Check out Part 1: Dreamcatcher’s “You and I” – Style Versus Substance Part 1
In my article on Dreamcatcher’s “You and I”, I talked about the importance of balancing plot and visually pleasing images in a music video. I used “You and I” as an example of a music video that does a good job of balancing those things. In this article, I’m going to continue that discussion, but this time try to show it from a different perspective – where the balance between the two principles is thrown off, and the video feels disjointed. This is of course my critical opinion, but it is not the only opinion, and I welcome constructive arguments against my analysis.
Dreamcatcher’s “What” is one of their best songs yet, but its video feels not nearly as story driven – or at least, not well. There are elements of a story here, and the video is beautiful to look at, but there isn’t enough coherent substance to make it particularly gripping. However, it is a very captivating video visually, I just want to explore how the story takes a backseat to other elements of the video.
“What” is overall a great pop-rock song. It has amazing vocals, and the verses and chorus are clearly defined by electric guitar riffs and solid drums beats that get your heart pumping in the meter. It has good mixes of English and Korean words but doesn’t fall into the trap of using a ton of English words in the chorus and making it some weird half-translated mess. The bridge has some nice rapping by Dami but also JiU’s powerful vocals, keeping the styles balanced. Overall the song is a home run.
The video sports a more pop color scheme than past videos – deep fuchsia and indigo with hints of bright orange and other colors. Costumes take on a variety of styles, mostly modern hip fashion styles. Suits come back, this time in red, for JiU, and we see Gahyeon wearing more adult clothing than past videos where she was confined to the schoolgirl aesthetic, probably because she’s the maknae. There’s also a lot more sparkle – everywhere. Not exclusively on set, not exclusively in the costumes – there are sparkles all over the place. It’s a very flashy video and if you like that style then you’re going to love this video.
The camerawork is fantastic, and I do love the set. It feels far more modern than Dreamcatcher’s other videos, but it works for the song and fits the aesthetic that is put forth. I want to be clear – I don’t hate this music video at all. I actually love it. I just think that technically speaking, it could have been done better, and in the spirit of giving this music video a fair assessment, I think I should be hard on it.
As said before, story is implied in this video, but not in a way that is particularly cohesive, so I’ll do my best to try to unpack what I can. There are only a few actual storylines, the primary one being JiU’s and Yoohyeon’s. I usually try to unpack the details first, since I’m a more detail oriented person, but since the video is fairly lacking in story, I want to try to get to the bottom of theirs first, then get into the details.
JiU wakes up, fully clothed and in heels, in the street, and judging from her expression, it seems to be an unfamiliar one to her. She looks around in fear and confusion. Simultaneously, we see Yoohyeon in her bedroom, trying to sleep. There’s a snowglobe next to her with crystals inside, and that becomes a recurring image. At one point, Yoohyeon falls back onto her bed, eyes closed, and we see the sky flying past her, as if she’s rocketing through it in her sleep.
Eventually, JiU looks up above her at the rooftop of a building labelled “CACHETTE” (French for “hideout”). Yoohyeon is standing on the rooftop, with the skyline behind her. Yoohyeon suddenly wakes up in a room with paint dripping down the windows, and playing cards floating around her – all of them labelled Joker. We also see JiU wake up in the same location as before.
We’re led to believe there’s something important about the building, or at least a specific reason that the girls all end up there. We see Gahyeon and Siyeon outside it as well, and JiU – as well as a figure we can’t fully make out that goes inside it.
SuA is inside the building, and it appears like there was some sort of party or event happening, because there are balloons and confetti everywhere, not to mention pink caution tape. Gahyeon walks through it and surveys the damage, eventually running into SuA, who appears to be doing the same thing. We also see Gahyeon running out, only to be reversed on the footage and pulled back in.
As far as a coherent story goes, that’s about it. But we can get some stuff from subtext – Handong is hidden away in a closet somewhere, illuminated by red light from outside. Dami is sporting a more masculine and mature appearance – manspreading while surrounded by many chairs. Not sure why there are so many chairs, but I accept. We also see SuA teleporting while she’s singing between doorways, behind pink caution tape.
The rest of the inserts are generally disjointed – hands spray painting things, various shots of Yoohyeon’s room, JiU and Siyeon surrounded by umbrellas, a small clown toy spinning, the book from “Good Night” sitting on a pile of sand with a flower growing out of it…you get the idea.
“What” is good…but not great. Call me spoiled, but I vastly preferred “Fly High” and “You and I” in both technical aspects and story aspects. It was much clearer about what we should be looking for, without expecting the viewer to figure it out. It is by no means a bad music video, in fact I would argue that this video rivals some music videos put forth by more established groups. It’s effectively saved by it’s song, it’s choreography, and the talent of the members.
“What” does, however, push forward more visual things as opposed to substantive things. This isn’t always a bad thing though. The colors and costumes, for one, are much more eye catching. I love the use of pink and the way lighting sets a mood. But it uses special effects in a way that feels inorganic – the nice thing about “Fly High” is that effects were used sparingly, and even in “You and I” where effects were used frequently, they were done more realistically, to build the world instead of just showing off. And yes, the effects are definitely striking in this video – but also not very polished. It’s very clear that Yoohyeon is in front of a green screen when she’s standing in front of the skyline, and when Yoohyeon is rocketing through time and space on her bed, it does not look real.
The disjointedness of the story is probably what bothers me the most. Not because a music video with a disjointed story is bad, but it seems disjointed in the wrong way. Having a bunch of connected pieces out of order – that’s okay. I think that that can be done well and have a very positive effect. However, when doing that, you have to go off of somewhat familiar imagery, even if you incorporate something new.
I mention VIXX a lot in my articles, but that’s because they are a case study in good music videos. I want to take us back to their Conception trilogy, featuring the albums “Zelos”, “Hades”, and “Kratos”. The trilogy came out in 2016 and spanned several months, with the music videos “Dynamite,” “Fantasy,” and “The Closer”. Each of the videos was connected, telling a story rooted in Greek Mythology but not necessarily driven by it. Each video and song was wildly different from the last, but what made this trilogy work is the consistent imagery. N had the green eye tattoo on his hand, Ravi is associated with wine, and characters would often represent specific gods from mythology. I bring this up because the trilogy balances its plot with its visuals, constantly changing the visuals to match the music while keeping the story and its motifs solid.
“What” is clearly trying to establish a new direction for the band – maybe we’ll get less of the retro schoolgirl aesthetic and more modern concepts. However, even in doing so, it is important to maintain the story that has already been established, if you are trying to allude to or rely on it. And the video makes allusions to other Dreamcatcher music videos – the book from Good Night especially, along with the timing changes that were particularly frequent in “Fly High” and “You and I”. There’s also the notable absence of the infamous photograph of all the girls in white, motif that has been used frequently. I have a theory for how “What” could connect to the other videos, assuming it does, but that is still a big assumption on my part.
I think that “What” is a good music video, but it doesn’t feel like a good Dreamcatcher video. It doesn’t play with what it has, instead it tries to make something new but still rely on the old, and does so with not a lot of continuity. There’s still a lot to enjoy here, it just didn’t sit right with me personally. As we see later though, with “PIRI”, we get the best of “What” and also the best of the earlier videos as well…but that’s for next week.