Reports indicate that the five-man vocal group’s 25-year stint in the Japanese spotlight is about to come to a close.
The Japanese music industry is a fickle business. Fans and media alike brand performers “old” once they pass their mid-20s, and best-selling groups can become virtual non-entities in only a few years, like largely forgotten acts Speed and Morning Musume.
But since 1991 SMAP has been one of the only constants in the J-pop world. Sure, the originally six-person unit lost one member along the way, but SMAP has released a steady stream of chart-topping singles and albums, and the group’s concert tours are always guaranteed sellouts. Along the way, SMAP’s members have branched out into acting, appearing in TV dramas and movies. Not only have they become regular fixtures on the Japanese variety show circuit, they even launched one of their own, SMAPxSMAP, which has pulled in enviable ratings since its premiere in 1996 and continues to air to this day.
But now it seems like the curtain is closing on the SMAP entertainment empire. After a falling out with production company J Dream, the group’s long-time manager, Michi Ijima, has announced that she will be resigning from her post as a director with the organization in mid-February. In a seeming show of solidarity, SMAP members Masahiro Nakai, Goro Inagaki, Tsuyoshi Kusanagi, and Shingo Katori have announced that they too will be leaving production agency Johnny & Associates, J Dream’s parent company.
▼ Japanese newspapers Nikkan Sports and Sponichi announce SMAP’s impending dissolution.
— れんたの助 (@0627Asa) January 12, 2016
まじかよ‼︎ SMAP解散‼︎ 新聞コンビニに届いてた pic.twitter.com/8H6mBrQu06
— 野菜@佃煮のりおトークショー (@yasatuba) January 12, 2016
However, SMAP’S fifth member, Takuya Kimura, has stated that he will be remaining with Johnny’s, as Johnny & Associates is also called. Retaining the 43-year-old Kimura, the most popular and in-demand member of the group for non-musical appearances, is a bit of a silver lining for Johnny’s. However, the resulting incongruent professional representation of the five vocalists means that SMAP’s days of making music together are coming to an end.
The suddenness of the news means there’s little chance of a farewell tour giving fans a chance to see Nakai, Inagaki, Kusanagi, Katori, and Kimura side-by-side on stage one last time. But with a quarter-century catalogue of music consisting of well over 100 songs, no doubt the band’s current rights holders are scrambling to put together a send-off compilation album, so the SMAP faithful are advised to get their wallets ready now.
By Casey Baseel