Did Riho Sayashi join Babymetal? Maybe. No one knows at this point. What we do know is that the ex-Morning Musume ace performed with the metal-idols at their June 30th Glastonberry Festival performance, with no announcement or introduction made prior to or during the show. Sayashi’s appearance made the group a trio again, and allowed them to perform their routines as choreographed prior to Yuimetal’s departure.
Sayashi danced sans-microphone, leaving the backing chants to Moametal alone. Speculation about status of Riho’s membership in Babymetal immediately burned-up H!P and BM corners of the internet: is she a permanent member, or was this just a one-time stand-in? The answer is still murky, but it appears as if Sayashi is one of three rotating members to take the stage in Yui’s place. Current Sakura Gakuin leader, Kano Fujihira, is another member of this Babymetal bullpen, with the third being unknown to me at this time.
Further speculation would suggest that group management is looking for a full-time replacement for Yui, has narrowed the field of candidates to these three girls, and that these performances are a way to hold working auditions. I hope that’s the plan, anyway. I mean, they have to pick a third permanent member, don’t they? Part of the charm of following a group/band like Babymetal is buying into the fantasy narrative that is built around it, and rotating three part-timers would seem to break that connection with fans to a large degree. There is an odd psychology to pop music fandom that I touched on briefly in my LoVendoЯ essay, and it applies even more with BM, but for different reasons. Generally speaking, though, fans want a set lineup. I think there’s an almost sports-fan “team” mentality at the core of idol fandom (and let’s not forget that at their core, Babymetal is an idol group; metal music is just the thing that sets them apart), and BM’s makeup is not conducive to having a nameless, single backup dancer. She needs to be part of the team.
Babymetal could hardly do better than Riho Sayashi to round out their team. Her dance skills are strong (as you can see in the video above), she has experience performing in front of large audiences as a center, she has name recognition from her time in Morning Musume, and she looks the part. Honestly, she’s perfect for the job. Amuse may wish to keep the spot for one of their own home-grown idols, though, which would be a bummer, because joining Babymetal would instantly make Riho the most successful ex-Musume ever.
For her part, Riho acquitted herself well at Glastonberry. You can tell she’s not used to the rigors of a small-unit rock show, where there are no MCs or costume-changes to catch your breath, and she’s clearly winded by the end of the show. Stamina can be built, though, and she danced hard and with precision despite the dyspnea.
Even if offered the job, though, Riho would have to want to join Babymetal full-time, and that’s another thing we can only speculate on. This performance could simply be the realization of what she said in her Morning Musume 20th Anniversay interview: “I love being on stage. It’s not like I’ve forgotten how to express myself there, but I just need time to get myself fully prepared. Also, I don’t want a life that reads like it has a storyline. I don’t want to give up that control. If I do get up on stage again, I’d want to appear all out of the blue. That’d be the most ‘me.'” So who knows. This could just be a lark for her, or a quick paycheck. Or she might really want the gig. I hope it’s the third choice, because Riho Sayashi sure looks like she’d be the perfect third member for Babymetal.
Concert screen-grabs from Ahornbjörn at Hello-online.org