water around him, and his lungs ticking along with the clock, we can also feel the same overwhelming feeling of plunging deep into water. In rest, our goal becomes clearer even in a swimming pool.

Disguised beginnings

Superbia was presented successfully, but it was not the success Jon was hoping for. There was no Broadway offer, no producer running up to him, just applause and congratulations in voicemails. Jon asks his agent Rosa (Judith Light), “What am I supposed to do now?,” to which she answers, “You start writing the next one.” For Jon, the praises for Superbia only contribute to its own failure, which throws him back into the process to hope that “eventually, something sticks.” 

In the end, validation doesn’t taste sweet. Yet, we should only contain that validation as a cherry on top, a bonus item, a sparse applause. While the validation is sometimes short-lived, the longest form of validation happens in the process.

As the process begins again, we can set sail to a new mark on the map by starting with questions. The last song of the film, ‘Louder Than Words,’ gives power to those questions and replaces the usual show tune lyric with a question for each line. In restarting a process we know all too well, sometimes, a question motivates more than an instruction.

Through Jonathan Larson’s eyes, tick, tick…BOOM! cinematically elevates the work that goes unseen and the aches that praises don’t speak to while retaining the authenticity of the stage. And even if we are nothing like Larson, the mazes of process we go through can be artistic in its own way.

Watch tick, tick…BOOM! on Netflix.

Mharla Francesca Santiano
Blogs Writer | + posts
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Take a stroll past fatigue and burnout with ‘The Virtual Mental Health Walk’

The UST Psychology Society made sure we were not alone with the Virtual Mental Health Walk held last Nov. 26.

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The past 20 months have been anything but ordinary, and no one has been exempt from the perils of online learning, physical distancing, and losing any sense of normalcy. Our physical health is first and foremost a concern, but we hardly pay attention to just how our minds fare during a time where most everything familiar to us has been taken away with little sign of coming back.

Sometimes, we just need someone to assure us that everything will be okay and that we have the strength to undergo the burdens of tomorrow. Although held purely online, the UST Psychology Society made sure we were not alone with the Virtual Mental Health Walk held last Nov. 26 from 4-8 p.m.

The event did not lose its touch of professionalism as several speakers gave their insights on how to take care of mental health during a pandemic, including Marc Reyes, Gia Sison, Karen Trinidad, Maria Criselda Morales, Riyan Portugez, and Faye Martel-Abugan.

Some of the performers serenaded the audience, while the others hyped them up. The lineup consisted of Lucy, Padlocked, The Ridleys, Thursday Honey, UST College of Science Glee Club, UST Archetypes, and UST Psychology Talent Pool.

Interspersed throughout the program were clips of the College of Science Drumline making its way around the Minecraft replica of the University campus, bringing with it a nostalgic vibe that made everyone long to roam the grounds of the University once again.

While no one could run out of things to look forward to in the 4-hour program, there was one thing that we could never forget: nothing should ever take precedence over our mental well-being. Together, let us take care of each other, celebrate what we had already gone through, and strive to be advocates for mental health.

Larraine Castillo
Reports Writer | + posts

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