MISAMO come full circle with ‘Masterpiece’: “Everything we’ve ever experienced has led to this moment”

Written by on 11/08/2023

MISAMO JYP Entertainment

As MISAMO settle into an early-evening Zoom call, dressed casually in sweats after a day spent at the JYP Entertainment HQ in Seoul, there is an air of comfortability around them. Mere days after the release of their debut mini-album ‘Masterpiece’ on July 26, a sense of peaceful relaxation is almost palpable, with members Mina, Sana and Momo reflecting on their journey here through girlish giggles, playful banter and a collective sigh of relief. Though ‘Masterpiece’ had only been in development for a year, MISAMO have been waiting for this moment for nearly a decade.

Though this might be the first time you’ve heard of MISAMO, you’d most definitely know the name TWICE. The Japanese trio’s very existence is a culmination of eight years spent as members of the girl group after training together, competing against one another and ultimately debuting together in 2015 through the reality TV competition show Sixteen. TWICE later made their Japanese debut in 2017, and have since released a slew of successful singles and albums created specifically for the Japanese market.

Following their chart success across the sea, and with Mina, Sana and Momo receiving an abundance of fan love and support as the group’s Japanese ambassadors, it was only a matter of time before MISAMO (a portmanteau of their first names) became a fully realised concept and the start of TWICE’s first ever sub-unit. “When we first heard that we were going to do MISAMO, we couldn’t really believe it,” Momo tells NME. “It wasn’t like we didn’t know it could happen, but [I felt like] ‘wow, we’re actually doing this and something is going to come from this now’.”

MISAMO JYP Entertainment
MISAMO. Credit: JYP Entertainment

Developing MISAMO’s sound and creative concept took the members over a year – the longest they’ve ever spent on a single project, with preparations bleeding well into the North American leg of TWICE’s ‘Ready to Be’ world tour (“We were working hard like real rookies who just debuted!” Momo adds with a laugh). “When we make TWICE albums, there’s already somewhat of an established process and TWICE’s colour is already kind of set,” says Sana. “But for MISAMO, because this was going to be our first album, we didn’t have any time constraints.”

The trio were able to develop the group’s direction from scratch, beginning with a simple colour theme of black and silver. “We had a lot of opportunities to share our opinions with the company. Everything from the songs, the clothing, the music video and jacket shooting – we all let our opinions be heard,” reveals Mina, who also mentions that the group functions without one true leader, allowing them each to express themselves unabashedly. “We wanted to make sure that the album and music we released not only met our standards, but exceeded them,” Sana adds. “It took us a very long time to make sure we chose the right concepts.”

The result of that time and effort is ‘Masterpiece’ – taken from a line from their song of the same name, where the members compare themselves to a “masterpiece painting” – performed entirely in their native Japanese. Fine art, like music, begins with a sketch of an idea and is developed over hundreds of little layers, each brush stroke adding degrees of depth and emotion to the canvas before it’s sealed forever in glossy varnish. Though many typically glance quickly at an artist’s work before moving on, in taking a closer look, they’d see that MISAMO’s self-portrait is much more nuanced, detailed and curated than what meets the naked eye.

The mini-album’s release was preceded by two singles: The springy, sparkly ‘Bouquet’ and the sweet, synthy ‘Marshmallow’. Existing in the same sonic universe as TWICE’s already beloved discography, both tracks brim with a familiar spiritedness, generating curiosity around the sub-unit’s full project. However, contrary to all preconceived notions, while TWICE bathes in the warmth of a South Korean sun, MISAMO, at its core, basks in the cool light of a Japanese moon.

The true essence of ‘Masterpiece’ is a dark and alluring collection of sonic risks, delicately designed to represent their growth and maturity as veteran idols. “When we are releasing as TWICE, all the music in those albums represent things we wanted to express and could only say as TWICE,” Sana says. “With MISAMO, we really wanted to show the type of music that only the three of us could do and something we couldn’t release as TWICE members until now,” Mina adds.

The project is led by the sharp and subversive ‘Do not touch’, a track gifted to them by label founder J.Y. Park. Though it was initially in fierce competition with jazzy B-side ‘Behind the Curtain’ for the top billing, ‘Do not touch’ eventually emerged victorious after “days of agonising over whether or not it was the right choice”, Momo recalls, before Sana chimes in: “Choosing the title track took the longest time, and because of that we actually recorded the vocals up until the day we left for the US… It was almost unbelievable that we even got everything done in that time frame [laughs].”

In order to further personalise and distinguish their artistry, each member wrote an original song for ‘Masterpiece’. Momo was initially drawn to the demo of ‘Funny Valentine’ as she could immediately imagine a performance stage, which comes as no surprise to TWICE’s main dancer. However, she found it surprisingly more difficult to compose in Japanese opposed to Korean, despite it being her native language. “It was actually my first time ever writing [a song] in Japanese,” she reveals. “I kept overthinking each word, so it took me much longer.”

With every impassioned love song comes a wistful breakup song in equal measure. Contrary to her typically cheery disposition, Sana’s R&B-leaning ‘Rewind You’ overflows with deep melancholy. However, she reveals that rather than writing from a personal place, she drew inspiration from TWICE’s 2020 song ‘Cry For Me’, which chronicles a toxic relationship. “When that song was released, the fans really liked it because it was quite different from anything we’d released in the past. I thought it would be great to make a song in the same style and feeling,” she says.

Mina, who relates many of her songs to colours, describes ‘Funny Valentine’ as burning red, ‘Rewind You’ as a sad blue, and her own track, the edgy, rock-inspired ‘It’s Not Easy For You’, as black. Though she is often regarded as one of TWICE’s shyest members, she reveals a deeper and more complex sense of self through her lyrics: “If you drown, it’s the end / My world is like a swamp / You can’t, you’re being pulled right in.”

MISAMO JYP Entertainment
MISAMO. Credit: JYP Entertainment

To promote ‘Masterpiece’, MISAMO embarked on a sold out five-day debut showcase in two of Japan’s largest cities, Yokohama and Osaka. Despite their years performing on stages across the world, the trio say they were still overcome with nerves. “Since it was the first time just the three of us stood on stage, we were five times more nervous than we usually get since the other five members weren’t there with us,” Momo says with a laugh. “But everything we’ve done, everything we’ve ever experienced as TWICE has led us to this moment. It was really meaningful.”

As for the future of the sub-unit, Mina, Sana and Momo remain hopeful that this is not the last time they’ll be given the opportunity to present music as a trio. Though they’ll be spending the rest of the year wrapping up TWICE’s world tour, they ask fans to think of them fondly and wait patiently for them to return. “Please look out for how MISAMO grows little by little,” Momo asks. “We hope that you will be surprised by another new side of us in the future.”

MISAMO’s debut mini-album ‘Masterpiece’ is out now

The post MISAMO come full circle with ‘Masterpiece’: “Everything we’ve ever experienced has led to this moment” appeared first on NME.

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