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
For those who haven’t seen the show, here’s a quick teaser:
Here’s an extended, subbed trailer which gives a pretty good flavor for the show while only being mildly spoilery: