On it’s own, Sunflower, the catchy single for the box-office hit movie soundtrack Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, is a good song. It’s melodramatic flow and genre crossover style is nothing really new for music artists Post Malone and Swae Lee (member of hip hop group Rae Sremmurd). Though released in mid-October, the radio-friendly ear-worm continues to squirm it’s way up the top of the charts and into our heads and out of our mouths almost unexpectedly.
But why do we love this song so much? It’s only just now rising to number three on Billboard’s charts and continues to climb. The explanation for Sunflower’s growing popularity is found in the growing fandom of Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse—particularly a single scene in the movie.
When viewers are introduced to Miles Morales, the Latino-African American teenager, he’s sitting at his desk in his messy room with his over-the-ear Sony headphones listening to Sunflower. Oblivious to his parents calling him from another room to get ready to leave for school, he clumsily sings along with Sunflower, mumbling the lines he doesn’t know very well and confidently belching, with a slight grin of assurance the lines he does: “callin’ it quits now baby I’mma wreck!” and missing the higher notes, “Ooh Ooh, some things you just can’t refuuuse.”
That scene connects young Miles with audiences across class, cultural, ethnic, and racial lines. We’ve all enjoyed songs without knowing all the words and have failed to hit notes to our favorite parts of those songs. Most of our adolescent years were filled with passion, bliss, and identity-searching, and fortunately for us, the animators masterfully captured that essence in a brief 30 second introduction to Miles Morales.
As Spiderman progresses, the film centers itself on relationships and leaves the weightier topics that polarize our society (politics, police brutality, gentrification, etc.) in the background—noticeable enough to dissect, but distant enough to avoid controversy. Like most teenagers, Miles struggles for independence from his parents while ineptly squandering his educational opportunities. Part of this is due to the exhaustion that comes along with his constant code-switching from urban Brooklyn to the buttoned-up prestigious private school his parents want him to excel in. Miles’ only desire is to escape these pressures, and he finds that escape in drawing and illustration—something we see him doing in that opening Sunflower scene.
Nuances like these are what glue us to the film, hoping to see what a mature and developed Miles Morales will look like. We stick with him because we know he’s just trying to discover who and what his purpose is, a conundrum many of us still find ourselves fumbling through at times. Are we really as good at what we’ve previously done? Are we just posers? How are we sure that we can contribute anything else worth significance to this world in the mundane day-to-day tasks of our lives?
But for a second, we can step back from these emotionally taxing questions with Miles and gleefully sing-along to Sunflower.Without that scene, though, the song loses some of its significance. The song is about the uncertainties of trusting and loving—emotional obstacles we all navigate—but it comes to life when we see a young Afro-Latino teenage boy waxing imperfect eloquence to its tune.
Those who haven’t seen Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse, but enjoy Sunflower simply aren’t enjoying it the same way those who’ve seen the movie are.