K.A.R.D are shuffling the deck in K-pop with their group's composition of two guys and two girls. The four members always stress the sibling dynamic among them, and their interactions are refreshingly comfortable and candid while many other idols blush at the touch of a hand. They ended 2016 with "Oh NaNa" (featuring former KARA member Heo Youngji), a surprise release which entered the U.S. iTunes K-pop chart top 5 and was a top viewed YouTube video worldwide. Their second single "Don't Recall" racked up 4 million views in 4 days, and hit #1 on many countries' iTunes K-pop charts. Now, their latest offering "RUMOR" has gained over 2 million views and trended worldwide only one day into its release.
Each member of the group represents an element of the name K.A.R.D - King, Ace, colour jokeR, black jokeR, and hiDDen. BM is the King who gives the group a strong foundation, J.Seph is the Ace who can support the team as the lowest or highest card, Somin (formerly of APRIL) is the black joker who exudes chic sensuality, and Jiwoo is the colourful joker who adds depth to the group's vibes (she's their resident fashion killa, listing brands like Margiela, Acne Studios, Undercover, and Vetements as her favourites). Meanwhile, the Hidden cards include twists like surprise artist features or the English Hidden version of "Don't Recall".
The hype surrounding K.A.R.D. is centered not only on their group's formation, but also their dancehall/reggaeton influenced sounds and dynamic range of vocals. Summery melodies are juxtaposed with cool, moody visuals, with reggaeton influenced choreography that sways from typically tighter K-pop moves. The idols' almost-but-not-quite grinding and shirt lifts are quite provocative by their genre's standards. This group recognizes the diversity of their audience; one of their pre-debut appearances was a series of reaction videos to Latin music videos and a Latin dance challenge. K.A.R.D's first tour "WILD KARD" next month will be international instead of Korea-based – a particularly meaningful accomplishment for LA born and raised BM, who is excited to perform in his hometown.
RUMOR is the last of three pre-debut projects to build buzz for the K.A.R.D'S official debut this year, which BM says will be "straight HYPE". The members explained that the three songs relay a storyline of a couple's honeymoon phase ("Oh NaNa"), a breakup ("Don't Recall"), and the aftermath of one partner hearing rumours of the other seeing other people and wishing they could get back together ("RUMOR"). The portrait layout of their new MV (created by Koinrush and choreographed by dancehall specialist Z.SUN) is perfectly screenshotabble, and its narrow focus displays the members in positions of isolation and longing between choreography cuts. Its lush, infectious rhythm makes it a surefire candidate for a worldwide summer K-pop hit.
K.A.R.D could be poised to make great changes in K-pop by branching out of strictly electronic/hip-hop sonic influences and becoming the industry's first successful co-ed band. We talked to them about their upcoming international tour, what sets their group apart, and the North American premiere of their new video "RUMOR".
Noisey: You guys have built up an insane amount of pre-debut hype; it's impressive that your first tour is international instead of Korea-based. What places are you looking forward to checking out during your international tour?
BM: It's insane to see this much hype coming at us and it's really a big blessing. We are so grateful for it. We're visiting a lot of different places such as Houston, Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto, Brazil, Mexico, and my hometown LA, but I'm most excited to show my members around my hometown!
Jiwoo: I want to visit the shopping malls in other countries! I have a lot of interest in fashion, so I want to see what the fashion is like in other places or visit the local fashion stores that I can only find there.
Somin: I want to go to all the famous/popular places and try a lot of good food.
How have you adapted to the co-ed group setup and become so close as to call each other family?
BM: Well, we were very hesitant about it before we found out who the members were. As soon as we knew who the group was going to consist of, we were hyped about it from the start. I can speak for all members when I say they're all very super talented in so many different ways. We all struggle together and succeed together, and I think that's a perfect definition for family.
Jiwoo: I joined the group later, so I did feel a little bit of pressure, but the other members were always there to help and teach me. They really took care of me, which is why I think I was able to adapt well.
Which artists do you hope to collaborate with?
BM: There are so many.. I feel so honored just to even think about it… Justin Timberlake, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar.. I really respect them.
J.Seph: I think Joey Bada$$ is an awesome rapper. It would be great if he were to be in one of our music videos…just a little wish of mine.
Somin: Tinashe and Ariana Grande
What kind of connection do you feel with your fans who don't understand Korean but still love your music?
BM: K-pop has become so big all over the world, not only for K.A.R.D but for other K-pop groups too. I think I can speak for them when I say we're so thankful that people have opened their ears to K-pop!
Jiwoo: I've been reading and translating every single reply. It's amazing that we are able to connect through music even though we speak different languages.
J.Seph: Even though I can't express everything or understand all that our fans tell us through social media, I can still feel the genuine love and support from them.
Somin: Music really makes everyone happy and allows people to relate. I feel that I am able to become one with the fans through our music.
Diyana Noory is a writer based in Ontario. Follow her on Twitter.