As 2018 draws to a close, I can’t help but think the year has been short on memorable debuts. Sure, there were the big ones (LOONA, Stray Kids), but even those have felt very hit-or-miss. New girl group DreamNote haven’t spawned the kind of pre-debut hype that would lead them to instant stardom, but their self-referencing title track does have a familiar pair of composers. We last heard from Andy Love and David Amber only two days ago, as they’re the same duo responsible for Twice’s “Yes Or Yes“.
“Dream Note” shares some connective tissue with “Yes Or Yes”, but the end product is not nearly as strong. The instrumental incorporates some interesting touches — surf guitar here, jazzy saxophone there — but it’s all shellacked with a hyper-aegyo performance that verges on shrill. I’m sure the girls are very talented, but “Dream Note”’s affected vocals do them no favors. Each impossibly cheerful line is delivered as if the group has just emerged from a gum drop cabin, holding a basket of sugar drenched in corn syrup. I’m all for bright, cheerful concepts, but this feels inauthentic and forced.
Unfortunately, this infantile pep makes it very difficult to appreciate the song’s better instincts. I like the hook — even the high-pitched chant at its climax. It feels like cheerleaders on crack, and that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. For those who can tolerate this over-enthused tone, “Dream Note” might even be one of the year’s standout debuts. For me, the song verges on unlistenable. My limit for “peppy shouting” is reasonably high, but this pushes right over the edge.