The second installment of school-based musical drama, ‘Dream High‘, explores the bleakness of dreams, when the lack of talent obliterates ambition and passion. The students, teachers, and parents of Kirin Arts School confront the ultimate question, should we pursue our dreams and passion, and devote long hours to achieving that dream, when the only thing that could greet us at the end is failure?
Shin Hyseung (Kang Sora) is an optimist, hoping to become a singer despite her weak vocals. A diehard fan girl of I:den’s JB, Hyesung unsuccessfully tries to enter OZ Entertainment as a singer and songwriter. With OZ Entertainment taking over Kirin Arts School and transforming it into an entertainment agency to mold students into trainees, Hyesung’s dreams and wishes are fulfilled as she has a shot at becoming an idol star, in addition to the added benefit of being JB’s classmate.
While the students and teachers rejoice in the small glimmer of hope in saving the school’s failing reputation, Jin Yoojin (2AM’s Jinwoon) despises the school’s employment as the agency’s pawn. Belittling the true artistry of an ‘idol’ after enduring the materialism and greed of the entertainment world, Yoojin hopes to erase his childhood scars by honing his passion for true rock music.
The derelict status of the school and classroom is stripped by the iron rule of President Lee (Kim Jung Tae) and Teacher Ji Soo (After School’s Kahi). Implementing strict rules and eliminating the inferior students who have no hope, the entertainment agency becomes a villain for the Kirin School underdogs. After entreating President Lee to be evaluated again, he concedes and makes the monthly evaluation as a test. However, with a twist, the students will perform in duets and only one will succeed, while the other duet singer will be eliminated.
Rian (T-ara’s Jiyeon) and Hyesung become duet partners, only for Rian to shirk her practices as President Lee bans Rian from using the practice rooms because of her misbehavior. Meanwhile, JB and Yoojin are forced into a team, in which Yoojin struggles to master his dancing. The showcase performance finally arrives with a red carpet theme. Suddenly intimidated and fearful of failing, Hyesung takes the batteries out of her microphone, rather than revealing her humiliating singing. Hyesung is eliminated, along with Rian, who is criticized for not sharing her microphone.
The eliminated students, including Hyesung, Rian, and Yoojin, are sent to PSY’s military-style training camp to nurture teamwork and perseverance. Upon returning to school, the students are divided into different level classes, in which Yoojin creates a band to demonstrate the talent of the Kirin Arts students. However, the practices are unsuccessful as Yoojin continuously berates Hyesung, the lead singer, in hopes that it would compel her to practice more diligently and improve.
To encourage the band, Teacher Jin Man (JYP) arranges a street performance, which is disrupted by Rian’s surprise appearance. Hyesung gives up her position as lead singer to Rian in the face of the cheering crowd, angering Yoojin. While Rian and Yoojin enjoy their performance together, Hyesung unveils her talent in an impromptu and emotional performance to JB of her self-composed song, “Hello to Myself”. Despite the glimmer of hope for Hyesung’s dreams, her father transfers Hyesung out of Kirin Arts.
To persuade Hyesung to return, Yoojin arranges Hyesung’s song for the band and performs it on radio broadcast, attracting the interest of a producer in search of the ‘super idol’. However, the tables turn as Rian takes the lead position and blatantly takes the credit for Hyesung’s song. Meanwhile, JB travels to Hyesung’s hometown and confesses, in the hopes that it would bring her back to school. Despite her refusal, JB drives Hyesung and her sister to a beauty pageant competition, where the two are shocked to find Rian, sent by President Lee in punishment for her rebellion against the contract, and Yoojin, in search of Hyesung.
With an intricate love line, the search for the ‘super idol’, and the true competition between the students and idols, ‘Dream High 2’ ends it halfway point with the beginning of the students’ journey to pursue their dreams.
[Note: This post reflects the opinions of the author and not necessarily those of allkpop.]
Integrating a subtle criticism of the entertainment sphere, the themes of friendships and teamwork, discovery of true passionate music, and perseverance for one’s dreams, ‘Dream High 2’ weaved the intricate threads together, only to have them ultimately splinter.
Trying to establish multiple conflicts, with the frequent interruptions of dance numbers, ‘Dream High 2’ created a muddled disorder, in which the heartfelt conflict of dreams was sacrificed. The contention between the students and President Lee over the dormitory, the showcase, and the military training camp lacked the connotation, and the emotional significance to the plot that had entranced viewers in the first ‘Dream High’.
Although the showcase unveiled Hyesung’s lack of faith in her dreams and revealed Yoojin’s diligence in mastering the dance steps, it didn’t establish the foundation for the students to pursue their dreams. None of the eliminated students felt that desire or need to practice more, leaving the conflict of achieving dreams in the dust. The military training camp, while it did offer much development in the loveline department with JB-Rian and Yoojin-Hyesung, didn’t seem to play a part in helping the students build that perseverance. With too many insignificant moments of the students having fun, not only are there no poignant moments in the plot development, but the threads are left untied for the other conflicts.
One of the worst Achilles’ heel for ‘Dream High 2’ is character development. The genuine friendship is always a little spark of enjoyment for high school dramas. The relationship between Hyesung and her three close friends, Soon Dong (Yoon So Young), Ui Bong (JR), and Hong Joo (Kim Ji Soo) are sweet at moments, but ultimately insincere. When they easily turn against Hyesung for letting Rian take the blame of the showcase incident, it ruins the moments of camaraderie. How nice it would have been for Hyesung’s emotional farewell letter to be accompanied with a strong friendship, friends who are willing to scour the Earth for her, rather than simply telling Yoojin to “forget about Hyesung”.
In addition, Hyesung’s character development has been the most contradictory. In the beginning, Hyesung seemed to have authentic confidence as she bravely tells Ji Soo that she’ll regret not having chosen her from the audition. But, all that confidence goes down the drain after the showcase, as it seems Hyesung experienced a sudden stage fright for no apparent reason. Not only that, but Hyesung escaping Kirin Arts School doesn’t provoke the emotional impact, that moment when both the viewers and Hyesung cry, that it should. Hyesung was essentially driven away from the school by her father and teacher, rather than herself, as the viewers don’t see her blood and sweat in trying to improve her singing.
In contrast, Rian offers both complexity and a logical development. While Rian seems rude and selfish, as she takes ownership of Hyesung’s song, viewers are introduced to her insecurity and lack of hope, in addition to the pressure she faces at home. Rian does push off singing/dancing in the beginning of the series, but she ultimately realizes that she lacks the talent after Ji Soo reveals the harsh truth, and begins to change and strives to become the ‘super idol’ through her nighttime dance practices.
The lovelines between the four leads is enjoyable and one of the story’s gems, as the writers once again mixed up the puzzle pieces. Rian and Yoojin show potential to become a couple, as both have experience in being used as pawns to generate money. However, it feels like the writers are scrambling to create the relationship between Hyesung and JB into a loveline in hopes for a rating increase. While it seems like JB is confusing empathy with love, not only is his relationship with Rian lightly put aside, but there is no chemistry between Hyesung and JB, even in the church scene.
If the lovelines are employed as pillars to the conflict of dreams, in which the students develop their love as they support and encourage each other, then it can create that emotional undercurrent much like the relationships between Yoojin-Hyesung and Rian-JB (during their trainee days) had done with their sweet and adorable moments.
While the first part was disappointing after the hype that ended ‘Dream High’, it ended its halfway mark with a glimmer of hope. As the teachers are cracking on the students with the impending competition and the students initiate their passionate journey for their dreams, ‘Dream High 2’ is finally employing its potential.