It’s easy to see why Dreamcatcher have cultivated an enthusiastic fan base. They follow the road-map I usually prescribe for newer groups: stick with a well-matched pool of composers, develop your signature sound, and offer just enough variation within that sound to keep things interesting. Since 2017’s Chase Me, the girls have forged a consistent discography, experimenting when it comes to b-sides but sticking to a winning formula for title tracks. New single Deja Vu (데자부) largely plays by the groups’ rules, with a few notable changes.
More than most K-pop releases, Deja Vu is a song in contrasts. Pitched halfway between emotive ballad and hard-hitting rocker, the track divides its attention equally between its two faces. It spends an unusual amount of time in its quieter moments, devoting its entire opening minute to a dramatic goth-infused build that lets the girls showcase their vocal chops. This subdued arrangement is Deja Vu’s not-so-secret weapon, harnessing a powerful melody that gradually establishes the song’s evocative mood.
Deja Vu’s chorus is less memorable, opening with a repetitive hook that soon blossoms into a more diverse (yet still frustratingly slight) refrain. The real magic happens between the song’s two extremes. I love the synth work during the pre-chorus, and I wish Deja Vu spent more of its energy developing this fantasy-like aesthetic. In particular, its second verse feels like a missed opportunity to nurture a sense of momentum rather than softening back to the piano-led arrangement that opened the track. I love the chaotic bed of backing vocals mixed into the chorus, and they would have been another welcome way to bolster Deja Vu’s slower moments. Thankfully, the track amps up for its blistering climax, heightening the tempo to bring us back to that hard-rocking template that Dreamcatcher pull off so well.
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