To be young is to dream. And to collect halcyon days. This is the essence of Korean girl group LIGHTSUM. When the Zoom call connects revealing their eight smiling faces and they can be seen waving hello to the camera, it immediately sets a gleeful ambiance and forecasts a light mood that will reign in the entire interview with Clash.
LIGHTSUM made their debut at the end of spring with ‘Vanilla,’ a pop-dance tune full of enthusiasm akin to their breezy spirit. Backed by CUBE Entertainment, it was an enchanting entrance propelled by versatile vocals and sharp choreography that offered a promising glance of what the future could hold for the group. Since an artistic trek — or life in general — is about taking one step at a time, Juhyeon, Sangah, Chowon, Nayoung, Hina, Yujeong, Huiyeon, and Jian prefer to focus on the day-by-day and trust in the blossoming process.
“A lot of [our artistry] has to do with showing that youthful vibe within our music,” main dancer and leader Juhyeon reflects, her voice always assertive during our conversation. “We are really trying to live that current moment [of youth] and being able to express who we are.”
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In terms of the standards in K-pop, LIGHTSUM are a rising idol group. Their musical vision is still under construction while they continue to gain recognition, which is an asset to solidify their presence in the industry. And with that opening chapter taking place, the next stride was imminent. The group’s latest single album, ‘Light A Wish’ (out now), is a not-so-subtle shift in their trajectory, leaping over to a more grown-up concept.
Lead single ‘VIVACE,’ being both the opener and the centerpiece of the album, is adorned with vivid, brassy synths that evoke a blissful and magnetic atmosphere. Lyrically driven by the promise of a free-wheeling and budding love, ‘VIVACE’ clearly signals the departure from the sparkling ‘Vanilla.’ Next in line comes ‘You, Jam,’ a rousing sonic exhibition of confidence. And last but not least, ‘Popcorn,’ a fast-paced, candied track where energy soars high.
“With the three songs together, it is a combination of finding something that is special about us inside,” says main vocalist Nayoung. Although the musical offering of ‘Light A Wish’ oscillates between different genres, it’s a suitable blend. Each song could easily represent different aspects of youth — falling in love, discovering new places, heart-searching, etc. — that mirrors the group’s artistic growth.
For Japan-born vocalist Hina, who is known for her sweet character and velvety voice, this first comeback means an opportunity to reveal another layer of LIGHTSUM’s collective personality. “There is definitely a contrast between the energetic and bubbly feeling from ‘Vanilla,’” she says. “But I think we are really excited about being challenged and being able to promote on showing a different side and being more mature and having that cool aspect to it too.”
That eagerness serves as a driving force. Throughout this interview, it’s not hard to see that as the group continues to walk in the realm of K-pop, they are convinced about the message they want to deliver with their music. “Our performances are both soft and powerful, but there is definitely that positive energy to it,” vocalist Huiyeon says with a big smile while punching the air with her fist, a gesture that makes the group laugh. “So, when our fans watch, that’s the way they’ll be able to have that hope [we want to transmit] and their wishes [will] come true, by watching our performances.”
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Parallel to that determination, it’s fitting the Italian musical term Vivace conjures up a high-spirited and fast tempo. In the music video, bright colors add to the liveness and group dance scenes merge with individual sequences that bring out the most charismatic aura of each member. This synergistic effect is enthralling and LIGHTSUM are the conductors.
“We are dancing with this dazzling song all night,” sings Juhyeon during the last chorus after stepping inside an elevator to joyfully twirl and jump with Hina, Chowon, and Sangah. Elevators in dreams, especially if they are ascending, could symbolise progress and important life changes. When I ask about the meaning behind this scene and how it is connected to this ongoing phase in their careers, Juhyeon takes a moment to meditate on her answer. “This is my personal interpretation,” she muses. “A lot of the concept for this music video is more about self-realization. It’s about realizing myself and the elevator scene portrays that. When [the doors open] and I meet the rest of the members, it’s like reaching a new step.”
With only five months since their debut, LIGHTSUM are still knitting rapport to improve their chemistry on and off stage. It’s not to say that they were unfamiliar with each other — main vocalist Chowon mentions they shared moments as trainees — but bonding through an environment filled with hectic schedules and the limelight that the idol life carries, it’s a different scenario.
Earlier this year, the group recorded their first reality show called ‘Do You LIGHTSUM,’ where they went through a series of challenges (think hidden camera pranks, aquatic word games, toy archery, and more) that displayed a new playful side of them. It was also a catalyst for LIGHTSUM as a team, considering they created happy memories — like performing in front of their families for the first time — that strengthened their confidence. The apparent cautiousness grew into a collaborative harmony to deal with possible disagreements.
“We haven’t spent that much time together since our debut,” says Chowon. “But anytime we’ve had differences in opinions, which it’s been pretty rare, we get together in our living room, sit in a circle and discuss [the situation].” Blue-haired rapper Sangah observes that at the beginning, they were careful about their interactions because they didn’t want to hurt each other’s feelings. “We wanted to make sure we were respecting each other,” she adds. “After filming our reality show, I figured out the right way to communicate [with my members] and it’s really about having that open conversation [just like Chowon said].”
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Now with tuned unity, there is also that certainty of mutual reliance, anchored by a sentiment of gratitude and friendship. “Even though I am not the oldest, as a leader, I feel that each member trusts me and always supports me,” says Juhyeon. “I am thankful to my members for being that support.”
“I am one of the younger members of the group and there are some areas where I feel I am lacking,” Huiyeon adds. “But, I can look for advice from some of the older members and they make it really comfortable for me.” As the group’s maknae, Jian, whose strong stage presence contrasts with her shyness, agrees with her bandmate’s sentiment. “I am also the youngest like Huiyeon,” she says. “When I have concerns, the older members help me and support me [as well].”
In a world where digital platforms are more important than ever, ‘Do You LIGHTSUM’ provided a forum for the group to tell their stories and link with their growing fanbase (called SUMIT). Like many K-pop rookies that debuted in the past two years, LIGHTSUM haven’t had the chance to perform in front of live audiences, so developing a dynamic connection is key. Soft-spoken vocalist Yujeong, who has been quietly observing until now, says that she is “focusing on using social media and different areas where I can communicate with my fans more.”
And of course, the ultimate and cherished goal. “There’s a lyric in the bridge [of ‘VIVACE’] that says ‘Finally I have met you,’” adds Nayoung, “and it could be interpreted as an opportunity for us to meet SUMIT [in person].”
A new year is entering the door, and with it, it also comes a new dawning for LIGHTSUM to keep transforming wishes into realities. Hina says that, sometimes, she feels like living in a dream — a possible shared sentiment within the group — and wants to show the growth and the progress she has made. “When I first had this dream [of being an idol], I was not sure if I was able to achieve it, and I had worries,” she says. “Now, being able to achieve this dream with my members and everyone that has helped me, I am very thankful.”
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Words: Ivana E. Morales
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