When taking on a music video, substance and style are two different modes of filmmaking. Substantive films can have subtleties and steer away from overt, crazy imagery, often using the singers as characters in some drama or even getting rid of the singers altogether and focusing solely on a story. Stylish films often negate story, or have the story implicitly shown through subtle cues.
Within style for K-Pop, the biggest component is movement – constantly moving cameras, fast edits, dance shots, everything is very dramatic. You have to keep the viewer engaged not in the stories, but in the visuals. If the visuals have a story that’s even better, but the story is not necessarily what is primarily at play. Balancing style with substance is what makes a good music video.
Dreamcatcher’s “You and I” has a stylish music video, with enough substance so that the visuals still have meaning. But it focuses more on visuals and special effects than story. There is still story present, but it’s meant more to look appealing than communicate a coherent plot. Is this a bad thing? No. But it’s a different approach than Dreamcatcher’s usually story-heavy videos. A primary focus on effects and dance makes for a video that would work as a pleasant surprise for most fans.
Similar to “Fly High”, “You and I” has a more pop sound than rock, but still falls in the genre of rock-pop pretty well. Its chorus is catchy both in Korean and English, with lines in both languages to make it a more easily accessible song to both demographics. The chorus is primarily in Korean, but the hook is in English – “Baby you and I”. It has soft verses with dramatic drum beats, slowly building with time, with a magical quality to it that makes the song feel light and heavy at the same time.
The colors in this video are mostly shades of blue, with some scenes taking on primarily reds and blacks. Other colors are either neutral tones, or harsh blacks and whites. Costumes are more modern, but a few retro pieces that appear. There are also these short corset outfits with long sleeves in white, and leather straps in black – not something I would expect anyone to be wearing in the early 1900s. This starts the direction that this video takes towards style as opposed to substance – but as we can see here the two are not mutually exclusive.
There is not a lot of story in the video as a whole, but there are a number of moments with story that connect so that the video doesn’t feel like you’re watching incoherent nonsense. The film mainly revolves around Yoohyeon, who we see at the beginning of the video running towards some sort of portal. There are also a number of shots of JiU pushed to the forefront, but Yoohyeon is the star of this one. There are a few inserts, so I want to cover the inserts first to give all of the members some attention.
Most of the members don’t get anything related to the plot. Gahyeon has one insert, where she is in a mirror, being held by JiU. The mirror shot is also mirrored, so it’s more duality. Handong has a scene where she’s surrounded by strings, spiderwebs, and candles, next to a set of stairs and some canvases. Dami doesn’t even have a story shot, she just appears in another dimensional space, in a glass snowlgobe-like cage, before breaking it with her staff. This may get called back to in Dreamcatcher’s later music video, “What”, but at the time this didn’t appear consistent thematically. SuA has an insert next to a camera, but we’ll get back to the camera in a minute.
I will say this though about SuA’s scene. If you look closely behind her, at all of the photos, we’ve either seen a lot of them before, or can recognize them for thematic reasons. The picture from “Chase Me” is up there, as are some images that appeared on the wall of the final shots of that music video. We also see a darkened photo of a girl that appears in an earlier scene of this music video (but for sake of keeping this organized, we’ll touch on this later). There is also a picture of two women, seemingly twins, holding hands – and if you’ve seen Dreamcatcher’s “PIRI” music video, which came out this February, this might strike a chord.
There are two distinct zones, one that seems more realistic with rooms of a house and hallways, and one is some sort of alternate dimension, with floating objects, gray space, sand, and spiderwebs. The background of the second dimension is filled with stars and clouds. The biggest floating object that gets the most attention is the portal, a stone circle with space opening in front and light shining through it. Well call this the netherworld, since it appears to be something along those lines.
The one character who gets a lot of inserts is Siyeon, all of them surrounded around the same motif – photographs. She has a lot of old photographs that she studies with a light board and develops in a room with a lot of red lights. Hanging in the back of a room is the infamous photo from “Chase Me”. We also see the picture of the girl in shadow, which is on the wall in SuA’s insert.
One of the photos she develops – with the accompanying Gayeon and Handong – has supernatural qualities and catches on fire spontaneously. I assume that this is a callback to Good Night when the girls burn the photograph, ultimately saving SuA from the clutches of a tree monster. We can’t really see what’s on it, but it appears to be a picture of a girl surrounded by spiderwebs.
JiU’s scenes are reminiscent of the ones in “Fly High”, where she’s running through hallways – in a suit, this time, instead of her school uniform. The suit has creative stitching and patterning all over it, immediately reminding me of the suits in VIXX’s “Voodoo Doll”. This time though, we see what’s chasing her, in the reflection of the mirror – some sort of gray smoke monster hand. As she runs we see her stumbling and stopping right before a top, spinning on the ground. We also see her standing with her head slightly askew and her eyes blank while the lights from outside flicker past.
This brings us to Yoohyeon, who is the focus of the majority of the video. She has a number of shots where she’s sitting in a chair and JiU is standing behind her. The other girls are standing, scattered throughout the room, staring straight ahead and being perfectly still. JiU drops sand and starts whispering some incantation, and we see the gray smoke apparition, taking the form of a person, flying out of Yoohyeon’s body. I would assume that this is Yoohyeon’s soul, but it’s not very clear.
Later in the video, we see Yoohyeon walking an older woman to a couch, then posing behind the camera, the same camera that SuA is seen with earlier. The woman poses for a picture, sitting still – she seems older but more along the lines of middle aged, with brown hair. When Yoohyeon is about to flash the camera, she pauses and looks up in horror. The woman looks at her maliciously, then we see a shot of Yoohyeon with a shot of a spider appearing on the wall. Yoohyeon faints upon seeing it.
As far as I can tell, the woman is not real, but a representation of the spider that Yoohyeon murders in Fly High, which she kills with a magnifying lens. Since a camera with a a flash is another contraption that uses lenses to manipulate light, it’s an appropriate comparison. Later we see Yoohyeon sit on the couch where the woman was sitting, with some determination.
In the last part of Yoohyeon’s story, we see her running towards the portal, trying to presumably get back to the real world. However, she doesn’t make it, and collapses to her knees. However, this is shown in conjunction with the girls standing around her sleeping body in the netherworld, and her waking up. There’s also a shot that appears to be of some significance, where she’s reaching towards the sky and the gray fog surrounds her hand.
These shots are likely not in order – I would presume that a lot of these shots are meant to be at the beginning and we’re uncovering things as Yoohyeon comes to terms with them. So the order of events would be that she wakes up in the netherworld first, the gray mist surrounds her hand, she ends up plagued by nightmares or images in this netherworld, then tries to escape but fails. In conjunction with this, all of the shots of JiU seem to be in the real world, but if we take the hand in the mirror at face value, it seems like the netherworld is some sort of mirror world, akin to Neil Gaiman’s Coraline.
I find that the camerawork in this is on par with videos like “Fly High”, where here is a much clearer idea in the cinematographer’s mind of what to get and how to work with the editor to get the right effects. A lot of the video is either slowed down or sped up, but not to an extent that seems unnatural, and in keeping with the frame rate so that nothing feels off subliminally. There are also a lot of gorgeous wide shots and close-ups, but the camera is almost never stationary. It moves with the music.
It also works beautifully with the dance – something that Dreamcatcher’s earlier videos were lacking. They had beautiful dance routines but rarely could you get to see everything. The dance is more central to this video as opposed to the story, so we really get to see it in all its glory. I think that’s important – the use of scarves works well to help you follow and capture the movements of their dance. It’s similar to VIXX’s “Shangri-La” stage where use fans as an inherent part of the choreography. I also like Dami’s use of canes, though I think that this is definitely underused.
Back to my original point – the difference between style and substance. The entire video is trying to balance story and visually pleasing motifs, and does so very well. In terms of substance, there are always pitfalls at trying to tell a nonlinear story. It’s a lot harder to follow than most story-based music videos. Does “You and I” do a good job of trying to get the story across? Or does it fall victim to what nonlinear stories try to do?
The video is inherently stylish – it’s entirely possible for people to watch the music video and just watch for the dance, and not pay attention to the story at all. The images are entrancing almost to the detriment of the video – you can get caught up in how pretty everything looks and not think about what the story is at all. And it’s clear how much money and production value they put in to make this video stand out, so in that case I would say it doesn’t do a good job of getting its story out there.
However, if you’re a fan like me, you won’t be content to just watch and not try to tie in some story. I do think it’s a valid approach to make music videos that have story only if you’re trying hard enough to look for it (BTS’s “Run” I would say is particularly good at this, as is f(x)’s “4 walls”). There are plenty of people who watch music videos and try to connect story pieces together, and plenty of fans who are invested in the girls’ characters, as well as the girls in real life. So having a story that is implicit, in the background, while making the song more to the forefront and having a few key story moments pushed to the front – that is a good approach to making a music video. It keeps the fans who like mystery-solving happy but also makes it accessible to casual fans.
In the end though, the approach that this video takes is not as much about story, but more about making the girls front and center. And that makes it a much more enjoyable experience – you’re watching a video that makes you not only invested in the world the characters live in, but appreciative of the girls’ individual talents and how they play off each other. Good costume and makeup design help with this, but also making the dance more central – that’s the biggest piece. Everything else takes a backseat and lets you appreciate the artists more, and that is a good move on the part of the directors.
Overall, “You and I” is a compelling must-watch for K-Pop fans. It has enough for the casual viewer and more than plenty for the invested viewer. It keeps you on your toes but also is entrancing and enjoyable in a less involved way. I personally think this is one of Dreamcatcher’s best videos yet. They still have a long way to go as a band that’s really only existed for 2 years – but they have potential, and this video uses their potential to its fullest.