Review

Song Review: A.C.E – Changer

A.C.E - ChangerA.C.E are one of the few K-pop groups I’ve seen perform in-person on multiple occasions. Both concerts were held in small venues, giving a sense of intimacy you don’t always get with K-pop. Rather than world-conquering, unapproachable idols, the guys feel more like comfortable friends. That mirrors their overall appeal. They’re scrappy underdogs with more than their fair share of classics.

This makes Changer all the more bittersweet. It’s not an endpoint for the group, but it certainly feels like a fork in the road. Members Donghun and Wow are set to enlist in the military soon, leaving behind a fraction of the group to continue promotions however their agency sees fit. As such, Changer feels imbued with love and appreciation for the fans, incorporating many of the elements that have made A.C.E’s music so addictive since their 2017 debut. It may not fully live up to peaks like Under Cover or Goblin, but its brash, energetic style makes a mark.

Turning the energy up a notch from June’s Higher, Changer pulses forward on a sturdy EDM backbone. It’s a series of highs and lows, both structurally and melodically. I’m not a huge fan of the chorus. At times, the refrain borders on shrill. But, it’s surrounded by excellent segments. The pre-chorus leverages beautiful melody for a sentimental standout, while the post-chorus chant borrows the clobbering hardstyle drive of debut-era songs like Cactus and Callin. I only wish the producers would have opted for something more daring than those ultra-familiar tropical synths. However, Changer’s whole eclipses its parts, slotting together into a track that’s both celebratory and intense. In this way, it’s a fitting send-off to the first stage of A.C.E’s career.

 Hooks 9
 Production 8
 Longevity 9
 Bias 9
 RATING 8.75

14 thoughts on “Song Review: A.C.E – Changer

  1. Hmm, never thought about how tiny this group was until you mentioned 2 of them are enlisting. Perhaps now they’ll be “vulnerable” enough to visit this godforsaken country (every clause of that sentence is sad in more ways than one *sigh*). I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing Under Cover performed by only 3 of them…

    Now, Me time: A.C.E have something of a very tinily very important role in my currently being so into K-pop. Like, I had been listening to it on and off since around 2014, but it was discovering both Under Cover (on Kpopalypse’s roundup) and NCT’s Limitless (my sister) the same afternoon that finally made me decide these people were worth 100% of my music searching/listening time, and I’ve yet to regret it. Gossip galore is a bonus.

    (I never said that)

    Anyways…

    Oh, something about the song? It’s fine, I guess. I prefer Higher. But neither compares to Goblin.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Musically I like the somewhat smaller groups, but there is something comforting knowing that a group like PENTAGON has enough members to continue viable group comebacks as their members shuffle through their service. I do wonder about groups like ATEEZ and SKZ whose members are all clumped together in age – I suppose some fans are awfully attached to the “everyone or no one” mentality but I don’t really get that, personally.

      Liked by 1 person

      • True. I tend to prefer groups with 8 members and up, more out of an interest in group variety shows (and balancing out not-that-likable members *ehem*) than anything, but you make a good point.

        So far, the only non-emotional argument I’ve seen in favor of “all or none” enlistment was “what will the other members do on a concert when the songs that were made without them come up?” Myself, I’d think it’d be easy to reassign lines and choreo for that, but who knows.

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        • Yeah, I’d agree that it seems like it’d be easy enough to reassign lines and choreo – and even if it takes more work that it seems, groups do it all the time anyhow due to injuries or hiatuses or whatever. Just this morning I saw a performance of J-Hope’s “Chicken Noodle Soup” rearranged for the full group. I vaguely remember seeing a video of A.C.E performing “Take Me Higher” right after Chan got out of UNB where they obviously threw together the 5-person arrangement at the last minute for a fansign, and it’s pretty charming.

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  2. I think you’re exactly on the money to identify that familiarity and intimacy as one of ACE’s key selling points and strengths: the idea that ACE and Choice are in this together, a small group and a small fandom up against the world. In Pitchfork’s “BE” review, they said that part of BTS’s strength was that “you get the sense that they earnestly want to root for you, too”. The same could surely be said of ACE.

    In last year’s Top 10 Artists list you said that you got the feeling that 2021 could be big for ACE. And I think this probably qualifies! They’ve had high-profile collabs with Western producers, Siren: Dawn charted at #2 on the Gaon Albums Chart and they’ve had two comebacks this year. Who wouldn’t want to root for ACE?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It’s a nice song, but it doesn’t know what it wants to be when it grows up. What kind of song is it? What is its purpose in the ACE oeuvre? Not quite midtempo, not quite fan service, not group defining, not era ending summary, and not all of these taken together. The sum is less than the parts.

    I wish ACE the best for whatever changes may come because their high marks have been regularly on my top kpop of each year.

    Speaking of Change, yesterday on the drive home, sonny boy was in charge of the ipod and he puts on the Bowie playlist including “Changes”. He knows more of the lyrics than I do. Atta boy. #Raisingthemright

    On a semi-related note, Beat Interactive is no longer a one group agency. My stans Forestella left their old agency after contract expiry this summer and joined Beat. All but the bass have completed military service already.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was kind of wondering if the Beat folks were going to have to take side jobs to keep the lights on for the next couple of years – I hope signing Forestella means they’re not in such dire straits as all that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This has been a really weird few days for me as a kpop fan – A.C.E and Stray Kids are my #1 and 2 groups, and now one of them is down two members with a third set to go at any time, while the other appears to be making a run at the “biggest kpop group that isn’t BTS” crown. And neither of their most recent releases have exactly set me on fire. I wish this year had been bigger for A.C.E, but I wasn’t really expecting an ot5 CB this year at all, and instead we got two. The younger three seem to be the most popular in the OST scene for whatever reason, so hopefully that’ll keep going – “Spark” was probably my favorite release of theirs this year, and JunChan’s “Where You Are” last year is another favorite.

    So yeah. I expect “Changer” will grow on me, just like everything else they’ve done, but I sure would have loved them to go out (temporarily I hope!) with a banger. “Talk You Down” and “Remember Us” are nice additions to the chill/ballads playlist – not as shmoopy or half-assed as some goodbye/fan service songs, with nice big ot5 climaxes that I’d totally wave a lighter-app at if I ever get a chance to see them in concert.

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    • SKZ and ACE are also my #1 and #2 groups!

      And I think you’re right to call this a run at the crown by SKZ – I was (happily) astonished that Thunderous has charted so well in Korea so far, especially by comparison to previous singles. By fourth-gen boy group standards, a #33-charting single is pretty phenomenal. (I was a bit disappointed that neither the single nor the album have charted in Australia, though – I know that no group other than BTS or Blackpink have ever charted here, but if ANYONE could manage it Stray Kids would be obvious contenders.)

      Liked by 1 person

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