Music Review

REVIEW: Taemin – Ace

🎶 I want to be your only ace 🎶

This post is a long time coming. I’ve talked about how much I love SHINee a ton on ATK. In my Jonghyun Base post, and in my Criminal post, I talked about how Taemin was high key the gateway drug into SHINee, and later into my love for the other members.

Really, the more I reflect on how I fell into this rabbit hole that is Kpop, the more I blame Taemin, lmao. He also was the catalyst, to me becoming interested in other SM groups, too.

Because prior to me listening to “Pretty Boy”, I didn’t know who Kai even was. I only knew about EXO because of all the member departures right before EXODUS. And even then, the only member I knew from EXO was Suho, because of his MAMA speech going viral.

That’s literally my earlist memory of anything EXO releated. I saw MAMA was trending on Twitter, and people kept talking about EXO and one of the first things you saw was Suho’s EXO-L saranghae, lololol. I knew I was gonna like this man a lot.

Anyway, it wasn’t until after I watched Kai and Taemin’s performance of “Pretty Boy”, I thought, “okay, well maybe I should check out EXO on their next comeback.” And that’s how I became an EXO-L. You can read more about that in my EXODUS review.

Going back to Taemin and ACE era, if I remember correctly, ACE was one of my second Kpop album orders. This was like mid to late 2015 before my mom and I moved into our current house in Georgia that has like two amazing Kpop stores I shop at regularly pretty close to me.

I ordered my ACE album from either KTown4U or YesAsia. Waited like a month and a half and got my album and folded poster in the mail.

I used to have my Taemin poster hanging in both of my rooms, but now I have it folded and in the garage or something. Photocard wise, I think I have it in my to sell pile, tbh. I’m not actually much of a SHINee photocard collector. But I also had it hanging on my corkboard for a while too.

Along with my hyperfixation with Taemin, VIXX, SHINee, and other Kpop acts, I was playing these CDs a lot, like a lot a lot. I’ve talked about this before, but in my mom’s car at the time, we either had the SiriusXM radio (like the actual device plugged into the cigarette lighter), or cds.

And since I started buying all these Kpop albums, the ones I felt were, for a lack of a better term, mom friendly, I’d play these on our road trips when we either didn’t have satellite service (due to being in a heavily wooded area, for example) or didn’t want to listen to what they were playing, I’d put one of my CDs in.

So because of the heavy R&B sound and influence ACE has, this is my mom’s favorite Kpop albums start to finish. She loves “Ace” and I still catch her listening to it while she’s in her office working.

This woman found Taemin on Spotify, and saved “Ace” and “Play Me”, and still listens to it regularly. Idk if she has the rest of the album saved, but I know she has those two saved. I’d also like to add, that my mom and Taemin have the same birthday. So I guess it’s Cancer solidarity, lol.

So the main reason I wanted to make this Taemin article now is because we’re in the last few weeks of his military enlistment.

I don’t have to tell y’all it’s been rough with him out of the music game. We need him, stat. So I thought it’d be fun to do a miniseries talking about my fave Taemin releases.

My content calendar is a bit of a mess for November, but my goal is to have these articles out on either a Tuesday or Thursday.

With the last one up on Taemin’s return day (November 30th), although I’m posting the final on the 29th because it lines up too well.

Plus, with the 14-hour time difference, it’ll technically be the 30th for Korea anyway.

So with all that out of the way, let’s start!


Ace

I can’t talk about “Ace” without talking about the original version. I can’t decide which version I like more. I just love being able to listen to both versions.

Often we hear about alternate versions of songs, but we never get to hear them. So being in the timeline with both accessible is fine with me. The next thing I gotta address is that Changmin, one half of TVXQ, wrote the lyrics for “Ace”.

Girl WHAT? I had to double-check this because I couldn’t believe I missed that. I remember hearing about Jonghyun’s influence during this era, especially with “Pretty Boy”, but why am I just learning about Mr. Max Changmin being involved? I’m just shocked.

Maybe it was because I didn’t follow anyone that was really into TVXQ at the time, so it wasn’t as big of a deal within my internet circle.

But in hindsight, and even then in 2014, that’s huge. One day I’ll talk about my love of New Chapter #1: The Chance of Love, that such a phenomenal album. But anyway, back to “Ace”.

I don’t know if I can articulate in a meaningful way how much I love Taemin when he does these midtempo R&B heavy songs like “Ace”, “Experience”, and my favorite out of the bunch, “Play Me”.

I think “Experience” has a bit of a dance almost SHINee vibe to it when it comes to the drop that happens about halfway through the song, but I’m still lumping it here because it sounds closer to “Ace” than to “Danger”.

In fact, the more I think about it, this album has two very distinct sounds and energy levels. The slow side and the upbeat dance tracks. That’s it.

I guess that’s one of the downsides (if you can even call it that, really). Taemin’s future releases definitely have more variety and experimentation with sound (and visuals).

Which is such an odd take for me to have. I remember wishing during like “Move” era that we had a bit more R&B sounds to it like “Press It”. But now I’m glad we got the one album that sounded like ACE and kept it moving.

Pun intended. I guess that’s growth on my end. It’s very easy for me to complain about musicians switching it up too much and me wanting to keep the status quo.

I think too, it’s not necessarily the R&B aspects of “Ace” that I’m really in love with, it’s definitely one of the main parts, but it’s more of the midtempo pacing and hearing Taemin’s vocal performance blending in or standing out from the backing instrumentals.

Jumping ahead a bit, but “Move” is one of my favorite Taemin songs ever. And that song definitely has more house/ EDM vibes to it. So I think it’s the bones these types of Taemin songs have.

“Ace” was and still is a song that sounds just as good on the first listen I had back in late 2014 as it does late 2022 for me. It’s so timeless.

I’m never not excited to hear it pop up on shuffle. I feel like if you’re not familiar with Taemin’s music, or even Kpop, this is a safe choice. Although it does set the standard high.


Danger

One of the first things that pops into my mind when I think of “Danger” is Taemin’s thigh garter and his long blonde hair.

The next being the beginning instrumentals playing in my mind. Man, what a title track. “Danger” is that girl. There’s so much to talk about.

The choreography, the fashion choices, the catchy ass lyrics, the SM box music videos they no longer do. The best title tracks in my opinion, have multiple things that make it memorable. I think SM did a wonderful job with that aspect of ACE.

Let’s talk more about the visuals. I’m a simple lass, I see a boy with long fringe and he’s my favorite. I used to love blonde!Taemin more this era than his black hair.

But now I don’t have a set favorite hair color. I love the blonde and black hair. Taemin is one of the few idols I think pulls blonde off increadibly well. It’s never washes him out.

His smokey eyeshadow in the music video for “Danger” and just his makeup this era was so over the top. That combination with the piercings and his suits *chef kiss*. I don’t have to tell y’all the leopard print blazer with the black shirt, black pants, and white tie is one of my favorite looks.

I think my favorite look still is the sparkly red and black stripe suit look. My least favorite look is that black and white Versace looking athleisure look towards the end. But it’s not terrible. I think the headband, floofy hair and eyeshadow save the look for me.

I’m also a fan of the white suit with the black mesh shirt, the stripe suit that gives “Your Number” vibes, the black leather jacket, and the black see through sweater thing. Really every look except for that Versace looking one is top tier for me.

I guess there’s a plot in the music video for “Danger”. He seems to really want that guitar gun thing. I don’t really need to understand what’s going on.

I’m mostly watching a Taemin (and the other SHINee related music videos) for the choreo. Looks and choreo are the reason I’m checking this out ultimately. If there’s a coherent plot, even better.

I haven’t watched the music video in such a long time. It was fun revisiting it. I didn’t remember much other than the suit fits and there being dancing in a garage.

Songwise I listen to “Danger” less than I used to back when it was a newer release. I love it, but I definitely find myself listening to other title tracks and b-sides more. Like…


Experience

“Experience” used to be my favorite Taemin song for the looongest time. It’s kind of a sad song, but I love it, lol. Very dramatic, I love the drop that happens about halfway through the song.

I started to say it’s a slower pace song than “Danger”, but I don’t think that’s correct. It’s a quieter song.

It doesn’t have the same type of highs or assertiveness “Danger” has. Idk I just love when songs have some house/electronic elements to it.

I think that’s why younger Ash loved this song so much. Besides it just being a good ass song. Taemin had me whipped, this man could do no wrong, lol.


Pretty Boy

It’s timeeee. This is my favorite Taemin look this era and one of my favorite livestages, period. The horns in “Pretty Boy” are obnoxious but hype at the same time.

And that had to have been done on purpose, considering “Pretty Boy” is basic reclaiming the title pretty boy as a good thing. I literally couldn’t think of a better person to be on a song called that than Mr. Kai.

I already talked about “Pretty Boy” being the catalyst for me becoming an EXO-L. But I feel like we don’t talk enough about this collab!!! The dance break with these two? Shits fire!!

Kai’s entrance for his rap is so smooth and subtle. It’s kinda funny how “boring” Kai looks in comparison to Taemin. Like bruh looks like he had a meeting before hand and was like, “oh yeah my bestie has a show after this”. We love seeing friends having fun on stage.

This is another song I don’t listen to nearly as much as I did a few years ago, but I still have so much love for it.


Wicked

Now “Wicked” is a song I used to listen to a lot and one day stopped, and haven’t really listened to it again until it was time to work on this post, lol. It’s fine. Definitely my least favorite from the album, but not terrible.

There are just other Taem songs I’d rather listen to. “Wicked” has that same high energy, loud horns like “Danger” and “Pretty Boy”. So it’s not that it feels like it’s on the wrong album or anything. It’s just an ight song for me.

I would dance if I was at a Taemin concert and he performed it though, I’m not just standing there like a weirdo.


Play Me

Ah, yes, my current favorite song off ACE. It’s interesting how in the span of about 8 years, probably closer to 7 since I didn’t really start listening to ACE more until 2015, so 21 year old Ash’s taste has kinda changed.

Like 28 year old Ash still loves this album, but not to the level 21 year old Ash does. 28 year old Ash and 22 year old Ash probably agree Press It is still her favorite Taemin album, but we’ll talk about that in a different article, lol.

It’s the 90s R&B sexy grown folks music vibe “Play Me” has. I have more respect for it. Which is weird cause, Taemin is just a year older than me.

This man was 21 when he released this album. And that still blows my mind. I will never not be amazed at what Taemin has accomplished. And I’ll always be inspired by it.

Idk, if I really have any special to say about “Play Me” other than I love this song, and I highly recommend checking it out if you haven’t heard it.

I mean, I think you should check out this entire album because it truly is an experience to be witnessed in full from start to finish.

But if you asked me which song I’d recommend soley off of my favorite song off the album (atm), I’d say “Play Me”. Especially if you aren’t used to a slower, softer Taemin.


Omggg I can’t believe I’ve finally got a full Taemin album review up on here now. Sooo overdue. But I’m super excited about this series. I guess I gotta do something similar for Wonho because while I was writing this article, it was announced he’s going to do his miltary service starting next month.

I think they said he’ll be back right before his solo debut anniversary. So we love that stragetic planning. I should do it anyway because I have some different feelings on some of his songs. I love “Crazy” now. On my first few listens, I wasn’t really feeling it.

That’s also something I’m hoping will happen while relistening to all these Taemin songs, seeing how my feelings for songs have or haven’t changed, if my favorite looks are still my faves, do I have new appreciations for certain looks or concepts I didn’t have back during their intial release? I’m so excited.

I hope y’all enjoyed this post! I’m a little behind, but I’m gonna get back on track. Next up is a fave songs article. The hint is this group just announce a winter song for a comeback. See y’all then!

Take care!

Ash 💎

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