Rising stars of K-pop: Lightsum talk about their debut single Vanilla, training to become K-pop stars, and ice cream

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Since 2009, South Korean media company Cube Entertainment has made its name launching K-pop girl groups 4Minute, CLC, and (G)I-dle. This week, the eight-member Lightsum debuted with the single Vanilla, continuing Cube’s girl group lineage. The music video of the song saw a lot of interest, receiving over 2 million views in less than 24 hours. 

Ahead of its launch, the members of the group – Juhyeon, Jian, Chowon, Yujeong, Sangah, Hina, Nayoung and Huiyeon – spoke with the Post over a video call from Seoul to share their thoughts on their debut, the sense of anticipation after training for this for so long, and their love of ice cream. 

What does Vanilla represent to you as your debut song?

Juhyeon: We think it’ll be the perfect song to introduce Lightsum to the world because if you add anything to vanilla ice cream, it would change its flavour very evidently. The song represents how we’re able to get the topping [that brings an exciting new taste]. The aim of the song is for it to be a gift that can bring something special to our listeners’ ordinary, everyday life. It’ll be the specialness, or the topping on top, of their daily lives. And although we’re just releasing one single, we think that listeners will be able to hear each of our own individual colours and strengths. 

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Lightsum come from the same label as 4Minute, CLC, and (G)I-dle. Photo: Cube Entertainment

Cube has produced many girl groups over the years. How do you feel Lightsum differentiates itself from previous teams?

Juhyeon: Previous groups produced by Cube were a little bit more conceptual and intense, with strong images. We aim to be a friendlier kind of act, more approachable, more relatable, and a little bit more intimate than previous girl groups. Past groups were formed kind of more based around storytelling and specific ideas, but for us we hope to be more like our listeners’ friends. 

Beyond your performance roles, what does each member bring together to make the “sum” of Lightsum’s whole?

Juhyeon: I’m responsible for bringing the members’ thoughts together and leading our team. 

Sangah: I’m the eldest member of the group, but I’m the most energetic one so I try to help make the atmosphere more comfortable and enjoyable among us all. I think my energy can help the group’s energy. 

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Lightsum’s Chowon is the calmer member. Photo: Cube Entertainment

Chowon: Whereas Sangah is more energetic, I’m a bit calmer. I think I’m the one who has my teammates’ backs. I quietly observe and take care of the members.

Yujeong: I’m the cute member, I have a lot of aegyo [a Korean term for behaving cutely]. I also think I’m like the fan attractor within the group. I think a lot of fans are drawn to me. 

Nayoung: I’m like the vitamin within the group. I’m very bright and positive. 

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Lightsum’s Hina is the only non-Korean member. Photo: Cube Entertainment

Hina: I’m the only non-Korean member in the group. I’ve also heard from a lot of people that I’m a very bright person and that I have a very pure image. 

Huiyeon: I’m the bubbly one within the group. My charm is that the more you see me, the more you’ll fall for me. I’m also the only one with dimples in the group.

Jian: I’m the youngest member, and because of that I think I’m going to be able to interact with younger fans and audiences better.

Being a K-pop star isn’t necessarily an easy path. How did you decide to pursue this career?

Juhyeon: I’ve been training for seven years and four months. I joined Cube when I was [10]. I had tried cheerleading and being on dance teams before, because I liked dancing. I didn’t necessarily dream of becoming an idol or performing artist. But I auditioned for a few companies along with my friends, and somehow I made it and luckily was given the opportunity. Once I started training, I was inspired by the people I trained with. It made me realise I wanted to achieve this goal. 

Chowon: I trained about six years in total, since I was [14] years old. I tried modelling and musical theatre, and also played instruments. But honestly, I wanted to be an actress rather than an idol. I auditioned to join Cube as an aspiring actress. But once I joined, I took dancing and singing lessons and the people here at Cube saw my potential to be a vocalist as great as the likes of Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation] and Yuju [of Gfriend]. Once I started hearing those compliments, I thought maybe I could pursue this path.

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Huiyeon started auditioning for K-pop companies when she was young. Photo: Cube Entertainment

Huiyeon: When I was young, I was a figure skater and also danced. I started taking vocal lessons at an academy, and an instructor suggested I audition for a K-pop company. At first I didn’t even know auditions like this went on, but as I began auditioning I began to feel competitive. I began to think that I wanted to make it. During this time, I went to several concerts and saw BTS, Troye Sivan, The Chainsmokers, and everyone who performed at the Melon Music Awards. I was really inspired by how they could make the audience happy and how their performances had so much charisma. It really inspired me to keep pursuing this. 

Hina: When I was in Japan, I didn’t necessarily think of becoming an idol but when I was in the start of junior high, Twice got very popular in Japan and that’s how I first got to know K-pop and Twice. I thought they appeared really charismatic and amazing. Shining. I liked to sing and dance already, so that inspired me to begin auditioning. 

Jian: Huiyeon and I trained for the shortest amount of time, about five to six months.

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Juhyeon was inspired by the people she trained with. Photo: Cube Entertainment

You’ve obviously all worked really hard to debut, so how are you dealing with anxiety and anticipation as you approach the start of this career you’ve been working towards?

Chowon: Honestly, it’s been a while since I competed [on 2018 television show Produce 48], and since then there were many things that I had to go through. People would always ask me many questions about my debut and future, but there was nothing I could answer or share. That was a bit of a struggle for me, but now that I’m finally about to debut, I feel relieved by the fact that I can answer those questions. Because it’s been quite a while, because I’ve been training for quite a long time, my debut doesn’t really feel real to me. Although there were some struggles and tough moments in the process, because that process was there I’ve been able to meet the rest of Lightsum and I’m very happy about that. 

Yujeong: I thought I’d be able to debut shortly after I also appeared on Produce 48, but it took a while. I was anxious that people would forget me, but now that I’m finally debuting as Lightsum I’m really glad and happy that this opportunity has come to me. And recently, I was able to talk to some fans during a video call event, and I found out there were fans supporting me since that show, so I was very happy and surprised to learn that they’ve supported me for so long. 

Vanilla is inspired by ice cream, so I’m curious. What flavour of ice cream represents each member and why?

Chowon: plain chocolate. Because I think I’m class and have a deep aura, which is why I’m plain chocolate not milk chocolate. 

Hina: Strawberries and cream, because I’m sweet, soft, and lovely. 

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Jian only trained for five or six months. Photo: Cube Entertainment

Jian: I’m like rainbow sherbet, because I have many different charms. 

Yujeong: candyfloss, because it reminds me of a joyful, vibrant atmosphere and has the taste of youth. 

Sangah: [Baskin Robbins’] shooting star, because it has popping candies and I think my personality is very vibrant and excitable, like that flavour.

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Nayoung is the bright and energetic member. Photo: Cube Entertainment

Nayoung: I know I said it before, but I’m like a vitamin of the group so I think the citrusy flavour of lemon goes well with me.

Juhyeon: Yogurt flavour, because I really like that flavour. It doesn’t have a very vivid colour but has a distinct taste to it. 

Huiyeon: I think green tea. It’s my favourite, and also I like the colour. I think it’s a flavour that people who like it don‘t just like it, they love it. 

Taeyeon [of Girls’ Generation, Gfriend, BTS, The Chainsmokers, Twice

Sangah is the vibrant and excitable member of the group. Photo: Cube Entertainment

What do you hope to achieve as Lightsum?

Sangah: I hope that we’re perceived as a group that always learns and becomes better and grows with our fans. 

Chowon: I personally think it’s best to have big dreams. I used to hope that people know me by my name, Han Chowon. Everyone would be like, “Oh, I know her.” But now that I’m debuting as Lightsum, my hope has changed to expand to the name Lightsum and those of all our members.

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