Sunny Hill Seems to be Saying Goodbye with 'On the Way Home' - A Tribute Post to Sunny Hill

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Few days ago, on August 30th, Sunny Hill released the music video for their new song called "On the Way Home", which hints heavily at a possible disbandment. Although LOEN Entertainment has not yet confirmed the rumours of the group breaking up, after watching the clip myself, there seems to be valid reasons for worry.

The music video shows the members Misung, Jubi, Seung Ah and Kota, appearing to go through personal difficulties and contemplating on a decision. At the end of a hard day, where they each reach a breaking point and experience an end to something in their lives, the girls call each other for some solace and then return home. At the door before heading in, each of them turns back to see TV on the ground playing their music. Teary-eyed, they stand there hesitantly for a moment before going inside, the words "I'm home" ending the video.

Members looking back on the past with sadness and hesitation.
Going by the most logical interpretation, it does look like the members are bidding farewell to their fans with this release. Having been inactive for over a year, it does not come as a huge surprise for fans that have been concerned about the group's fate for a while now. From the members' perspective it makes sense to move on since from 2012 onwards LOEN has been putting very little effort into promoting them, which sadly means that even if the group started releasing more songs in a year, they simply wouldn't stand a chance in the competition against more popular groups.

In-video reference to "Goodbye to Romance"
For me, Sunny Hill's disbandment feels like the end of an era in my personal K-pop experience. Obviously, they weren't among groups that had the popularity to influence the large scale K-pop scene, so for most people this might not even be newsworthy. In fact, the group is and has been rather underrated, even though it has delivered some of the most awesome songs and most thought-provoking music videos in K-pop that I've had the pleasure to enjoy.

"Midnight Circus"
Sunny Hill first really came to my attention with "Midnight Circus", released back in 2011. They were slightly reminiscent of the Brown Eyed Girls, which made sense since they shared labels and a similar powerful, yet mature energy that set them apart from the many bubblegum-pink girl group acts. Aside from a really cool song, "Midnight Circus" also criticized the music industry for using artists as puppets that are at the mercy of the public. The music video was also quite magnificent with detailed sets (if you're familiar with the infamous brick room, familiar from many K-pop clips at the time, having a genuinely awesome music video set was really impressive to me), fun costumes and memorable choreography. 

The same year, Sunny Hill also came out with "Pray", a pop ballad with a much more ominous and emotional video. "Pray" also offered social commentary as it focused on a disfigured man held in captive by a conventionally attractive man and woman, who then start performing experiments on him. The video calls out on the appearance-obsessed society and shows the irony in outwardly beautiful people being very ugly and cruel inside, while the harmless disfigured man is doomed because of his looks.

"The Grasshopper Song"
In 2012, the group released "The Grasshopper Song" which, to this day, remains as one of my favourite K-pop song-video combinations ever. Inspired by Aesop's fable "The Ant and the Grasshopper", the video reverses its lesson about hard work and planning ahead by instead conveying the message that working hard for a goal that does not make you happy is wasted time. Rather, one should do what they love and then work will never be a dull chore. Aside from having a clear idea to express, the video is also extremely fun to watch with cute insect-inspired costumes, quirky choreography and a hero (Sunny Hill's male member Jang Hyun from 2007-2014) who finds a new purpose in his ordinary ant existence.

"Is the White Horse Coming?"
The group followed "The Grasshopper Song " up with the quirky "Is The White Horse Coming?/Princess and Prince Charming" in spring the same year. This time the social commentary focused on the superficial standards in dating, where people judge potential partners solely based on their job, possessions or appearance, without paying attention to qualities that actually matter. Although the video was visually much less impressive from their earlier ones (possibly due to funding reasons), it had funny props and costumes and the song was also really catchy.

"Love Actually"
With member Jang Hyun serving in the military, the group's musical repertoire and image took a turn for a softer, more feminine vibe. After December release "Goodbye to Romance" about first love, the girls collaborated with DAYBREAK in the new year for "Love Actually". The song was accompanied by a humorous video, where the girls share their impressions about this super swoony man they've all met. Throughout the video, though, it turns out the girls have exaggerated the man into a ridiculous caricature that bears no resemblance to reality, proving that romantic fantasies can often go too far. The song was co-produced and co-written by member Misung.

"Darling of All Hearts"
Sunny Hill returned the same year with "Darling of All Hearts", an upbeat pop song influenced by folk music and featuring musician Hareem. The music video follows a retro concept and discusses love and singlehood. It is a more standard girl group formula, but it has an easy charm and a lovely melody, while the various instruments played by Hareem add an unique touch to it.

"Don't Say Goodbye"
In 2014, male member Jang Hyun left the group to pursue a career as a producer. The girls, however, came back with somewhat corny but beautifully sung "Don't Say Anything", which served as an emotional farewell to their former co-member.

"Monday Blues"
"Monday Blues", released in the summer of 2014 along with their first studio album Sunny Blues, changed their image to a more conventional girl group and though the video looked good, the song lacked the originality of their earlier music, while the sexy concept seemed to downplay their talent. Looking back, this remained as Sunny Hill's last comeback until the release of "On the Way Home", which I fear now marks the end of the criminally underappreciated K-pop group.

Whatever the outcome is, Sunny Hill songs have secured a solid spot in my K-pop collection, while the music videos will continue to amaze me with the thought and effort put into them, as well as their sheer artistic value I see in them. I wish well for the members and hold out hope to someday hear from them (and Jang Hyun) again. 

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