K-Pop — Dreamcatcher Retrospective

Dreamcatcher’s “BOCA” Promotions Continue Exponential Growth in 2020

A retrospective on how August 2020’s mini-album release is getting more people talking about K-pop’s rock/pop girl group.

Even though a lot of us have had a very difficult 2020 with everything going on in the world, there are still some silver linings to seek. One of these, if you’re a fan of Dreamcatcher, K-pop’s resident rock/pop girl group, is that 2020 has been a year where they’ve turned a corner from a visibility standpoint. While they’ve generally been on a steady rise since (re)debut in 2017, so far 2020 seems to be the year where that rise has become exponentially more noticeable. Earlier in 2020, Dreamcatcher’s first full album release “Dystopia: The Tree of Language”, which kicked off a new story and societal message in the Dreamcatcher universe, was released and was received extremely well by both fans and curious K-pop listeners alike, with promoted rock/EDM title track “Scream” and guitar-backed funk b-side “Black or White” anchoring a treasure trove of tracks and musical genres. Best of all, Dreamcatcher Company’s choice of comeback scheduling put tons of eyes on Dreamcatcher in a busy K-pop month that included highly-anticipated comebacks from IZ*ONE and BTS.

But could the momentum of February’s full album release be sustained through the end of summer, when Dreamcatcher would return with not just a smaller mini-album, but one which purported to bring in a “moombahton rock” title track in “BOCA”? I’ll take a page out of member and reigning Spoiler Queen Yoohyeon’s book: the answer turned out to be a resounding yes.

With “BOCA” promotions just behind us as of this writing, I’m going to take a quick peek back through what Dreamcatcher did from mid-August through September, and how they most certainly raised their profile not only amongst their dedicated “Insomnia” fandom, but also some new folks as well.

“BOCA” promotion performances showcased Dreamcatcher’s style.

If you’re into K-pop and you’re used to the almost daily performance of the same title track by your favorite group, there’s a chance that it might get a little visually stale, regardless of how much you might love them. This is why you see a bit of variance as far as style, look, and choreography during a promotion period. Even though Dreamcatcher’s “BOCA” is, to these admittedly biased ears, a total banger, there’s always a little room for some differences to keep things a bit fresh.

More than any other comeback I’ve seen from Dreamcatcher since I’ve started following them in early 2017, I really feel like Dreamcatcher showcased a huge variance in fashion. Across the roughly 21 performances of “BOCA” we saw live this comeback, we saw at least 10, if not more, stage costumes, a bunch of different hairstyles, and at least 5–7 subtle choreography changes. That meant that a little less than half of what we saw was visually different on a daily basis in some way. It’s a far cry from the uniform “palette swaps” of costuming we saw in Dreamcatcher’s early days (which certainly had its own merit), but seeing so much difference allowed the visual presentation to stay fresh and increase commentary on the overall look for the group. It probably helped that the “Dystopia” story took Dreamcatcher into a bit of an urban fantasy/cyberpunk setting, allowing for some really creative outfits that made the group seem like they were out of a “Mad Max” movie rather than a K-pop music video.

We also got some memorable moments from performances as well. M2’s usual relay dance offering of “BOCA” showed what was pretty much a re-worked choreography due to the format, along with some light-hearted moments, like JiU triggering a wave to the back of the relay line, a few subtle part switches, and SuA and Yoohyeon lifting Siyeon in the air. Show Champion used an ending cut from Yoohyeon where they picked her up breaking stage character and smiling brightly, which, as predicted, got a ton of positive comments. And SBS MTV’s The Show allowed Dreamcatcher to perform “BOCA” live and in one take all the way to the parking lot in their “on the way home” feature, with decidedly hilarious (yet still safely masked up) results.

On the b-side song promotion front, we got to see a couple of performances of ballad b-side Dear, which JiU helped compose and write, and which she sang a little of on the RUN.WAV show at 16:06 last year. It was nice for her to check that off of her bucket list, but she wasn’t the only one to do so. Dami worked a bit on 2000’s rock-style song “Break the Wall” along with LEEZ and Ollounder, which was performed for their vlive showcase with a nice distorted song effect via manually-held megaphones. If the way she was grooving and playing imaginary drums to the song during their live performance was any indication, the normally chill main rapper of Dreamcatcher was probably as over the moon as fans were to hear it live.

All in all, I’d say from a performance perspective this was perhaps the freshest yet in terms of keeping the audience visually and aurally entertained, and Dreamcatcher put the cherry on top by turning their styling up to an 11 to do so.

New Variety ground was broken for Dreamcatcher’s “BOCA” era.

One thing that I think some newer fans of Dreamcatcher might not know about is that they actually have a decent variety show pedigree over the course of their lifetime. Sure, they haven’t been on the biggest, more popular shows for the most part (except for a shared episode of now-defunct Idol Room with Everglow, and a solo shared appearance by Siyeon as well as a partial appearance as a group on Weekly Idol). but there’s been a decent amount of memorable appearances. For a full list of their variety appearances since 2017, you can check out the Dreamcatcher Variety listing on Reddit in /r/dreamcatcher.

For “BOCA” promotions, however, it really felt like Dreamcatcher turned it up a notch in terms of where they were appearing. The girls appeared on NaverNOW’s “5 minutes before 6”, with a 1 hour 14 minute deep dive into the new album and the songs on it, picked up a first time interview (and stylish performance) with the Korean division of well-known magazine Esquire, and participated in two episodes of recently newly-minted outdoor activity/vacation show “Idol Picknic”, hosted by Lee Seugyoon and Ji Suk Jin, the latter a potential connection (and maybe future appearance for Dreamcatcher) to well-known variety show “Running Man”.

The group also did carpool karaoke and an interview with YouTube channel DKDKTV, performed “BOCA” in traditional hanbok attire for Piki Pictures/K-Culture, and returned to a couple of shows/features from their “Scream” promotions. One of the best examples was their return to ROLLING, where they did a prop dance, had a great time showing how well they knew each other with a “Mind Link” game with Indonesian words, and impressed their hosts by being the only group to repeat succeeding at the “Transonglation” triple-language challenge in one try as a full unit (this time singing parts of “BOCA” in Spanish, Portuguese, and Vietnamese).

All in all, Dreamcatcher appeared in around 15 different places for “BOCA” promotions over three weeks, and when you add on all the music show extras, short interviews, and advertisements for new things involving the girls (MyMusicTaste’s “AlarmDol” offering being one of these), they were very much out there and making new waves this August and September.

The numbers don’t lie — “BOCA” promotions broke records for Dreamcatcher.

If there was any doubt so far that “BOCA” continued Dreamcatcher’s growth in a big way up until now, the numbers back that up definitively. The “BOCA” music video itself was the biggest indicator of this — tracked by user “nat1withadv” on Reddit, “BOCA” reached milestones of up to 5 million views in just 1 day and 5 hours, doing so in half the time to get there as the last title track from February 2020, Scream”. Then it began hitting more viewing milestones in less and less time, from 10 million in 3 days and 4 hours (“Scream” — 23 days, 11 hours), to 15 million in 7 days and 3 hours (“Scream” — 84 days, 13 hours), and to its latest milestone, 21 million in 30 days, 4 hours (“Scream” — 178 days, 11 hours). While ad buys to encourage views (a common practice for new releases on YouTube) might explain some of these views, the subscriber gains (417,000 to 736,000) and sheer volume and pacing of views cannot be denied. Dreamcatcher has had a great 2020 from this perspective.

On the album front, the news was just as record-breaking for Dreamcatcher. The girls started strong, outdoing their previous album “Dystopia: The Tree of Language” by almost 13,000 sales in the first week to set an eventual record of 37,565 albums sold.

The album itself would eventually cross the 50,000 mark (the first ever for Dreamcatcher) as far as tracked sales on the Hanteo chart and as of this writing, sits at 51,355 copies sold. The Gaon Album Chart, which tracks domestically shipped albums, counted 86,874 albums for “Dystopia: Lose Myself” for August, putting Dreamcatcher over 100,000 albums shipped on the year between both “Dystopia” releases (90,000+ sold). It’s pretty safe to say the album’s four versions (S, H, E, and D) sold like gangbusters both domestically and internationally, which has to be a boon in a year that has seen Dreamcatcher robbed of one of their primary sources of revenue in the form of concert tours.

Other little factoids for August’s “BOCA” comeback include 23,946 new followers on Twitter (the biggest jump for them yet), crossing the 500k follower mark on Instagram, and overall just a huge jump in social media engagement channels overall, especially since February, as one fan compiled below.

One thing still on the back burner for the next comeback — Dreamcatcher’s first music show win. Through no fault of anyone’s, Dreamcatcher was unable to compete on SBS MTV’s The Show, their best chance at winning, for their first and arguably strongest week. This was unfortunately due to a COVID-19 case confirmation that shuttered the studio for two weeks. A valiant effort was made by the fandom even with weaker album and digital numbers, but Dreamcatcher ended up third behind “Road to Kingdom” contestants ONEUS and CRAVITY, a boy group who debuted just this year and who captured their first win.

With JYP Entertainment’s ITZY and Big Hit’s BTS promoting on other music shows during this time, Dreamcatcher’s prospects for a first win were essentially wiped out this time around. But even in this, there were signs of improvement. That Dreamcatcher was even competitive against two comparable boy groups who arguably charted better is a good marker of their growing fandom. In addition, we saw better coordination amongst various Dreamcatcher fan groups to not just vote but also to stream on platforms such as Bugs and Genie, and a general motivation amongst the fandom to at least make a good showing if not actually notch a win.

The way all the numbers are aligning, it feels like Dreamcatcher’s first music show win is more of a “when, not if” prospect — and maybe it may have been meant to be this way, as Chinese member Handong will hopefully be back with the group by the next comeback (Dreamcatcher Company states “soon” as of this writing, pending her remaining obligations in China), putting Dreamcatcher finally back at full strength after over a year. If a win is on the horizon, barring any issues, it will be with all seven members promoting.

Other tidbits from “BOCA” promotions, and an optimistic future.

Among the other miscellaneous but noteworthy things I observed from “BOCA” promotions were the following:

Seeing a ton more YouTubers picking up on the title track, and subsequently, on other Dreamcatcher music. Whether it was the more mainstream sound of blending moombahton and rock, the increased views, or just people spreading the word after February’s “Dystopia: The Tree of Language” success, more well-known YouTube content creators, with the subscriber count to support them, were filming videos talking about and getting hyped over “BOCA”. That’s only really a good thing in the long run — YouTube, for all its challenges, still has the ability to make things go viral and widely shared.

Other groups giving positive vibes to Dreamcatcher and networking with them. Dreamcatcher has always been known to be a group that’s easy to make friends with, but it seemed like this time around there were more props all around. ITZY, a far more popular group, clapped for Dreamcatcher’s performance and praised them, Yeonhee of newer group Rocket Punch spent part of her Vlive talking about Dreamcatcher (48:00 minutes in), CLC continued their close friendship with Dreamcatcher with Seungyeon declaring SuA as the person she’s most want to collab with on Instagram, and KARD’s BM spent a decent amount of time singing Dreamcatcher’s praises on fellow artist Eric Nam’s podcast. Again, there’s always been a decent amount of respect and friends made between Dreamcatcher and other artists, but it really felt like a lot of their networking and “Friendcatcher” tendencies were finally bearing fruit for this “BOCA” comeback.

As always, tons of content on the official front and exciting plans. Finally, as we’ve come to expect from Dreamcatcher, we have a bunch of content coming out on official channels, with the best so far being the 10 million views video reward of having the members swap parts to perform “BOCA”. What’s great was Dreamcatcher going the extra mile here, swapping the backup dancer parts, mimicking styling, performing the actual choreography instead of it being complete chaos (for the most part), and attempting to take on the personalities and mannerisms of the member they swapped to.

We also got the usual behind the scenes footage (jacket filming, MV filming, vlogs, and notes, with more yet to be released), a new interview series called “Between Dreamcatcher and Me” that asks some reflective, sometimes emotional questions from the members, and a bunch of vlives from the members themselves, with all their usual liveliness, comedy, chaos, and fun.

It’s not like Dreamcatcher is stopping now that “BOCA” promotions are formally over, either. They’ve got two concert/festival appearances for September lined up (their third appearance at Mu:CON and the Korea Japan Exchange Festival, both online), they’re appearing on a first-time show that is supposed to have idols giving gifts to their fans and calling them in real-time, and they still have to put out the 15 million view “BOCA” performance video, a “special version” that will have to top the last one for “Scream”, where the members wore outfits from and integrated choreography from almost all their previous comebacks. Hopefully after all this they’ll get some well-deserved rest, but for now, the Insomnia fandom will not be lacking for content and appearances from Dreamcatcher.

Appropriately enough, MBCkpop recently put out a 35 minute live stage compilation tracking Dreamcatcher from their debut track “Chase Me” til August 2020 with “BOCA”. If there was anything that showed not only how far Dreamcatcher has come since their re-debut, but also just how much they’ve released and performed since 2017, this was it. Things might still be a bit uncertain with a global pandemic around as of this writing, and everyone in the K-pop industry adjusting to the effects of it, but if “BOCA” promotions are any indication, Dreamcatcher more than likely has nothing to worry about as they continue forward through the last part of 2020 and beyond to what appears to be a bright, rock-filled future.

Lifetime geek dual-wielding in the tech and games industries for over a decade. Builder of walls of text. Shameless Asian pop lover.