If there is one word that can be used to describe A.C.E’s four-year journey as K-pop idols so far, it is tenacity. The five-member group have come a long way since their debut with the underrated (and slightly controversial) single album ‘Cactus’ – which only sold 900 copies in its first month – reaching new heights just last year with ‘HJZM : The Butterfly Phantasy’, selling over 61,000 units. Not bad for a group who are from a small independent company like Beat Interactive.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the quintet, who are on a quest for world domination. During the first quarter of 2021 alone, A.C.E have continued to expand their reach with high-profile collaborations, including ‘Fav Boyz’ with DJ Stevie Aoki and acclaimed rapper Thutmose as well as ‘Down’ with American electronic duo Grey. Now A.C.E are back with their fifth mini-album ‘Siren:Dawn’ to prove that they are more-than-worthy contenders on the chessboard that is K-pop.
On the five-track project, the boyband set out to tell “thrilling and fatal love stories”, as member Chan noted in an interview with Press Reels. It kicks off with ‘Intro: Miserere Mei Deus (We Fell Down)’, a haunting, evocative instrumental opener that successfully sets the tone for the rest of the mini-album.
The following tracks on ‘Siren: Dawn’ live up to the intro’s hefty promise, with the exception of title track ‘Higher’. If the song seems a little too familiar, possibly recalling the vibe of A.C.E’s 2019 single ‘Under Cover’, that’s likely because both tracks were helmed by the same producers, Bigtone and Madfresh.
Much like its predecessor, ‘Higher’ tries to mix a large variety of genres – there are pop, rock, progressive house influences in there, and even a slowed-down piano instrumental on the pre-chorus. While the 2019 release successfully traverses the different sounds to create a compelling sonic palette, ‘Higher’ is a far more haphazard production, and ultimately a little confusing to listen to.
Thankfully, the rest of the tracks on ‘Siren: Dawn’ showcase A.C.E at top form, while continuing to expand their musicality. ‘Atlantis’, which was written by Kino of PENTAGON, features an angsty rock-inflected production that effectively draws from the pop punk hits of the early 2000s without feeling dated. Meanwhile ‘Chasing Love’ is a fun, flirtatious dance track that recalls the vivid nature of The Chainsmokers and Halsey’s 2016 hit ‘Closer’, but without the kitschy lens that has been applied to the latter in the years since its release.
A.C.E wrap up the mini-album on a sentimental note with ‘Story’, which was co-written and -composed by members Donghun and Chan. The laid-back track’s soft beat accentuates the group’s harmonies and vocal range, all the while imparting a warm aura with uplifting lyrics that would be befitting of a closing song at a concert: “You who are looking at me, I want to protect you / I carefully listened to you and became a light”.
With ‘Siren: Dawn’, A.C.E put on a full display of their growth as musicians since their 2017 debut. The mini-album showcases their confidence in storytelling, musical experimentation and, even when they falter for a moment, the determination to pick themselves up again. Keep an eye on this headstrong quintet, because there’s no question they’ll surprise us in the years to come.
- Release date: June 23
- Record label: Beat Interactive, Swing Entertainment