K-Pop Artist Stories

Dreamcatcher’s “Summer Holiday” Flexes New Muscles While Keeping Their Core Intact

Dreamcatcher poses for a group pic at M! Countdown on August 12th, 2021. Credit: hf_dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher has never been one to work within traditional norms. Ever since they debuted in January of 2017 with a dark, rock/pop-focused concept they’ve sought to create a niche for themselves within the often volatile, highly competitive K-Pop industry. Four years later, they’ve managed to do just that, creating a new sustainable path to stability that, while still smaller than many larger, more domestically popular groups, proves there is more than one way to create K-Pop sound and stage presence among girl groups.

The thing is, Dreamcatcher has to a certain degree applied this philosophy to their own sound and musical style as well. Though well-practiced with their hard-charging, rock/pop-focused music, the group (with the help of mainstay producers LEEZ and Ollounder) has in recent years bucked some of their own fans’ expectations for their music, choosing to begin hybridizing their core with other genres. Where this began is a point of debate, but I would argue that it started with Dreamcatcher’s 1st Special Mini Album, “Raid of Dream”, with rock ballad “Deja Vu and EDM-based “Curse of the Spider” declaring that Dreamcatcher was evolving their music to another level.

Dreamcatcher Group Teaser Pic 02 for “Summer Holiday”. Credit: hf_dreamcatcher

That’s kind of why I think it’s pretty appropriate that Dreamcatcher’s release of “Summer Holiday” is one that is more far-ranging and varied than some of their previous work, at least from a mini album standpoint. It being their 2nd “Special Mini Album” is another nice milestone marker for them, as “Raid of Dream” was, to try some new things while still retaining the core identity of what makes Dreamcatcher who they are. Here are some thoughts I had, two weeks out from release, about their mid-summer 2021 album.

Intro, from Dreamcatcher’s “Summer Holiday”. Credit: Dreamcatcher official

Intro

  • Compare to: Intro (“Raid of Dream”), My Toys (“Fall Into The Mirror”)

If you’ve been skipping intro tracks on Dreamcatcher’s albums in favor of getting right to the title music, I’d change what you’re doing, as Dreamcatcher’s mostly instrumental openings serve to frame the mood and style of the title track to come. “Intro” on “Summer Holiday” brings back some of that mood-setting feel, as you hear light, calming guitar with echoing footsteps in the background leading to what is presumably the cursed hotel/amusement park setting of “BEcause”, and the mood shifts to one of circus attraction with the haunting “I like you” vocals punctuating the sound. This duality of sound and style, of bright and fun versus dark and sinister, sets the stage in a way we haven’t really seen since Dreamcatcher’s earlier work when an unfortunate Nightmare Hunter met an untimely fate to Dreamcatcher’s cursed “nightmare” personifications.

MV for “BEcause”, from Dreamcatcher’s “Summer Holiday”. Credit: Dreamcatcher official

BEcause

A ton has been said online and in Dreamcatcher fan communities about “BEcause”, Dreamcatcher’s latest title track, so I’ll try not to re-tread much of that territory. I will say that I do agree with much of the impression that this title track feels simultaneously like something different layered on top of what everyone has been familiar with from Dreamcatcher’s earlier work in the “Nightmare” series of songs. “BEcause” gives you a duality of light and airy verses and a slow, moody bridge coupled with harder-hitting pre-choruses and refrains. This is pretty appropriate given the theme of the song, which is “love that turns obsessive” according to multiple interviews with the group, layered with a story loosely based on horror movie “Us”, where twisted, doppelganger versions of normal humans seek to kill and replace who they’re based on.

The real Handong (actually her being dragged backwards) is replaced by her evil doppelganger in “BEcause”. Credit: Dreamcatcher official

I like to think of the Dreamcatcher doppelgangers as imperfect, both physically and mentally. Physically they are shown in both music video and choreography at times as stilted, moving more like marionettes or dolls than humans, while their singing about what they think love entails showcases the doppelgangers’ twisted version of it. In my mind, the doppelgangers that Dreamcatcher embody don’t know anything but the kind of love that is obsessive, making rejecting them something done at your own peril. The result is an “innocent on the surface, sinister underneath” feeling that we haven’t seen since “Fly High”, the prequel to Dreamcatcher’s seven boarding school characters being cursed into nightmare versions of themselves.

Doppelganger JiU is eager to show you what she thinks love is with an evil smirk. Credit: Dreamcatcher official

The song reflects that dual nature very well, and the result is a new and unique sound that still calls back Dreamcatcher’s foundation of dark and heavy rock. Veteran fans will find some of the indirect callbacks to 2017–2018 music video action (mirror usage, running down halls, being cursed or twisted) as visual comfort food, while new fans will be drawn in by a version of summer that is very much different than what K-Pop usually offers. That duality makes it a more wide-ranging, yet still very much Dreamcatcher-esque, song and a worthy addition to the title tracks in their discography.

Airplane, from Dreamcatcher’s “Summer Holiday”. Credit: Dreamcatcher official

Airplane

In reading and watching some of the reviews of the album, some people commented that “Airplane”, which communicated Dreamcatcher’s desire to once again travel the world (hopefully a thing again when the pandemic ends), seemed like a departure from previous Dreamcatcher music. After reflecting on it a bit, I’m not entirely in agreement with the sentiment. It’s not like Dreamcatcher has not done “light and happy” or lyrically bright songs before. “Over The Sky” was very much a love letter to the fans, and the recent B-side promoted song “Wind Blows” is an optimistic performance piece that while hard-rocking, talks about being there for friends and loved ones. And if Dreamcatcher fans don’t want to delve into the group’s “dark” pre-Dreamcatcher past as MINX with the 100% sunshine and beach song “Love Shake”, then they need only look to last year’s COVID-era PSA collaboration with fellow artists AleXa and IN2IT, “Be The Future”, to see that Dreamcatcher is fully capable of going the colorful summer bop route.

Dami and SuA have fun in collab “Be The Future”. Credit: Millenasia

So is “Airplane” all-new territory for Dreamcatcher? I’d say no, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also different. Of all the tracks on the album, this is the one most different from comparable B-sides in the past, and I like to think of it as “alternate universe Dreamcatcher”, where they managed to gain sustainability and success as a traditional girl group with a more domestically popular concept. The song never stops being bright from beginning to end, and is as fun and as head-in-the-clouds as the airplanes Dreamcatcher is singing about. And while it isn’t quite the song I’d go to first on the album, it’s still excellent to listen to, and one that I can absolutely respect Dreamcatcher for trying, if nothing else, to say that they are able to pull off any concept and any style with the same talent they’ve exhibited in their more traditional songs.

Whistle, from Dreamcatcher’s “Summer Holiday”. Credit: Dreamcatcher official

Whistle

As someone who did their fair share of bar and dance club hopping when younger, catchy dance/EDM track “Whistle” is, for me at least, a callback to those days when I didn’t require a nap before going out with friends. While you can make comparisons to other, similar EDM tracks in Dreamcatcher’s recent discography, none of those songs grab you with their catchy beat and “gotta go fast” rhythm from pillar to post as “Whistle” does. These are the songs in which you sometimes get to hear diverse vocal color from the group, and in this case, it’s Handong’s and Dami’s low tone singing and solid foundation and an immediate charge into the bridge by JiU that takes you on a roller coaster of beats and song changes that will have you vibing for most of the track. While there are many worthy B-side songs on every Dreamcatcher track, “Whistle” stands out to me as one that could see a ton of attention, especially in a live concert setting with Dreamcatcher official lightsticks waving and robed heads bopping. It’s definitely an addition to the “I’m driving on a highway and trying not to speed too much” playlist, and I’ve placed it on repeat a bunch of times since release.

Alldaylong, from Dreamcatcher’s “Summer Holiday”. Credit: Dreamcatcher official

Alldaylong

Veteran Dreamcatcher fans have known since last year around this time that leader JiU has wanted to try city pop for a while, and the Dreamcatcher member with some of the most lyrical and composition credits in the group got to finally do it with the ethereally feather-soft B-side track “Alldaylong”. Old school synth and simple, relaxing vibes have made their way into the K-Pop genre over the past year and a half, and what we get with Dreamcatcher’s take bringing in those core elements of city pop is a song that you could sit and listen to on a back porch or stoop on a relaxing warm summer night with your eyes closed.

Dreamcatcher’s live performance of “Alldaylong” on Show Champion, August 11th, 2021. Credit: ALL THE K-POP

There’s a theme to the eldest Dreamcatcher member’s lyrics and songs (started in “Dear” and continuing into “4 Memory”) and they center around an optimistic, inspiring view of the world and remembering the good, emotionally significant experiences in life, and “Alldaylong” is no exception. The song talks about a day spent with a loved one that the singer doesn’t want to let go of and cherish forever, and in a world filled with a lot of polarization and cynicism, is a nice reminder that remembering and striving for the good, little things that satisfy you and make you content is just as important as being careful about the bad ones. We’ve seen this throwback of a tune sung live at least once during promotions as of this writing, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it got more air time before they’re over for how calming and pleasant it is to listeners.

A Heart of Sunflower, from Dreamcatcher’s “Summer Holiday”. Credit: Dreamcatcher official

A Heart of Sunflower

Ballads are part and parcel one of the mainstays of any K-Pop release, and in this sense, Dreamcatcher does follow the trend in the industry to include them. For me, they’ve always served as a means to “cool down” after an album full of more aggressive or fast-moving tracks, but in a summer-themed album like this one, it serves a much different purpose, especially considering there are plenty of slower, lighter songs on the mini. If summer love is the theme of this album (Obsession in “BEcause”, a commitment to someone in “Whistle”, a cherished romantic day out in “Alldaylong”), then “A Heart of Sunflower” is the wistful summer breakup song, capping off all the facets of love by talking about how it can sometimes end.

Dreamcatcher’s live performance of “A Heart of Sunflower” on The Show, August 10th, 2021. Credit: THE K-POP

Even though ballads have been a part of the Dreamcatcher discography for a while, thematically it’s been a while since we’ve had one that was this emotionally heavy, with 2017’s “Emotion”, 2018’s “July 7th”, and 2019’s “Polaris” carrying the load. The good news about “A Heart of Sunflower”, even though it’s so lyrically hard-hitting that it apparently made member Handong cry when she read and heard it for the first time, is that there’s an undercurrent of determination in the midst of a difficult end to love lost. Yes, breakups happen, and certainly, some relationships end when they shouldn’t have, but even if there’s regret about those and the hope of getting back together is never realized, the memories and lessons learned are still precious ones. It’s a hard, but mostly realistic way of thinking about love that serves as a nice capstone to the summer tour that Dreamcatcher has taken us on for this album. We’ll probably see “A Heart of Sunflower” in many a video compilation of “Dreamcatcher emotional moments” in the future, but it’s nice to know that their vocal and lyrical talent can still lead us to a message of treasuring those moments you can’t take away no matter what happens.

Dreamcatcher on stage for Show Champion, August 11th, 2021. Credit: mbcplusm

Dreamcatcher has released their most versatile and far-reaching album yet with “Summer Holiday”, and I hope if you’ve read this far you give it more listens (or give it a chance if you haven’t yet), since it’s very much Dreamcatcher — breaking barriers, doing something different, yet not forgetting the rock/pop core that got them to this point. It’s very much something that your playlist will benefit from, and is overall a great addition to an already-varied Dreamcatcher discography. You can add it on Spotify, Apple, or YouTube now, and don’t forget to check out Dreamcatcher’s other work on their YouTube channel if you haven’t already!

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

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

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