K.A.R.D. Comeback Review: “Rumor”

Is there anything K.A.R.D. can’t do?  They’ve got an international following most K-pop groups would kill to have, and they haven’t even officially debuted yet!  Who’d have thought six months ago that they’d be popular enough to tour the Americas?  I was already on board with them back when they came out with “Oh Na Na,” but I find myself liking them more and more with every comeback. Personally, I think “Rumor” is their best track yet.

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*WARNING!* This review assumes the reader has listened to the music and/or seen the music video!

Concept: Cool and chic

SONG:

By now, K.A.R.D. has firmly established their signature sound as moombahton/tropical house. Perhaps this explains why they’re so popular with international fans, because it’s a decidedly Western sound.  What’s really impressive is how they’ve managed to create three tracks with the same style yet different moods.  “Oh Na Na” was light and playful, while “Don’t Recall” was haunting and wistful.  “Rumor” is pensive and edgy – it has a very pleasant and appealing melody, but you can definitely feel underlying tension in some of the synth and the vocals.

This is definitely my favorite of the three pre-releases, because it’s exactly the kind of thing that I go for.  I honestly can’t find anything to complain about. It’s just so catchy! If you read a lot of my reviews, you’ll know that I tend to favor dance jams – and “Rumor” is pretty much my definition of a dance jam.  I’m really feeling the reggae/dancehall influence.  I imagine that J.Seph and BM are being somewhat autotuned, but I think that their voices suit the song perfectly.  J.Seph has a great mellow sound, which contrasts nicely with BM’s deeper and more forceful tone.  Somin and Jiwoo also have a similar (thought not as drastic) dynamic.  Together, they all give the song a really nice balance which we haven’t seen in their other tracks.

SCORE: 20/20

LYRICS:

Apparently, the break-up theme was really popular in April.  “Rumor” depicts that horrible moment when one finds out their ex has moved on with someone else.  And of course, mutual friends provide this information. I mentioned before that break-up songs need to be relatable to be successful, and I think that “Rumor” does a great job. (If it were ten years ago, I’d be listening to SF9’s “Easy Love” and “Rumor” back to back) When an ex moves on before you do, it sucks.  It only happened to me once years ago, but it was so horrible that I’ve taken great pains in my adult life to end relationships as platonically as possible. I can guarantee the situation they’re describing reads quite accurately:

“What do I do? I can’t acknowledge this,
How you easily forgot me and are so happy
It’s too cruel, you’re a potent man
I never knew this ’til now, I’ve been deceived
I thought I would feel nothing, I thought I completely forgot you
There’s no way, this doesn’t make sense, I wanna believe that they saw wrong”

There’s a whole range of emotions you can feel in this kind of situation, and this song is so spot on.  Obviously, there’s sadness (“Then I felt strengthless, maybe I hoped you would be unhappy”). There’s a strong amount of regret that runs through the chorus (“Will you tell me it’s not too late? Please give me one more chance”).  There’s even a very small amount of pettiness, which the shady part of me lives for. When J.Seph sings “Someone told me they saw you with another girl,” Jiwoo adds “They said she was seriously ugly.”  These kinds of lines are so simple, but they have an impact and they really resonate with you.

SCORE: 9/10

LINE DISTRIBUTION:

This is easily the best line distribution that K.A.R.D. has had so far.  “Oh Na Na” was primarily driven by Somin the female members. “Don’t Recall” was a clear dialogue between the two genders.  “Rumor,” on the other hand, clearly belongs to the men.  Together, BM and J.Seph handle about two thirds of the song.  It’s a welcome change from “Oh Na Na,” when they basically sounded like featuring artists.  This doesn’t mean, however, that the girls are forgotten.  Somin isn’t the backbone of the song like before, but she provides support in the chorus and the bridge – both very significant parts.  And though Jiwoo always gets the short end of the stick when it comes to lines, she’s given a very lengthy verse. One of K.A.R.D.’s weaknesses is balancing its members, so I think this is a very good improvement.

SCORE: 10/10

CHOREOGRAPHY:

*Note: K.A.R.D. hasn’t released a dance practice for “Rumor” yet.  This is their special hidden version, which features their choreographer.

The choreography for “Rumor” is amazing.  It’s filled with everything that K.A.R.D. has become known for: fluid motions, powerful gestures, and fancy footwork.  And it matches the music so well. There are a lot of great key moves that are fairly easy to pick up, and they feel very fluid.  So much of K-pop dancing is highly stylized, focusing on sharp movements and synchronization.  I love those dances too, but there’s something so attractive about a more natural style.  It takes real skill to make choreography look like freestyle, and they do it so well you might not even realize the moves are really hard.

Rumor-Choreography

K.A.R.D. built their foundation on sexy and bold choreograph that you don’t really see in K-pop. I’m glad to see they’ve moved away from the twerking and pelvic thrusts in favor of hip swivels and body rolls.  Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sexy dancing or twerking.  “Oh Na Na” was a lot of fun. But I do think there is a balance, and K.A.R.D. found it in “Rumor.”  It’s a more subtle and mature kind of sexy dancing.

Key-Point

SCORE: 20/20

CENTER AND FORMATIONS:

Four people can be challenging to block because there’s a lot of space to account for.  There aren’t a whole lot of options, but the dance does a good job of shuffling the members around.  There’s not a definitive center, although they put BM and Somin in the middle for those body rolls.  They’re all good dancers, and each one stands out for a different reason. But I think this song belongs to J.Seph.  He’s possibly been the most under-utilized member so far.  I mean, BM literally obscured him from view during half of “Don’t Recall.” But there’s something about him that’s so intrinsic to “Rumor,” and it’s never more apparent when you’re watching the dance.  It’s almost like he personifies it.

J.Seph-Dance-Video

SCORE: 9/10

MUSIC VIDEO:

This music video is a partnership with LG G6, which perhaps explains why the whole thing is limited to a phone-sized screen. I’m not going to make GIFs like I normally do, because the aspect ratio kind of messes things up.  But it should be okay because I didn’t find a lot of specific images I wanted to point out. I think it’s more of a mood piece where you should look at the whole thing rather than certain shots.

K.A.R.D. validated Dream Teller’s theory about “Don’t Recall,” which should mean the theory for “Oh Na Na” also holds true.  If “Oh Na Na” was about the members coming together and “Don’t Recall” was about friction and discord within the group, “Rumor” follows the aftermath of them breaking apart.  The members are often seen alone, staring dejectedly off into the distance.  We actually hardly ever see them together.  Sometimes the two guys or two girls are togethe, but there’s only one non-dancing shot that features all four of them.  So we definitely get the sense that something is off.

The aesthetics of the music video heavily support this idea of separation and loss.  The whole thing takes place in a parking garage.  The bland concrete color scheme and the wide open space really add to the cold atmosphere and the feeling of isolation.  There are also many times where we see the members with their faces partially obscured – in shadow, behind blinds, or behind a bead curtain.  J.Seph even looks like he’s in a prison at one point when he stands in front of some L.E.D. parts. This suggests that they are hiding or feeling withdrawn.

Although I went along with the Dream Teller idea for “Don’t Recall,” part of me thinks it’s not that deep.  There were clues and hints at something, but they were very subtle. I’m pretty sure the music video for “Rumor” establishes a certain mood and just leaves it at that.  But it certainly looks good, and it’s consistent with the aesthetics of their other music videos.  I look forward to seeing what they come up with next, but if they want a narrative I hope that they will do a little less implying and a lot more showing.

SCORE: 17/20

STYLING:

I was very iffy on the styling for the other two music videos, but I’m so on board with the outfits here.  The members spend most of the music video and their performances in two sets of clothing – a casual muddy green one and a more sophisticated black one.  They also wear bright orange tops at different points in the music video, which is very interesting because it’s one of the few bright points (or “warm,” as we say in film). I especially like the girls’ clothing, which I didn’t before.  They seem to really like having Jiwoo show off her legs, but this time it’s not that over the top.  And no fishnets in sight!

STYLING MVP: J.Seph. Can you tell that I picked my bias? (But on a serious note, his hair is in a bunch of different styles throughout the video and he looks good in all of them)

J.Seph

SCORE: 9/10

FINAL TALLY:

Song – 20

Lyrics – 9

Line Distribution – 10

Choreography – 20

Center and Formations – 9

Music Video – 17

Styling – 9

TOTAL: 94

CONCLUSION: I’ve always thought K.A.R.D. was great and had a lot of potential, but “Rumor” is pretty much perfect.  I don’t think they have any major issues in terms of concept or music, which is great for a pre-debut group. They have a very consistent sound and aesthetic which they’ve taken the time to develop.  I did feel that there were some very minor things in organization, like giving the girls way more lines than the guys or using formations that would block out another member.  But when you look at “Rumor,” it’s like they took all of those little things and fixed them.  It shows that they and their team are learning and adjusting along the way, which is actually not that common in rookie group.

K.A.R.D. is currently the only co-ed group in Korea, and it’s been met with much anticipation and success.  Obviously, they should take full advantage of their unique status.  But there should also be at least one moment where they can stand as just a group, not a co-ed one.  I think this was the moment that they needed.  “Oh Na Na” heavily relied on the two guys and two girls idea, pairing them off for most of the song and dance.  But “Rumor” is just four people singing and dancing together.  I think it’s great that they can use the co-ed thing to set themselves apart, but it’s equally wonderful that they have so many other things that do the job too.

Sources: Youtube, DSP Media, Wikipedia

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