Many k-pop fans have been clamoring for the emergence of a new co-ed group on the idol scene. They’ve been few and far between, with a pretty mixed track record when it comes to success. And then, seemingly out of nowhere come K.A.R.D — DSP Media’s ambitious new project. Whether they endure past the three singles we’ve been promised remains to be seen, but either way it’s great to see a bit of experimentation in k-pop.
As a debut track, Oh NaNa isn’t nearly as unique as K.A.R.D themselves. But though it borrows heavily from the popular tropical house trend, it brings the sound much closer to dancehall and reggae than most k-pop groups dare to venture. Lushly produced with atmospheric synths reminiscent of BTS’s Blood Sweat & Tears, Oh NaNa skirts past the temptation to substitute its catchphrase for an actual chorus. Instead, the central hook employs a melodic — if subdued — refrain that feels much more authentic than I would have thought. Its final repetition is especially gorgeous, supported by a warm bed of background vocals that add richness to the song’s texture.
Refreshingly, the girls’ vocals deviate from the aegyo-infused tones we expect to hear from most female-driven k-pop, bringing instead a sense of maturity that suits the song well. I wish Oh NaNa would have given the guys as much to do. At times, it feels more like a girl group track with a couple of guest rappers, rather than the cohesive unit K.A.R.D is aiming to be. Similarly, ex-Kara member Youngji comes and goes in a blink without much purpose beyond lending some name recognition to the song. But new projects like these deserve room to iron out the kinks. As unexpected debuts go, Oh NaNa is undeniably strong.