a closer kpop reading of iu’s ‘celebrity’

delve into the visuals of the new music video with BG

IU‘s new song ‘Celebrity’ is topping charts, and the new MV has more than 14 million views on YouTube. It’s easy to get caught up in the dazzling visuals of this gorgeous music video, but when you step back and consider what the images are trying to convey, you get an even fuller appreciation of the meaning behind the song.

What is ‘Celebrity’ by IU about anyway?

Through her thoughtful poetic lyrics, IU sends a love letter to fans in ‘Celebrity.’ The words capture how we often feel isolated from those around us and how we sometimes fail to see both our outward and inward beauty. IU encourages us to see everything we have to offer, to not lose hope even in dark times. She calls her fans ‘her celebrity,’ meaning that to her we are special. We are every bit as important and unique as the world famous IU.

Symbols of Isolation

You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely, and many of the visuals in ‘Celebrity’ make that clear. At the beginning, we see IU regally dressed like a queen but there are people standing all over her cape. They are weighing her down, preventing her from moving but we don’t ever see their faces. Next, disembodied hands prepare IU for the camera, but once she is ready, they suddenly disappear. Both of these sequences show how people in close proximity to us can affect us greatly but never really touch us enough to break us out of our isolation.

Even when people are paying attention to IU, she is removed from them in the video. The photographers eager to take her picture are behind frosted windows. A circle of people sets the mood with lights but we can never fully see any of them as individuals. Attention is not the same as meaningful interaction; it doesn’t put an ache to the feeling of loneiness.

The video has many other moments that symbolize being alone in a world full of people. IU sits on stairs while people rush by without noticing her. Empty clothing falls around her in a public place, the people who wore the garments having vanished. All of the lights go out in the city while she looks out her window. Together, these scenes combine to convey the terrible notion that you are alone in the world and how that thought leads to feelings of quiet despair.

The Two Selves

One thing that contributes to our feelings of isolation in the modern world is having two selves. There is the public self that we show off to the world face to face and through social media, and the true us that lies underneath it all. When we put distance between the real us and the us that we are for others, we cannot help but feel lonely and disconnected.

IU observes herself inside a warm cafe enjoying a private moment early in the video. When she tries to follow herself into the busy city, the other IU evades her. This shows how our true selves vanish all too often in the presence of others.

During the dinner scenes, IU eats Instagram-worthy dishes with only herself on a television screen as company. She seems to take no pleasure in the meal at all, and this reflects how we can rob ourselves of simple joys when we focus on our public personas and neglect our true selves.

A few times, the two IUs come together. In one sequence, the public IU is projected on a screen while the real IU looks on. This shows how our public personas become detached from our identity. Maybe we get a lot of attention in virtual spaces, but that lack of real connection makes us lonely. In a particularly poignant moment, the one IU reaches out for the other, sending a message that we need to connect with ourselves before we can form real bonds with others.

The Mirror Sequence

The meaning of the video really comes to light at the end. One IU sits staring listlessly ahead, while the other makes her way down the hallway. When the melancholic IU notices this other her, she turns and tries to follow her. At last, she seems to think, she has a chance to meet this better, happier version of herself.

But what does she find?

Instead of another person, IU comes face to face with a mirror. She reaches out and touches it, and finally it clicks–she is both versions of herself. It’s possible for her to be her authentic self and to move through the world feeling complete.

After this revelation, we see IU dressed glamorously as she was in the beginning. The photographers are back, but she’s not looking at them. She’s looking at us.

And for the first time in the video, she smiles fully. Radiantly. Authentically.

She doesn’t take careful steps past the reporters like she might have at the beginning of the video.

No, she runs.

She appears carefree as the city starts to fade away behind her. Better times are ahead for her, and through the powerful visuals of this video, it feels like those better times are waiting for us, too.

What did you think of the music video for ‘Celebrity?’ Did you see anything that I missed? Tell me about it in the Comments section.

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