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Thursday, July 18, 2024 | Back issues
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Singer Fires Back on Kim Jong-un ‘Love Song’

MANHATTAN (CN) - A former contestant on "The Voice" says that a woman with a onetime label at Sony planted a story that accused her of writing a love song to North Korea's communist dictator.

The singer, Judith Glory Hill, notes in the March 25 complaint that, before appearing on the NBC reality show, she performed backup vocals for Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder and Elton John.

She says Jolene Cherry approached her in 2013 to sign up with Sony Music, which briefly gave Cherry a label.

Only Cherry, her label The Cherry Party, and Jolene Holdings are named as defendants to Hill's complaint in Manhattan Supreme Court.

Hill says Sony quickly severed ties with Cherry who "proved to be incompetent, erratic, unstable and wholly unable to perform the obligations that Ms. Hill had been promised both orally and in writing."

In August 2014, nearly a full year since Hill signed "the supposedly long-term agreement with Sony Music," Hill's manager allegedly received a strange email from Cherry.

Announcing her separation from the company, Cherry said, "you can take all your tracks and go pending whatever outcome is the final one here," according to the complaint.

Having said she was "sick of the music business and all of its trash," Cherry then disappeared, according to the complaint.

"Abandoned" by Sony and Cherry, Hill says she soldiered on alone to make her own music.

Cherry resurfaced later that year, however, trying to brush off her so-called "leave of absence" and assert control over Hill's contract, according to the complaint.

With Hill challenging this "about-face," Cherry meanwhile tried to get Sony interested in a song titled "James Franco" that Hill had composed earlier that year, the complaint alleges.

At the time, Sony Pictures was slated to release its comedy "The Interview," starring James Franco, and Cherry allegedly thought that a parody version of Hill's song would be a good fit for the film's soundtrack or advertising.

Hill says her representatives were adamant that, without an official endorsement from Sony or its stars, Cherry not leak the parody song to generate publicity.

Cherry nevertheless sprang into action, Hill says, when a group calling itself "Guardians of Peace" took responsibility on Dec. 16, 2014, for hacking Sony's servers.

With the North Korean group threatening a terrorist event if Sony released "The Interview," Cherry allegedly had an "imposter publicist" plant a story about Hill's song.

Hill says the New York Post picked up the story, "which falsely stated that 'Sony singer' Judith Hill had 'created "A Love Letter to Kim Jongun."'"

The Jan. 2, 2015, story also allegedly emphasized Hill's status as Japanese to explain why she supposedly wanted "to mediate peace between North Korea and the U.S."

Hill says the Page Six story caused some to send her hate mail.

"No artist can be expected to perform for a label which intentionally smears its own artist's reputation and violates, without remorse, the artist's core believes," her complaint alleges.

In her brief relationship with Cherry, Hill says they cut four singles of winter-holiday songs, all chosen by Cherry, but that project was shelved.

The deal went sour because Cherry's "inaction, unresponsiveness and missed opportunities became the status quo," according to the complaint

Hill also says Sony didn't pay for engineering fees or pay her freelance producer for her "James Franco" song, which was "about the 'cute' appearance of a man - not James Franco - with a chorus that teasingly suggests that the man is better looking than the actor."

In the words, "the only reference to James Franco in the song are; 'James Franco ain't got nothing on you," according to the complaint.

Before Cherry's "bizarre act of self-promotion and character assassination" against Hill, her idea had been to change the song's lyrics so that it would tie in to "The Interview," Hill says.

Hill's producer and publicists "had misgivings" when Cherry had the song's chorus dubbed to go, "Kim Jong-un, James Franco ain't got nothing on you," the complaint states.

Hill says the Post wrote about her and put the parody song on its official SoundCloud webpage after Cherry had the fake publicist send it a fake press release among a string of approximately 20 emails.

When TMZ and others picked up the story, Hill's representatives then "scrambled" to keep Hill's reputation intact, according to the complaint.

Among the story's "multiple damaging falsehoods" were the ideas that Hill composed a "love song" to the "notorious dictator who opposes every freedom, equality and artistic principle that Ms. Hill stands for, and that in the face of international outrage over the Sony hack, Ms. Hill, due to her Asian heritage, somehow imagined herself to be an appropriate ambassador to North Korea."

By saying that Hill changed the lyrics of her song after the hack, it was also implied that Hill "is opportunistic and insensitive; that she wrote a 'love song' to a despotic dictator; that she wrote the song after it became known that the Sony hack was in part motivated by objections to 'The Interview' and the attempt by North Korea to censure free speech," according to the complaint.

Hill says her representatives contacted Cherry about "the unlawful conduct and defamatory statements" after the Post article appeared, but that Cherry blew them off, calling the concerns "utter nonsense."

Hill made it to the top eight in the fourth season of "The Voice." She won a Grammy for her work in the documentary "20 Feet From Stardom," a flick about backup singers.

Seeking damages for defamation, fraud and breach of contract, Hill is represented by Scott Himes with Ballard Spahr in Los Angeles.

Both Hill and Cherry are described in the complaint as citizens of California.

The Cherry Party as offices in Santa Monica and Jolene Holdings is based in Los Angeles.

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