K-Pop’s Resilient Dark Horse: The Case For Dreamcatcher As Worldwide Fans’ Choice Top 10 At The…

K-Pop — Opinions

Dreamcatcher’s dogged persistence, pioneering of a non-traditional music genre, and more are why K-Pop fans should consider voting for one of the most unique, yet perennially underrated groups in the industry.

Dreamcatcher films in front of a green screen for one of their scenes from late 2022’s “VISION” music video. Source: Dream Catcher Company

NOTE: Want the TL;DR? You should vote for Dreamcatcher for Worldwide Fans’ Choice (by voting on the MNet Plus site, and by streaming “MAISON” from the Spotify list and YouTube every day til November 24th) because:

  • They have defied the odds to become sustainable as the industry’s “dark horse” artist
  • They represent a non-traditional path to success in K-Pop for themselves and other groups currently pursuing alternate concepts and music
  • They are one of if not the most resilient/persistent groups in the business with an attitude to match

The end of the year in K-Pop means awards season, a chance for groups to be formally recognized by their peers and the industry in various sponsored shows. Because of the metric ton of work that typically goes into a K-Pop artist’s aspirations to succeed, from training to debut, to album releases and more, an award is seen as partial validation for all that effort from the industry in which they toil seemingly endlessly from day-to-day.

2022 MAMA Awards logo. Source: 2022 MAMA

One of the most commonly known awards shows is the MNet Asian Music Awards, or MAMA Awards as they have been more colloquially shortened to, sponsored by K-Pop industry juggernaut CJ E&M. The show, headlined by a few “of the Year” awards (Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Worldwide Icon of the Year) and with a few commonly expected categories for K-Pop achievement (Best Male Artist/Group, Best Female Artist/Group, Best Dance Performance, etc.) has been seen by some as one of the most prestigious set of awards to achieve. The show itself is highlighted by selected performing artists putting on end-of-year stages of their songs, often with the spectacle and complexity of a miniature cinematic film.

Cynical fans in K-Pop will say that awards shows are mostly catered to an elite few in the industry, closed to all but the groups with the biggest company representation or highest views or sales. I personally choose to take a more neutral view and say that such awards shows accurately reflect what both K-Pop fans and the industry prioritize are most important and rewarded currently (whether or not that is correct or otherwise supposed to be the metric is another topic not covered in this article). Nevertheless, some recognition that other opportunities for awards have been realized, and some awards shows have introduced other avenues for acquiring distinction. For MAMA, this manifests itself in the Worldwide Fans’ Choice and Worldwide Icon of the Year awards, with criteria almost 100% determined by fan vote and activity.

Dreamcatcher’s current Worldwide Fans’ Choice rank as of November 13th, 2022. Source:

Twenty artists have made the final cutoff for the above awards for the 2022 MAMA Awards after a pre-vote period, and the top ten will receive the recognition of Worldwide Fans’ Choice, with the number one vote-getter snagging Worldwide Icon of the Year. Not surprisingly, after producing over two years’ worth of written content for them and being a fan of theirs for almost their entire career, I have an obvious bias towards who K-Pop fans should vote for, and that’s third-generation, five-year veterans Dreamcatcher. Currently 15th as of this writing, the group’s smaller fandom relative to their peers on the list has meant a bit of a struggle to advance ranks, or even maintain placement. While I have no idea where Dreamcatcher will eventually end up, if you’re a non-aligned K-Pop fan, a Dreamcatcher fan who hasn’t had the opportunity or knowledge to vote daily or someone interested in the MAMA Awards’ fan vote, I have a case to make for perhaps throwing your support behind one of K-Pop’s most underrated, yet sustainable groups. Interested? Read on for more.


Dreamcatcher has defied the odds in a highly competitive industry, a “dark horse” that has become sustainable.

Merriam-Webster defines a dark horse as “a usually little known contender (such as a racehorse) that makes an unexpectedly good showing”, and over the five, almost six, years that Dreamcatcher has been active, that’s exactly what this group has done. Though the numbers relative to much larger groups within the industry may not necessarily reflect it on its face, Dreamcatcher has nevertheless been able to persist when there are many groups in K-Pop that jockey constantly for position and visibility in order to gain fans.


Given certain elements and context about Dreamcatcher, the fact that they’ve become sustainable is a “defying the odds” story and a bucking of the trends that sometimes occur in K-Pop. Five of Dreamcatcher’s members were originally a part of a group called MINX, debuting in 2014. The “cute” and bright concept that the group exuded during this time, typified by 2015 summer song “Love Shake”, was one that was considered to be safe for a group under a smaller company such as then-Happyface Entertainment (now Dreamcatcher Company) to employ. But the sea of girl groups debuting with similar concepts and larger company resources meant that MINX’s hard work and presentation was lost in the shuffle. After lackluster sales and views, the group was placed on hiatus, their future uncertain.


Normally a situation like this would spell doom for a group, but Happyface entertainment CEO Lee Joowon refused to give up on the group’s members, who he felt had talent the industry simply needed an opportunity to see. Influenced by his past affinity for J-rock acts and his experience working with them, he decided to add two new trainees to the group (prodigies Lee Gahyeon and Chinese-born Handong) and then re-debut the group with a completely different concept as Dreamcatcher— darker, edgier, and of course, rock-based. When the pre-debut videos showed up, gone were the bright pastel colors and cute smiles of MINX. In its place was a group with a more aggressive touch to their choreography, a serious and fierce stage presence, and a concept and music that were clearly non-traditional in its rock/pop base. The group’s debut year was a whirlwind, with three comebacks and an additional gamble by the company to pull participation from high-visibility competition MixNine to go on an international tour, normally an activity reserved for already-established and financially successful groups who can afford the cost, travel and grind of constant concerts.


All of these things were high-risk decisions, and any one of them could have sunk the group both financially and from a visibility standpoint. But the result, nearly six years later, is a group that has slowly but persistently carved out a niche for itself in the K-Pop industry, well-respected by their peers and recognized by fans as one of the primary groups to look into if you want “something different” or alternative in the genre. Their trajectory isn’t as upwardly sharp or sudden as with some of the other groups within their generation or even after them, but it is consistently upward, which is why you’re seeing them in the top 20 for an award normally filled with more popular groups. A vote for Dreamcatcher is simply a confirmation of what Dreamcatcher and their fandom already knows for themselves — that nothing is impossible.


Dreamcatcher represents a statement to the industry that there is more than one path or set of standards to be sustainable and successful.

Building from the last point, Dreamcatcher’s odds-defying sustainability in K-Pop shows that you don’t necessarily have to follow a standard path in the industry in order to get someplace where you feel you are doing well and are receiving some kind of recognition or respect for it. Almost six years of rock-blended pop content from the group, gradual and careful investment in appearances and collaborations, and one of the industry’s most-traveled international touring pedigrees (spanning almost every continent and 25 countries) has created a model of success that differs from the norm. There are no large company reputations, previously-established member fanbases from survival shows, or massive budgets to help grease the wheels when it comes to Dreamcatcher’s current perceived ability to stay visible, profitable, and sustainable in K-Pop — only a set of sharp financial decisions, family-oriented work environment, and a strategy focusing in on untapped fan markets that have led to their slow rise.


To be clear, I am not disparaging other groups or their access to such things in order to become successful — those are, after all, hallmarks of the industry, which do not dismiss the talent and hard work of the artists, and are completely valid to make your way in a sea of amazing music. But Dreamcatcher represents a different way of going about things. While not leading to instant, meteoric success, what Dreamcatcher’s presence in the top 20 of MAMA’s Worldwide Fans’ Choice in 2022 means there’s more than one way to make yourself stand out from the crowd.

Of all the groups on the top 20, Dreamcatcher is one of, if not the only group that doesn’t have one of the following:

  • A prior or current MAMA performance or artist invitation
  • A prior MAMA award win
  • A win on an MNet-affiliated or public broadcast music show


The fact that Dreamcatcher is in such well-regarded company is more than just luck or the result of their slow but steady growth — it is a statement that taking a road less-traveled can still lead to recognition even at one of the most prestigious awards shows of the industry. Other metrics which, justifiably, favor and reflect the South Korean general public’s preference for K-Pop put Dreamcatcher out of the running for higher-level MAMA awards, but this award is completely determined by fandom and is more accessible. If you’re reading this, and you’re a fan of an artist that pursues a different way of making music and standing out in the crowd (such as KARD, who has one of the few co-ed groups in K-Pop, or Purple Kiss, whose quirky title track videos and sometimes-experimental music style make them an interesting 4th generation K-Pop act, or AleXa, who has charted a similar non-traditional path to recognition, then you may want to consider taking the time to toss a vote Dreamcatcher’s way, as you’ll be sending a message that there is more than one path to recognition at the MAMA awards.


Dreamcatcher is, and continues to be, one of K-Pop’s most resilient groups, and their persistence even as they are sometimes shown to be underrated should be recognized — award or not.

If I had to use one adjective to describe Dreamcatcher that wasn’t talent or performance-based in any way (we’ve heard them all after almost six years), it would be “resilient”. After everything I’ve communicated in this article about how they’ve persisted and grinded for the past few years to get to where they are today, I feel like that’s the most appropriate way to look at their career arc. Putting up with the highly-risky prospect of re-debuting, with a non-traditional concept and music and working tirelessly to achieve the same goals that other, more traditional groups get to a lot faster requires a bit of mental fortitude.

During this most recent comeback, Dreamcatcher’s leader JiU had a very frank and honest interview where she talked about how, even though they were fine with their current pace of achievement and ultimately what they accomplish in the industry, that Dreamcatcher had times where they felt like that employee that wanted a promotion but never quite got there, for whatever reason, be it luck or circumstances. For the sake of their fans and themselves, they re-aligned expectations and simply worked together to keep climbing and growing.


Even though the group had reminded fans that the most important thing to them was to be happy and continue to make music they loved, that didn’t make their 1st music show win, on Show Champion on April 20, 2022, any less emotional and cathartic. Though music show wins have long removed any guarantee of opening doors to higher levels of success, the achievement was nevertheless a personal goal that the group cherished and has constantly brought up as a highlight of their most successful year here in 2022. Their nomination, even to a completely fan-vote-based category for the MAMA awards, is just a natural consequence of this resilience, especially after having missed out on nominations for the past five years (the last being for Best Female Rookie Group in 2017).


Whether or not this article convinces people to throw their MAMA vote and streaming support behind Dreamcatcher, and regardless of the ultimate results of the 2022 MAMA Worldwide Fans’ Choice top 10, Dreamcatcher will continue onward. A top 10 finish, in the face of larger fandoms and more well-known K-Pop groups, would be amazing and an expected achievement, given their current arc. But even if that were not the case, I have a feeling we will continue to see Dreamcatcher endure and continue on for as long as they can with their unique brand of music, concept, and performance. They’ve already secured their place in K-Pop history and stamped their footprint in as a pioneer for the presence of rock in the genre. If other groups have realized the value of rock and adapted it to their own success, that is ultimately good for Dreamcatcher, and arguably, doesn’t quite happen without Dreamcatcher risking putting it out there in the first place. When all is said and done, being one of the K-Pop industry’s best-known and sustainable alternatives to the traditional concept and music fans are used to isn’t a bad place to occupy at all. We’ll just have to see how much higher they’ll go. Will you help make that happen through voting on the MNet Plus site, and by streaming “MAISON” from the Spotify list and YouTube? That’s up to you, but I have a feeling Dreamcatcher will be fine either way.