A.C.E spent much of their 2018 on hiatus in Korea, touring the world with only a handful of songs to their name. I was lucky enough to see them twice last year, but as much as I love the guys, I have to admit there are only so many times you can hear the same pop song covers before they start to feel reductive. Luckily, the long wait for new material was worth it. A.C.E have returned with their first real showstopper in the form of the genre-mashing Under Cover.
For me, a song like Under Cover is quintessential K-pop. It’s bolstered by crunchy rock guitar, but it’s not a straight-up rock track. Its verses are driven mostly by hip-hop, but it’s not a rap track either. Under Cover is a blend of so many different elements, fused together to create one dynamic, smack-you-in-the-face blast of energy. In other words, while so many of their peers are serving under-cooked slices of tropical pop or appetizer-worthy deep house, A.C.E have offered up the full course.
Under Cover covers so much ground in its 3+ minutes. The swaggering hip-hop that opens the track had me worried for a moment, but the verse is quickly joined by metal guitar to invigorating effect. It takes awhile to get to the first chorus, but it’s an exciting climb, stuffed with surprises. A vocal-heavy pre-chorus clears the air as most of the instrumentation empties out. This gives added bombast to the electrifying hook, which pounds with the kind of over-the-top drama that only K-pop can nail quite so brilliantly.
A.C.E prove themselves a match for Under Cover’s ambitious blend of influences, captivating with impressive vocals and undeniable presence. Their 2017 work hinted at this potential, but Under Cover feels like the full realization of their skills. As the song throws everything it can at its thrilling, climactic bridge, it’s the guys that really sell the end product. In the end, it all comes together to create that rarest of 2019 K-pop singles: a track that is utterly satisfying from beginning to end.