The Grace is a South Korean girl group formed by SM Entertainment in 2005. It consists of four members that specialize in skills of singing, dancing, and acting. The quartet debuted in 2005 and since then, the group gained popularity in South Korea and a number of other Asian countries. Currently, much of their activity occurs in Japan, following the precedent of other Korean-turned-Japanese-celebrity pop stars such as BoA, who is also managed by SM Entertainment.
The Grace had long been known as TSZX prior to the promotion of their 3rd Korean single around the end of 2006, at which the group changed their name to The Grace to signal the change of the group's style to a more "graceful" one. TSZX was the romanization of the Mandarin Chinese pronunciation, Tia-n Shàng Zhì Xi (Their name was also simplified to CSJH, the romanization of the Korean pronunciation, Chun Sang Ji Hee. Both simplifications are still widely used to refer to the band despite the change in the official name. However, in Japan, the group is still officially known as Tenjo-chiki, which is also abbreviated (albeit less frequently) as TJCK.
Although SM Entertainment was home to famous girl group S.E.S, it was not able to find similar success in its other groups after the group disbanded at the end of 2002. Other girl groups such as M.I.L.K., Isak N Jiyeon, and Shinvi failed to succeed in the Korean music market.
However in December 2003, the boy band TVXQ debuted and became a great success all over Asia. In the same year, four SM female singers released a song in the seasonal album 2004 Summer Vacation in SMTOWN.com, a re-recording of Dana's solo song (Fight To The End)". Besides Dana, other known SM artists included Jiyeon (from Isak N Jiyeon) plus two new faces: Sunday and Stephanie, recorded the song.
Dana had already released two solo albums in Korea in 2001 and 2003. Though her first album did well, the second failed to catch an audience. Jiyeon, as a member of Isak N Jiyeon, released just one album in 2003.
Sunday had been an exclusive trainee for SM since 2002. She changed her real name, Bora, to avoid comparisons with BoA, a fellow SM member and one of the most successful SM artists to date. She released two singles in Japan between 2004 and 2005: ("Lira no Kataomoi") and "BOY" ("UsotsukiBOY"). Both singles has low sales, even though UsotsukiBOY was produced by the famous Japanese rap duo M-Flo. She had to live in Japan for two years for her debut; as a result, she has become fluent in the Japanese language.
Stephanie was discovered by SM scouts after winning the annual Southern California "Teen Best Competition" in 2004. She had trained in ballet since the age of 5. At that time, she moved from Korea to San Diego, California, and took part in a California based ballet group. She was offered a scholarship to the prestigious Boston Ballet University but she turned it down for SM Entertainment. As an American, she is fluent in English.
As their voices matched well, SM decided to make the four a new K-pop group, which, following TVXQ's steps, would also be an a cappella group. This new band would aim success not only in their home country of South Korea, but also China and Asia as a whole. They had a pre-debut showcase on September 14, 2004, but they had their official debut in China eight months later.
The group name was conceived using their new stage names: Dana was then known as Xiyue Dana (Heeyeol Dana), Jiyeon was Shangmei Lina (Sangmi Lina), Sunday was Zhisheng Sunday (Jisung Sunday), and Stephanie was Tianwu Stephanie (Chunmu Stephanie). Their official name became CSJH (Chun Sang Ji Hee) (which means "Wisdom and Joy above the Firmament (Heaven)".
The Grace's first official performance occurred on April 29, 2005, in China. They performed their new songs "Too Good" and "Boomerang", and it was broadcasted weeks later by the Chinese channel CCTV. The Grace shared the stage with another SM star, Kangta, in order to introduce themselves. The verses in Boomerang were also sung in Chinese. Two days later, the quartet debuted with "Too Good" on SBS's popular music program Popular Songs.
However, The Grace's debut in Korea was marred by some controversy. SM introduced the group to Korean fans as the "female version of TVXQ". What initially seemed to be a good marketing strategy turned against them, as the girls were not received well by many TVXQ fans. Another issue was the choice of their official balloon color. In Korea, fans like to support their idols by waving balloons during performances, and each idol has their own color. Before The Grace's debut, it was stated that their color would be either pink or orange, but both colors were already used by famous groups, as orange belonged to Shinhwa and pink to NRG. In the end, fans of The Grace chose pink because NRG had been inactive for some time.
"Too Good", the first single by The Grace, was not as successful as SM expected. They promoted the song for a few months before switching to "Boomerang", accompanied by a new, sexy concept. "Boomerang" allowed them to show off their dancing skills, and the single was more warmly received. They also performed a cappella versions of Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling in Love (the first track off their debut single) and George Michael's Faith.
After promoting their first single in Korea for almost 7 months, the group headed off to China, where they had a quick growing fanbase. The group had a short promotional spree in China due to their rising popularity in the neighboring country. Officially released in March 2006, according to online stores, the Chinese version of the single included three new tracks: the Chinese versions of "Too Good" and "Boomerang" and the pre-group track "Fight To The End". After promotional activities concluded, The Grace headed to Japan.
By the end of 2005, fans of The Grace expected the release of a full album in Korea. However, they were shocked when a new single was announced this time in Japan. Their debut Japanese single Boomerang was meant to be released in December, but it was postponed to January 25, 2006. However, the single's promotion still began in December. The single "Boomerang" was re-recorded for the release, with Japanese lyrics and an altered instrumental. The Japanese single also had a B-side called "Do You Know?", a solo song by member Sunday.
The Boomerang single did not do well on the Japanese Oricon Charts, as it ranked #110 in the Singles Top 200 chart. This did not stop the girls from releasing another Japanese single shortly after. The Club was released on March 8, with another solo song called "What U Want" (this time sung by Stephanie).
Two weeks before The Club's release in Japan, SM Entertainment announced the Korean release. While the Japanese version featured rapper SEAMO, the Korean one featured famous K-pop star Rain. Tracklisting of both versions are the same, making "What U Want" the only solo b-side released in two languages.
The Club was not well received in Japan, this time ranking #131 on the Japanese Oricon Charts. The single was also promoted briefly in South Korea without much success. After quick promotional activities in Korea, the group went back to Japan for their 3rd Japanese single, Sweet Flower.
A pop/dance tune, Sweet Flower was used as the theme for the month of April on the famous TBS music show, CDTV. Only a few radio interviews and performances at small events were done in support of the single. It also included a rock-style song called "Rock'n'Roll Star", sung by member LINA. Sweet Flower followed in the footsteps of its predecessor, and entered the charts at #151. The single was also released in Korea by SM, but it was left unchanged from its Japanese version.
Between the 3rd and 4th single releases, official releases in other Asian countries took part. The Japanese single Boomerang was released in China on June 19 by Avex Trax official Chinese distributor CRSC. The Avex China website also lists the Japanese single of The Club, but it is not listed by CRSC. In Taiwan and Hong Kong, a new edition of the Korean version of The Club single was released, containing a Chinese version of "The Club" plus a DVD with the Korean music video.
Even with the first few singles having low sales, another single was scheduled to be released. juicy LOVE was in stark contrast with The Grace's previous singles, as it had a reggae beat, matching well with its summer release date. Japanese reggae singer CORN HEAD was featured in this song. This time, the B-side was "Sayonara no Muko- ni", The Grace's first Japanese ballad written and sung by DANA. Like the previous single, juicy LOVE was released in Korea, left unchanged.
After four singles, The Grace's promotion in Japan went on, continuing to perform at different events. During juicy LOVE promotion, DANA hurt her leg and was unable to perform at a few of their venues. Their last song released in Japan at the end of their activities was "Get on the floor", a duet with rapper DOGMA for a movie soundtrack.
The group's last event in Japan was the a-nation tour held by Avex Trax at a huge open-air stage. The girls performed on the main stage for three days and on the "Power Stage" for the fourth day. They sang an a cappella version of Dancing Queen and their songs Boomerang and juicy LOVE. At some performances, CORN HEAD even performed with them. The promotion helped sales, as all singles by The Grace were sold out at the event. The official a-nation broadcast did not air any of their performances, but RZTV showed parts of "Boomerang" and "juicy LOVE".
As the schedule died down, the Japanese official website had a Diary in which the girls kept in touch with their fans, filling it with messages and photos. After 9 months in Japan, The Grace finally returned to Korea to work on a new Korean release.
After weeks of waiting, SM finally announced their 3rd Korean single and in addition, changes to the group concept. Although The Grace was first marketed as an a cappella pop group, they strayed away from that image and became a typical pop/dance girl group with their later releases. To strengthen their image as an a cappella band, SM changed the band name from just CSJH to CSJH The Grace (which their international name was later simplified to just "The Grace"). The name change was also applied to the members' stage names as well: Dana The Grace, Lina The Grace, Sunday The Grace, and Stephanie The Grace. The new name is being used extensively and consistently in place of the old ones on official promotional material.
The single (My Everything) (translated to Passion) was released on November 3, 2006. The lead single from it was the title song, a ballad track unlike their previous singles. According to the press release, the song matched with the winter season, having skillful vocals and harmony. Other songs in the single include an a cappella version of George Michael's Faith, which had already been performed during the 1st single promotion, and new songs like "The Final Sentence" and "IRIS". Promotional activities started soon after the release, with performances on the various music shows done live in order to showcase the vocals. Members of the group have also appeared on variety shows, including SBS's New X-Man. However, the changes did not greatly increase sales; the single entered at #30 on the Music Industry Association of Korea's monthly sales charts Promotional activities for the single ended in late January 2007.
In April 2007, a teaser video of The Grace was released, revealing a new "sexy upgrade" to their look for their first full album; the video was aired on various Korean music channels. The album, entitled OK? (Hanbeon Deo, OK?, translated as "One More Time, OK?") was released on May 4, 2007."
One More Time, OK?" is The Grace's most successful song to the date, topping MNET m! countdown and SBS Inkigayo charts. The album sales in its first month were almost four times what My Everything sold in total, ranking the album at 6th place for the month. On June 15th, the album was released in Taiwan, being The Grace's first major release overseas.
A month and a half after release, the album was suggested to be inappropriate for younger audiences by The Commission on Youth Protection. The songs "One More Time, OK?" and "Tonight Is On Me" were considered to have "suggestive lyrics". The Commission on Youth Protection is currently undergoing judgement to see if the album will be flagged. The final decision will be made towards the end of August. If flagged, the album will have a 19+ sticker attached before being put to sale.
In July, after "One More Time, OK?", the group shortly promoted two more songs off their first album. (Girl Talk) was performed on various TV shows, showing a more girly image of the members. Then a music video for "Dancer In The Rain" was released, making this song the third single, even though not being heavily promoted on television.
Shortly after promotions for their first Korean album ceased, a new Japanese single was announced for release on August 1st. It featured three new songs: a dance number named Piranha and Japanese versions of the songs My Everything and Just For One Day, which features TVXQ's JaeJoong. The first presses included a remix of The Club (song) featuring SEAMO, their first remix to be released on CD. The single debuted at 26th place in the Oricon daily charts and ended at 50th place in the weekly charts.
About a month later, the release of their first Japanese album was set. The original date announced was November 21, though the date was then moved a week earlier to November 14. Entitled Graceful 4, the album consisted of nine previously released songs and new material, including One More Time, OK?, a translated Japanese version of their first Korean album's title song. Just For One Day has also been remixed for the album, having a jazz variation.
During the first months of 2008, The Grace still promoted themselves in Japan, performing on various events in support of their first Japanese album. They held three concerts in April and May named Graceful Party Vol. 1. The last one, at Daikanyama UNIT in Tokyo, featured Here, a new song in collaboration with hip-hop group CLIFF EDGE.
Their sixth Japanese single, called Stand Up People, was released on July 23. It featured Dear friend, a mid-tempo ballad, and remixes of the title song and One More Time, OK?.
Their seventh single, Here, featured a collaboration between Tenjochiki and CLIFF EDGE. It was set to be released on October 22 only, but after the song leaked, it was offered for free download for a limited time. Here was chosen to be the theme song of both the drama and movie of "Homeless School Student", based on a Japanese best-seller book. The single was heavily promoted with Tenjochiki and CLIFF EDGE appearing in many shows and performances, including a special showcase on July 18 at Shinjuku Face. A second song and PV was released soon after, entitled Near. Here proved to be a commercial and critical success, with sales excelling 16,000, and the song reaching to #16 at the Oricon Charts. It remained in the top 50 for many weeks.
The album entitled "Dear...". was released on January 7, 2009. The album features 9 tracks, 5 of them being new. It's mostly full of soft ballad harmonization. It also features their sixth and seventh singles 'Stand Up People' and 'Here'. The album debuted on 14# in Oricon. From the four previews of the six new songs it seems that The Grace are experimenting with the Japanese audience and following along the lines of "Here" and "Near"--that of a more ballad/R&B/pop feel with a dash of western influence.
The Grace got the most combined time length on the soundtrack of the Japanese movie 'Subaru'. (Sukoshi De Ii Kara / A Bit of Good) and "Coming To You" are both featured tracks on the soundtrack. (Sukoshi De Ii Kara / A Bit of Good) is a part of The Grace's second Japanese Album '"Dear..."'. The movie also features member Stephanie as a ballet trainer
After the news of Stephanie's illness, the girls were taking a break and Dana slowly updated her minihompy by showing a lot of pictures of her taking a vacation.
However, it was officially announced that Lina is starting her online business by the name of Style By L. Rumours were confirmed to be false that The Grace are breaking up. People also referring her business to the lawsuit case of fellow label-mate TVXQ, however it was clearly stated that artists of SM Entertainment can open up their own business since Sunday, BoA, Micky Yoochun of TVXQ also had started their own business. In another note, SM Entertainment allowed their artists to open up their own business but forbid them to invest in another business.
On 20th November, fans were shocked once again when The Grace's schedule on their official website was updated. Member Sunday will perform with H-Eugene singing Love Alarm. The song was originally sang by 8eight's member, Joo Hee and H-Eugene. With this, fans also speculated that the members are preparing for a comeback in 2010 after 2 years of hiatus in Kpop scene.