After weeks of teasing fans with cryptic tweets and Instagram posts as well as beautiful teaser pictures, Sunmi finally dropped her music video for “Noir.” It’s somehow everything I expected from Sunmi but completely different, which has been the case for all of her comebacks from “24 Hours,” to her latest one. For those of you who aren’t yet familiar with Sunmi and her music, she’s a South Korean singer and former Wonder Girls, member. “Noir,” much like her previous comebacks, has synthpop elements and a lo-fi vibe to it as well as a breathtaking music video.
One thing that has been common among all of Sunmi’s comebacks since “Gashina” is the multiple meanings in all of their respective titles. The same goes for “Noir,” which describes the Noir genre depicting cynicism, mystery and violence as well as people who appear mysterious, dark and elusive. It’s also more widely known as the French word for black. This probably explains all those cryptic tweets about “attention seekers,” and images of pills she posted on Twitter and Instagram, making her and the comeback as mysterious and elusive as the title insinuates. I feel like this is probably Sunmi’s way of criticizing the warped version of reality on social media, which the music video and arguably, the lyrics too, centre on.
The music video for “Noir,” has a similar aesthetic retro aesthetic as Wonder Girls’ final music video, “Why So Lonely,” did in some scenes but a very modern aesthetic in others with imagery of Instagram posts and lives as well as advertisements, which Sunmi pulls off almost effortlessly. The opening scenes show her taking a heart-shaped pill while watching a birthday cake combust and at this point, I’m not really surprised about because of her last three music videos. But then she starts live streaming the fire with an eerie smile on her face, which is something new. Within the first minute of the video, the pills and the references to social media, in particular, Instagram, are everywhere.
There’s even a live stream of her bleeding from her head after shooting herself which reminds me a lot of Netflix’s Cam, which also had similar themes, especially with all the comments flooding in as she gives a creepy, blank stare to the camera. Around two minutes in, she’s seen with hearts drawn out of blush on her cheeks and the word “like” on her forehead with blue-glitter letters which are swapped out for hair clips that say “anxiety,” and the word “dislike” on her forehead, as well as a crop top, reading “unfollow,” and plasters all over her after collapsing. I feel like this is really powerful for her to do, especially as K-pop artist who’s industry relies so much on social media insights and aesthetics. As the music video progresses, the pictures Sunmi takes and the imagery grow darker until the end scene in which she takes a selfie next to her burning car, looking dead inside.
It’s safe to say that “Noir’s” music video serves as a criticism of social media as well as advertisements’ distortion of reality and people’s perception. But what about the lyrics? On the surface, they seem to be calling out an emotionally abusive lover or ex-lover, but with the music video and all the teasers, tweets and Instagram posts that came before it, I doubt Sunmi intended them to be taken at face value. “We are in noir,” is repeated over and over again and it took me a few repeats to figure out what she could mean by it. My current theory is that it’s a critique of people’s abusive relationships with social media and how nothing’s really ‘real’ on it. Much like the genre of noir, you’re not really sure what you can trust as real or not. It’s probably even worse for people like Sunmi who are K-pop stars and constantly under the watchful eye of ‘netizens’ (they are users of the internet but it usually means internet bullies who nitpick idols) and websites like Dispatch. This would explain things like the subtweets on Sunmi’s Twitter and the handful of pills she posted a couple of weeks ago on Instagram, almost as if she’s trying to screw with them for once rather than the other way around.
“Noir,” is a beautiful aesthetically pleasing exposé on our abusive relationships to social media, which is something powerful. It’s something I feel Sunmi has been building up to ever since her “Gashina” comeback. As well as the meaning behind it and the music video, “Noir,” is also a good song. No, more than just ‘good’. It’s probably one of my favourite songs from Sunmi to date. It’s serene and beautiful but also dark and mysterious at the same time, just like the word “noir,” would imply.
Featured Image via MAKE US Entertainment.