I’ve never talked about K-pop out loud much around here. The reason is very simple: This is a website dedicated to Japanese music of particular types, coming from particular cultural niches; other than the Weekender, there isn’t a ton of room to flex out (except when it comes to Poppy, shut your mouth). Additionally, though, I’ve encountered very little K-pop that I found interesting. BTS, pretty much the biggest act in the world right now, right? Bores me to tears. I’ve had some MAMAMOO moments, and like everybody else into Babymetal at the time liked that one Pritz song, but yeah, K-pop usually sounds like the things about American pop that I don’t like, turned up to 11.
However, when Paper rolls out an article about “K-pop’s most horrifying girl group”, I’m going to pay attention. And when that article includes things like —
The girls of Dreamcatcher are… well, a nightmare. Not in a bad way, though: they were cursed that way. … Rather than competing over who can serve up the cutest kissy faces in pastel-hued videos, the girls of Dreamcatcher are trapped in some kind of haunted Hell, with each member representing a different nightmare, all while dancing through their terror.
— you can certainly count me in. And it’s Sunday, the day for looking at less editorially conventional things. So what are they like?
I see! I can endorse this. It’s … well, it’s very slick. Slick isn’t bad, and is often very good; in this case, it feels like a very big departure from the kinds of lo-fi chika projects that usually get celebrated ’round these parts, or the ones that put pedal to metal and yes are unmistakably idol but are also no doubt rock, and therefore are rock moreso than influenced by it, which is kind of the vibe that I’m getting from Dreamcatcher (Twitter) here.
Dark, though? Absolutely! That MV has lots of things that I appreciate. If only I could understand the lyrics in even the most superficial of ways that I understand tiny bits of Japanese lyrics!
Here’s what I feel like can only be described as unintentional Q’ulle cosplay:
Here’s, like, dark pop:
I don’t see an organic connection to J-idol, not even Babymetal (nor did I so much in the case of Pritz, which nonetheless still got them globbed into the abhorrent “kawaii metal” thing). I’m sure that, if asked, nobody associated with Dreamcatcher would go so far as to acknowledge a Japanese influence other than Babymetal, which they’re hesitant to include in the first place. I say these things not to point to a glaring omission-by-choice that intentionally denigrates the work of Japanese acts on the grounds that they’re Japanese (or at least not Korean), but to nod toward a likely common point of origin between rock-oriented girl groups of varieties both J and K — in a hyper-competitive environment, you do things to stand out within your respective scene’s version of the Overton Window (or, better, move it), and similar conclusions can be reached by similar projects faced with similar circumstances.
Is it neat, though? It is! Is it the rare bit of K-pop that I can get most of the way through on a per-track basis? So far, so good! If you’re interested, and definitely if you just want to learn more, I recommend reading the whole Paper article and going through their website. Also their Wikipedia entry, which goes to far greater depth than I’m used to seeing, and really dives into ahem a significant European tour and actually touring Latin America. I feel attacked.
I know a few of you folks are into more wide-ranging Asian music, so by all means forward on other recommendations for idol-like things that seem interesting