Album Review: KARD – 2nd Mini Album ‘YOU & ME’

KARD's 2nd Mini Album Review

Release Date: November 21, 2017

Tracklist:

  1. INTO YOU
  2. Trust Me (Jiwoo & J.Seph ver.)
  3. Push & Pull
  4. Because (지니까)
  5. You In Me
  6. Trust Me (BM & Somin ver.)
  7. INTO YOU (Instrumental)*
  8. You In Me (Instrumental)*
  9. Trust Me (Group ver.)*

* bonus tracks in the physical edition

Total Runtime: 00:22:00

Recommended for: Hidden KARDs; anyone craving for a darker, more intense side of K-pop, influenced by tropical music; or listeners who are more selective about rapping in K-pop.

NOT Recommended for: Those who prefer a lighter listening experience and/or are obstinately averse to tropical music in general, even when it’s done right.

DSP Media’s co-ed quartet KARD returns to the scene with a second mini album since their official debut. Despite polarising reception to their debut (I’ve previously reviewed their first mini album here), the quartet has been steadily carving out a name for themselves among the international K-pop community. And of course, in order to keep doing that, they need to keep up that momentum by releasing more music for listeners. Give fans as well as potential fans something into which they could sink their teeth.

KARD’s 2nd mini album ‘You & Me’ once again entices audiences with their blend of tropical and rap music that is quickly becoming the crux of their identity. It comes in two formats: a digital edition that features six tracks, as well as a physical edition with three additional tracks. This review will only cover its digital edition.


Track Review

Track 1 – INTO YOU

KARD opens ‘You & Me’ with INTO YOU, the furthest that KARD has strayed from their usual take on tropical music thus far. Yes, the song still features a drop that is heavy on synthesizers and drum machines, arranged in a style that is characteristic of contemporary tropical music. But its overall sound is a combination of an intensely emotional ballad and rap hybrid with a darker electronic take on a Latin music inspired rhythm. The result is a mercilessly riveting wig-snatcher, an instant winner that lures the listener into sitting down with their headphones on and paying attention to the rest of the mini album. INTO YOU could very well stand on its own as a promoted title track.

Track 2 – Trust Me (Jiwoo & J.Seph ver.)

There are actually two versions of Trust Me on the digital release of KARD’s 2nd mini album, and an additional group version of the song on the physical album. The addition of three different versions might sound like overkill, especially considering KARD’s history with repetitiveness. But, believe it or not, this adds to the album’s overall cohesiveness, rather than take away its effectiveness. In a way, they are the thematic threads of the album, almost as though they’re acts of a play. The effect this has on the digital version is an album that one could very well listen to on repeat forever.

Jiwoo and J.Seph begin their version of the song with an intense drumbeat right off the bat, picking up where INTO YOU left off. It features airy vocals from Jiwoo, juxtaposed against J.Seph’s sharp and quick rapping style — a combination that Hidden KARDs should be used to by now. But, in contrast to their past releases, J.Seph’s rapping takes centre stage now, too. The spotlight is more evenly split between the two of them, drawing out J.Seph’s full potential in all its glory.

Track 3 – Push & Pull

All four of them then reunite in the mid-tempo tropical tune Push & Pull, the third track on KARD’s 2nd mini album. Unlike the tracks preceding it, the song’s tropical influence is much more apparent as soon as its instrumentals kick in. It’s one of those K-pop numbers that are designed to impel listeners into moving to the groove. But beneath the bright tropical beat, there’s an underlying sense of darkness interwoven into its lyrics. Just enough of it is in English to hint at the painful “push and pull” of a relationship. Still, if you’re not particularly a fan of that brisk and bright beat characteristic of mainstream tropical music, give this one a wide berth.

Track 4 – Because (지니까)

The boys take the spotlight in Because (지니까— and boy do they spit fire in this one. As it turns out, Trust Me was really but a taste of what’s ahead of us. Both J.Seph and BM pull out all the stops in this track, against the backdrop of Jiwoo and Somin’s ethereal vocals. This song is unlikely to appeal to you if you prefer K-pop songs with less emphasis on rapping. For me, though, it’s difficult to single out the best song from KARD’s 2nd mini album, but Because is a strong contender for the title. But then there’s also INTO YOU. And Push & Pull, somehow, even though it is simultaneously the weakest. You know what, forget it. They’re all pretty much fantastic.

Track 5 – You In Me

We then move on to their title track You In Me, which exhibits the strongest tropical influence on the mini album, alongside Push & Pull. Somin shines from the beginning, as she opens the track with her hauntingly light vocals before the song rapidly changes its tempo the moment J.Seph takes over. Some good news for fans who wanted to hear more from Jiwoo: You In Me isn’t heavily Somin-centric. However, this song still may not be your cup of tea if you are used to risk-takers who explore a multitude of genres. You In Me does indeed sound similar to Don’t Recall.

To me, KARD’s 2nd mini album ‘You & Me’ as a whole is clear indication that the quartet (or their marketing team) is tapping into the success of Don’t Recall. And I’m glad that they did. Because the end result is an album that is constructed as a sinister tale delivered in the form of song. The accompanying eerie music video is the cherry on top.

Track 6 – Trust Me (BM & Somin ver.)

Finally, the digital edition of KARD’s 2nd mini album closes with BM and Somin’s version of Trust Me. This is vastly different from the earlier one driven by a steady drumbeat, that pumped the album onward. Instead, theirs is a much mellower take on the song, slowing down the tempo as it gradually leads the album to a close. BM’s English lyrics are not exactly an exercise in complexity, but they very much fit into the mini album’s theme, and the raw emotion in his delivery definitely impresses.

Review overview
Summary KARD's 2nd Mini Album 'You & Me' could have been too repetitive, but it isn't. Every single one of these tracks is a show-stopper that flows seamlessly together.
4.5
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Mogwai

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