Knee Jerk Reaction: “You Can’t Sit With Us” by Sunmi

While I don’t listen to K-pop soloists as much as groups, Sunmi is an artist I always keep my eye on. I prefer some of her releases over others, but I’m always impressed by how creative and inventive she can get. And in that respect, her new single “You Can’t Sit With Us” certainly doesn’t disappoint. I was all in from the moment I saw the song title, which is a nod to Mean Girls – aka one of the movies that defined my teenage years. (It came out right before I started high school.) Sunmi has gone full on retro with this comeback, with tons of references to pop culture from the 80’s through the early 2000’s. And as a fellow millennial, I’m totally here for all the throwbacks.

Please watch the music video before reading if you want to avoid spoilers 🙂

Following K-pop’s current “newtro” trend, “You Can’t Sit With Us” is pure 80’s dancepop. Let’s get the awkward part out of the way first: like I’ve said several times before, I’m generally not into 80’s music. There are undeniably many great artists and hit singles from that era, and that decade was instrumental to the development of American pop music. However, the sound and style just aren’t my automatic go-tos. So as you might have noticed, these kinds of K-pop songs tend to be hit or miss with me. But in Sunmi’s case, I’m all good! I confess that “You Can’t Sit With Us” isn’t my favorite song of hers, but I do think it’s one of the stronger synthpop numbers in K-pop right now. And the chorus is so catchy that it quickly won me over.

Another reason the chorus stands out so much is because there’s a really fun dance to match it. Sunmi’s choreographies are always iconic, and each one has unique key points that everyone wants to dance along to. “You Can’t Sit With Us” has joined the ranks with its own highlight: a sassy hip pop followed by some bouncy hip swivels. (It’s all about the hips in this dance.) It’s such a simple move, but it goes so perfectly with the music. Actually, I think the whole choreography does a good job of matching the 80’s vibe – it has a distinct old-school style of dancing that’s pretty entertaining to watch.

Though I enjoy both the song and choreography for “You Can’t Sit With Us,” my favorite part is most definitely the music video. The whole aesthetic is an homage to the 90’s and early 2000’s: bejeweled phones (LANDLINES), pink Motorola flip phones (the must-have item for girls at my high school), a colorful desktop iMac (which also made an appearance in Taeyeon’s “Weekend”), nods to films like Clueless and Mean Girls, etc. Sunmi even has a doll of Angelina from Rugrats, a character who could be considered one of the OG mean girls. And of course, the fashion is AMAZING. I genuinely want all of Sunmi’s outfits, especially the double denim one. It does admittedly feel kind of weird that things from my adolescence are now old enough to be considered retro, but getting lost in the nostalgia is still a lot of fun.

As if the trip down memory lane wasn’t enough, the music video also plays out like a mini movie. In this story, Sunmi is angry at her boyfriend and rejects all of his calls and instant messages. When he shows up at her house with a sign that says “Forgive me,” she hurls a flowerpot out the window and hits him right on the head. Things take a darker turn when she and her friends are attacked by a horde of zombies at the video store… with her former boyfriend among them. But these ladies are fierce, and they jump into battle with some fantastic action scenes. Once Sunmi goes to confront her boyfriend, he gets down on one knee and proposes. Delighted, she forgives him and the two reconcile… but the final shot of them hugging pans out to show that they’re surrounded by the police. I wish I knew what the ending meant – I personally think the zombie scenes are a fantasy sequence and/or a metaphor for Sunmi’s destructive behavior post-breakup – but the whole thing is so entertaining that I don’t mind that bit of ambiguity.


(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.)

CategoryMy Opinion
Music VideoLove

I had been drifting away from Sunmi’s music for a while, but she pulled me back in when she released “Tail” in February. And now, she’s got me bopping along to “You Can’t Sit With Us.” Though it’s not a song I’ll probably listen to frequently – because I’m still not into 80’s music – that video will definitely rank high on my favorites list for a while. And I’m so happy she’s bringing the 2000s nostalgia back. In my opinion, both of Sunmi’s 2021 releases have been absolute top quality. It’s undeniable that she’s having a stellar year, and I’m truly excited to see where she goes from here.

(“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: Music video belongs to ABYSS Company. Featured image was taken from Sunmi’s Twitter account – you can see the original photo and tweet here.

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