A universal truth: growing up isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Between the long hours of toil, fading friendships, and dreams dulled by realism, it’s hard to remember exactly why adulthood was so coveted in our young age.
Comprised of members Jubee, Seungah, Kota, and Misung, Sunny Hill begs this same question in their new single “Child in Time,” a nostalgic ballad about the wide-eyed innocence of childhood. “Child in Time” stays consistent with the group’s recent focus on the sentimental and nostalgic as song subject matter. Whereas their previous release “Here I Am” handles heartbreak, “Child in Time” grapples with a question: why did we ever want to grow up?
The music video introduces an average 9-to-5 office worker named Eun-young, played by Jubee. Her position is a thankless one, as each project she completes is replaced by five more placed on her desk. As she wraps up her work for the day, Eun-young receives a text from a friend — an invitation to an event that night. Weary from a full day in the office, she declines. On the bus ride home that evening, Eun-young doses off to sleep as her cell phone screen flashes, the date running in reverse until it displays the year 2002.
As she opens her eyes, a poster in the back of the bus confirms that Eun-young has indeed time traveled back thirteen years, made all the more apparent when her past-self also boards the bus. Eun-young follows her younger self to her high school where she is mistaken as a substitute teacher.
Noting an empty seat in one of the class subjects, she seeks out the younger Eun-young playing hooky in her favorite rooftop spot and drags the girl out of school to enjoy themselves for a day. Eating snacks at the neighborhood food stall, playing games in the arcade, and taking sticker photos, Eun-young allows herself to indulge in a simpler time when a slight smile from her crush or pocket money from her father after work were more than enough to fill her day.
For all the lighthearted laughing and playing, the lyrics speak of a more bittersweet longing of childhood, and even regret, for time gone by. The song draws a portrait of a tiny childhood home left unvisited and a father, always flushed from drinks after work, no longer around to heap affection and embarrassment upon his daughter. As the uniforms are forever folded away and each love grows less precious than the last, the song reflects:
I want to go back to the happy times
Clean face and no make up, a childish girl
Day by day, I’m changing but I want to go back
When I used to laugh so hard, I miss those happy days
The line with the most impact, however, can be found in the first stanza, as Kota sings, “This isn’t the life I wanted.” The sentiment is starkly honest; few people lead the life they imagined as hopeful high-school students. Eventually their dreams are compromised and condensed, or even exchanged altogether. This is no tragedy in itself, but just an inescapable aspect of growing up.
Back on the bus, Eun-young wakes up from the dream to find the pocket money given by her father tucked in her jacket and her phone turned back on. A new text from the same friend encourages Eun-young to drop by nevertheless if she experiences a change of heart, and Eun-young hesitates for a moment before typing, “I’m coming now!”
What makes this music video so easy to relate to is the lack of a happy ending, or much of an ending at all. Eun-young wakes up from her nap to an unchanged reality of office life, still wielding a briefcase rather than a backpack. Choosing to meet with her friends after work does not transport her back to her childhood happiness in any way, but instead hints at her resolve to move forward with her life — cherishing her youthful memories without falling captive to them.
Though some may miss the more whimsical productions of Sunny Hill’s earlier singles, “Child in Time” is memorable not for its fantasy elements or particularly catchy tune — though the acoustic instrumentals of guitar and woodwinds lend a much-needed lightness to the heavier lyrics — but rather for the universal experience of coming to grips with growing up. Overall rating: 4.5/5
What did you think of Sunny Hill’s comeback, readers? Can you relate to “Child in Time”?
(YouTube, Images via LOEN Entertainment)