As reality show Produce 101‘s representative girl group, expectations were high for I.O.I’s official debut. Coming only one month after the series ended, it’s no surprise that Dream Girls feels rushed and under-thought, but with the talent and clout on display, it’s unnerving just how safe and cheesy a route the powers-that-be chose to steer the girls down.
I’ve heard Dream Girls compared to a Disney Channel theme song, and that’s certainly true. But, I think it’s important to remember that most of mainstream kpop is ultimately directed at teens. Dream Girls‘ youthful positioning isn’t its problem. When it comes down to it, the song just comes across as crushingly generic. From its self-empowerment message to its stilted English, the song feels relentlessly try-hard and focus-grouped. The trap-influenced verses recall Twice’s most recent single, but without the same off-kilter charm. The swirling, half-English bridge feels shoehorned in, and is easily the song’s weakest (and most cringeworthy) point.
The propulsive chorus, on the other hand, has potential if it had been attached to a different song and given more melodic variety. Its electric guitar backing is the track’s strongest production element, and supplies a nice sense of drive, especially as it becomes more prominent towards the end. Still, if you compare this to Produce 101‘s best songs (Pick Me and In The Same Place), Dream Girls comes up incredibly short. Kpop is obviously a business, but with a song like this, there’s not enough artistic merit to offset the feeling that all I.O.I are doing here is selling. They can be more than this. They should be more than this.