THE SHORT VERDICT:
Fresh, fun and earnest, and backed by a breezy soundtrack that’s easy on the ears, Dream High ranks as one of my all-time favorite music-centric, high school dramas. Heck, it’s one of my favorite dramas, period.
Despite its youth-y premise, Dream High has a pretty universal appeal, with its emphasis on friendship, loyalty and finding & pursuing your dreams.
What the idol-heavy cast lacks in finesse, they more than make up for with earnestness. And then there’s Kim Soo Hyun, Uhm Ki Joon and Lee Yoon Ji in the main cast, lending acting cred and nuance to the overall package.
The drama takes an episode or two to get into its groove but once it does, it’s cracky, delicious goodness.
OST ALBUM: FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE
Here’s the OST album in case you’d like to listen to it while you read the review.
THE LONG VERDICT:
Fairly fresh from my watch and review of You From Another Star, I was on the market for something fun and light, preferably in the comfort food sort of vein, and Dream High felt like a nice fit.
It’d been a while since my last watch (which had been my 2nd, by the way); and I thought it’d be interesting to see how I’d take to the show now that I’ve accumulated a lot more kdrama miles under my belt, and also, now that I’ve got new Kim Soo Hyun-appreciating eyes. Heh.
I watched episode 1 last night – well, re-watched, since this is watch #3 now – and found it rather nostalgic.
Seeing familiar characters again and hearing the breezy OST again felt easy and comfortable, even though I thought the show felt a touch dated compared to dramaland’s newer offerings. I’m pretty sure that was just my clued-in k-senses talking.
Most of you who know the origin story of this blog also know that long before the idea to start a blog ever crossed my mind, I used to journal my drama thoughts. I used to be a total lurker in the k-blogosphere, so my journal really was the only outlet I had, for my drama thoughts.
On a whim, I dug out my 2011 journal to see what I had to say about Dream High after my first watch, and lo and behold, I found a mini-review!
Reading it, I found it fun getting back inside my pre-blogging, 2011 brain, to see how I perceived and processed drama, and I thought you guys might enjoy a peek too.
So without further ado, I give you Past Me, talking about Dream High, back when I never thought anyone would actually be, well, reading me. I haven’t edited it at all, and only added a couple of screencaps for this post.
Let me know if you guys like visiting with Past Me, and I’ll see if we can’t time travel a little more with some other older dramas 😉
My 2011 thoughts after first watch:
I just zoomed through Dream High, and I really, really like it!
I almost decided against watching it, because I didn’t particularly feel like watching something with such a strong youth theme, after watching several dramas with more grown-up themes.
I’m really glad that I decided to watch it anyway, coz in spite of myself, I ended up really liking it, and I might even re-watch it sometime.
The thing that took me by surprise was who got the girl in the end.
I’d confidently placed my bets on Taecyeon, who acted as Jin Guk, and fulfilled every criteria for the male lead, I thought.
He was tall, well-built, good-looking in a totally Song Seung Hun kind of way, had intense eyes, and his character even had that childhood history with the female lead.
Plus, he had 2 shirtless scenes when the other guy had none, and even started a relationship with the female lead, who liked him back.
Plus, he got to kiss the girl. And we got through the whole of episode 1 without ever meeting the real male lead. Like, seriously, how could they break so many kdrama conventions by letting the other guy get the girl??
I mean, it’s really unheard of for the second lead to get to kiss the girl. Plus, the second lead never gets a shirtless scene unless the lead gets as many or more shirtless scenes.
The fact that this drama broke so many rules really took me by surprise. I really was quite stunned when I found out at the end of episode 14 that she liked the other guy.
I was rather disappointed that Taecyeon didn’t get the girl, coz I think he’s cute. He’s so much like Song Seung Hun, and I realize I really dig that look.
That chiseled, high cheek-boned clean-cut look with the intense eyes & strong brows, topped off with a suitably hot bod. Let’s just say that I found him very, very easy to root for. Ahem 😉
Having said that, I have to admit that Kim Soo Hyun who played Song Sam Dong, the guy who got the girl, did an amazing job. He was the only real actor among the main cast, and it showed.
His delivery was so full-on, so heartfelt and so realistic, that I totally believed his character every step of the way. I think he would have shone even if he’d been placed in a full-on actor ensemble; he was that good.
I teared when he ran after the bus, thinking that Hye Mi had left for good. I also felt his pain and confusion when he realized that his hearing was damaged forever. I teared too, when they showed him crying with Hye Mi, not wanting to leave her to pursue his dream in the US.
He was heartbreakingly good in all the intense scenes, which is precisely where all the others just paled in comparison.
He really did anchor the show in the dramatic department, and considering that he had to learn to dance and sing alongside actual professional idols, he really held his own very well.
The only time he seemed uncomfortable singing & dancing was during the special concert that was aired after the last episode, and that doesn’t quite count, in my books.
I also really liked IU, who played Kim Pil Suk. She has a sweet, husky quality about her that I really like. I thought she acted really well, especially considering that she’s not a professional actor, but a singer.
I totally loved Park Jin Young, who played Teacher Yang. He’s a really well-known respected producer, and the CEO of JYP Entertainment, which manages lots of well-known artists. He actually wrote the script for Dream High, which is pretty amazing to me.
He completely stole many scenes with his comic portrayal, and it really does blow my mind to know who he really is. He rawked in so many ways, and it’s clear that he’s a cool guy in real life, being confident enough to be so self-deprecating in the show.
I loved him; he’s a big reason to re-watch Dream High.
Of course, the other big reason is Kim Soo Hyun, coz he’s so good. It’ll be interesting to re-watch this knowing that he’s the male lead.
Plot-wise, the show had good pacing and it never felt like it was getting draggy.
I was glued to it from pretty early on, despite my resolve to do other things. For the past 2 days – or was it 3? – I’ve basically been quite unable to tear myself away and ended up putting everything else on hold while I ate up the show.
A definite thumbs-up from me, despite my initial doubts about it 🙂
THE FINAL VERDICT:
Fun, engaging and full of heart. Worth a rewatch – or several.
FINAL GRADE: A
WHERE TO WATCH:
You can check out this show on Viki here. It’s also available on Kocowa here.
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lovely write up
Just finished it and loved it! K-pop is not exactly my cup of tea, but I have a lot of respect for its stars. If their training is like what was shown in the drama, they are pretty impressive: they can sing, dance, act, and compose. I was very happy to notice that the characters were musically literate and with sufficient knowledge of music theory too!
My favorite part was Teacher Kang’s monologue about the relationship between the artist and the stage in Episode 12.
As a musician, I find the show very relatable. There is a lot of effort and hard work involved, and it is mostly unseen. But there is also the joy of making music and connecting with others through music that is very rewarding and worth all the effort.
Oh, and Kim Soo Hyun sings. ❤
I’m really glad you enjoyed Dream High, Snow Flower!! 😀 I remember loving it back when I watched it – and I’m not into kpop either! 😉 From what I’ve heard from friends who are kpop fans, and from what I’ve seen in articles, it does seem to be as intense and demanding as portrayed – sometimes even more so, I feel like! So yes, big respect for sure. As for the music literacy in the show, if memory serves, a good number of cast members are actual idols. Kim Soo Hyun was maybe the only one in the main cast who wasn’t an idol, and had to spend time learning to be one! He does sing very well, I agree! <3
Oh yes, I concur that there is so much unseen effort that goes into making music! The audience only sees the beautiful, glamorous end-product, but they don't see the rehearsals, the preparation, the planning, and the teamwork between sound crew and performers.. It's great when a show can help to shed light on what is usually unseen! 🙂
I am watching this drama right now, because I need my Kim Soo Hyun fix while waiting for new episodes of It’s Okay Not to be Okay. I like all the characters in Dream High, but Sam Dong is truly a standout. The combination of wide-eyed innocence and surprising intensity makes him such a compelling character.
If there is one lesson I learned from dramaland this year, it would be to pay attention to high school/youth dramas. Having watched At Eighteen, School 2013, and now Dream High, I am impressed by the quality of storytelling and acting. I understand that there are duds in this subgenre too, but a well told coming of age story never gets old or boring.
I feel bad for saying this but I really didn’t like this drama. I ended up dropping it after a few episodes!
Most of the acting was mediocre, and I found myself feeling frustrated with the characters. I like that Suzy’s character wasn’t weak, but I found her to be too arrogant at times. I also found that I had little interest in the characters problem’s.
Maybe I would have enjoyed this drama if I stuck around for a bit longer, but I just couldn’t bring myself to watch the next episode 🙁 although I’m sure that my 12 year old self would have loved this drama.
Aw, don’t feel bad for not liking a show, pizzahxxi! We are all entitled to like or dislike shows according to how we feel about them! 🙂 Plus, we are all evolving all the time. I honestly don’t know whether I would still love this show, if I were to watch it today. But when I watched it, I did enjoy it a great deal. I think the music and youthy feel really lifted this one for me, even though you are very right to say that a lot of the acting leans green. I do think one has to be in the mood for a youth drama, to enjoy this one.
If you’d like a slightly more mature music-themed drama, might I suggest What’s Up? which is set in college. Or, for something for rock-flavored, I loved Shut Up Flower Boy Band. Both are worth a whirl, in my eyes. 🙂
True, part of growing up is having our tastes change! 🙂 I’ll definitely check out What’s up? I read the synopsis and it looks good. I’ve watched Flower Boy Band before, I’ll be leaving my comment under that review 😀
Yes, What’s Up is worth a look; I liked it a lot when I watched it. Glad you watched Shut Up, I hope you enjoyed it! Thanks for popping on over to check out its review; fair warning that I wrote it very early in my blogging journey, so it’s nowhere near as detailed as my more recent reviews. 😅
I haven’t read the full review yet because I’m still on E13, but OMG I can now see why KSH is so popular. I know that this was his earlier work, and probably not as popular as Moon and YFAS, but here I can see more of his emotional depth. That scene where he sang the song out of tune onstage, I almost cried while watching it during lunch break at work 🙁 I know he’s the second lead here, but IMHO he totally overwhelmed pretty-but-boring and expressionless Taecyon. Watching Taecyon act is like watching dust gather. To me, Sam Dong and Hye Mi, and the second OTP (Pil Suk and Jason) are a lot cuter than Jin Guk and Hye Mi… Their chemistry is pretty much non-existent. Still, I can’t wait to know what happens in the end, although it probably won’t be very surprising. I’m still shipping Sam Dong and Hye Mi til the end!!! 😭😭
The show is surprisingly entertaining and addictive. I’ve probably only slept 12 hours this week 🙁 I need to catch up on a lot of sleep this weekend, if I don’t get sucked into another addictive show lol
I really liked how the show doesn’t give up all the goods right from the start, and makes Hye Mi grow and learn from her mistakes. I also liked that the OTP isn’t the main focus here, and highlights the friendships, their coming-of-age journeys, and some fantastic singing by IU and KSH. I didn’t know they can sing, and sing so well.
Anyway, I’ll come back to read the entire review once I finished it. I just wanted to drop a KSH appreciation note 😉
Wow, I did not see that coming 😲😲 The ending was a welcome surprise. I’m still speechless…
Tee hee! That’s why I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for you.. I also expected Taec to be endgame – his character basically fit ALL the usual kdrama indicators for male lead. And yet, Show pulled out a Sam Dong surprise. Of course, if you’re a viewer who knows the kind of caliber of acting that Kim Soo Hyun is associated with, then Sam Dong as endgame wouldn’t be as much of a surprise. But I had no clue when I watched it, and was just as surprised as you! 🙂
I don’t think I’ve gone YAAASSSS with surprise and delight at K-drama ending before 😄😄 They need to do something like this more often, just to keep things interesting. I went on to watch Secretly, Greatly after this, and PHWOAR where did KSH get that ripped bod???
Yeah, they really pulled a fast one on me, that’s for sure! 😆 In terms of shows pulling surprises, there have been a few occasions when the 2nd lead swooped in to get the girl – thanks to the live shoot system and audiences heavily favoring the second lead. I guess those would’ve qualified as a delightful surprise for viewers 😉 And yes, KSH really worked out for the role, clearly! He was insanely ripped in Secretly, Greatly!
Well this was a first for me, and it left me wishing that some other second leads got the girl. Like Kim Woo Bin in Heirs, he deserved her more that Lee Min Ho’s jerkwad character. And as somebody spoiled it for me earlier today, PBG in Reply 1988? I’ve yet to start that show 🙁
Hmmm now I have to find more KSH dramas. He’s piqued my interest… I feel an obsession coming haha
I don’t actually think PBG was “supposed” to be second lead in AM88.. The impression I got, from watching the show, as well as the vibe I got from some articles I came across, was that writer-nim herself found it a difficult choice, in terms of which boy would get the girl. I personally loved both boys and enjoyed both of their stories about their crushes on the girl. In this case, I’d say.. don’t feel too badly about being accidentally spoiled.. it might actually help you appreciate the trajectory of the main loveline a little more. Of course, the element of surprise is gone, but there’s still lots to love in the show 🙂
As for a Kim Soo Hyun drama.. I found him very swoony in The Moon Embraces the Sun, even though I felt that the drama’s not that well-written, and the female lead not well-cast. But KSH made such a swoony king that I didn’t even care, heh. 😁
I must confess something: I never watched Dream High. I know, I know, shame on me if I call myself a kdrama addict. And Kim Soo Hyun doesn’t … inspire me at all as an actor or a model. But I read your preview and I became curious. Why not? If Taecyeon is included, O.K.! At least my eyes will be happy, if my brain will be bored. Starting tonight I will find out.
How are you liking Dream High so far, serena? I watched it when I had no prior experience with any of the actors, and enjoyed it very much as a breezy ensemble drama. I loved the brisk pace, the universal themes, and the friendships among the characters. The acting is a little earnest all around, but there were definitely some bright spots. Kim Soo Hyun did very well in this, I thought. And I did think Taecyeon very easy on the eyes too 😉
I agree… it was ausumn .. but den d end was kind of a nightmare to me.. bcos al through the way they showed her connnection with teacyeon n den dey end up showing that d she liked the other guy… i mean he was perfect for her in eveyway… thats a dissapointment dat dey changed d plot at the end.. i m sur dat is wat they did… if only dis was ryt d drama wud b perfect in every way….10 on 10.. until jinguik saving her bestfrnd d plot was to set him with her n den they changed it al of sudden… heartbroken why why why…???
Oh, the first time I watched this, I felt exactly the same way you did, aa!! I was really stunned when she realized she liked Sam Dong instead of Jin Guk! On subsequent viewings though, I felt much better about it. And I do have a soft spot for Kim Soo Hyun, so I really didn’t mind that he got the girl. It’s just, those writers did play with kdrama convention to confuse us! XD
I actually enjoyed that twist and as for the first time the typical lead turns out to be the second lead
I realized I haven’t visited the site in a long while. Anyways, I was missing KSH so I watched Dream High. I’ve read this review before but I guess it’s best to read after a fresh watch. I loved the Jason-Pil Suk storyline best. Hahaha! They were so cute. I’m in agreement with you. I think among the idols, IU gave the most believable performance. Taecyeon was believable with the sweet stuff but the crying scenes were forced. Of course, KSH was splendid.
I giggled at the Past You and how you compared Taecyeon to SSH. So cute and I thought, this is Kfangurl pre-Kim Woo Bin appreciation. Then I wondered… What would Kfangurl think had she seen this drama post Kim Woo Bin appreciation? hahaha
Oh I almost forgot… how did Bae Yong Joon’s character found out about Sam Dong’s and Jin Guk’s talents? That has always puzzled me.
Aw, thanks for revisiting this review, kaiaraia! Past Me was certainly not as thorough as Present Me, eh? 😛 I did find my fresh-from-the-drama reactions amusing to read, and I’m glad you actually agree with my sentiments! Jason & Pil Suk were ADORABLE! I loved IU and her brand of husky sweetness. Wooyoung is cute as a chipmunk as Jason, and KSH is AMAZING as Song Sam Dong, and Taec.. well, he’s pretty much like a young SSH, isn’t he? Chiseled and nice to look at, but stiff and rather lacking in the acting department? XD I can just totally see SSH playing Taec’s older brother, seriously! XD
Back then, I was really quite taken with Taec’s brand of buff cuteness, and overlooked most of the stiffness. With my newly Woob-tuned eyes, I still think Taec’s cute, but definitely not as much as I once thought! That’s the Woob effect for ya 😉
You know what, the show never didi show us the backstory of how BYJ’s character knew about Sam Dong’s existence. But he did see Jin Guk during the audition, and maybe we can think of it as him having an instinct about it, just from seeing Jin Guk then? I remember reading that BYJ had originally intended to be more involved in DH, but that plans had to be changed due to his back injury (if my memory isn’t playing tricks on me). If that’s the case, then it’s highly possible that they just overlooked tying up these loose ends with BYJ’s exit from the show. Not ideal, but certainly not the first time it’d have happened in dramaland..
You’re welcome girl. 🙂 You should see IU in Bel Ami if you haven’t. She’s all husky and sweet there too.
Right! Taec and SSH could actually play the younger and the older version of the same character. Hehehe. I do understand how the buff cuteness appeals to you. Indeed, it is appealing! 🙂
Yeah, the audition. But Song Sam Dong?… never mind. 🙂
Aw, Bel Ami. I tried, I really did. For IU. But in the end, I just couldn’t do it. It took me multiple tries just to get to the middle of episode 2. That’s when I gave up 😛 IU was cute, but I just wasn’t feeling the show. And the women fawning over JGS just rubbed me the wrong way. I concluded that it’s just not a show for me.
And YES. With Taec and SSH playing the same character, we get double the buff cuteness. And there can never be too much buff cuteness, in my books! XD
One of the few K-dramas centered around high school that I have watched. Partly because they are usually too mean for my taste. However, I adored Dream High. I have always loved underdog stories and I relished how it wasn’t pradictable in the OTP department. I am thrilled with the way that it ended and I have a soft spot in my heart for every person in this cast (even the ones that really can’t act) becuase if DH. Thank you for the lovely walk down memory lane.
Aw! High five, Amy! I loved Dream High, and I wasn’t expecting to. I’m not much into kpop, and this show kinda centers around kpop, heh. But I have a lot of affection for the characters, and I loved how the character arcs were fleshed out. It never got overly complicated, and we got to know our characters in lovely heartwarming ways. I loved that about DH, that there’s an uplifting, warm feel to it. 🙂
I actually think Shut Up Flower Boy Band is even better than Dream High. If you’re ever in the mood to meet Dream High’s slightly grittier, way cooler cousin, Shut Up will do nicely 😉
Long time, no comment !
I have been sucked into the void called Soompi for 8 weeks getting my Secret Love Affair fix, now my Witch’s Romance fix. I consider your blog to be the first time I really posted something more than “yes, loved it” or “yes I agree” over at Dramabeans. Now I am writing non-stop. Your encouragement and responses gave me courage!
Anyhow we talked about Dream High a long time ago when I commented on how I never like to watch the endings of dramas and then I went and finally watched the ending even though I knew it would break my heart having to leave it again. I am so glad you loved it. It so reminds me of my youth. I am of the Fame generation and it has that same kind of earnestness. I liked that the drama knew what it was and didn’t try to be overdramatic or symbolic. It just told a really good story- one of universal proportions and stayed its course. That is an accomplishment to behold in the K-drama world, isn’t it? I think I am going to have to watch it again, not stopping, right to the end!
Even though I haven’t commented in a long time, I still am a big fan. I so appreciate your reviews and insightful comments!
phxajumma!!! 😀 So great to see you! HUGS! ❤
It’s so great to hear that you’re so comfortable now with getting in there and sharing your thoughts and opinions with fellow fans. You are so sweet to share the credit with me ❤ But really, it’s your own courage at choosing to step outside your comfort zone. All I did was ease the journey a little bit, for you ^^ Thanks too for the encouraging words.. It’s so lovely to know that you consider yourself a fan! Makes me feel all important and stuff, heh. ;D
Oh yes, I do love Dream High. It definitely has that freshness and earnestness that you mentioned. It’s a youth drama, yes, but it’s got so much heart that anyone of any age can enjoy it, in my opinion. It’s definitely worth a rewatch – I’ve enjoyed it each time I’ve watched it, and I don’t see myself ever swearing off it completely.
Sounds like you really loved SLA! I’m just starting to watch it myself, and since I’m just done with E1, it’s early days yet. But I can definitely see why everyone loved it so 🙂 When I do finish it and post my review, maybe we can swop thoughts on it 😀
Totally will do that! Gotta warn you about that drama though. It got me burnt out about episode 11 and I had to take a break, get some air, then try it again. I used Witch’s Romance to get me through. SLA is not an easy watch, but a really interesting journey. Commenting on SLA is kind of like reliving my collage years (I was a lit. major.) It gets pretty deep. It has definitely strengthened my writing for sure.
I totally don’t mind sharing the credit with you. I always give credit where it is due! It takes a village, and I need all the help I can get, ha ha!
Can’t wait for my summer break so I can catch up on all your reviews, so expect to hear more from me in a couple of weeks. I am thinking of changing my moniker/name. I don’t like it. I thought it was cute at first, but I think I have been watching too many noona romances that I rather pretend I am not an ajumma anymore, so I will keep you posted on that so you still know it is me commenting.
Keep up the good work 🙂
I’m not a huge high school drama person, but I loved this one! Despite the fact we spend the whole drama trying to figure out who’s going to win in the love triangle only to have it come out to be for naught. Hrm. But it did start my appreciation for Kim Soo Hyun’s acting skills.
Oh, I have a soft spot for high school dramas, actually. But at the time, I did wonder if I was going for something too youthy, especially with the kpop premise of this show. I needn’t have worried, I LOVED this show. That love triangle really threw me for a loop though. I was relying on all my knowledge of kdrama tropes, and totally didn’t see that curve ball coming! XD But yes, Dream High was also where I started to appreciate Kim Soo Hyun. He really is terrific, isn’t he?? I seem to love him in everything I see him in. Well, I love the movies a little less than the dramas, but I do still love him in them. If that makes sense 🙂
Talk about fan love and dedication! You’ve reviewed the three major shows KSH ever starred in. I’d say it’s bigger than medium k-love. Heh! 🙂
Tee hee. I go through phases, kaiaraia! 😀 After being swooned out by him in YFAS, I kinda wanted a little more KSH on my screen. I also do love Dream High and have always felt that I should review it. When I stumbled on my mini review while poking around my old journal, I couldn’t resist putting it up, just for kicks XD I’m still rewatching Dream High as I type this. This is watch #3 now!
So much nostalgia with this post. It’s making me want to re-watch Dream High! 🙂
Seconded! I’m still very much a kdrama newbie, but I really enjoyed Dream High! I love how this drama wasn’t just about the love story, it was about dreaming and working hard towards what you want! 😀
Exactly – that’s one of the things I love about Dream High. It’s very uplifting and warm. Have you seen Shut Up yet? If you haven’t, I think there’s a good chance you’d like it too! 😀
No, I haven’t! Is it just called Shut Up or are you just shortening it..? 😛 sorry, I really am a noob 😀
You’re so right – I did shorten the name, sorry! 😛 It’s Shut Up Flower Boy Band (my quick review is here, if you’d like to peep at what the show’s about).. It’s got a lot in common with Dream High, in that it’s music-centric, and takes place in high school. It’s like Dream High’s cooler, mildly grittier rock cousin, who’s tough on the outside, but is as warm and fuzzy as Dream High on the inside 😉
Ah, yes I know what that is! 😀 I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s definitely on the list!
Aw, yay that it made your list! I loved it a whole lot when I watched it, and I would even go so far as to say that I think Shut Up manages to be even better than Dream High, in that the heartfelt angst comes across as more raw and real. Definitely and unreservedly recommend it, even if you’re not into rock music. I’m not big into rock myself, and found myself enjoying the music anyway. It’s the kind of rock that’s pretty accessible even to non rock fans 🙂
I reall like rock though 😀 so I’m sure I’ll like it!
Oh, you’re big into rock?? 😀 Well then. I do think Shut Up will be right up your alley! I can’t wait to hear how you like it, when you do get around to it! ^^
I’ll try to remember to come back and tell you after I watch it then! 😀
Sure thing! I look forward to hearing how you feel about it! 🙂
It’s worth a rewatch, imo! ^^ I’m on watch #3, and it’s still warm, breezy, fuzzy fun 😀