Song Review: LIGHTSUM – Vanilla

LIGHTSUM - Vanilla
Like so many debuts, Cube Entertainment’s LIGHTSUM includes members already familiar through survival series like Produce 48 and The Unit. But in K-pop’s overcrowded market, it takes more than familiarity to guarantee success. And with agency-mates (G)I-DLE as popular as ever, it’s important that LIGHTSUM’s music doesn’t overlap too much. Despite its uninspiring title, Vanilla is just different enough to work.

To be clear, the song brings nothing new to K-pop. In fact, Cube enlisted a team of collaborators known for their work with Oh My Girl, and Vanilla comes across like an extension of boisterous singles like Coloring Book and Remember Me. But this is a sound I happen to like, and LIGHTSUM pull it off well.

In the vein of so many great pop songs, Vanilla confidently opens with its chorus. The melody here is brash and exclamatory, which compliments the marching band elements in the instrumental. The verses take a sing-song approach, but keep refreshingly short of over-affected aegyo. All the while, energizing shots of brass punctuate the production, giving the track plenty of drive.

Vanilla’s most polarizing moment will likely be its noisy electronic breakdown, but I think this segment works just fine. Its jackhammer-like sound should be headache-inducing, yet somehow blends quite well. This is largely due to its percussion, which speeds up to lend extra bounce to the track. But, Vanilla’s greatest asset is its willingness to let the girls sing. The song climaxes in a few well-timed power notes, delivering a sense of lift just when Vanilla needs it. I don’t think I’d put this on the same level as those aforementioned Oh My Girl tracks, but LIGHTSUM definitely show potential.

 Hooks 9
 Production 8
 Longevity 8
 Bias 9

32 thoughts on “Song Review: LIGHTSUM – Vanilla

  1. Not complaining, but I am checking the calendar again this week. What year is it? There are parts that sound like twelve other songs from about two years, and we can all mention our favorite influences here. Among others, I was thinking Oh My Girl “Coloring Book”! glad to hear I wasn’t crazy to think it.

    Alrighty, a bright, bubbly, solid pop song. Not original, but solidly delivered. I think its a good debut.

    BTW, I found this helpful info about the name: “LIGHTSUM’s name is a combination of ‘bright lights that will come together as one sum to reach everyone across the world, becoming a group that conveys more positive energy to everyone through messages of hope’.”
    Alrighty then.

    Liked by 9 people

    • Yes, it isn’t filled with high-pitched screeching aegyo cute voices and that elevates it.

      And for the name, let us harness this hope and beacon to the world and project its pure brightness across the world. May the human race be enlightened.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Looks like they took cues from weeekly and fromis_9. The girls pulled it off well. I don’t really understand the strategy of debuting a new gg when one is at its peak, shouldn’t they be promoting it better? And. I love that breakdown!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I thought it was decent for a debut, there’s definitely a lot to like about this. However, it gets too repetitive at the end, and the rapping is so awkward to me. Nevertheless, I’m happy Chowon finally debuted! Can’t wait to see more from her group.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. I wish it didn’t have the marching band elements. That seems to be my only gripe with the song. I breakdown feels like an energy drink when in other songs it’s coffee that has no sugar and is too hot.

    Since I watched produce48 and the unit I was really excited to see Chowon and Nayoung in the group. However, I feel like Lightsum might fall victim to the “produce curse”. Normally, these members just aren’t enough to keep a group relevant for a long time (think gugudan, DIA, Pristin).

    This might be controversial, but they really just put the members with exposure out first as like a subunit

    Liked by 1 person

    • It was quite a relief that the girls can pronounce Vanilla nilla nilla correctly, as it is the title and most repeated word in the song. They really dig into those l’s, slightly exaggerating the curl of the ell and getting them correct. The V sound in Vanilla isn’t bad either.

      I don’t care if it was all of them recording nothing but that word for a week, or only one of them recording it doubled and tripled up to sound like a chorus, or if it was actually overdubbed with someone else entirely. However it happened the girls, the producer, and the agency got it right. This could have been disastrous otherwise.

      Liked by 6 people

  5. Agreed. Just be thankful it’s something like this haunting your brainpan. When that goat screaming video first came out, I was inconsolable for weeks afterwards. I was curled up in a fetal position begging for it to please stawp!!!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m so happy to see Chowon debut, but I’m honestly more excited for Juhyeon. I remember her from The Unit, a 13-year-old girl with braces who said she wanted to be the next BoA. She danced the house down and got a standing ovation from Rain, Hyuna, Taemin, and the rest of the judges. She’s great in this debut, and I expect big things from her.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. Maybe this is just me being a prude, but some of the dance moves mixed with the general themes/lyrics struck me as a bit sexual given the members’ ages? (Dessert-themed stuff in music is almost always a metaphor.) It doesn’t seem out-of-the-ordinary for Kpop though. Maybe I’ve just been thinking about the subject lately and it happened to coincide with their debut.

    As for the song itself, I like it! The hooks are a bit too random/simple for it to fall under “candy-pop perfection” in my head, but it’s definitely worth listening to. They seem to have picked an underrepresented niche for the group that the song fits pretty well, and the members have that rookie glow. As for whether Cube needs to be debuting another girl group right now… I don’t know. I’d rather see these girls get a career than have them labor away as trainees until (G)-Idle disbands, but given what happened with CLC, I’m not confident all these groups will get amazing promotions. Fingers crossed.

    Also, one of the members has dimples!!! I do too, so that makes me happy.

    Liked by 5 people

    • I can see why Cube went ahead with their debut and may potentially push them as a group even more than G-idle for now. I think it’s safe to say CLC is done now. Elkie is gone and Yujin is slated to appear on Mnet’s next survival series: yeah, that’s the end for them. Maybe a farewell digital single, but I don’t see anything more in the pipeline.

      For G-idle, Cube still has the mess with Soojin. I think Soyeon having a solo comeback coming up soon is very telling. Cube has also signed Shuhua and Yuqi to their Chinese label… and Yuqi releasing two fully English songs that weren’t promoted in Korea plus a Mandarin version of Giant (although Bonnie and Clyde is by far the superior track). She has also returned to China already. Considering how much more money there is to tap in the Chinese market, I can definitely see Cube continuing to promote Soyeon as a soloist, Miyeon as an actress and CF Queen, and push Yuqi and Shuhua for the Chinese market and call it a day with some minimal group promotions in Korea… think f(x) post-Electric Shock with a more relevant soloist.

      This really leaves LIGHTSUM as their best possible group option at the moment. For first day sales, they quadrupled g-idle’s debut. If they can promote the song so it rises on the charts, it will look very good for them. It also looks Cube is managing their debut with a smaller budget that idle’s, which makes sense given the fallout of broken endorsement deal contracts and legal fees. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more comebacks from LIGHTSUM before we see anything from idle.

      So can Cube manage all three groups at once? No, no, and no. But I don’t think they even ever intended to. Obviously I could be wrong, but given the information available, that’s my assessment of the situation.

      Liked by 4 people

      • I mean sometimes it is, sure. But like…
        “My cherry honey topping, when you taste it you go oh my gosh? / I want to give it to you”? That’s not even the only example. (I’m not anti-sexy concepts by the way, it’s just iffy to me when it’s minors and wrapped up in something else meant to make it sound innocent.)

        Liked by 3 people

      • That may be true, but who’s to say with lyrics that are intentionally left open to interpretation? Either way, I don’t really care about it (I barely notice lyrics in kpop most of the time) and I think that minors debuting in general is not great practice since the job by default involves some level of physical objectification and an intense focus on body image.

        Liked by 2 people

    • I mean, it’s certainly ice cream as a metaphor for romance, but I don’t think it seems all that sexual? I just watched their debut stage and the dance moves all looked pretty clean to me.

      If you want to compare and contrast, Yeri was also a minor when she debuted with Ice Cream Cake in 2015, which I actually think is a lot more suggestive lyrically. A lot of lyrics about desserts melting in your mouth in that one.

      Liked by 2 people

    • I understand your concern and, to a degree, I share it. Truth be told, underage girls should not be delivering salacious lyrics. However, you have to remember that this is K-pop. These girls are under contractual lock and key until they’re well into their early twenties. In most instances, agency control of idols borders on “catholic girl school meets prison” as far as monitoring and restricted external activities.

      I’m more worried about the pernicious mental/emotional damage that those same agency contracts due to the idols, rather than them hanging out a shingle for a product that’s not for sale. Then again.. ..given the agency horror stories from the past, even the “not for sale” part is questionable; but that has nothing to do with what they’re singing. I digress…

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The thing I appreciated most with this song is that they didn’t feel the need to include the entire beat drop section multiple times, which is generally what kills a lot of songs for me (think BP’s D4 series of soundalikes). They include one shortened callback to it and then just including the instrumental of it interwoven into actual melody. For me, that’s progress as far as that trend goes. I will always prefer a fully fleshed out chorus, but as far as drops/dance breaks go, this was handled way better than most. It also helped that they didn’t feel the need to bring too much autotune or vocal processing on the rest of the song. Continuing with the BP similarity, part of me felt like there was a creative meeting that basically said how can we take BP’s later hits and combine them with something like AAIYL. There’s a bit of a hybrid feeling there that extends even beyond the song and into the styling as well with a touch of OMG and RV.
    This definitely isn’t groundbreaking, but I think it’s a solid debut and enjoyable enough song that most people wouldn’t skip it if randomly popped up on a playlist. It sparks a bit of curiosity and let’s you see future potential for the group, which is a good place for any rookie group to find themselves in right after debuting.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. “oh my god” i love those exclamations!

    this one is doing it for me. On first listen I wasn’t sure but then I ran it back, and again, and the line distribution video, and then with profiles open in the other window to learn the members better. (I got back into Kpop in 2019 so I missed Produce 48)
    I didn’t really pay attention to the prerelease promo, but I’m v here for Lightsum.

    beat is so obnoxious is the best ways.

    I think the Oh my Girl tracks are far superior but this has a little dash of that 4th gen flavor and it really works.

    “oh my god”

    i love it !!!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I’m imagining a mashup called Vanilla Ice Cream Cake. This is fun, bouncy and energetic. I can’t help but feel my spirits lift listening to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I’m ambivalent. I don’t quite like it as much as everyone else seems to, but this isn’t a bad song by any means. Like MYMA said, it’s a great debut, nearly avoids becoming a disaster and establishes a baseline for their sound (though with how groups randomly deviate from their debut sounds, it’s hard to say if this one will stick).

    I think the production was done well and the hook isn’t as bad as I first thought, but it’s not captivating me as much as something like PIXY’s Let Me Know did, although I am aware most people didn’t like that one. Unlike them though, there’s nothing for me to hold on to in this song from performance, vocals or production, which is fine. It’s just not for me I suppose.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I wasn’t sure how I felt at first, but when it came back around to the chorus I was feeling it, especially when it hit that breakdown. The song as a whole kind of reminds me of “Red Flavor.” A fun summer anthem.

    In terms of the girls, i am the most excited about NAYOUNG!!! My Nayoungie, I was so sad when I heard she left Banana Culture, I really thought she might have left the entertainment industry. She was famous on PD48 for her positive energy. I never would have imagined she’d debut with Chowon but I’m really happy to see it!

    My good kiddo!

    I don’t know the non-Produce girls, but I like the one with the dimples 🙂 I’ll be keeping my eye on Lightsum for sure.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Coloring Book and Remember Me are some of my absolute favourite songs of all time, so I’m always happy to listen to anything resembling it.

    This song does not nearly have the same level of energy as Coloring Book, Remember Me seems a much closer fit. The delivery even sounds a little too calm in some parts, but maybe that’s my affinity for high energy shouting (Coloring Book, Fun, Damdadi, Let Me).

    That aside, I like this. Solid debut track. I also noticed the nice and crisp pronunciation of ‘Vanilla’. I’m glad to see this kind of girl group sound make a comeback.

    Liked by 1 person

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