Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Review: Sunny Hill–“Pray”

Sunny Hill become mad scientists by kidnapping and experimenting on the Elephant Man.

Did you like the song?
Continuing on a theme of the creepy and disturbing from the Brown Eyed Girls’ “Cleansing Cream” on Friday, today by request we have Sunny Hill’s “Pray.” I kind of like the way Sunny Hill split up their members for this song, which they apparently felt was appropriate for only female voices: members Janghyun and Misung feature prominently in the music video but don’t sing, while members Jubi, Seungah, and Kota sing but aren’t in the music video as much (though thankfully they are still there).

This song is lovely. (Try listening to it without watching the video, and it’s a bit easier to focus on.) It’s a gentle, sorrowful song that is fast-paced enough to stay interesting. And, oooh, there is a great creepy vibe going through this song, which is about a person being extremely depressed/in denial over a breakup.

Sunny Hill members Pray Midnight Circus

Janghyun, Seungah, Kota, Jubi, and Misung.

What was your favorite part of the song?
I really love the end of the chorus, especially the last chorus. That “ani ani ani aniya” part. I picture the singer shaking her head in repeated denial over their breakup, like “I just can’t [take it].”

Does the English make you want to rip your eardrums out?
Sometimes the English is perfect in this song, but the main problem is the phrase “Stand by me and necessary.” Necessary is supposed to have four syllables but only has three, so the word is unintelligible and doesn’t really make sense in that context anyway. However, most of the other phrases (like “Cry for me, and I’m sorry”) are great.

Did you like the video?
Basically, this is a retelling of the story of the Elephant Man set in a building in Seoul or at least an urban part of South Korea. I certainly believe that Sunny Hill were inspired by the film The Elephant Man (based on the story of Joseph Merrick), in which a Victorian-era man with severe deformities is treated like a circus freak and forced to wear a mask in public, but eventually shows his humanity by, amongst other things, revealing his faith in God and quoting Psalm 23 from the Bible. The main quote from that is “I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I am a man!”

Elephant Man movie poster

Movie poster for The Elephant Man (1980).

That religious theme underscores the title of the song and the music video itself. There are so many crosses in this music video, they’re literally dangling all over the place.

Sunny Hill Pray screenshot crosses

That should ward off the sparkly vampires.

I found this video literally difficult to watch, and I’m not in the least surprised that it was banned for portraying abuse. It’s brutal and painful and probably one of the least enjoyable Korean music videos I’ve ever seen. (I don’t have a great stomach for creepy surgical procedures, which didn’t help, either.) That said, just because I didn’t enjoy it doesn’t mean it’s not one of the best music videos that came out this year (along with Sunny Hill’s own “Midnight Circus”). Many times we don’t enjoy great works, but they’re still great.

“Pray” is also the first depiction of deformity I’ve seen in a Korean music video. So while I wish the “monster” character could have come to a happier end, at least people who don’t look 100% perfect are being portrayed at all, which is a first step.

Was there a storyline? If so, did it make sense?
Misung and Janghyun have their version of the Elephant Man locked up outside, and it’s unclear where they found him. Did they create him? Did they raise him? Is it a Frankenstein situation? Did they kidnap him from somewhere? How has he been living all this time?

Sunny Hill Pray screenshot monster elephant man creature

Apparently some people really are allergic to peanuts.

At any rate, one day they release him from his prison, bring him inside, and do and sadistic tests on him, like drawing blood from his head and taking pictures while staring silently at him.

Sunny Hill Pray screenshot

The creepy science area.

They’re also apparently interested in his capacity for learning, as they have him do little matching games and play with wooden crosses. (But like every movie scientist, they have the requisite lab full of Bunsen burners and Erlenmeyer flasks with prettily-colored liquids so we know they’re doing Important Work.)

Erlenmeyer flasks

Look, multi-colored liquids! Must be a real scientist.

We quickly get a sense of the Elephant Man’s humanity as he stares out of boarded-up windows at the world beyond. He even creates art by putting one of the wooden crosses on a string (implying that he is one of God’s creatures).

Sunny Hill Pray screenshot monster elephant man creature

Their air-conditioning bill must be atrocious with these windows open all the time.

Then one day he sees his reflection in a mirror and is horrified. He does his best to escape, but unfortunately only makes it to the roof, where he’s found and tranquilized. They return him to a cage like an animal, and in the end his ear is just one of many specimens of “freaks” Misung and Janghyun (or somebody) have collected and put into jars.

Sunny Hill Pray screen shot interpretation jars

Just how many people have been treated like this? :/

Since the literal interpretation is profoundly disturbing, let’s go with the symbolic meaning, which is basically that one shouldn’t judge people by their appearances. Supremely deformed people can be beautiful on the inside, while physically pretty people can be utterly evil. But we are all just humans.

Was the dance cool and distinctive?
No dance, but that’s okay since the dance in “Midnight Circus,” which was released just before “Pray,” was so good.

Do the members look good?
So good—and so evil! I like how the singing members, Jubi, Seungah, and Kota, are scattered throughout the set and just kind of blankly looking out onto this scene but unable to help the Elephant Man.

Sunny Hill members Pray

(Top:) Janghyun, Jubi, Misung, (bottom:) Kota, and Seungah.

Which member stood out the most?
Other than the Elephant Man, who clearly stole the show, I was really fascinated by Misung. She has the “beautiful but deadly” thing down.

Sunny Hill Misung Pray

Literally, in this case.

Do you like it enough to buy the song?
No—again, I’d have the same problem as I did with “Cleansing Cream,” i.e. the video disturbs me too much to buy the song.

Any ending thoughts?
I’d like to hear Janghyun sing in the next Sunny Hill music video, haha. I didn’t even know he was a member of Sunny Hill until I looked it up—and it turns out he’s the leader! But he is really cool in both their recent music videos.

Also, if you’re interested in how they did the makeup for the Elephant Man, there’s a behind the scenes video!

Boyfriend’s one-liner:
“Run, Elephant Man, run!”

Thanks for reading! Please share your comments below! :)

P.S. I updated my list to help me learn Kpop member names/who’s who in music videos with an album for each group instead of just one big album, so check it out if you’re interested! :)


  1. i tried to listen to it, i keep hearing "stand by me, in misery" instead :P

  2. Okay searching that won't lead to te video I was talking about... YouTube search "Mag Lam 樹藤 EEG version".

  3. PANCAKES PANCAKESMay 15, 2015 at 1:06 AM

    So you did no research about this song? You just wrote an op? And may I ask was this an interview OF Sunny Hill as you have the questions in bold black and the answer in normal font.

  4. Hi! I just like to put my thoughts about what I liked and didn't about the music video. It's not an interview of Sunny Hill, it's more an interview of myself to make sure I cover all 10 points. But it's entirely opinion. :)

  5. That was a lovely cover and very disturbing. Thank you for sharing it.