SUNMI’s “Noir” Calls Out Society’s Obsession with Social Media
By: Ruthie LaMay
It seems like everyone is on social media these days — as of June 2018 there were 1 billion active users of Instagram. And while social media is a great way to keep up with friends and family, there are tons of ways it is negatively affecting its users. Especially with younger users, it’s becoming easier to compare yourself with others, who are setting unrealistic expectations to begin with. In order to avoid the body shaming, FOMO, and anxiety associated with an imperfect social media feed, users are working — and overworking — themselves to put forth their best face, but at what cost? Influencers and personal users alike are becoming more obsessed and addicted to the instant gratification associated with getting likes on their most recent Instagram posts. Unfortunately, none of the big name social media influencers have addressed this issue. After all, if they make their living on social media, why would they want to warn people of its dangers?
Now, enter Korean superstar, Sunmi. Sunmi is a 26 year old singer who’s been active since 2006 in both the group Wonder Girls and as a solo artist. Her 3 solo singles, “Gashina”, “Heroine”, and “Siren” have peaked in the US Charts at 3, 3, and 5 respectively, so there’s no denying she’s a powerhouse solo artist.
On February 11th, Sunmi was live streaming and suddenly burst into tears with no explanation, worrying her fans and sending news outlets into a frenzy. Then, on February 19th, she posted a picture to Instagram of her holding a pile of pills. And another worrying message came on February 28th on her Twitter which read: “Recently many people started to harm themselves to get attention and likes. So do I.” Obviously, all of these things put together are incredibly distressing, but everything fell into place on March 4th when she released her next song, “Noir.”
“Noir” is a chilling music video that contrasts bright, bubbly aesthetic with the darker themes of obsession with perfection, depression, and self-harm. There’s a ton to unpack in this music video, so give it a watch and let’s get started.
An obvious recurring symbol is the tiny hearts that Sunmi eats throughout the video. These hearts are the same as the hearts you get on Instagram and VLive (a live streaming app popular in Korea). These hearts are like pills that she continually eats, slowly becoming more and more addicted to getting likes, all while shamelessly asking for subscribers as well.
The music video opens with Sunmi sitting with her birthday cake that has caught on fire. Instead of putting it out, she decides to pose in front of it and live-stream. Notice how many views that live stream has.
Sunmi is also seen playing the knife game, where someone tries to stab a knife between each finger without looking. As she speeds up, presumably getting more and more addicted to her attention, she starts to smile.
Later, she’s seen with her hair tangled in a fan and in front of a giant falling cactus.
Fabricating Her Life
Another prominent part of this music video is creating a new reality on social media. It starts with Sunmi’s Instagram picture of her with flowers, that are actually in her bathroom.
Then, the pictures of herself in the Himalayas holding a hand is revealed to be taken with a selfie stick shaped like a hand in front of a picture of a mountain. And similarly, the picture of her feet in the sand was taken in a sandbox in her living room.
After discovering dangerous activities get her more likes, she live streams from a hospital bed, but this is also just another prop in her house.
And finally, the most extreme act is pretending to shoot herself and lying on the floor next to a puddle of spilled wine. This live stream far and away has the most views.
The end of the music video shows a montage of Sunmi in various different outfits, displaying the fracturing of her personality from online to real life. From there, we see her finally lose control of her life as she gets more and more heart pills, cuts off her finger, and draws lipstick all over her face. She continues to descend into her addiction, even posing for a picture with her severed finger.
Then we see the scene of her pouring a bucket of water over herself. The bright pink tones and slow motion of the water make this feel symbolic of a cleansing and starting anew and perhaps her starting over. However this is a false ending. Once she’s dumped the water out, the colors fade and she’s holding a live electrical wire for another stunt.
But then we get to the real ending, revealing Sunmi on a huge set and an assistant gives her a coat as she walks off set. As she walks to her car, we’re left to believe that everything that happened on set was an act, however when her car bursts into flames, she picks up her phone to take a picture.
There was a lot to dig into with this music video and, not going to lie, I have no idea what the tomato bit was about. There’s a lot of different things I can think of: from tomato’s association with bad movies to Sunmi’s previous issues with her weight. Honestly though, I couldn’t come up with a solid enough conclusion. But regardless, “Noir” is a stunning music videos that has so many little details you notice a new one every time you watch it.
And in a world that’s so heavily focused on social media this music video holds a deeply impactful message that every social media user needs to think about. It’s interesting to note that the disturbing teaser messages she posted to her various social media accounts had an overwhelming amount more engagement than her other recent posts. For example, the Instagram picture of the pile of pills has almost 100 thousand more likes than her average. So what, as a society, are we valuing on social media?
What do you think of the music video? And what’s up with those tomatoes?? Leave a comment down below to let us know!