K.A.R.D – Rumor
Analysis and Review
This article provides a structural and harmonic analysis of ‘Rumor’ and aims to highlight and discuss interesting aspects of the song’s composition. ‘Rumor’ was composed by Nassun, EJ Show and Bigtone and was released on 24/04/17 as performed by K.A.R.D.
Although I aim to justify any opinions raised in this article, please respect that the views expressed are my own and they are subjective. For more details please read my full disclaimers page here
K.A.R.D are a co-ed k-pop group formed by DSP Media in 2016. At the time of writing this article, the group have released 3 project singles (‘Oh NaNa’, ‘Don’t Recall’ and ‘Rumor’) and are now at the closing stages of their ‘Wild Kard’ tour of America, Canada, Brazil and Mexico.
‘Rumor’ is the group’s final ‘project single’ prior to a formal debut and was released in collaboration with LG’s G6 commercial brand, of which K.A.R.D are cited as global ambassadors.
About the composers (Nassun, EJ Show and Bigtone):
Nassun is a rapper and producer. He debuted for Harvest Entertainment* on Lee Hyori’s 3rd album song ‘U-Go-Girl’ in 2008. The song was produced by E-Tribe and its success propelled Nassun into the mainstream spotlight. He has notably featured alongside Jewelry, G.O. and worked on the notorious ‘Chocolate Cream’ with Laysha.
*(the company is now called Happy Face Entertainment)
EJ Show is a songwriter, producer and CEO of Zoobeater sound. He is credited as having worked on all three project singles for K.A.R.D and has worked with other artists including ‘Twice’, ‘Berry Good’, ‘Kim Feel’ and ‘A.C.E’.
Bigtone (aka Lee Dae Sung) is a rapper, songwriter and producer at Zoobeater sound. He has also been credited as part of the songwriting team at YG Entertainment and has collaborated with artists including Dal Shabet, Lee Hyori, Brown Eyed Girls and McMong.
Song Structure and track info:
(fig A – Bar/Timecode/Structural overview of ‘Rumor’)
- Duration of published recording = 3:37 [source: iTunes]
- Consists of 80 bars in 4/4 time signature
- Tempo – Approx metronome mark of crotchet = 90 (Moderato)
- Key Signature: F minor (Chorus in Ab major. Song concludes in relative Ab major)
- Form: Intro, AA2BCAA2BDEBC
In its simplest form, the song consists of two two-bar ‘riffs’, which are embellished in different ways by utilising: instrumentation, pitch register and voice leading. I have described these riffs in my analysis as ‘Riff A’ and ‘Riff B’. Once you understand these progressions, you will realise that ‘Rumor’ is very quick to learn and offers a flexible platform for writing an experimental cover song or just for improvising on-top of. The song demonstrates a skilled and imaginative writing approach by Nassun, EJ Show and Bigtone, who have creatively prolonged two short passages across 80 bars.
The Intro and Riff A:
(fig B – Introduction to ‘Rumor’ and the isolation of ‘Riff A’ – 0:00 – 0:10)
The song begins with a 4-bar instrumental introduction which immediately isolates ‘Riff A’, which is a recurring and syncopated dotted-quaver chording beginning in the home key of F minor. The chords then move to Ab major, C minor, then to C5 (omitting the 3rd degree of the scale). All of this is highlighted in fig B, above. The backing music pans from central, to left, to right on every note switch and this arguably provides a sense of momentum. The backing music phases out the volume during the 2nd time repeat bar in order to provide space for the vocals to be introduced and returns to full volume during the following bar.
During the structural analysis (shown in fig A) I divided and labeled the verses into two parts, ‘A’ and ‘A2’. Some people may argue that the passage labeled ‘A2’ would be more appropriately described as a bridge section, but I have chosen not to label it in this way. The reason for this is because, although the melody and vocal rhythm between ‘Fig C’ and ‘Fig D’ are different, the backing music itself absolutely identical between the two passages (with the exception of a more pronounced and unsyncopated drum beat to support the 4/4 time signature). This is a subjective opinion, but I do not feel that a new ‘section’ is introduced or that the verse has ended stylistically until we reach the beginning of the chorus section at 0:53.
(fig C – First half of verse 1 – bars 5 – 13 – missing the upbeat – 0:10 – 0:32)
(fig D – Second half of verse 1 – bars 14 – 21, 0:32 – 0:53)
(fig E – Chorus 1 skeletal reduction and isolation of ‘Riff B’ – 0:53 – 1:14)
The chorus exposes ‘Riff B’ for the first time (as is illustrated in fig E, above). The riff adopts a reggae-styled approach, whereby the full chord sounds on the quaver(8th note) off-beat, as is customary for the genre. Riff B traverses several chords from: Ab, to Eb to Fm to Db major before the loop. The key signature has now shifted focus from F minor to a new tonic (home key) in Ab major. The overall effect is that of a subjectively ‘more optimistic’ ‘feel’ to the song. The chorus features a beautifully written melodic line which (with minimal rhythmic rearrangement) would work brilliantly in a classical concert hall or even a jazz club! The melody floats around the tonic note (Ab) but it almost seems to be a prerequisite that that the supertonic (Bb) must precede it on every occasion (the note Bb is used 28 times in the vocal line of the 8-bar passage!).
The other observation I must comment on is how the composers split the male vocals and group vocals to sing two notes together on the 3rd beat of bar 5,6 and 8. Traditionally, the use of a perfect 4th interval (the gap between the Bb and Eb) is not generally encouraged in early composition classes because it feels ‘irresolute’ and it is considered more difficult to write music which coherently caters for that particular interval. However, in this instance, ‘Rumor’ is an example where the interval not only works very well, but its inclusion provides us with one of the most distinctive aspects of the song.
The Instrumental Section:
(fig F – Instrumental section after chorus 1 – also used as outro)
The instrumental solo (as illustrated in fig F, above) is characterised by what I presume to be a synth solo. However, I am not able to confidently describe the solo as a ‘pure’ synth solo because the sound of the solo is also similar to that of a controlled voicebox with an added ‘wah’ effect, thus implying that the sound could actually be that of manipulated vocals as opposed to a synth/keyboard. Although the backing chords are directly lifted from the previous chorus section, the solo itself flirts between intervals which relate to both Ab major and F minor. It’s almost as if the music is warning the listener that the key is about to change back into the ‘minor’ for the second verse. Without knowing the composers’ intentions, it’s difficult to say if the solo was purposefully written with that particular effect in mind – however, if the allusion is deliberate, it’s an extremely clever piece of writing.
For want of a better ‘pun’, these type of solos are a ‘calling card’ to the composers of the K.A.R.D and they feature in each of the three project singles.
The Vocal Interjection (after the 2nd chorus)
(fig G – Vocal Interjection after chorus 2 – the backing also used in following rap solo)
I have included commentary on the vocal interjection after chorus 2 as there is a slight variation worth mentioning in the background riff. The riff is essentially the same as that of Riff B (used for the chorus) in terms of its chord progression, but it is played an octave lower and uses the same rhythm as that of Riff A. This ‘hybrid’ riff loops into the ‘Rap over the chorus’ section and provides an extremely subtle but nonetheless noticeable variation before setting the track up for the final chorus.
‘Rumor’ is an interesting and clever example of how far skilled composers and producers can develop a relatively small set of musical ideas. During my analysis, we observed in detail how just 4 bars of music can been expanded to 80(!) through: creative use of syncopated rhythm, prolongation of the verses by introducing a contrasting melodic line, providing harmonic as well as cultural and stylistic variation in the chorus, creating an interesting and cleverly written melodic line (both in the vocals and instrumental solos) and not forgetting the subtle ‘hybrid’ variation in the repeated background riff.
The triumvirate of Nassun, EJ Show and Bigtone has resulted in three very distinctive, enjoyable and intelligently written project singles for K.A.R.D. As far as I am aware, K.A.R.D have recently completed an international tour and are preparing for a formal album debut in July 2017. The band’s recognition and backing by large global corporations such ‘LG’ suggest that K.A.R.D are potentially ‘here to stay’ and it goes without saying that it would be to DSP’s credit that they retain the services of such a brilliant composition and production team for the next release.