Universal Music Group has snapped up the first member of girl group Rocket Girls 101 to a label deal, after the popular Chinese act disbanded earlier this week.
Sunnee, a Thai singer based in China, signed with UMG’s Greater China division at an event live streamed from Shanghai, which included a preview of the video of her latest single, “By Your Side.” The track will be released worldwide June 26, with her debut album expected to follow later this year, Garand Wu, managing director Universal Music China, said at the event.
The 23-year-old performer, whose real name is Yang Yunqing, rose to prominence with Rocket Girls 101, an 11-girl group which was formed by Tencent in 2018 through the reality show Produce 101. The group became a popular Chinese idol group, achieving several hit singles before officially disbanding on June 23 when their contracts expired — exactly two years after their formation. Sunnee is the first member of the group to sign with a major label as a solo act.
Sunnee was also previously a member of A’N’D under K-L Entertainment, as a lead singer and lead dancer. She moved to Taiwan from Thailand at age 15 to pursue a career as a singer.
Major labels have been on the hunt to sign new talent in mainland China, especially so-called Mandopop stars that can rival the success of South Korea’s K-pop machine. Labels have been working with experienced American and Korean producers and songwriters to raise the profile of Chinese pop artists. Sunnee’s “By Your Side,” for example, was produced by Joseph Park (known as 220), the producer behind K-pop artists and acts that include Twice, GOT7 and NCT. (Sunnee wrote the lyrics herself).
Wu said Sunnee’s music is inspired by both C-Pop (Cantonese pop) and Southeast Asian pop music. Sunny Chang, chairman and CEO of UMG Greater China, called her “a true representative for Generation Z.” During the past two years Sunnee has built a large fanbase, with more than 18 million followers on Weibo. She is also a brand ambassador for Max Factor, Calvin Klein, Dove and other international brands.
“I’m very excited to join UMG and to take the first steps into my solo music career together,” Sunnee said in a press release. “Working with UMG, what hit me the most, is the uncompromising pursuit of high-quality music.”