I used to be a fan of Yamapi. Like many other NEWS fans, i was shocked by his decision(as well as Nishikido Ryo’s) to pull out of NEWS in 2011. He was doing so well juggling his acting career, solo debut, and doing concerts with NEWS. Even though that meant a delay in NEWS releasing singles, fans were willing to wait. What came after was just a sense of betrayal and disappointment. As the leading members in NEWS, they have experienced a period when NEWS was dragged through the mud because of ex-members Uchi Hiroki and Hironori Kusano’s scandals. That is why i couldn’t accept them abandoning the group once again, whatever their reasons were.
Of course, i knew from the start that Yamapi’s heart wasn’t in NEWS. He had wanted to debut with his best friend Ikuta Toma, who was part of a Johnny’s Junior unit 4TOPs with him. However, Ikuta Toma didn’t get to debut and Yamapi was forced to form NEWS with members whom he didn’t know(except for Ryo). All these years, i’m guessing that he only remained in NEWS because of Ryo and vice versa. His other best friend Akanishi Jin’s departure from KAT-TUN probably inspired him to leave NEWS as well, despite his excuses of “not wanting to drag NEWS down due to his busy schedules”.
So what happened to his solo career so far? With NEWS, their singles are still continuing to grab 1st place in Oricon’s weekly rankings. But for Yamapi, his single/album releases in the past year have only managed 2nd place at best, with sales showing a declining trend. His latest release “Que Sera Sera”, did not even hit 100,000 in sales like all his previous singles.
Singles sales after leaving NEWS:
Figures quoted from generasia
Perhaps his dropping popularity is forcing the management and music label to drum up promotional activities to raise his media exposure. An article i read mentioned that he did as many as 17 handshake events for fans who bought at least 3 out of 5 editions of “Love Chase”, a stunt unusual for Johnny’s artistes. Johnny’s management is also shoving him into all the shows that SMAP does, be it dramas or variety programs. For example, he’s as good as a regular guest on music program “火曜曲” hosted by Nakai. He co-starred in a drama with Katori Shingo and formed a unit with him to release a song “MONSTERS”. His latest song “Que Sera Sera” is also the opening theme for Goro’s drama “Shinryochu”. Right now i’m just waiting for him to collaborate with Kimura on SOMETHING. The weirdest thing for his fans however, is probably his new job as an MC for Fuji TV’s new variety show “Shougeki! Sansedai Hikaku TV Generation Tengoku”. All his fans know that he’s not good at talking, let alone showing humor. To promote his variety show, he appeared BISTRO SMAP to showcase his MC skills, and all i got to say is, he’s still as stiff and awkward as ever.
Watch it for yourself below.
It is pretty clear that Yamapi is working hard to keep his popularity afloat. He’s doing more than NEWS, who rarely appear on anything else other than music programs. The question here is, has it all come to the stage where he needs to do variety as well to survive? As a former fan, it actually hurts to see him challenge a field he’s obviously not comfortable with. The world of variety requires him to shed his cool princely image to provide laughter, and honestly, i don’t want to see him make a fool of himself. If the other NEWS members were around, they’d probably take on this role for him.