Sunmi Tackles The Pressure of Social Media Through Aesthetic “Noir” MV
Sunmi has been on fire lately, continuously releasing hit comeback after comeback. Tracks like “Gashina” and “Heroine” have played huge roles in solidifying Sunmi’s position as one of the most prominent female solo artists today. With her recent gold streak, I expected to get another classic Sunmi track with an addictive beat. What I didn't expect, however, was to get an artistically-modern take on the role of social media in society masked in an 80s synth-infused, groovy pop track.
A synth pop track reminiscent of not only her previous comebacks but also of her work as a member of the Wonder Girls, “Noir” distinguishes itself with its subtle, lo-fi vibe. This is a genre Sunmi shines in the most with her strong, abrasive vocals. “Noir,” the French word for “black,” is also used to describe danger and gloom. While the meaning behind the French word “noir” is quite clearly defined, Sunmi strays from this meaning to settle on an interpretation of her own. She chooses to focus on the noir of the contemporary; to get attention through social media, be it positive or negative. The lyrics sing of an abusive relationship, which in this context is one between society and social media. The conversation-like delivery of the lyrics completely aligns with the theme of the track and its message. Melody-wise, I would have preferred for it to go somewhere, since musically the song remains consistent throughout to the point of repetition; however, the repetitiveness of the beat does help drive the meaning home.
The music video is what really gives this comeback its magic. The scene opens with Sunmi sat in front of a cake, taking a heart-shaped pill. As the cake combusts into flames, she whips out her phone and starts livestreaming her situation, her face remaining pretty monotonous until the camera comes on. That pretty much sets the mood for the rest of the video with scenes of her putting herself in dangerous situations in order to gain attention on Instagram. These scenes play atop lyrics like, “I feel so high,” and, “compared to being either this or that, this is better,” indicating that negative attention is better than no attention. One also can’t help but draw comparisons to the cheery disposition celebrities have to put up despite their circumstances. The aesthetic of the music video takes inspiration from elements of popular online culture, from Instagram filters, emojis and hashtags, to the popular bunny hat we've been seeing everywhere in the idol industry as of late.
The string of past releases has led me to believe Sunmi is incapable of releasing a bad track, however, through “Noir,” she has reached a point where she's able to release an addictive track while artistically using her music to make a statement. We bend over backwards to portray the beauty in our lives for likes and, in certain cases when that doesn't work out, people tend to post solely for the attention. Furthermore, almost everything these days revolves around “aesthetic,” to the point where even mental issues are romanticized. Sunmi manages to capture both the airbrushed and negative aspects while retaining her unique aesthetic with this release. She also manages to shed light on the treatment of celebrities and the high—sometimes unrealistic—standards to which they are held, a statement directed not just at the industry but also at us as fans. While I do wish the track had a bit more musical diversity within itself, all the elements of this release from the song to the video and down to the message work together to make it the stellar comeback that it is.