Sunmi has always impressed with her solo work, including her previous trio of solo songs in the past two years of “Gashina“, “Heroine“, and “Siren“. Amazingly then, she may have topped them all with “Noir“, if not musically than in terms of messaging.
A lot of the love for this will revolve around the visuals, but let’s focus on the music for a bit. The haunting and almost sensual vocal of Sunmi works well during the verses and the whole thing is always powered forward with percussion hits. Instrumental complexity comes into play during the chorus, really cementing it in the retro dance mode with the synths, but the centerpiece is the refrain that involves repetition of the “Noir” title that was immediately appealing to me. And thankfully, unlike some of her previous efforts, it avoids a distracting section that seemingly doesn’t fit.
The song actually follows a rather simple formula and doesn’t deviate much from it, reminiscent of 2018’s “Black Pearl” not in sound but in tone. “Noir” just has a surprisingly foot-tapping and catchy quality that underpins the whole effort despite the subject matter, and the song is successful in its own right due to the appropriately serious performance by Sunmi and the addicting central refrain.
All that said, it seems a bit silly to just focus on the music in this case, when the whole point of this was a wide-ranging commentary on social media by Sunmi (who co-composed and wrote it) and whoever directed this music video.
The music video beats you over the head with imagery revolving around social media proliferation, what people do for acceptance and attention as a result, and the consequences that stem from that behavior, so the point is hard to miss, and that’s probably a good thing considering how some to this day somehow don’t get IU‘s “Twenty-Three” music video.
The music video begins by taking some jabs at the fakeness of social media presence and how we falsely portray ourselves through that.
It then transitions into commentary about how people are taught through this fakeness that it’s never okay to be not okay. That we’re told it always has to be fine no matter what happens, which specifically seems to reference her life and how celebrities must act.
So things start out rather comical, as it’s cynical but playful. However, as the music video continues on, things quickly get more serious.
If the point wasn’t already obvious enough, towards the end Sunmi holds a live wire while doused in water, and in return she’s showered with likes/hearts/subscriptions/validation.
The music video essentially asks us to question what types of habits we’re romanticizing and encouraging, as well as questioning what we really are behind all of the posturing.
There’s basically a visual representation of the consequences of all this, of not taking care of yourself physically and mentally, and of obsessing over a life you project to others rather than your actual self.
At some point it wears on the individual and it gets ugly to continue on down that path as you keep having to do more and more ridiculous things to stay relevant and achieve that validation one craves, all at the risk of your health and yourself, really.
A remarkable ending shot to cap off the music video that brings everything full circle.
Sunmi acknowledged on social media (of course) the things during the build-up were reinforcing the “Noir” concept.
Though I don’t agree that it’s necessarily her calling people out like others are saying. Rather it’s more of an observation of how social media impacts society and she has one of the best views of how messy it can get given her massive following as a celebrity.
Regardless of your exact interpretation of “Noir”, it’s clear that it was effective if nothing else. It provides humorous jabs and also gives us a fittingly dark and cynical look at social media. The music video does a good job of conveying the general themes clearly and effectively, leaving a lasting impression on those watching it and her.
But she didn’t have to drag the bunny ears, man! She didn’t have to! I actually like those!