Album Review: K-Pop's Dreamcatcher Subverts Expectations With "VillainS" and "OOTD"

The rock/pop girl group's 9th Mini Album goes beyond confidence in their boldest effort yet.

Album Review: K-Pop's Dreamcatcher Subverts Expectations With "VillainS" and "OOTD"
Dreamcatcher’s group photo from their 9th Mini Album Comeback Showcase. Source: hf_dreamcatcher (X/Twitter)

I’ll be honest with you all - I’m someone who appreciates being comfortable when it comes to the things I like. If I find something that’s neat that I get into, I know I’m into it for specific reasons, and those reasons are why I keep coming back. And in a hobby like K-Pop, where seemingly endless groups and soloists are jockeying for the attention of fans, that’s super important for me so I don’t get terribly overwhelmed, burned out, or both.

Such as it is with my following of Dreamcatcher, whose rock/pop music, underdog story, and “K-Pop on Hard Mode” style have kept me compelled for almost 7 years. Lots of fans of the group seem to follow this same path, wearing their fandom on their sleeve almost like a badge of pride for what is essentially “The Little K-Pop Group That Could”.

But if Dreamcatcher has done one thing during its fairly long-term existence, it’s challenged convention, moved out of comfort zones, and done things their own way in the process.  They’ve arguably done this the whole time, but it became really noticeable during 2019’s “Raid of Dream” and beyond when hybridized genres began sneaking into their title tracks and music. But they’ve never really turned this comfort zone push inward toward their fans.

That is, until now.

The group’s latest album release, “VillainS”, has already created tons of discourse among the fandom - more than I’ve seen in a few years, since perhaps 2020’s rock/EDM-powered title track “Scream”. Much of why I think this is the case is the title track, “OOTD”, and how it has essentially pushed boundaries harder than anything I’ve seen recently from the group. As “OOTD” is pretty much what lots of Dreamcatcher fans are talking about, I’ll get to more about that in a bit, but here’s what I thought of the rest of the album:


If there was a track on the entire album that was essentially “most comfy”, it would be very much “Rising” by a country mile. This metal-style, hard rock track is well within Dreamcatcher’s wheelhouse and is as much “OG” as you can get insofar as their discography. The classic signs are all here - a hard-charging chorus, clear guitar backing track, and all the hallmarks of rock-star Dreamcatcher belting.

The difference is in who picks up some parts - you can clearly notice Handong in at least one of these choruses flexing the high note capability that she’s only occasionally displayed while Yoohyeon gets a speaking portion that is as aggressive as any classic rock track. I’ve heard comments that this is even comparable to their more rock-heavy Japanese releases, and I can certainly see that. The debate will likely continue for a bit in the fandom as to whether or not this should have been the title track and not “OOTD”, but insofar as those people looking for refuge from tracks out of their Dreamcatcher comfort zone, this is the one to listen to. As with many of the pure rock tracks, I liked this a lot and look forward to it being a part of concerts in the future.


If you’ve been following my Friday K-Pop Fiesta posts, you probably know that mostly spoken choruses aren’t normally my thing (this makes my impressions of “OOTD” even more interesting, as you’ll find out). This remains the case with “Shatter”, which I think gets a little too caught up in the spoken and repeated parts to make its chorus terribly impactful to me. That said, the instrumentation that surrounds these parts really props the song up, especially the choral backing and symphonic portion of the song, and the verses do a great job of establishing the tone of a slow, almost psychopathic mood, which is appropriate for an album titled “VillainS”.

The song ends pretty abruptly, and while I think that was probably part of the idea behind having the song suddenly “shatter” into nothingness, it just ends up being a bit too jarring for me. If this is the case for you, I’d recommend finding the live performance of “Shatter” from the group’s comeback showcase - having choreography and a clear vision for what they are trying to present through having both song and dance make this track a much better listen for folks who aren’t jamming with it initially.

We Are Young

Ever since the days when I was much more into anime than I am today, I’ve been a sucker for Eurobeat and Eurodance tracks (I blame Initial D, though Dance Dance Revolution machines had a role in this, too). That’s what makes “We Are Young” so enjoyable to me - it’s peppy and catchy, and it’s one of those songs that, much like a ton of other Dreamcatcher discography, is clearly festival and concert-ready and will create a lot of memories of fans jumping up and down or waving lightsticks around. The bridge into the final chorus is a total earworm and an invitation for the audience to join in on an easy background singing portion. Whether or not JiU decides during a concert that the final part of the song is worth repeating 6 times remains to be seen, but I don’t think anyone in a live audience would complain if that was ultimately the case. In the end, this is a worthy addition to songs like “Silent Night” and “Can’t Get You Out Of My Mind”, and if anything, is a statement from Dreamcatcher that despite being on the older side of K-Pop girl groups, they’re still plenty young enough to keep up with today’s generation of stars.


Well, here we are. You’ve had the appetizer, and now the main course is here. So what has title track “OOTD” done for me?

To be fair, I really had to give this a few listens before coming up with a good impression. Like one of the B-sides from the last album, “DEMIAN”, much of this style and genre isn’t quite my preferred music listening, which means that I needed to give it a bit more time to figure out what I thought of it. And having the whole package of “DEMIAN”, as in the Special Clip and multiple subsequent live performances of the song’s choreography, really helped warm me a bit to the song, even though I would still not pick it over, say “BONVOYAGE”.

I’ve always evaluated K-Pop tracks based on “whole package" stuff for this reason, as that’s what the music is to me - a combination of visuals, choreography, concept, and music. So having all of “OOTD” - the music video, the song, and even the surrounding Alternate Reality Game, have been instrumental in formulating my opinion, which essentially boils down to this statement:

In my opinion, “OOTD” is a good, even excellent title track because its intention on multiple levels is to subvert your expectations and think of Dreamcatcher in a wildly different, and perhaps new, way.

If you are judging this based purely on the music and style and nothing else, you can probably stop reading and I’d be OK with whatever opinion you have of the song. A Dreamcatcher or K-Pop fan evaluating it based on this is doing so in a fair, valid, and understandable way - based purely on the genre and style, this is way out of comfort zones, so whether or not that’s a good or bad thing for you is yours to decide. But if you’re curious, read on.

Like many fans, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the song when it initially dropped, and the core of that was what I saw as a subversion of fan expectations, perhaps borne out of a level of comfort people had gotten to with the group. It seems Dreamcatcher decided that we were due for a change, to be shoved out of our comfort zone (and theirs) and it did so in these ways:

The song structure.

Unlike when Dreamcatcher would dip their toe in the pop portion of the rock/pop hybrid they’ve been doing these past few years, they decided this time around to jump in the pool whole-heartedly. There are dual choruses, a significant portion of spoken parts, and a difference in pacing that make this song unlike any title track that they’ve done before. Sure, we heard JiU say that a couple months ago and I’m betting that like I did, many fans may have thought that we’d still get what we expected from a Dreamcatcher rock/pop song. That didn’t happen this time, which meant we got a very different tune and vibe.

As such, you might wonder, as I did, what happened to the 3rd gen unique rock stars that Dreamcatcher was supposed to be. Was this a change to a more trendy “mainstream” sound, and was that an incorrect direction? Would imitating the consistently spoken choruses and standard girl crush elements of modern girl groups be a mistake for a girl group that prides itself on its distinct style? Should “Rising”, a more comfortable Dreamcatcher-style rock song, been the title track instead? Those are understandable questions that have been asked in only a day of discussion about “OOTD”, although as you’ll find below, I personally think the song’s similarity to the modern style is both experimental and purposeful. But it’s no less uncomfortable, at least to me, on the first few listens.

The concept.

When “VillainS” became the title track, I remember getting excited about it - especially when teaser photos and the Alternate Reality Game seemed to point to another dark concept with some fantasy elements that was well within Dreamcatcher’s wheelhouse. Would we go back to “Deja Vu” and the arc which saw Yoohyeon’s character betray JiU’s? Would we even head back to the “Nightmare” era where horror was the bread and butter of Dreamcatcher’s initial rise among a select group of fans looking for something different? The fandom’s excitement mirrored my own. When “narcissism” coupled with stylishness emerged as a keyword in the press lead-up, however, I should have realized we were in for something different.

The villainry we end up seeing in “OOTD” is more personal and closer-to-home - Dreamcatcher has said this is a concept of “overwhelming confidence”, which when not tempered, leads to a self-absorption based not just on the “OOTD” you wear, but how you act. I equate this to a “heel turn” in pro wrestling parlance, where a formerly “good” character will turn “evil” and change their personality entirely. When that happens, among other things, the look of the wrestler and the entrance music almost always changes.

OOTD” is essentially Dreamcatcher’s heel wrestling theme, and the lyrics and attitude reflect that. Gone are the spirits who spoke out against hatred with words of “Dystopia” or the planetary freedom fighters of “Apocalypse”. In its place are normally-nice JiU demanding to be called a goddess, Handong obsessed with multiple mirror images of herself, and Dami literally telling people to get the “fuck outta my way”, among others. Lower tones and gutteral expression, along with a slower-paced progression in the song just augment the idea that this is not your normal Dreamcatcher - a change that some may have expected, but not in a way that it played out.

The presentation (and message).

I’ve seen fans ask the question of why “OOTD” looks like current trend 4th generation girl group videos, the sort of “girl crush/confidence” concept that we are used to seeing from other groups but not from Dreamcatcher. At first glance, it looks like Dreamcatcher is emulating the same trends in an attempt to become more mainstream, which always triggers the age-old debate for groups that do something perceived to be unique needing to do something more popular to get noticed. The similarities are mild, but they are nevertheless present.

The question that obviously gets asked is why, after all the unique MVs we’ve seen over the years from Dreamcatcher, are we seeing something that seems oddly familiar, even down to some of the same types of settings, moods, visual shots, and happenings? For a group that prides itself on unique and fresh, more of the same elsewhere seems oddly out-of-step with what they’ve done and always tend to do.

The answer, at least as I can speculate, is in all the curious fourth wall-breaking elements in “OOTD”, the sort of pullback to the production level of a K-Pop MV that is reserved for behind-the-scenes footage. The shots of JiU are shown to be in a carefully created and boxed setup. The videos of Siyeon and SuA on cool vehicles are seen to be blatantly edited and tracked to highlight ideal angles. The “fight” between Handong and Yoohyeon turns out to be meticulously choreographed and re-shot til perfect. Even the iconic “crown”, the focus of the ARG and key element of the story, has the curtain peeled back to show it rendering in Blender. It’s puzzling that such “meta” elements are included if the intention is to re-create a mainstream K-Pop girl group trend.

I’ve seen theories that the imitation of modern girl crush music video elements is meant to be satire or an indictment of the kind of tropes we see in such videos (and thus of the industry), and while that’s possible, I do think that it’s closer to the “overwhelming confidence” or “narcissism” theme. The point is that what we’re seeing is a facade, a contrived image that is meant to boost the people in it. Those with “overwhelming confidence” often overstep their own self-image to the point of creating themselves to be bigger than they are. The obsession with crowns - both literal and figurative - is a danger - but it’s entirely in line with how a villain would think in terms of style over substance, of greed over selflessness. In that vein, the superficial nature of the video and the song become a bit clearer.

While a different type of song and a “grower” for me, “OOTD” has, in my opinion, a ton of complexity behind it even if it’s not immediately obvious, and once you get past the shock of your expectations being subverted, you might see parts of the same Dreamcatcher from before - the one that dazzles with vocal power, rock sound, and high charisma, the one that loves to build worlds and tell stories (like the one that bookends the MV), and the one that isn’t afraid to work in the industry on their terms.

And I think that’s really what matters in the end. What this all boils down to is that under all these layers, we’re getting something bold, new, but most certainly trademark Dreamcatcher - a group that, as much as (or more than) anyone else, has earned the right as a veteran, sustainable girl group in K-Pop of 6 plus years to experiment a little. We’re asked to take the same leap of faith Dreamcatcher did when they debuted in 2017 and then decided to hybridize their sound starting in 2019. In 2023, Dreamcatcher was due for another shift, one that by exploring the concept of being selfish, greedy villains, wants to do something new and fresh with their music. If you disregard or disbelieve everything I’ve said up to this point, think about it in those terms, and perhaps, if you haven’t, give the song a whirl and see what you think. The rest is up to you.

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