Saturday, March 1, 2014

Music and Angst Meets Music and Fluff: Dream High Review

Summary (from Viki):
Hye Mi gives up her dreams of becoming a classical musician when her father's company fails and [she] enters a performing arts high school to try to pay off family debts. There she meets other students who all aspire to become successful music stars. As they all face challenges and heartbreak in the efforts to prepare for the entertainment industry, they must learn to depend on one another. Will they find the success they so desperately seek?

Dream High as a drama improved as it continued, just as the characters did. The introductions for some of the early plots were sloppy, as were the early musical edits. There was plenty of room for the plot and the characters to grow, and for the most part, the ending left little to desire.

Dream High is an amusing show. It is also a heartbreaking (but soon heart-mending) one.

These traits require writing finesse, which Park Hye Ryun certainly has. The characters she wrote develop nicely, and the characters have their own distinct quirks, conflicts, and personalities. Some of the characters seem to be in the drama almost purely to make us smile, but with the problems plaguing the primary roles, the fluffy and foolish comedy keeps the story interesting. With every major issue in the plot comes major laughter.
Are Jason and Pil Sook adorable or what?
(I enjoyed Pil Sook more than Jason, but her personal success,
and the awkward cuteness IU brought to her portayal will
serve as my excuses. Plus, who here doesn't wish for Pil Sook's
willpower in losing all that weight?)
I've gained a lot of respect for Park Jin Young. JYP pulls off
goofy and makes himself look like a complete dork,
and I loved nearly every moment of his delivery.
The fluff takes us away from the problems facing the main cast, problems that are dealt with in some form in every episode. The important issues that the main characters face are hard to forget, despite the move-along procession of the episodes and conflicts.

What I mean by "move-along procession" is that the drama is an easy one to watch. The humor prevents Dream High from being too dull or too angsty for an extended period of time, so you aren't forcing yourself to get through the drama. There are dull moments, as there are in every show, but having a few boring characters and scenes is inevitable. The characters who are "boring" aren't necessarily so; it's just that they don't have the chance to display the likable sides of their parts until later in the series.

One of these inevitable creations is, Principal Shi, while not an absolute villain, is also not much of an absolute anything.

He is one of these characters walking the fine line between boring and adequate. For the first few episodes, Principal Shi is power-hungry; then, he becomes just a stubborn head who doesn't want to let the actions (or the specially-admitted students) of the previous head to be successful; finally, he's just there. There really isn't much of a need for him near the end, except to be a supporter of the side romance that he was against five seconds before the switch. Developed? Sure. Important? Interesting? Not as much as the drama made him seem.

Besides Principal Shi, I didn't spend the drama bored with most of the characters. Sure, I would have liked Shi Hyuk  more, had Taecyeon not acted with the sleepy energy and monotony that idols-turned-actors are expected to have... *smiles and ogles observes Kim Hyun Joong as Yoon Ji Hoon* But considering that most of the main cast members - the main cast members that get more screen time - are idols-turned-actors, the cast acted in a way that entertains me.

After her bratty start, Hye Mi turns into a moral, sleepy-eyed sweetheart, but the energetic portrayal of brattiness seen in Suzy at the beginning kept me interested. Finally seeing her act and hearing her sing alone even got me interested in Miss A again. 

Well, I hadn't been as interested in the group when I first began listening to them, anyway, but I was willing to try harder to become a fan after Dream High. (The same can be said for 2PM as well.)

For a moment now, let us focus on the actor-turned-singer, Kim Soo Hyun. 

To prepare for his role as Song Sam Dong, Kim Soo Hyun trained with JYP to improve his singing and dancing skills. But he acted well enough that, while his singing continues to warm my heart, I didn't care about any dancing (or lack thereof) as much as I did his angst-filled story line. This man elicits intense feelings, I must say.





From popsmission
Sam Dong is the character with some of the saddest scenarios of the whole drama, and Kim Soo Hyun portrays the teenager with enough cuteness and enough tears and screaming to elicit some teary flailing. The ending to his story is one of the strangest ("unbelievable" is probably a better term) in the drama, but you feel happy for the accomplishments he works to achieve. Plus, the partially open ending doesn't involve solely this character.

I'm breezing over a few of the important characters, namely Kang Oh Hyuk and Yoon Baek Hee; the latter experiences numerous dramatic personality turnarounds that certainly deserve applause; the former is basically the poster adult for optimism and confidence. Both are satisfying, and both embody one of the many lessons the drama's characters have to teach: trust in the power and presence that only you have. Both deserve a lot more than the minuscule coverage I am giving them. 

However, I feel the need to end this review on both a negative and a positive note. Literally.

from Daily Kpop News
As was previously mentioned, the musical integration improves as the drama progressed. This improvement mostly can be seen in the performances. Noticeably sudden live-to-pre-recorded performance audio changes probably are issues that very few people paid attention to. However, when Suzy is sitting in a portable bathroom singing "Only Hope" in one key, and then the pre-recorded audio starts playing in a lower key, the urge to criticize is difficult to quell.

(*flicks side of head* Pamela, it's not nice to act like a musical snob.) Oops...미안해요...

In general, though, the JYP-produced soundtrack is fun to listen to. When the song sung by IU - the only non-JYP singer on the soundtrack - starts playing in the background, the fluffy moment it accompanies adds to it's charm. (That sentence might be my bias for IU talking.) The other frequently-used song with vocals, the Dream High theme song, is catchy enough to be stuck in your head after you hear it, but it's pretty enough not to get too bothersome to listen to. Dream High is about budding musicians; the music should be as great as it is. (If the instrumental tracks had been made available, though, Pamela would have been a very pleased drama viewer.) That's true, but I won't hold that against them.

I had high expectations for the music of this drama; to be honest, there is a possibility that those expectations, for both the tracks and their integration into the drama, may have been set too high. The entertainment value of Dream High cannot be denied. The conflicts, the aspirations, the blood, the sweat, the tears, and the fluff were written with finesse into the developments of the plot and characters. 

After all, get Taecyeon and Kim Soo Hyun to participate in a cover performance of Girl's Generation's "Genie," and you've got an amazing drama on your hands.


(Disclaimer: all screenshots used in this review, with the exception of the specified pictures, were retrieved from the Dramabeans Dream High recaps.)

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