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I.O.I debut with “Dream Girls”, a visually solid concept with a disjointed & messy song

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After torturing us with “Pick Me” for months during ‘Produce 101‘, and then dropping the lowest-budget trash music video ever for “Crush, I.O.I is finally making their actual debut with “Dream Girls“.

The hook for this seriously sounds like a theme song to a Saturday morning TNBC show in the late-90s, like the K-pop version of the ‘Hang Time‘ theme song or something. “Dream Girls” shouts the title at you energetically as if to drive home what show you’re watching, and it’s generally bright and cheerful, so the hook seemed to fit the concept they were going for even if it wasn’t the most infectious tune.

That said, the chorus is actually rather weird in the context of the rest of the song, which is a lot more hip-hop than anything else. As such, the verses are actually rather messy since they all play like those forced rap sections of idol tracks. It’s not that the rapping shouldn’t be used as the verses, it’s that the instrumental also gets darker and it ends up as a jarring 180 from the hook more than anything naturally woven into the song. Furthermore, just to confuse things, the bridge is like a ballad-esque break, which is no doubt designed to give Somi the screen time she won on the show and little else.

Maybe this impression is partially biased knowing how the group was formed, but it really does sound like a track where they took each member’s strengths and just threw that into a song with little regard for making sure the song actually sounded good.

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As mentioned before, the music video concept matched the chorus well, but not much else. However, like TWICE‘s “Cheer Up“, it did provide the opportunity for the girls to cosplay as everything to check off all the boxes.

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Not done as cleverly as TWICE’s was, but visually it’s a difficult concept to fail if the members are attractive.

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So while I thought “Dream Girls” was visually solid enough, I just couldn’t get past the song in terms of it being a disjointed mishmash of a teen show’s theme song that I listened to on a Saturday morning and a rather mediocre attempt at hep-hap.

If I.O.I picked one concept or the other, I think they could’ve potentially made it work, but the way it’s constructed now certainly does make it explicitly clear that they’re more a bunch of individuals thrown together a month ago rather than a cohesive group with a plan.

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