Artists / Co-Ed Groups / Under the Radar

Under the Radar: Sunny Hill

With “Under the Radar,” I am spotlighting artists who I believe are completely underrated and unappreciated.

This week, I’m focusing on co-ed group, Sunny Hill. One of the biggest factors in me doing Sunny Hill was my surprise in finding that some people didn’t know the Sunny Hill was co-ed.  While I understand that Janghyun doesn’t sing on stage often, the fact that there are people who didn’t even realize he was part of the group shocked me.  Never mind that Sunny Hill produces amazing music and knows how to take a touchy subject and make it be an enjoyable song. Oh, and for once, I’m not going to do a section on their appearance, except to say they all look great.  The focus of this group is on their music.

Today’s spotlight is on Sunny Hill!

Name: Sunny Hill
Label: Loen Entertainment
Fan Club: Hillers (formerly Sunshines)
Debut Date: September 20, 2007 (as trio)

Members:

Janghyun (Kim Janghyun)
Birth Date: July 16, 1985
Position: Leader, Vocalist, Composer, Visual

MiSung (Lee Misung)
Birth Date: April 13, 1986
Position: Vocalist, Main Rapper, Lead Dancer

JuBi (Kim Eun Young)
Birth Date: August 4, 1986
Position: Main Vocalist

SeungAh (Lee Seung Ah)
Birth Date: March 29, 1987
Position: Vocalist

Kota (Ahn Jin Ah)
Birth Date: October 14, 1987
Position: Lead Vocalist, Rapper, Main Dancer, Maknae

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History:

Sunny Hill’s Debut

Sunny Hill debuted as a trio on September 20, 2007.   The members at that time were Janghyun, Jubi, and SeungAh.  They released their first single album, Love Letter, which won them the award for Excellent Newcomer Album.  Following their first album, Sunny Hill released a second single album, 2008 My Summer.  The group subsequently took a hiatus and only participated in OSTs.

In 2010, Sunny Hill switched to Nega Network, the same label as Brown Eyed Girls.  At this point, Sunny Hill introduced a new member, Kota. The girl members of the group featured in BEG member Narsha’s digital single, Mamma Mia. Janghyun was featured in the MV for the song.  Due to the group’s lack of popularity, people did not know that Sunny Hill were the ones who featured in the single. Following this, the fifth and final member, Misung, was introduced.  The group then released “Pit-a-Pat” for the drama, Greatest Love.  The song performed well and won the Music Style Best OST at the Melon Music Awards.

Once again, Sunny Hill made a surprising label change, this time to LOEN Entertainment. On June 3, 2011, the group released Midnight Circus,  which was their first extended play.  The music video and vocal talent of the group drew attention and praise.

In August of 2011, Sunny Hill released the follow-up ballad, “Pray.”  Although there were no live promotions, the song charted on the Gaon Top 10.  The MV was banned by both KBS and MBC due to scene content the companies felt was abusive and inappropriate.  While they could have re-edited the video, the group decided against it, saying it would interfere with creativity.

In January 2012, Sunny Hill returned with their maxi-style single, The Grasshoppers.   The title track, “The Grasshopper Song,” was a spin on the classic grasshopper-and-ant fable and promoted enjoying life and not working too hard.  At the same time, Sunny Hill announced that Janghyun would begin his military service. During promotions, various other artists filled Janghyun’s spot in the song.

Sunny Hill came back as a four-member girl group, in April 2012, with the digital single Is the White Horse Coming? (also referred to as Princess and Prince Charming).  This time the girls satired the ideals and standards we use in selecting partners in life. On April 20, they began promotions for the single. During this time, the single topped Soribada and reached the top 3 on the Melon, Mnet and Bugs charts.

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Possible Reasons for Being Underrated:

Label Changes

Sunny Hill has gone through two different label changes. They first switched to Nega Network, and are now with LOEN Entertainment. With the label change also came membership changes. There also seems to be a shift in style with every label change. While Sunny Hill has never been a poppy group, when they changed labels, their music began to become more serious.  The changes may have left the public confused and unsure about the future of Sunny Hill.  However, since joining LOEN, the group has maintained their edgy image and concept.

Membership

I think one of the biggest possible reasons for Sunny Hill being underrated is due to their membership. They are a co-ed group, and from what I’ve seen, co-ed groups aren’t nearly as popular as single-sex groups. Let me say that I think co-ed groups should be more popular simply for the fact both fangirls and fanboys can enjoy the group. Maybe one of the reasons it seems to be the opposite is the possibility of dating within the group, but I think it’s a bit ridiculous for a group to be less appreciated due to this fact.  That aside, the group has had membership changes twice. They started off as a trio, and now consist of 5 official members, with the additions of Kota and Misung.  Membership changes also affect the type of music the group produces. While the group is vocally strong, some people may not like the shifts. Since they have a male member, Janghyun, the membership also changed when he entered the military to fulfill his service requirement.  Janghyun is also sort of a hidden member, in that some people don’t even know he is a member. Since people don’t know who is a member and who isn’t, that has to effect the number of fans and appreciation they receive.

Lyrical and Video Content

Sunny Hill has made a name for itself by producing songs that contain social commentary and that aren’t “poppy.”  By that, I mean that Sunny Hill is not your typical k-pop group that produces happy-go-lucky love songs.  Their first song, “Ringback Tone,”  was even a breakup love song. “Pit-a-Pat” was of course a cute love song, but considering it was used for an OST and meant for a girl group in the show, that makes sense. Recently, their songs have either attacked societal standards or been dark. As mentioned previously, “Is the White Horse Coming?,” attacked dating practices. “Pray” tells of the darkness and sadness of a relationship, or sickness. It’s still a bit unclear to me.  The lyrics for “Pray” weren’t the only thing that was dark. The video featured a story involving the capture and experimentation of a mutant, and the relationship that develops between the mutant and his caretaker.  While “Is the White Horse Coming?” and “The Grasshopper Song” had poppy, dance music as a backdrop, the lyrics were still social commentary and not poppy by nature. Sunny Hill’s tendency to produce songs with meaning has probably hurt their popularity among the masses. While I appreciate what they do, the mass market isn’t that receptive to those who broach tough subjects. Catchy tunes are what the masses consume, and Sunny Hill, in general, does not produce that type of music.

Sunny Hill during current promotions

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Reasons I Think Sunny Hill is Underrated:

Talent

Sunny Hill is a truly talented group. Every member is vocally talented, and have their own flair.  Whether it’s JuBi’s rich voice, Kota’s pixie-style of rap, or Janghyun’s low undertones, the group compliments each other well.  Even though only 3 members sing in “Pray,” they still create the sound of a bigger group.  Not only that, but Janghyun is a composer, producer, and songwriter for the group. In particular, he helped produced Midnight Circus, which was the album that led to a rise in Sunny Hill’s popularity.  Kota and Misung have also contributed to the lyrics of their songs, specifically “Bad Guy,” from The Grasshoppers.  Sunny Hill is group with members who are unique and always perform well.

Music

Without a doubt, one thing that sets Sunny Hill apart from most of their k-pop group counterparts, is their ability to produce songs that contain social commentary and have a good beat.  As I’ve mentioned previously, quite a few of their songs have implications concerning different aspects of society that Sunny Hill finds disagreeable. They have talked about the idea of working hard without having fun, and about the exact approach people take when finding a partner, instead of finding love.  “Midnight Circus” also addresses the lives of artists, in that they are trained to stand on stage and project an image, but inside, they are crying and caged. On top of the quality lyrical content, the music they use is also quality. “Pray” was an exceptionally beautiful piece, even if they video and lyrical content weren’t that beautiful. HAHAHA. Their willingness to constantly challenge themselves and music is what makes them a strong group.

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The Future of Sunny Hill:

Sunny Hill has seen some success on the charts.  Their single, The Grasshoppers, peaked at #2 on the Gaon Chart. The track “The Grasshopper Song” from the single also did well. It peaked at #4 on the chart. Promotional tracks “Midnight Circus,” “Pray,” and “Is the White Horse Coming?” all peaked in the Top 10 of the Gaon Chart.  Despite chart success, the group has yet to win an award from a music show, having promoted along side artists like Big Bang, Taeyang, Wonder Girls, B2ST, Kim Hyun Joong, TEEN TOP, MBLAQ, CNBLUE and SISTAR.

Sunny Hill has continued to be active in releasing songs for OSTs. Most recently, the group has released tracks for I Love Italy and Salamander Guru.  JuBi was also part of the cast for I Love Italy, playing the role of a member of a k-pop girl group.

Hopefully, the group will continue to grow as the four remaining members promote and make music. Although it’s a long wait till Janghyun returns, I think the group will still be solid, even if Janghyun continues to remain out of the spotlight.  I hope they receive more recognition and respect for their music and talent

SUNNY HILL FIGHTING!

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Sources:

  1. Wikipedia (hopefully most of it is correct):  Sunny Hill; M!Countdown; Inkigayo; Music Bank
  2. Sunny Hill YouTube
  3. Sunny Hill FaceBook
  4. Various other places
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