It’s been close to a year since Kard’s latest single, and while “Ring The Alarm” was a more laid back outing from them, “Icky” sees Kard regain not just their dark edge, but their bite. “Icky” is a mix of daylight horror, surrealist nightmares, and outright filth that builds to an intoxicatingly terrible idea. It is the vibe of gleefully walking straight into bad decisions, with the “bad” being just as much a reason for as against.

When I say “Icky” is dominated by surrealist nightmares, I mean that quite literally. The MV is full to bursting with imagery straight out of the surrealist movement, starting from the opening shot. Following a rat then falling down a hole to a bizarre world filled with bizarre people; “Icky” is very much a dark Alice In Wonderland, with Jisoo as the Red Queen. We see her as the master of the unreal domain, attempting to capture her group mates so she can corrupt them– a goal she achieves. 

The surreal elements used are the ones that are drawn from the unconscious. There is a heavy usage of repeating spaces, being trapped in an unending hallway, doors to open air, and suddenly falling through the floor. The bright lighting and CGI only emphasize the surreal. The CGI manages to land smack dab in the uncanny valley– close to reality, but so clearly not that it becomes unsettling, especially with the juxtaposition of such blatant artificiality next to the real members of KARD. The bright lighting again builds the creepiness via the unnatural. “Icky” isn’t just bright, it’s overly bright white light that is way too even and often lacks or has conflicting shadows. “Icky” is designed to put the audience on edge, to feel the discomfort and terror of a synthetic world that is trying to appear normal.

Throughout the bizarre architecture, Somin, J.Seph, and BM attempt to avoid and evade Jiwoo’s green ooze, the fairly gross method by which she is able to convert them to her dark hedonism. But while it appears that Jiwoo is villainess hunting them down, she’s more akin to an arcane heroine offering salvation. She is the only one who isn’t tortured by the surreal nightmares, not because she’s in charge, but because Jiwoo is free of them. Being trapped and falling in dreams are often signs of stress, anxiety and frustration in real life, while doors represent new possibilities. Something led the others down the sewage pipe; Jiwoo’s merely encouraging them to let go and try a new way of life.

That new way of life is illustrated by the track itself; an unrepentant sex jam that revels in its own filthiness. The production is the weakest aspect of “Icky”. It has the right energy for a song like this, leaning heavily on the bass and synths for a seedy vibe. It also takes advantage of Kard’s distinct voices, highlighting Somin’s softer tone, Jiwoo’s alluring alto, J.Seph’s slick charisma, and BM’s rougher timbre in turn. But in the end, the hook just isn’t catchy enough and the grooves aren’t melodic enough to truly stick in the mind. Musically, “Icky” is serviceable but ultimately forgettable.

Where its true appeal lies are in the lyrics. “Icky” is the kind of sex jam that eschews love, passion, or sparks in favor of straight fucking. There is nothing more to the encounters sought than getting off thoroughly and well. Kard revel in the grime and sordidness of their actions. They acknowledge that stripped of the rose-colored glasses of romance, sex is often kind of gross, but rather than deter them, they chase the sweat and the fluids unrepentantly. There is no shame, only a gleeful, lascivious hunger as each member in turn proclaims their desire for nothing more or less than a truly spectacular fuck. Kard’s bluntness is spellbinding, crafting an openness that the audience cannot help but covet, falling down into Wonderland themselves. It’s probably not a smart decision, but when it’s this much fun to choose “wrong”, it’s hard to understand the appeal of choosing right.

“Icky” is manic and chaotic. It challenges the ideas of light being good and dark being evil; of corruption vs liberation, of being restrained by others or by yourself. It’s also an endorsement that sometimes, it’s perfectly fine to pick the good time over the long time.

(Images via DSP Media, YouTube)