When it comes to breaking barriers and pushing boundaries, co-ed K-pop group KARD know no limits.
Their latest album “Icky,” released on May 23, showcases their edgy and risqué style with the title track of the same name, along with the B-sides “Fxxk you,” “Been that Boy” and “Cake.”
Fans were surprised by the songs’ suggestive lyrics, such as BM’s rap verse in “Icky”: “Said she want more than a tip, I ain’t talking ’bout guidance. Dale, mami is wildin’, body temp risin’, give you what you been desirin’, woah.” “Cake” has its share of innuendos as well, with “Don’t you want a taste? Make you wanna put your to-tongue all on it, cake, don’t let a bite go to waste, all the way to my icing…”
In an industry that often imposes certain expectations on artists, KARD defy conventions with their unique lineup of two men, BM and J.seph, and two women, Jiwoo and Somin. As they delve into deeper themes and explore a more sensual side in tracks like “Icky” and “Cake,” KARD challenge the status quo, shattering stereotypes and showcasing a level of artistic freedom rarely seen in the industry.
Ahead of the U.S. leg of their “Playground” world tour, the members of KARD spoke with NextShark about their artistic evolution, the impact of being a co-ed group and their hopes for inspiring others in the industry to embrace their true selves.
NextShark: You never have been afraid to push boundaries and break barriers. This new album, in particular, has received a positive reception for being even sexier, edgier and more risqué. Was that intentional for this comeback?
Somin: Before making a comeback, we had a lot of discussions about what points we wanted to showcase. We intended to express sexiness through lyrics and word choices, and I think that intention was well-conveyed in this album. Although embarking on an adventure can be initially scary and intimidating, we believe that taking the courage to start and stepping forward is a small step towards moving forward. In the future, KARD will continue to try new things and strive to surprise people around the world.
J.seph: We wanted to maintain the essence of KARD’s color while aiming for a deeper feeling by repetitively using addictive hooks. Although it may seem repetitive, we intended to create a more intense vibe. We feel satisfied with the outcome as many people have enjoyed it.
Being able to perform songs like “ICKY” and “Fxxk you,” do you hope this will influence and inspire others in the industry to express themselves so freely? Is that a cultural shift you would like to see in your industry?
BM: I think everyone should have the freedom to express themselves the way they want as long as it’s in a certain boundary and doesn’t offend people.
Walk me through a bit of the group dynamic in songwriting. What might a songwriting session with the four of you for this comeback look like?
BM: I would start on a beat, then record the top lines and lyrics very roughly and send it to the members. They would come in, and we would together find a sonic sweet spot while laying down their vocals or raps. From there, it’s really just tweaking sounds here and there, finding and filling pockets — or even omitting certain sounds — to best complement the artist.
What is it about KARD that you think has helped with your success as a co-ed group in particular where other co-ed groups have not achieved similar heights?
Jiwoo: I think the four members fit together like puzzle pieces. And above all, because we pursued an artistic direction rather than an idol-oriented direction, I believe we have been able to continue our activities until now.
J.seph: It seems that the fans are enthusiastic about the fact that we are a co-ed group with a focus on performance. The unique title of “K-pop co-ed” also played a significant role, I believe.
How has being a co-ed group impacted your own growth as artists and people versus if you were in an all-boy group or -girl group? For instance, do you feel you are more understanding and empathetic toward the opposite gender?
Somin: I feel that being in a group like KARD, which isn’t confined to a particular mold, has made me more liberated. In the past, I would have followed predetermined plans and directions. However, now I find myself exploring different paths during personal practice. I was accustomed to adhering to scheduled training for years and living as a group, but being active in KARD has allowed me to discover various directions. It’s like realizing, “Oh I can also do it this way!” By having such diverse and broad perspectives, I can experience different aspects of albums, vocals and choreography. I prefer my current self, which has become more free-spirited while embracing these opportunities.
BM: I can speak for both J.seph and myself when I say we’ve learned a lot about how to cater to our girl members. Boys and girls are inevitably sensitive about different things being that we are different in so many ways. Which is beautiful because we learn so much from one another. I’ve never had a sister, so being a part of a co-ed group has taught me a lot [about] not only how to musically cater to a girl, but [also] how to be mindful of certain things when it comes to being around my members. It’s also very nice to have a different perspective from someone of the opposite sex all the time to see what I’m not seeing as well.
You’ve also previously discussed some of the unique challenges or drawbacks to being in a co-ed group, such as deciding either to go into a boys or girls waiting room together at award shows. Can you give some other examples?
J.seph: That’s right, it’s about needing an additional space to change clothes. Suddenly, I realized that this issue is not unique to us, as other groups may also have mixed-gender staff members. It made me realize that this is not a problem exclusive to us.
Jiwoo: The absence of a co-ed group category in award ceremonies.
If a co-ed group were to debut tomorrow, what would your advice be for them? Do you think KARD’s success has widened the door for more co-ed groups to debut in the future?
Somin: I truly hope that KARD has had a positive impact on co-ed groups! It’s something I always think about, and I also wish there were co-ed categories in award ceremonies. As the team that is currently active, there might be comparisons with other groups. However, I believe that we are diligently paving our own path. If other co-ed groups debut after us, I recommend not paying attention to negative comments or judgmental gazes and instead focusing on the group’s overall quality. Co-ed groups have many advantages, far outweighing any shortcomings. Definitely!
BM: I’ll say the same thing our seniors Coyote told us: communicate. Bad feelings, good feelings, differences in opinion, communicate all of it.
Do you have any advice for rookie groups on getting along?
Jiwoo: It would be great to have as many sincere conversations as possible, even about small things, and spend a lot of time together. When talking with the company, it’s important to prioritize the group’s collective opinion over personal desires and come together as one.
What’s a country you haven’t toured yet that is on your wishlist?
J.seph: The Maldives, New Zealand, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Saudi Arabia and countries in the Middle East! Although we haven’t been there, we would love to visit anytime and meet the fans in those places.
Are there any overseas music festivals you have your eye on for performing?
Somin: Coachella, yes! I’ve been watching Coachella performances on YouTube, and if we could perform on that stage, I believe we could do really well. It would be amazing if many music lovers who attend Coachella also got a chance to listen to KARD’s music.