[Review] A.C.E deliver thrilling comeback with “Favorite Boys”

In an alternate reality, A.C.E’s Favorite Boys (도깨비) acted as the follow-up to their excellent 2019 single Under Cover, and I hailed it as an epic one-two punch. Instead, we had to suffer through Savage to get here. But, the journey was worth it. Favorite Boys is the dramatic, bombastic successor I’ve been hoping to hear. It draws upon A.C.E’s unique charms to craft a comeback that feels both old and new.

In a K-pop landscape filled with tinny, plonky percussion, Favorite Boys’ thundering beat is immensely refreshing. There’s a sense of depth to this instrumental, fleshed out by rock guitar and horror-show synth rather than the same sampled flourishes we hear too often. The production also embraces a remarkable consistency. Never once does the track force itself in needless directions, and this sense of focus allows the energy to build without sacrificing needed spotlight on individual performances.

Favorite Boys is an excellent example of how to utilize idol rappers within the confines of a K-pop track. Its verses are largely driven by rap, but this exists as part of the musical framework the song has set up, accentuating the energy rather than spinning off in disconnected directions. That’s not to say that the guys’ flow isn’t dynamic. The second verse unveils a breathless double shot that hits hard.

Favorite Boys’ chorus isn’t as instantly engaging as Under Cover’s was, but its mix of chanted elements and more traditional melody works very well. Lesser songs would have rested on its first few bars, anchoring the track with a catchphrase-type hook. Favorite Boys is smart to inject a melodic follow-up. And although it’s not super flashy, this little refrain has quickly become my favorite moment in the track. It helps that it’s underpinned by an instrumental that chugs along with great theatricality, knowing exactly when to clobber you over the head with a beat drop and when to pull back in service to the vocals. This is great K-pop, start to finish, and easily one of the year’s most thrilling comebacks.

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IATFB says: Definitely deserves its share of plaudits, though I felt “Favorite” was more in the line of an above-average to good release than anything else. Definitely enjoyed the bombastic approach, though the chorus being more average than great is likely where opinions diverge.

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