A.C.E Adventures in Wonderland is a repackage album including all of the group’s prior releases as well as three new tracks. The album was released on the 8th of June 2018.
CACTUS and Callin’ feature all five members of the group, but due to temporary promotions with the group UNB, the maknae Chan was not able to participate in any of the other tracks. Take Me Higher features all members except Chan, whilst DESSERT and Black and Blue were unit duets.
The concept of this album wasn’t ever clearly explained and there were numerous theories flying around on Twitter. Obviously, the title is a nod to Alice in Wonderland and fairytale books can be found in some of the teaser images.
Prior to the release of this album the members had mentioned wanting to explore a variety of music styles, which they clearly accomplished in this repackaged mini album.
TRACK 1- CACTUS
CACTUS was originally released in May 2017, it the group’s debut single and incorporates a variety of genres, including the EDM sub-genre hardstyle.
The instrumentation of this song is probably the most prominent feature of the song and is also very unique in the k-pop genre as hardstyle is a mostly unexplored genre in the industry.
Jun also shows off his beautiful voice, and rappers Byeongkwan and Wow show their versatility, with both rap verses and singing parts.
The lyrics tell the story of the how A.C.E has come through their hardships to end up where they are now, with lines like:
“it doesn’t matter who bothers me, I’ll be okay, I won’t be scared”.
Overall, the meaning of the song is good and what we hear of their vocals and rapping is excellent.
However, I do wish they had more opportunities to show off their voices, as the instrumentation dominated the song.
Additionally, whilst I enjoyed the instrumentation and flow of the song overall, I would have liked to see some more variation. Hence, I give the song a rating of 3/5.
Did you like this song? If you did, check out this remix version with SPECTRUM BEAT as well as this English version in which they changed some of the lyrics and dedicated it to fans, whom they call Choice!
TRACK 2- Callin’
Following their debut song, the group decided to keep a somewhat similar sound for their first comeback. Callin’ however, is a more complex and musically mature song than CACTUS.
Despite having a very similar beat drop, there is much more complexity and variety of the instrumentation in this song. I particularly love Donghun’s softer verse at 1:32.
Not only is the instrumentation more varied, but the members have more lines in this song, allowing them to display more of their talents. Main vocal Chan shows off his unique vocal tone at 2:15 and the ad-libs from 2:55 add a complexity to the song which I very much enjoy.
The lyrics of Callin’ follow on from the story told by CACTUS, talking about how the members now feel ready to answer whenever the world calls on them, with lines like
“now open your eyes don’t hide anymore”
“anytime anywhere callin’”.
It seems a fitting continuation from CACTUS, which talked about their feelings up to their debut and how they overcame hardship, to now declare their confidence and readiness before the world.
Overall, I like how this song was connected to their previous track: it can be annoying when two songs from an artist seem very similar to each other, but in this case it works as Callin’ clearly builds on and develops the story and emotions from CACTUS.
The greater complexity and variety in this song finds me enjoying the song much more than their debut, which I already liked, so I’m giving it a 3.5/5.
Did you like this song? If you did, check out this live performance!
TRACK 3- BLACK AND BLUE
Now we’ve come to the first of the new tracks on the album! Black and Blue is a song by members Jun and Wow and is rumoured to have been inspired by Beauty and the Beast, which is one of my favourite fairy tales of all time.
Black and Blue has a grittier, hip-hop sound and shows how the group has begun to explore a wider variety of music genres. The song has a very unique and unusual flair as well.
One aspect of this song which I have absolutely fallen in love with is how they use their two different voices to create a sense of dialogue, for example at 0:11 through the use of interjections and then at 0:25 where the song switches back between rap and singing.
The narrator of the song talks about how their life has only “black and dark” and invites whoever they are talking to not to give up on them, saying:
“please come into my darkness, use your warmth to envelop me”.
Despite the generally strong and powerful beat and somewhat possessive lyrics, there is a somewhat unexpected emotional vulnerability, especially in the later part of the song around 2:25 where the beat mellows out and Wow says:
“I’m saying I love you please take a listen, please understand my pureness, the solace in my bleak melancholy”.
At first I must admit I wasn’t sure whether or not I liked Black and Blue. Over time I have come to enjoy how it is simple yet complicated at the same time and the mixture of melodies and chanting whispers seems to work really well.
Overall, whilst the concept isn’t particularly original, the lyrics are well-crafted and the song is engaging to listen to, so I give it a rating of 4/5.
Did you like this song? If you did, check out this fan-cam of the two performing it at a fan signing!
TRACK 4- Take Me Higher
Take Me Higher is the title track of this repackaged album and the group’s third music video and promotional song. It features Donghun, Wow, Jun and Kim Byeongkwan.
Take Me Higher is completely different from the group’s previous title tracks and takes a chill-pop approach to summery music, marking the group’s first attempt at seasonal music and also their first non-EDM title track.
The instrumentals and the vocals compliment each other and work on the same level in this song. This doesn’t necessarily make the song any better, but it is interesting and a nice change of pace.
The instrumentation of the song is quite stripped back and includes a snapping sound and occasionally chords, later mixing in some more light percussion as well.
What the instrumental lacks in melody and tune, the vocals deliver in full. The vocals are smooth and melodic, contrasting and completing the instrumental perfectly and their high pitch helps to create a fun and sunny feeling.
The song also features a rap verse (2:31) written by group member Wow, which has a much more chill, almost R&B sound and provides a nice break in the general upbeat poppy sound of the song. This also leads into this beautiful slower section at 2:48 where Donghun and Jun really get to show off their gorgeous vocals.
For the most part, the flow of the song works really well and the rap verse and break down perfectly balance out the rest of the song so that it never feels boring or overly repetitive.
The chorus might actually be my least favourite part of the song… whilst I mostly like it a lot, there is one line (for example at 1:19) where they sing “everyday, everywhere, everything about you” and I find that the repetition of “every” breaks the flow of the song slightly. Apart from that, this song is wonderful.
This song is really a love song to the groups fans and lines such as “my choice is my life” make this perfectly clear, as their fandom name is choice. The lyrics thank the group’s fans for their love and support with lines like
“my unending gratitude, you’re the reason for my existence”.
Take Me Higher also seems to be a continuation of the group’s previous title tracks (CACTUS and Callin’), continuing to tell the story of A.C.E’s journey.
Beyond this, it is also a simple love song.
Overall, I how Take Me Higher is a summer song without being predictable! They lyrics aren’t particularly unique, but are sweet, and the song itself is catchy and pleasing to the ears so I give it a 3.5/5.
Did you like this song? If you did check out this live performance.
TRACK 5- DESSERT
DESSERT is the third and final new track on this album and features members Donghun and Kim Byeongkwan.
DESSERT has a more typical summer sound with a lot of tropical house influence. I’m a bit tired of this genre, which I didn’t love to begin with, so I’m less inclined to like this song than others on the album.
The song starts off with quite a bare instrumental and slowly builds up, which helps to propel the song forwards quite successfully.
When the vocals start at 0:10 they’re quite high-pitched and have an airy quality, making them seem almost other-worldly in the best way possible.
The song features a clear beat drop, the only of the three new tracks to do so, which isn’t too repetitive and is broken up nicely by the occasional lyric.
However, the chorus is quite repetitive, which I do not enjoy, although it does sound nice. Unfortunately, the chorus and the beat drop make up most of the song.
The highlight of the song is definitely the section around 1:30 as it provides a nice contrast from the otherwise high-pitched and upbeat song.
Although DESSERT is definitely my least favourite of the new tracks, and although it is perhaps the most simple of all songs in terms of meaning (it’s a very sweet, summery confession song), I absolutely love the lyrics.
The lyrics of this song are not only sweet in terms of emotions, but literally sweet. My mouth is watering whilst reading lines like
“you look as if you were shaking around like cotton candy”
“even sand fluttering through the desert is sugar powder”.
Overall, I really like how they expressed the meaning through the lyrics, and I very much like the verse in the middle of the song, but the genre and the repetitiveness of the chorus was not for me.
However, if you are a fan of tropical house music you would probably very much enjoy this song and it is all a matter or personal preference. Based on my own music tastes, this song gets a rating of 1.5/5, but someone who likes tropical house could have easily rated it at 4/5.
Did you like this song? If you did, check out this fan-cam of Donghun and Kim Byeongkwan performing it!
TRACK 6- 5TAR (Incompletion)
5TAR (Incompletion) was previously released as a digital single by the group on the 15th of March 2018 and features all of the members except for Chan. An alternate version of the song including Chan exists, but was not included in this album due to his contract with UNB.
5TAR (Incompletion) was the group’s first official exploration of other genres as a group and is the groups first ballad. In my opinion, it really showcases the amazing vocal talents in this group.
The vocals start soft and in a comfortable register, creating an intimate and comforting atmosphere. The vocals gently coax the song along, for example this beautiful part at 0:44. The group also experimented with harmonies, which worked really well for them as well. Later in the song, for example at 3:06, the vocals sound much more emotional, creating progression and variety.
The only part of the song which I do not like is the end part from about 3:47 to 4:11 where they simply repeat “woah”. It sounds beautiful, but it’s far too repetitive for my tastes and this is something which I don’t like in any song.
The rap section around 2:03 is probably second least favourite part of the song and whilst I don’t not like it, I feel like the intensity and flow doesn’t completely match with the overall atmosphere of the song. It has grown on me overtime, but it’s still not my favourite section of the song.
The instrumentation in this song is quite stripped back and it gives a very raw and sincere feeling to the song, for example at 0:12. The instrumental changes throughout the song to fit the singing or rapping, blending really nicely together.
By looking at the lyrics, it is clear to see that the message of this song is so important and beautiful.
The group dedicated the song to their fans and have said they hope it helps Choice through difficult times in their life. It’s about not being alone anymore, about being proud of yourself and how “happiness is slowly coming your way”.
The lyrics do not urge one to stop crying and feel better, but rather to let it all out. Lines like “please don’t stop your tears” tell the listener how it’s okay to be sad, how you should let it all out and they will be there for you.
These lyrics were written by group members Jun and Donghun, making it even more special.
Overall, I love the meaning behind this song and the majority of the song is excellent, but the repetitive “woah” at the end ruins it a little bit for me, so I will give it a rating of 2/5.
If you do want to listen to the complete version of the song, you can’t currently purchase it or stream it but there is an official version on YouTube which you can watch here. (Spoiler alert: the song gets a 3 or 4 in this version.)
Overall, I’m quite pleased with this album. Whilst there were no songs that I gave a 5, most of the songs were very good and there was a decent amount of variety of genre and sound. Although not all of the songs suited my personal preference, they were on the most part good for the genre they were.
The concept of the album wasn’t very clearly expressed, but the songs were good individually and there was some continuation through the title tracks, from CACTUS to Callin’ and finally to Take Me Higher. However, there were a few songs which I gave lower ratings and some things that I didn’t like as much. Hence, I give this album a 3/5.
If you want to know what my ratings mean please refer to this. A 3 star album rating means I liked all of the songs to some extent (1 microphone or higher) and the cohesiveness, variety and music quality is decent. NOTE: I rate out of 5, however there are 7 levels (5,4,3,2,1,0, N/A).
Who are A.C.E?
A.C.E are a South Korean boy group who debuted in May 2017. There are five members: Jun, Donghun, Wow, Kim Byeongkwan (formerly known as Jason) and Chan. Chan is also a member of the boy group UNB.
So that was my review for A.C.E’s newest album! I love this group with all my heart and I hope you will too.
What did you think about this album? Let me know in the comments below!
Thank you for reading this post today! I hope you enjoyed and found some new music to listen to! Happy listening, Keira x.
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