Bring the Noise: 6 Essential Tracks of Lyrical school
Charting the creative growth of lyrical school's current 5-member line-up through 6 of their best songs
This feature is part of Idol Watch #13: May/June 2022. You can return to the main column here.
“Maybe some of you already had a feeling about this,” Minan wrote on her personal note announcing the dissolution of lyrical school’s current five-member line-up. If the signs were written on the wall, I was definitely blind to them. The hip-hop idol group displayed such strong chemistry among each other on record as they traded bars back and forth, and it seemed as though that tight-knit connection translated into their passions outside the music as well as their commitment to the group. Things turned out to be more complicated with four out of the five ready to graduate from lyrical school in pursuit of other life goals.
While lyrical school will keep going in name, the music will probably not be the same even after they recruit new members. The group playing with rap music makes the whole affair different than usual idol graduations as the genre by nature draws out individual personalities out of the collective voice. Even if the producers managed to find idols already skilled as rappers, they’ll inevitably establish a new, unique group dynamic among each other than the one formed by the current line-up. They may be able to rap the same verses, perhaps even sharper, but the character they will bring to the track won’t be the same as the original.
Witnessing each of the current five grow into their own on record was the most rewarding experience while following this iteration of lyrical school beginning from 2017. While they got the hang of who’s who in 2019’s “LAST DANCE,” their colors were on best display in 2020’s “OK!” The newest additions Hinako, Yuu and Risano carved out their own niche within the five-piece dynamic, sounding off as the bubbly idol, the quirky sidekick, the happy-go-lucky rapper, respectively. The second-most-tenured Hime showed tremendous growth as a rapper, mastering modern flow while exuding the most swagger out of anyone in the group.
And then there’s Minan, the smooth, zen idol who’s dexterous as both rapper and singer. Often singing the hook and choruses, she released her own solo EP not that long ago. After July 24, Minan will be the only remaining member while lyrical school searches for new members. It will certainly be interesting to see who she will end up surrounding herself with and whether or not she will stick out of the pack being so skilled and well-rounded.
In tribute to one of my favorite idol groups, I’m here to chart the creative growth of lyrical school through 6 of the group’s essential tracks. This should also work as a crash course if you’re unfamiliar with one of the most unique if not the best idol groups to adopt hip hop and rap as their main genre of play.
“Tsuretteteyo” [BootRock, 2017]
Lyrical school went back to basics for their first few singles under their new five-member formation. While their summer re-debut, “Natsuyasumi No Baby,” prized the giddiness and infatuation typical of an idol song over actual rapping, the follow-up “Tsuretteteyo” stuck firmly to their main genre of play. The lengthiness of their raps and their debts to the old-school return from the days of Guidebook—the last full-length LP with their past line-up—but the five can’t help but reveal their lovesick side as they try to fashion themselves with hip-hop cool.
This being their starting point, the idols mostly sound uniform in style. That said, “Tsurettetyo” foreshadows the personalities that they would further define for themselves down the road. Hinako can already be identified as the most idol-like, her bubbly charm balancing her trip-ups; Yuu previews her chameleon-like qualities as she shifts from double-time raps to a melodic R&B hook at the drop of a hat.
…featured in WORLD’S END.
“LAST DANCE” [CONNECTONE, 2019]
Lyrical School solidify their musical identity through a series of singles released during the year between WORLD’S END and BE KIND REWIND, and “LAST DANCE” stands as their strongest effort out of the batch. The five has now settled on who’s the group’s cool, stoic rappers (Hime and Risano), their humorous pop foils (Yuu and Hinako) and the R&B singer who holds it all together (Minan). For “LAST DANCE” in particular, each different voice provides a unique point of view in which to approach the song’s central conflict: how do we hold on to this fleeting moment as time quickly passes by? While each respond according to their respective personalities, they ultimately settle on a united answer: it’s a waste of time just worrying, so let’s live it up as much as we can.
…featured in BE KIND REWIND
“Enough Is School” [CONNECTONE, 2019]
“Enough Is School” at the time felt like a moment for the five to mess around and simply rap after a batch of singles concentrated on writing proper pop songs. But listening to it now, the song showcases a more serious ambition from the group for their works to be measured against not just other idols but also contemporary rap acts. The five shed their stuffy raps to suit much more spacious, modern cadences, punctuating them with ad libs; their percussive flow lands sharp with more control of meter. While it’s not a full dive into, say, trap as popularized by the acts from Atlanta, both the rapping and production style began to eye music made in circles of rappers proper.
…featured in BE KIND REWIND
“OK!” [CONNECTONE / JVCKENWOOD, 2020]
One of the most exciting potentials to come from idol groups adopting traditionally non-idol genres to carve out a niche identity for themselves, like lyrical school picking up rap, is the idol group serving as an accessible entry point into the genre in question to outsiders who would not otherwise interact with it. “OK!” is an incredible example of the phenomenon with the idols showing how thrilling rap music can be as a form of expression through their joy of rapping flowing from their performance. Not only are their verses acrobatic and the rhyme scheme intricate, they sound written out on the spot, and that feeling of spontaneity further feeds into the lyrics about breaking through obstacles: the rapping often resembles an attempt to untangle a tightly woven knot as the idols work out their issues in real time. “No matter what, I’m gonna have more fun than anyone,” Risano boasts at one point, and that’s the only thing that matters in this track—the electricity felt from experiencing the here-and-now, inherent here as with some of my most favorite rap records.
…featured in Wonderland
“Bring the Noise” [CONNECTONE / JVCKENWOOD, 2020]
Lyrical School have used the summer season as an excuse to indulge in their pop side and put out a few summer-crush songs as if to remind they are first and foremost an idol group. “Bring the Noise” is the best yet from this series with the idols’ growth as rappers channeling into a newfound confidence of skill and will: “Fight for your right / even if we’re hated by the whole world / just the two of us / I’m going to keep holding hands with you,” they swear in the chorus to the tune of marching drums without a doubt in their voice. The five each bounce to the beat to their own rhythm while confessing their feelings in their own style, but they all sound invincible while surrendering to the influence of love.
…featured in Wonderland
“Find me!” [JVCKENWOOD, 2022]
The most recent album, L.S., revealed lyrical school’s music still had so much more room to grow. The idols seemed eager to try the newest ideas and follow what laid next in Japan’s rap scene, and it speaks to how much the group had their finger on the scene’s pulse with them enlisting outsider talent like Lil Soft Tennis for their songs. “Find me!” finds the idols singing over a blown-out guitar riff in the chorus as if they pivoted now to shoegaze—an alien, melodic, rock-informed take on rap not so foreign to Lil Soft Tennis as an artist. They ride the new wave no problem, and a track like “Find me!” makes you think of what other fresh styles this line-up could have experimented with. Imagine lyrical school working with SATOH for more pop-punk-indebted raps or STARKIDS for a full dive into hyperpop. The fact that these maybes aren’t actually out of the question goes to show how much they had ahead of them.
…featured in L.S.
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