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.