KARD: Way With Words – K-Pop Album Review

Following the release of the bombastic ‘Dumb Litty’ and ‘Red Moon’ in February, K-Pop’s hidden gem group KARD have made another powerful comeback with their single ‘Way With Words’ and their dark title track, ‘Gunshot’.

Somewhat of a rarity in Korea’s music scene, KARD is, to date, one of the industry’s most successful co-ed idol groups. Consisting of 4 members; boys BM and J.Seph and girls Jiwoo and Somin, KARD was formed in 2016 by DSP Media and made their formal debut in July 2017 with their tropical house led track Hola Hola’. Their latest comeback, headed by title track ‘Gunshot’, is the group’s last as 4 members preceding J.Seph’s enlistment into the South Korean military in October.

A 3-track single album, Way With Words’ feels heavier than previous releases. It’s a tall order to deliver a broad array of emotions in only 3 songs, and yet KARD is not only willing to do so but are entirely capable. The single’s opening b-side Ah Ee Yeah’ is a bright and bouncy throwback to their tropical house roots with popping beats and a simple 4-chord guitar strum leading into lyrics about convincing a crush that you belong together. Lines like “I’ve been searching for you for so long / I finally found you” and “I’m addicted to you / baby I need ya” are simple yet effective. The song doesn’t ask too much of its listeners but seeks only to uplift and have a good time. In the dreary slog that has been 2020, Ah Ee Yeah’ is a nice little gift to take some of the pain away and transport you to that island getaway you had booked pre-Covid.

Taking a sharp turn into a darker, more emotional alley is the title track Gunshot’. Utilising the hard trap beats that the group toyed with on their February release, Gunshot’ is all angst and pain as it expresses the hurt that can be caused by callous words. There’s no hidden messages in this track; the chorus samples the sound of shots being fired while the girls croon lines like “Your words are like a gunshot / I’m bleeding love” and “The words you spit out kill me like bullets”.

While the song itself may not appeal to everyone on a purely aesthetic level, there’s no getting past the power in its lyrics. Co-written and co-produced by Korean-American rapper BM, a native English speaker whose active social media presence has allowed him to see the ugliest sides of both Western and Eastern fans, Gunshot’ is extremely relatable. In the digital age where words are thrown carelessly and callously, the consequences of our semi-anonymous actions can often have devastating impacts, and the song serves as a solid reminder of this.

Lastly, taking a dip into emotional waters, the single’s final track Hold On’ serves as a lyrical goodbye to fans and the group members ahead of J.Seph’s military enlistment. A sad and beautiful track wrapped in soaring synths and punchy beats, Hold On’ is designed to let J.Seph shine. The track is opened by Somin and Jiwoo as they sing about their memories and the spaces around them that feel empty, immediately followed by J.Seph singing “I won’t make you wait too long / After many seasons pass… / I’ll be back to you”.

Rounding out that verse, BM then leads us into the first of many repeated choruses and in doing so, creates an impression of the group members embracing their eldest brother. The song’s only rap verse, sitting neatly after the first chorus, is given entirely by J.Seph and as he effortlessly and passionately raps about the kind of man he’s become since debut and his reassurance that he will return, there is a heaviness that settles over the song. Led back into the pre-chorus, the remainder of Hold On’ is carried by Somin and Jiwoo’s emotional vocals and BM’s creative ad libs. It’s simple, raw, and that’s what makes it such a perfect song.

Despite only being a single album, KARD really delivered with ‘Way With Words’. Arguably their most personal release to date, shown not only in the lyrics and music video but in BM’s increased involvement in the overall composition and production, the highs and lows of these 3 tracks perfectly showcase the quartet’s range and proves why they’re so beloved by fans of K-Pop across the globe.

Images by DSP Media.

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