Knee Jerk Reaction: “Tail” by Sunmi

Sunmi’s solo career has been absolutely flourishing over the last several years. She always delivers catchy as hell songs filled with her own eclectic flair, truly marching to the beat of her own drum. “Tail” fits right into that unique musical world she’s built for herself post-JYP, but it also reminds me of the music she released when she was starting out as a soloist. It has the same sexy and alluring vibes as “24 Hours” and “Full Moon” – especially with the bold choreography – but it’s even more daring, and I’m totally here for it.

When I first watched the music video for “Tail,” I was most intrigued by the narrative. My initial interpretation was that Sunmi’s character was betrayed by her lover who attempted to kill her, but she survived and was able to get her revenge. (The scene where he dropped her out of the window and she ended up splayed on the ground totally reminded me of Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood,” and I loved it.) The presence of all the black cats and her seductive yet savage behavior made me think that she was Catwoman/Selina Kyle kind of villain, as she’s very clearly portrayed as a femme fatale. But when I thought about it more, I realized that maybe her character actually WAS a cat woman??? It might explain how she weathered such a fall almost unscathed in the story, since it could be a take on the expression that “cats have nine lives.”

I can’t really say if Sunmi’s character is supposed to be a cat for sure since she doesn’t do anything obvious like shapeshifting or sprouting a tail, but there are these cool little hints I noticed that make me think she is. There’s the way she slinks around like a cat, both in the music video and choreography, and she also wears a leopard print dresses. Plus there’s obviously the song title, which is pretty figurative in the lyrics but much more literal in the music video. And there’s one more super minor yet super-satisfying detail: all of Sunmi’s manicure looks make her nails so long they’re like claws. Glamorous yet deadly – my favorite combination! The man who betrays her sports a snake ring, which is also a nice touch.

I quite like the music video for “Tail” with its many colorful aesthetics, particularly the (almost) black and white shots that give me Chicago vibes. However, I would have liked to see just a *bit* more of the story. I feel like this is one of those music videos where the narrative gets sacrificed for visuals, and an interesting idea inevitably gets turned into more of an aesthetic concept. And that’s totally fine, because music videos don’t need to have full-blown plot lines to be interesting or good. I just think it’s kind of a shame because there was so much potential in that premise, and it seems like a missed opportunity. But maybe that’s the former film school student in me, always analyzing.

As much as I like the music video for “Tail,” its choreography definitely stood out to me the most. As far as K-pop goes, it’s a little bit on the scandalous side. My initial reaction to the dance was basically, “OMG I WAS NOT PREPARED FOR THIS.” Which is hilarious to me, because I’m American and I routinely watch U.S. music videos like “WAP” without even blinking an eye. I guess it’s because I’m used to it in content from the West, but I just don’t expect it in K-pop. Everything made a lot more sense when I found out that “Tail” was choreographed by Janelle Ginestra; I watch her dance videos from time to time, and I’ve seen that she definitely knows how to be sexy and sensual. I can totally see her unique and appealing style all over “Tail,” and I think she was a phenomenal choice for its choreographer. (Fun fact: I just looked at Janelle’s Instagram and she also apparently choreographed Chungha’s “Bicycle,” which I can totally see now too.)

While I was surprised by the more overtly sexy choreography, I’m honestly all for it. Sunmi’s the perfect candidate to tackle more mature material like this because she’s so daring and always ready to try anything. She really jumped on her backup dancer’s knees and opened and shut her legs right in his face – THE CONFIDENCE. (That’s kind of a “blink and you’ll miss it” moment in the music video, but you can see it in the Studio Choom performance.) And while she obviously wows us with some of the more eye-opening moves, she’s so talented that she can also hold our attention with something as simple as a well-timed hip swivel. In short, the choreography for “Tail” is absolute perfection and flawlessly executed – definitely one of my favorites of the year so far.

Also, I want take a moment to talk about that jaw-dropping moment in the bridge where Sunmi’s dancers make their legs look like her tails as she slinks around on the floor. (It’s the image in the music video’s thumbnail.) It must take so much coordination, precision, and technique to get right – but it all looks effortless. I truly can’t stop thinking about it. Peak creativity. Absolutely amazing.


(NOTE: My options for each category are “Love,” “Like,” “Neutral,” “Not My Style,” or “Dislike.” But I rarely dislike anything, so I’ll mostly be using the other four.)

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As much as I like Sunmi, I personally haven’t felt a strong connection with her more recent music. I like all her songs, but I haven’t been fully absorbed by one of her comebacks since the iconic “Gashina.” That is, until now. I just love the jazzy femme fatale vibes of “Noir,” and the hook is so addictive it’s almost hypnotic. I find myself humming the chorus over and over constantly. I’m still holding on to “Gashina” as my my all-time Sunmi favorite, but “Noir” is a close second… and it’s creeping up on #1 pretty quickly.

(“Knee Jerk Reaction” is a column I created to talk about comebacks or debuts when I don’t have a lot of time to write in-depth reviews. A knee jerk reaction is like an automatic response, so it’s a post about my initial thoughts on the song, the music video, and the performance if it’s available. Compared to my reviews, everything is more stream of consciousness and less analytical. And everything is 100% my own opinion!)

SOURCES: YouTube, Abyss Company***, Studio Choom (1), Instagram (1)

*When I first published this post, I credited Sunmi’s agency as MakeUs Entertainment. I had forgotten that MakeUs merged with Abyss Company and now goes by that name. My apologies!

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