K-Pop — Dreamcatcher Recall
Year-End Review: Dreamcatcher’s Fairytale Story Continues With Emotional Milestones And Returns
K-Pop’s resident rock/pop girl group spent their fifth year achieving long-awaited goals and returning to territory that built their loyal fanbase.
One of Dreamcatcher’s b-sides from this year’s album releases, the alternative rock-style song “Fairytale” from “Apocalypse: Follow Us”, ends with the following lyrics:
“I see a dream inside my eyes
You are the dream inside my eyes
I’m living a fairytale
This might sound like a fantasy
Don’t worry, look up and you’ll see
You’re living a fairytale
Follow your heart
Follow your heart
Follow your heart
We’re living in a fairytale”
Described by Dreamcatcher during their album showcase as a song with a “mystic and mysterious” vibe that elicits the happiness of being in a fairy-tale like atmosphere, this has become my #1 B-side from Dreamcatcher’s discography, unseating 2019’s “Daydream”. I’ve listened to it perhaps way too many times, and it’s been hailed as one of the best Dreamcatcher music tracks of the year by many fans.
I feel that “Fairytale” is a very apt description of Dreamcatcher’s career and especially of their achievements this year in 2022. Merriam-Webster has one of its definitions of “fairy-tale” as “a story in which improbable events lead to a happy ending”. For five years, Dreamcatcher’s career in K-Pop has been an exercise in defying improbable odds, from re-debuting to establishing a new fanbase with a non-traditional sound to slowly climbing the K-Pop popularity and respect ladder. And even though going into year six, the group still has a significantly larger international following as opposed to their domestic one, there’s a sense that in 2022, the group nevertheless reached a new level of both maturity and milestones, both obvious and subtle. Accentuated with returns of many kinds in a first year of a global attempt at a return to normalcy in an ongoing pandemic, Dreamcatcher made 2022 a memorable one.
Here’s a peek at some of the significant parts of Dreamcatcher’s work in 2022 that accentuate the points I’m making.
Dreamcatcher Wins Their First Award And Performs At An Awards Show
Besides a nomination for Best Rookie Girl Group in MAMA in 2017 and a few inclusions here and there for mostly fan-voted popularity awards, Dreamcatcher has largely been unable to break into the awards scene. That changed in 2022 when the fledgling K-Global Heart Dream Awards gave Dreamcatcher their first award for “Best Music Video” for April’s “MAISON” as well as an invite to perform at the show.
Some K-Pop fans will be quick to point out that many awards shows, including this one, are in essence “participation awards shows” where everyone attending gets an award. The context is thus something that they say doesn’t make this as big of an achievement as people are making it out to be. But I honestly have to disagree. I feel the context of receiving the award doesn’t diminish the fact that it was given and that the group was ultimately recognized for something. A judges panel had to determine which artists merited awards, and the show itself had to put forth an invite in the first place to groups like Dreamcatcher. The fact of the matter is that the industry, regardless of how prestigious the award is perceived to be, recognized Dreamcatcher as an awards-worthy group, and gave them something appropriate to that.
For a group that has had to work hard even to be noticed and recognized in an industry very much driven by reputation and company name, climbing to the top of the mountain for an award means much more than it would to groups that collect them left and right. It is, at the end of the day, a goal Dreamcatcher has wanted to achieve, and now has, and that can’t be discounted.
We’ll get to this later, but “MAISON”, and its accompanying full album in and of itself triggered a reverberation of achievements for the group, both for themselves and for their standing in the industry as a whole. Winning a music video award for the apocalyptic, superhero warrior vibe and presentation of the song was just one of those accolades. It was, for Dreamcatcher, something of a nice cap to a summer of whirlwind work for the group, which brings me to my next point about their 2022.
Dreamcatcher Returns To The Touring Road At Last
The start and subsequent peak of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic took from Dreamcatcher one of the pillars of their identity and their revenue — live touring in front of crowds. While their surge in popularity and album sales along with their bevy of online events sustained the group and company through 2020 and 2021, there is, of course, no substitute for the experience of Dreamcatcher live for both fans and the group themselves.
2022 marked the first opportunity for Dreamcatcher to return to the road ono tour at long last, bolstered by prudent protections and vaccines. Many K-Pop groups took to traveling this year in order to see international fans, but for Dreamcatcher, hardened veterans of the tour life, this was a return to the familiar, and a boon to see and perform in front of live global crowds in individual concerts for the first time since 2019. And of course, the return of concert touring meant that tour and travel vlogs were back on the menu, not just supported by mainstay vlogger Gahyeon, but by almost every other member of Dreamcatcher, in some of the most charming and fun content I’ve watched (my personal favorites include Main Vocal Siyeon’s tour vlogs, which have an endearing mix of her own quirkiness and behind-the-scenes sights.
But there were also firsts as well as returns for Dreamcatcher’s travels. From Handong being able to tour North America for the first time to being invited to the inaugural KPOP.FLEX in Germany, to their first anime convention invite at Houston’s Anime Matsuri, and last but not least, to a one-hour set as the first K-Pop group to perform at the well-known, world-famous Primavera Sound festival in Spain, Dreamcatcher’s tour road was marked with milestones. The group has always been at home with the international audience, and they continued to show that off with their unique rock-style presentation, masterful ability to get the crowd going, and bevy of made-for-concert-hype discography. For a group that took a risk with the kind of concept and musical style that could have missed as easily as it hit internationally, it was a dream come true to see this level of appreciation, recognition, and support.
Aside from all this, the return to touring validated without a doubt the growth of the group in three years’ time. From New York to Paris, Berlin to Mexico City, the Apocalypse World Tour showed Dreamcatcher’s exponential surge in international fandom. While compared to the truly massive K-Pop groups out there this growth could be seen as modest, going from 1,000-capacity to 4,000+ capacity venues in some cases can’t be overlooked, especially for a non-traditional, small company-backed group. For Dreamcatcher and the fans, it was a statement that despite a two-year layoff from live touring, the group continued to increase its footprint among global K-Pop fans, as well as domestic ones.
Dreamcatcher’s first hints of solo activities and song work highlight the maturity of their individual members on many levels.
While we’ve had small pepperings of solo work from Dreamcatcher members in prior years, 2022 seemed to mark the beginning of an effort to have Dreamcatcher members begin to distinguish themselves individually. The most obvious example of this was “Apocalypse: Save Us”, Dreamcatcher’s 2nd Full Album, in which every Dreamcatcher member got to help compose, produce, and record their own solo. The opportunity for all the members to show off individual preferences and styles, as opposed to only one or two members being able to do so, is a testament to the company’s commitment to each member’s development as artists and their trust in them as talented and skilled performers. For many K-Pop artists, being able to do solo work and songs is a goal, and often a bridge to continuing industry presence after a group’s lifetime, so for all of Dreamcatcher to get that chance is quite nice.
Aside from solos on the official discography, the first vestiges of individual activities began to pop up in places during the group’s promotions in 2022. Some of the highlights included:
- Dami’s work with eclectic cover channel MUSHROOM LIVE (shown above)
- SuA wrapping up a year-long radio gig on SBS Wendy’s Youngstreet and getting the opportunity to sing her first OST song “Still With You” for K-Drama “Cafe Minamdang”
- JiU landing a narration gig for a climate change documentary
And while not every single member of Dreamcatcher managed to pick up individual work beyond album solos, their talent continued to be highlighted in Special Clips and other Dreamcatcher content, and I have no doubt that every Dreamcatcher member will continue to see some of this transition into individual opportunities.
That said, I’d like to highlight one Dreamcatcher member that seemed to get plenty of individual opportunities this year, and that’s foreign-born member Handong, who racked up the work that included:
- The release of her 2nd Chinese solo and 3rd solo overall in “That Day”
- An appearance on MBC game show “South Korean Foreigners”
- Multiple appearances on TBS eFM’s Chinese-language radio show “Akdong Seoul”, a show that she would eventually get to guest DJ in her first radio gig (shown above from her March appearance with Nature’s Aurora)
- A Special Clip medley of Dreamcatcher songs in Chinese, for which Handong herself transposed/translated the lyrics
Once seen as Dreamcatcher’s shyest and occasionally prominent (yet savage) member, the surge of confidence and development that Handong has exhibited since her return in 2021 from her brief stint on Chinese survival show Youth With You has been continuously rewarded by Dreamcatcher Company, and 2022 was no exception. Being able to play to her strengths in terms of her connection to her native Chinese culture and language, as well as getting the ability to be out there representing the group and company in variety gigs is a part of the recognition of her maturity by the company, her fellow members, and of course, Handong herself. Other K-Pop companies could stand to take notes from the treatment Handong has gotten as a foreign-born member of the group, and her, along with the rest of Dreamcatcher, will no doubt get the chance for many more individual firsts moving forward.
Dreamcatcher finally ascends the music show mountain and captures their first music show win after 1,924 days since debut in 2017.
But of course I can’t talk about individual firsts without returning to the most obvious Dreamcatcher group first in 2022, and that’s their very first music show win, nearly 2,000 days after debut and longer for those Dreamcatcher members who comprised the ill-fated group MINX (2,741 days). It is, without a doubt, the single most important milestone achieved by the group in 2022 and is frequently talked about in many subsequent interviews, ments, and other comments from Dreamcatcher members, not to mention in other non-Dreamcatcher K-Pop circles as a long-awaited, deserved trophy.
I wrote extensively about the history of Dreamcatcher’s road to their first win, and won’t bore readers with a re-tread of those details, except to say that I underestimated just how significant this was as a personal goal to the group. Granted, like myself, Dreamcatcher themselves had managed their own expectations regarding the prospect of music show wins, so the achievement of getting that first win was, even for them, an unexpected and emotional surprise. But that didn’t make it any less significant, and you could tell from their response on stage that years of training, work, and near-misses for wins leading to this moment hit them all at once. That, of course, didn’t stop them from singing a respectable encore even as many of them were crying.
From vlive comments to variety appearances to interviews such as the honest and direct one that JiU gave about their first win and the circumstances surrounding it, Dreamcatcher getting their first (and second) awards on music shows wasn’t so much about sustainability or about it being a requirement for success, but instead about validation and personal achievement. JiU put it best in the above interview — it was like working hard but never quite getting the recognition for that hard work in a tangible, industry-perceived metric. To finally get that first after so long, and especially when you weren’t expecting to get it, has to feel good.
Once again, you can talk about contextually how this happened — that BIGBANG cannibalized IVE’s superior digital score, that Dreamcatcher had other fandoms willing to help boost their voting to put them over the top, that the group’s variety show timing gave them points that was sorely needed — but the fact is that this doesn’t happen without the critical mass, fan presence, and work of the group, company, and staff to get here. In this case, the context is irrelevant, and the achievement isn’t diminished by that. Whether or not Dreamcatcher will get any more wins remains to be seen — but having gotten over that hump, the group has commented in interviews as having a more “zen” approach to its desire to keep winning shows. I can’t help but subscribe to that same mentality, as the group, despite all of the obstacles put in front of it, continues to exist and do decently well regardless of their smaller perception by the general South Korean public.
Dreamcatcher and Dreamcatcher Company commit to more returns (and potential firsts) with an early contract renewal.
If anything, 2022 reassured us that Dreamcatcher will continue to get more chances to grow or make their impact on the K-Pop industry known, as mid-November brought with it the news that all seven Dreamcatcher members renewed their contracts, with better terms and together all at once rather than separately. To me, this is very much a unicorn in the K-Pop industry — many contract renewal situations have everyone re-signing without issues, perhaps with favorable terms, or all in relatively close proximity time-wise, but not all three. Arguments can be made that from a purely business standpoint, currently Dreamcatcher Company and Dreamcatcher need each other and it makes total sense to work together, but I also think aside from this, all public indications point to both company and group being more closely tied, with frequent references to them having a familial relationship as well as a business one.
While we as fans will likely never know all of the intimate ins and outs of the contract negotiation and ultimately, the renewal process for Dreamcatcher, what we can at least surmise is that there is a great deal of trust between all parties involved to continue onward, at least for the next couple of years (contract renewal period was unspecified but standard renewals seem to on average be for two-three years at most from time of renewal).
Certainly, achieving many milestones, including the group’s first win and well-received appearances internationally helps, but I also would say that it is a validation and testament to the faith the members of Dreamcatcher put in the company to market them well and to their satisfaction (despite what some fans think), look out for their health and well-being as artists, and give them the freedom and opportunity to improve and grow as musicians and performers, leading to whatever might come after Dreamcatcher is over and done with. For the company, the renewal shows that they have faith that Dreamcatcher will continue to make them sustainable if not outright profitable and that investment in their work will result in good returns for the company’s current and future prospects. You’d think that would be obvious with the company literally being named “Dreamcatcher Company”, but the formal contract renewal helps to officially push that home.
Of all of the things I reviewed for this year, the contract renewal news might be one of the most understated. That seems funny given how much fans talked about it, but what I mean is that it’s good news that is processed, enjoyed, and subsequently set aside.
I think hitting this milestone, getting to the point where you can renew and see that Dreamcatcher wants to spend more time together as artists, should be realized as their commitment and appreciation for their own resilience and ability to endure — that despite being in the mid-to-upper tier of girl groups (as opposed to S-tier hugely famous) and in the midst of some monster rookie girl group debuts in 2022, that they’re ready to do more and keep making music and performances on their own terms. If anything, it’s a validation that you can go the road less traveled in K-Pop and still come out pretty decently well. In the sometimes volatile K-Pop industry, where new groups sometimes can’t sustain themselves and others who you think are secure suddenly come upon some terrible circumstances, it should be a blessing that Dreamcatcher can keep going for the foreseeable future.
Nobody knows what the future holds for Dreamcatcher, but the single most certain thing is that they’ll be working hard for their fans, the company, and each other, to continue to leave their mark on the industry. Their fairytale story will keep going, at least for a few more chapters, after one of the most successful ones yet here in 2022.
And with that, another year-end review comes to a close, but be sure to stay tuned to this space for even more Dreamcatcher written content in 2023 and my fourth year writing consistently about the group! As always, I appreciate your claps, follows, subscribes, and signal boosts, and I’ll be sure to see you all next year for more Dreamcatcher talk!