Retrospective: Dreamcatcher’s “Road to Utopia” Promotions Were Paved With New Milestones

K-Pop — Dreamcatcher Retrospective

Dreamcatcher’s early 2021 promotion cycle for their 6th Mini Album was marked with new heights and never-before-reached numbers.

Dreamcatcher poses after recording “Play Color” for GENIE. Credit: hf_dreamcatcher

Coming off of their best year yet as a group in 2020, Dreamcatcher was poised to continue success in 2021. Their swan song to the “Dystopia” series, 6th Mini Album “Road to Utopia”, definitely came with its fair share of anticipation, quite a bit of it driven by the fact that the group had decided to come back so early in the year. With a lot of fan speculation in the circles that I ran in predicting a February 2021 comeback much like the last two years (“PIRI” and “Scream” both dropped in that month), it was an unexpected surprise to hear that Dreamcatcher was making their comeback in late January instead. Coming off of a year like no other and so soon off of a holiday season with more conservative spending by the public overall, would Dreamcatcher be able to continue its upward trajectory?

The answer, on a variety of levels, was a resounding “yes”. Whether it was by straight-up numbers, through new achievements, in garnering new attention by a slowly awakening domestic fanbase, or more, Dreamcatcher managed to do amazing things this comeback.

Here’s a look back at what Dreamcatcher achieved during the “Road to Utopia” cycle, along with a few trends that I saw that typified the continued rise of K-Pop’s resident rock/pop girl group.

Dreamcatcher continued to exponentially grow their fandom and hit not just bigger, but new milestones.


All things aside, when it comes down to it, K-Pop group success comes down in significant part to straight-up numbers, whether that is in views, in sales, in appearances, and a bunch of other quantitative metrics. For good or for ill, sustainability is in part attached to these numbers for a group.

When Dreamcatcher got past 56k sales on Hanteo (the individual sales chart) for their last album, “Lose Myself”, I’d thought about it and concluded that if Dreamcatcher reached 70k on the Hanteo chart, I’d consider that a successful comeback and good growth for a mid-to-upper-tier girl group.

When they blasted past the“Lose Myself” current lifetime numbers in a mere six days of sales, I knew we might be in for a wild ride, but even my expectations were blown away. As of this writing, “Road to Utopia” sits at 90,759 sales, an approximately 60% increase over the last comeback’s current numbers. It’s an insanely good number for a group and company of this size, and, coupled with the Gaon shipment sales numbers topping 120k, means that a lot of the production and operation costs they’ve incurred will hopefully be recouped fairly easily.

As for the official music video, even though there was some strangeness for a while with the YouTube algorithm counting views, “Odd Eye currently sits as the video with the fastest pace to its current number (just over 33.5 million views) in 44 days, 7 hours, and 32 minutes according to user “nat1withadv” on Reddit. “BOCA continues to be the top viewed MV on the channel (at just over 35 million right now), but logic dictates it’s only a matter of time before “Odd Eye” overtakes it.


But it wasn’t just bigger numbers that typified this “Road to Utopia” comeback, but new milestones as well, starting with the fact that Dreamcatcher was #1 on the Bugs streaming platform (at one point occupying the first 5 slots), a first for them. The happiness you could see was palpable on Dreamcatcher’s faces when they found out about the news in the above behind-the-scenes video, and even normally strong SuA had to take some time to collect herself. Other notable new milestones included:

The long and short of it was that Dreamcatcher was reaching new places in their numbers and rankings, and even though a music show win still evaded them this time around, they put themselves further along on the path to getting one with their overall growth.

Dreamcatcher climbed the idol radio show ladder, along with other variety achievements.


Among the 100+ individual variety video appearances that happened for this comeback were some notable gems and trends for Dreamcatcher. We’ve always been treated to a ton of content during comeback time from the group, but it really felt like they took things to the next level appearance-wise. One thing we saw was that Dreamcatcher climbed the rungs of what I’d call “idol radio shows”, shows that are hosted by former or current K-Pop idols. The list of these shows was pretty extensive, including:

  • Dreaming Radio (with Secret’s Jun Hyosung)
  • G.O.D’s Lunch attack (with G.O.D.)
  • Lee Joon’s Young Street (with MBLAQ’s Lee Joon)
  • K-Pop Daebak Show (with soloist Eric Nam)
  • Studio Moon Night (with MAMAMOO’s Moonbyul)

Along with continuing through the Naver NOW family of shows from prior comebacks (Five Minutes Before Six, Midnight Idol) and other appearances on other shows (Hope Song at Noon, Morning Wide News), Dreamcatcher seemed to finally be cracking that ceiling of recognition domestically not just among fans, but also their peers in the industry as well. Everyone hosting seemed to enjoy getting a dose of Dreamcatcher chaos and friendliness, and promises of future appearances mean that this won’t be the last time we see the group interviewed by their respected seniors in the industry.


On the new variety video front, Dreamcatcher made definite headway there as well. They finally got a Weekly Idol episode all to themselves, as well as participated in idol challenges show Idol League. They got the chance to mentor a younger kids’ group on ClevrTV, have their entire history talked about by SBS’s Hanbam, held performances on well-known channels Mdromeda and GENIE, and even had an entire online concert for French fans in conjunction with well known French YouTubers Mayline and Lou in Korea.


When you combine that with all of Dreamcatcher’s repeat appearances in places like NADOL, TongTongTv, Esquire Korea, and more, it sure felt like Dreamcatcher’s stock was rising in the variety world, as places both old and new sought to have them on shows, videos, and other fun appearances. For a group that started out having to go uphill on a re-debut with a new concept, to see them finally peeking through the domestic recognition ceiling after so long was wonderful to see, and is promising for the future as well.

A dual-song promotion opportunity led cyberpunk rock B-side “Wind Blows” to contribute in its own way to Dreamcatcher’s comeback.


It’s fairly common for K-Pop groups to promote more than just the title track song for a comeback, just to switch things up stylistically or provide a bit more variety to their performances. Dreamcatcher themselves have done this plenty of times, with the most notable set of promotions in recent history being a triple-song highlight between main and extended promotions for last year’s “Dystopia: The Tree of Language” (“Scream”, “Red Sun”, and “Black or White”). But this time around, it really felt like Dreamcatcher’s B-side promotion song got its own bit of love and exposure. “Wind Blows”, the cyberpunk rock-style song that at one point according to Dreamcatcher was a candidate to be the actual title track, showed off its style during Dreamcatcher’s one week promotion of it. We got this opportunity I think in part because “Odd Eye” promotions got cut a bit short by the Lunar New Year holiday in Korea, providing a natural break, and a chance to swap in a new and different song from the album for Dreamcatcher to perform. Where “Odd Eye” is ethereally dark and hard-hitting with its hip-hop blended beats, “Wind Blows” serves up an energetically light and head-nodding tone with its more rock-type sound and uplifting lyrics.


Even the mood and presentation of the performance seemed like night and day between the two songs, with “Odd Eye” warning listeners about being blinded by a Utopia that might not really exist and “Wind Blows” promising support and a helping hand whenever one might get lost by that very blindness. The two songs each seemed to compliment each other on the album, and in promotions, they just served to create a multi-faceted presentation of Dreamcatcher that is a natural evolution of their base dark concept and pure rock vibes.


The best part about having such a prominent B-side was seeing it get just a little love on the music show and variety circuit, something that hasn’t happened for Dreamcatcher up until now. The song actually managed to get into the top 5 with a nomination on Show Champion, and Dreamcatcher was more than happy to take the song around to a variety appearance treatment normally reserved exclusively for title tracks, with places like SBS MTV The Show and ROLLING providing fun platforms for “Wind Blows” to showcase itself (and Dreamcatcher) in the process.

Dreamcatcher’s diverse talent musically is part of their appeal, so one would hope that they get more of a chance to formally showcase that like what was done for “Wind Blows".

This was Handong’s return, and her era.


I rarely like to subscribe to the comment from some K-Pop fans that “this is x member’s era". Most successful K-Pop groups have plenty of talented members that contribute to a good comeback in their own ways, so to me, highlighting a single member for claiming a comeback era for themselves seems a bit narrowly focused.

But for “Road to Utopia", even though it is true that every member brought their A-game, I’m willing to make an exception. This was, to me, Handong’s era, and it’s only appropriate that this become apparent from her first comeback in over a year with the rest of the group.

There was a certain degree of skepticism when Handong made the decision to compete in Chinese idol survival show “Youth With You" in 2019, a choice that seemed all the more difficult when a pandemic nobody could have predicted kept her in China for far longer than expected, beyond her 2nd round elimination from the show. Speculation and doubt about the worth of such a hiatus from the group, especially as Dreamcatcher grew by leaps and bounds in 2020, ran rampant among InSomnias.

Handong shows off the talent she learned while in China — acting like a femme fatale. Credit: MAYLINE & LOU

Given the way Handong has re-established herself in the group after her return and in “Road to Utopia" promotions, I’d hope that most, if not all of that doubt has since been erased. A year away with the ability to compete, improve through practice and work with different groups, and, in her words, “find herself and her identity” has resulted in a more confident, assertive, and most importantly, visibly present Handong.

Whereas before we would see only flashes of the Handong that her fellow members in Dreamcatcher knew about - in short clips of a vLive here or a B-side chunk or iconic title track line there — what we got for “Road to Utopia” promotions was an unafraid, unabashed, almost newly-minted Handong, with tons of memorable comeback moments.

Handong clowns for the camera during After School Club by showing how fans would be wiping drool off their faces when seeing Dreamcatcher. Credit: ARIRANG K-POP

Having Handong be so much more comfortable in her own idol skin and doing everything this comeback from creating unforgettable stage moments during relay dances, to making an appearance for Chinese fans to talk about how to do a perfect photoshoot to tossing both objects and tissues with equal overdramatic comic tension, to competing for the Spoiler Queen title with Yoohyeon, and more is just a great thing for so many reasons.


Firstly, from a strictly business sense, Handong brought back with her a rather large Chinese fan following from her work in China on Youth With You, several beauty gigs, a first Chinese single in “Dawn”, and a literal killer appearance in a Chinese group’s MV, and having her be more out there in Dreamcatcher can only help the group’s multi-country/market appeal. If the numbers from the Chinese fansigns, which contributed to a five-digit spike in physical album sales after week 1 are any indication, it seems this strategy certainly paid off.

With a small assist from roommate Gahyeon, Handong wins TongTongTV’s “Insider King”, with SuA playing a willing second. Credit: TongTongTV

From a company viewpoint, having her develop in China then come back and be successful, display what she learned, and show how she’s changed validates for them, and for Handong, their investment in her, and what they saw in her back in 2017 despite being only in training for 5 months. It also ensures the company is utilizing their foreign-born sub-vocalist properly and giving her enough opportunity to shine (if anything, her more prominent singing roles in the title track this time around would do that, but there are plenty of other examples).


But most of all, and certainly most importantly - to the members, this is the Handong they’ve probably always known, always loved, always supported, and always wanted to succeed as a part of the group. From Gahyeon giving Handong a secret assist to allow her to win TongTongTV’s “Insider King”, to Dami taking an active role in always trying to include Handong in vLive broadcasts to JiU being the leader that she is and subtly encouraging Handong to say and do more during appearances, and more, there’s probably nobody happier (besides Handong herself of course) to see Handong return and be so noticeable than her fellow members. If it wasn’t apparent early in the comeback period for “Road to Utopia”, it certainly was near the end of promotions, when Dreamcatcher’s now-traditional “self-made MV” work featured B-side “Poison Love” with a central theme that all of the members fall super hard for Dreamcatcher’s resident Ice Princess in cheesy K-Drama fashion.


All of this support for Handong, and her running with it so successfully this comeback, sends a very clear message — Dreamcatcher is back to being complete and is stronger than ever. Even though Handong wasn’t around for most of the “Dystopia” storyline, there’s one last symbolic action that the company/producers threw in to show they were thinking of her. The fact that Handong “unmasks” at the end of the “Odd Eye” Dystopia version video to symbolize that in the plot, she never really left (and was acting through a physical proxy via “Scream” ‘s masked dancer) is a great way to cap off the end of the trilogy. By being the last of what we see from that story, Handong’s not only being included, but also being shown as never being forgotten even after being gone in 2020. It’s a nice gesture and based on how Handong has been doing this comeback, a well-deserved one.

Dreamcatcher throws out some finger hearts during their KCONTACT Season 3 Live Premiere appearance. Credit: KCON_official

With the “Dystopia” storyline and its exponentially growing album sales behind them, and Dreamcatcher once again promoting as a seven-member group, I’m certainly looking forward to what they have in store for the next comeback. As of this writing, Dreamcatcher isn’t stopping — they’re heading towards a late March filled with commitments from KCONTACT: Season 3, to their Japanese album release “Eclipse”, and finally to their dual-day online concert series “Crossroads”. After that, we’re due for another world-building, rock-based, musically diverse trip with the group, and with two more apparent Korean-based comebacks in store, it will no doubt be yet another marker on the way to continued, sustained success for Dreamcatcher, their fans, as well as Dreamcatcher Company. There will be a ton of speculation leading up to that next banger of a release, but until then, it’s pretty safe to say that “Road to Utopia” promotions were the most successful and high-achieving ones to date for Dreamcatcher, and a worthy start to what will be a busy 2021.