“Crash into sugar high,” commands LIGHTSUM’s Huiyeon midway through ‘Vanilla’, summing up their debut single in one line. In their introduction to the world, the eight-piece girl group – the first to come from CUBE Entertainment since (G)-IDLE in 2018 – offer up a sweet treat that’ll have you bouncing off the walls every time you press play.
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‘Vanilla’ is perfectly timed in that its arrival coincides with the start of the summer and it sounds like the perfect companion for messing around on the beach with your mates. It’s bright and bubbly – but not so aggressively so – and showcases the members’ individual voices and collective power brilliantly. In particular, Chowon’s lofty ad libs at the end of the track hint towards a possibility in the future where the singer could break our hearts belting out sad emotions.
“As of now, I don’t have full confidence in my rapping skills since it’s only a year since I started learning rap,” Sangah told us about her feelings on her role in the group. Hopefully, ‘Vanilla’ will boost her confidence and give her more faith in her rapping because, here, her tone and flow are addictive.
“Follow the lights,” she raps in a sing-song voice. “That’s right, choose whatever you want.” It’s only a short burst of what she can do with just five lines, but she draws you in and makes you want to hear more from her immediately. Fellow rapper Jian has even less time to shine with only three lines in the rap verse, but also shows plenty of promise for the future.
Like any good sweet snack, ‘Vanilla’ has moments throughout that burst out at you, full of flavour and the power to leave you craving more. Here, they pop up repeatedly, from the way the girls take turns to finish lines with a drawled “oh my gosh”, to the marching band drums and the infectious repetition of syllables like “va-nilla nilla nilla” or “rolling rolling and again rolling rolling”.
There are parts that some might find divisive, not least the electro breakdown that comes in on every pre-chorus. The whirring sounds break up the song and add some extra dynamism to it, avoiding becoming too in-your-face or noisy as they do so. In fact, this section is where a lot of the power leader Juhyeon told NME the track had manifests, the slightly abrasive notes bringing with them an extra layer of attitude. EDM elements are always an acquired taste, but the non-intrusive nature should save this part from too much hate.
‘Vanilla’ isn’t the most original track – debut or otherwise – that’s come out of the K-pop world lately. You can trace other girl groups within its cheerful pep, from OH MY GIRL to Rocket Punch, and a sprinkle of Cherry Bullet and (G)-IDLE on top. Despite that, it’s incredibly fun and does exactly what LIGHTSUM have said they want to do – spread positive energy. If you’re not smiling by the end of ‘Vanilla’, you might want to check your pulse.