Over the past several weeks, Headline Planet has been reviewing 2020 songs that should have received a better opportunity to connect with US pop radio listeners. Given their undeniable quality and, in some cases, impressive numbers, they surely would have turned that opportunity into significant resonance. They would have become major pop hits.
The newest selection, the ninth in the series (picks are in no particular order), follows. Previous selections are available here.
Selection Nine: TWICE’s “I CAN’T STOP ME”
Every once in a while, you encounter a pop song that checks all the right boxes: soaring vocals, catchy chorus, resonant lyrical theme, arresting production, infectious energy.
TWICE’s 2020 release “I CAN’T STOP ME” definitely qualifies. One of the year’s most enjoyable pop offerings, the song deserved every bit of worldwide recognition it received. Relevant to this piece, it also deserved meaningful love from mainstream US radio.
Much like The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights,” Dua Lipa’s “Physical,” and 1975’s “If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know)” (a previous selection for this list), “I CAN’T STOP ME” pays obvious homage to the eighties without trapping itself in the past. Instead, it pairs the retro feel with wholly current, incredibly authentic musical magic.
For TWICE, that musical magic comes in the form of the group’s signature energy and lush, commanding vocals. The group members may be primarily singing in Korean, but their combination of key English word choices and unmistakable attitude and intensity makes the message relatable to any American (or global, for that matter) listener. The quality of the singing and efficacy of the melody meanwhile make it even more enchanting. This is a song that makes listeners take notice, urging them to dance and sing along.
There are no flaws or weak spots in “I CAN’T STOP ME.” Instead, every single moment — and every single vocal — comes together to create something special. From its powerhouse sung verses, to the impossibly striking rap section, to the elite pre-chorus and chorus, “I CAN’T STOP ME” is a song that holds up whether evaluated holistically or in pieces.
Despite their ever-increasing ubiquity, mainstream US radio has not yet proven willing to go “all-in” on Korean-language pop songs. This song, however, should have been able to overcome any such resistance. By embracing the immensely popular ’80s trend yet offering a sound and energy that are decidedly modern (and decidedly TWICE), “I CAN”T STOP ME” is a perfect entry-point for doubters. It is one of those rare, transcendental pop songs capable of shattering any preconceived notions or barriers.
On the one hand, programmers do have a defense here: Republic Records (which is partnering with JYP to expand TWICE’s global reach) did not formally promote “I CAN’T STOP ME” (whether the original or the less-commanding, but still enjoyable, English version) to mainstream radio. Given the undeniable quality of this song, the absence of a push is unfortunate.
On the other hand, “I CAN’T STOP ME” made an impressive splash on digital platforms, including the US iTunes sales chart. Between its visibility and its musical brilliance, it already gave radio programmers plenty of incentive to provide support. A formal promotional “push” should not have been necessary. Unsolicited airplay, moreover, may have encouraged Republic to move forward with a full campaign.
In the grand scheme of things, songs like “I CAN’T STOP ME” are still doing their job of growing the group’s each around the world, including in America. They are further establishing TWICE as one of music’s standout acts.
Still, it is hard to not to lament the song’s absence from mainstream US radio. Providing “I CAN’T STOP ME” the opportunity to reach pop fans would not simply have aided TWICE’s journey; it would have delighted any listener who heard it.