[Review] Dreamcatcher offer up a mixed bag with “MAISON”

Dreamcatcher have been my favorite K-pop group since they debuted back in 2017, primarily based on the appeal their music and concepts have held over me. Last year though, while I enjoyed the title tracks (and some other songs), it was probably their weakest year to date in terms of music. That they still had five entries on the year-end list is a testament to their quality.

Now they’re back with their second album in ‘Apocalypse: Save Us‘ and its single “MAISON“, eight months since their last comeback, which represents their longest drought since their rebranding. The hope was it would be worth the wait, though the results are a bit of a mixed bag.

“MAISON” gets off to an extremely strong start, immediately dropping the listener into the heat of things with a crunchy guitar loop alongside a guitar with some funk to it, and a bassline that combines to drive the track forward. Other elements are included, but the instrumental foundation generally maintains throughout, which helps keep the energy up and makes for a rather exhilarating affair. The verses are excellent and have a sense of direction that matches what one gets from the music video in terms of urgency and a “running” theme.

Where the song falters is the chorus (and the pre-chorus to a lesser extent), which is a surprise. Usually Dreamcatcher songs have some of the best pre-chorus setups, which then release into a dramatic and fully fleshed out chorus, but “MAISON” doesn’t have a real shift in tempo anywhere, leading to a surprisingly monotonous transition in and out of the chorus that isn’t all that distinguishable. Honestly, I was waiting for them to launch into something else after the “please someone fight for us” section, but it never came. It’s not bad or anything, as the hooks are still effective and I liked the base track, but it’s certainly not the kind of excellence I’ve come to expect in terms of melody from Dreamcatcher.

I did like the inclusion of the double bridge, which is something they should look at going forward, as it provides the kind of tempo shifts associated with trendy K-pop, but manages to do so within the constraints of the theme. That said, even the menacing undertone and dramatic piano bridge didn’t seem like it fit the song all that well, though the second bridge was arguably the highlight of things.

Amusingly enough, the thing I was most skeptical of this comeback was the presentation, as the photo teasers were horribly photoshopped. Meanwhile, the music video teaser was great, but I knew a CGI-heavy effort was risky on that front. However, aside from a few wonky shots, this was quite an expressive effort that told the story of environmentalism they likely wanted conveyed while still maintaining their general darker thematic elements with the post-apocalyptic world.

Disconnecting myself from fandom and expectations, this is probably at least an above-average to good K-pop comeback just for the instrumental foundation and verses alone, but also perhaps the first one of theirs that would be relegated to a Rundown if it wasn’t Dreamcatcher. Definitely expected better here, and while “What” was perhaps my least favorite lead single to this point due to repetitive elements in the chorus, “MAISON” will unfortunately have to be put in that same boat, as comparables within their own discography are just so far ahead.

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