I am a Babymetal fan. I have been since I first heard them back in 2015. I love the music, the visual aspect, and, perhaps most importantly considering recent events, the girls. Babymetal has seen enormous success not just for an idol group, but as an international metal band over the past few years, selling out arenas and festival dates with every tour. Fans of the group have had the pleasure of watching Su, Moa and Yui grow and develop as musicians, and thus have built a strong connection to them. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the absence of one of the three figureheads of Babymetal, Yui-Metal, would spark outcry from fans.
Before I get into anything, yes, I know that Japanese idol groups work differently than western metal bands. I know that idols are only really idols when they are still young, so replacing them isn’t anything new. But it’s the way in which Koba and the other minds behind the group have gone about current events that is making fans so angry. It started in December of 2017 when it was announced rather abruptly that Yui would not be performing in the band’s shows in Hiroshima due to health issues. This in itself isn’t anything to get worked up over. Fans wished Yui a quick recovery and that was that. Questions starting rising after the death of guitarist Mikio Fujioka in January as to who would replace him and how it would affect the group.
But then the group’s marketing team went silent, only announcing new merchandise or tour dates. Not once did they address Mikio’s passing or the state of Yui’s health. Then a few days ago the band released a music video for their new song, which didn’t show the girls at all, and lacked Yui and Moa’s backing vocals, which got fans speculating even further. So, naturally, when the band played the first show of their 2018 world tour in Kansas without Yui and with two unnamed backup dancers, the fanbase collectively lost their shit.
I’m not going to speculate as to whether or not Yui is out of the band or if she’s simply still sick, which, judging by the band’s relentless shcedule over the past few years and her apparent loss of weight may very well be the case, but I want to address the complete lack of understanding of western media and music that Babymetal’s team has been displaying. It would have saved the team a lot of trouble to simply announce at some point over the past FIVE MONTHS that a change was being made, or that Yui is still in poor health. If Yui isn’t performing for personal reasons, simply let the fans know that she won’t be performing. I don’t follow idol culture that closely, but I know that groups change over time, swapping out old members for new ones, and that’s perfectly fine if that’s what Babymetal is doing. But this band isn’t just an idol group. They are a full-fledged metal band, like it or not, with a massive western following. A following who cares about these girls, and many of whom don’t follow idol culture outside of this group. Of course they are going to get upset when a change is made without them knowing.
This stems into the backlash that the group’s team has been receiving from fans in Kansas who bought their tickets to see the three-piece that they know and love; not two members with two backup dancers (and from what I’ve read, Moa-Metal didn’t sing in the show at all). This isn’t to shit on the backup dancers, who from what I saw did a good job, but if I payed money to see a once-in-a-lifetime performance put on my one of my favorite bands, I would want to get what I payed for. This once again falls on the lack of communication from the team.
Not a word has been said yet about what has been going on with the group. All across social media the group has been silent, which is only ading fuel to the fire. Amuse’s stocks have been dropping rapidly because of this, and the whole fanbase is in a frenzy. I think this whole thing is the result of a simple lack of communication. Western fans like to know when major changes are made, especially a change as drastic as this. And, as I said before, if it simply comes down to Yui still being ill, it is Babymetal’s team’s responsibility to let the fans know.
We will all see what the hell is going on with the group when they have their next show on May 10th in Austin. Hopefully, Babymetal’s team will release some sort of statement before then, but with the way things have been going over the course of 2018, that seems very unlikely.
If Yui is sick, I wish her a fast recovery. If she’s left the group, I wish her a bright and successful future. Either way, the fans deserve to know.