21 November 2011

Let's Speculate ... SZ's rocky start

Even though the numbers are out for the week, the Oricon chart starts on Mondays and ends on Sundays so most new releases only have six days of sales, and Sexy Zone has managed to debut with about 173K copies of their self titled debut single sold it was still a narrow victory. Their main competition, AKB48 sub-unit Not Yet, is reported to have sold about 172K with their single so it was still a close call between the two. And while I am happy that the single was #1 I think it's more a victory for Johnny's & Associates and their marketing department than for Sexy Zone.

It's hard to argue that the only reason SZ got their #1 was largely in part because of the handshake events on Saturday and Sunday which several Juniors, and for Sunday's members of the recently debuted Kis-My-Ft2, participated in. Without them backing the group up I don't think they would have gotten the numbers that they needed to beat Not Yet.

I am glad they got the #1 as it would be miserable for the boys to be the first Johnny's group in about a decade not to debut with a #1 single. But at the same time they did not get the #1 because they were able to attract new fans of their group, but instead had to rely on the fans of other groups, some not even debuted, to get it. So while this battle is over and won for them they still have a long way to go until they can stand on their own as a group.

I know there have been a lot of people worried about SZ's debut getting in the way of Kisumai's promotion or building popularity but in my opinion Kisumai's debut was one of the factors to why SZ's debut was rather weak. The two debuts are only a few months apart and Kisumai was a debut that grabbed a lot of attention as the group was already popular from their Junior activities and they had dramas to help them attract new fans. With all the fanfare and attention given to them and the fact that they did not slow things down much after their debut with getting added to variety programs and already lined up for another single with two tie-ins there's little doubt that they will be able to continue on with their success. How this affects SZ is that simply people probably weren't ready to switch attention to another new Johnny's group so soon. I think if Kisumai debuted when they were supposed to it may not have been such an issue but while the delay was understandable without being able to delay the SZ debut hurt the group gain attention, IMHO.

But as I said the debut timings is only one factor. Another is which Juniors were selected. I personally have nothing against any of the SZ members that debuted and think they work well together as a group so far but there are some things that they can't help that probably contributed to their debut being a bit rough. I think the older two though make a lot of sense for debuting and were good choices as they are two of the more popular Juniors coming from one of the most popular Junior groups. The younger three though have the weakness that they just weren't well known at all. Even though Sato Shori has been around for about a year he really didn't start standing out and grabbing attention until a few months ago. And the other two are both newer than him, even though Yo Marius joined about a year ago but until four months ago was in Germany from what he said in an interview, so they didn't have much time to attract much attention before the debut announcement. The reason groups like Kisumai do so well with sales and can have big debuts like they did was because they are Juniors that have been around a long time and have had time and opportunities to gain fans that of course are more than willing to support them when they debut. SZ's younger members lacked that so while there are plenty of people gaining interest in them now it may not be enough to support them by buying their CD yet.

I do think the fact they have not had an announcement for a debut concert yet is also a sign that Johnny's knows SZ isn't doing so well. I can't help but shake the feeling that the New Year concerts for Hey! Say! JUMP very well could have originally been planned to be SZ's debut concerts but Johnny's decided to give them to HSJ instead in case SZ would not be able to sell out the venues. Of course that's just complete speculation on my part but the complete lack of debut concerts makes me more nervous for this group than anything else as concerts are a big thing for any music artist and it really shows if a group has attained a certain level of popularity by what kind of venues they are given to perform in. It's part of why dome concerts are such big deals because you can't get much larger than that. It will be interesting to see where the debut concerts will be for SZ, though because all members are in school they will have to be planned around the school holidays much like HSJ's have been.

Of course I do have faith that eventually this group will begin to turn things around. The talent is there, it's just they need to get the right chances to show it off. Unfortunately wit how young the members are it will probably be some years for most of those opportunities to come to them for most of them. Having Nakajima Kento being part of the group can be a big plus if they make sure he keeps getting roles. While they may be pushing Sato Shori to be the center for the group Nakaken is more likely to be the more popular member as he's the one more likely to get drama roles, which are usually big factors on what members are more popular with the general public. At least they have a couple of variety programs to get them seen more and hopefully keep building the fan base that has been growing since their debut announcement.

I have also been of the opinion that not starting at the top isn't a terrible thing. Some of Johnny's top groups had rough starts but over time and with hard work were able to climb to the top, with SMAP and Arashi being two such groups. So hopefully SZ like them will fill driven to work hard and do their best with what they are given as they go and hopefully success will find them eventually.

But I can see that Johnny's may very well be quite serious about A.B.C-Z's debut next year. With the success of their solo concerts and the fact that Junior groups that debut do tend to be rather successful as they already have a good sized fan base prior to debut it would make sense they would want another safe bet like Kisumai to debut next. Though personally I'd rather have a Kansai Junior debut, like 7WEST, but unfortunately I'm not running Johnny's & Associates.


markl02 said...

Of course much of Sexy Zone's success must be credited to Johnny. These kids didn't exactly sit down in their middle school lunchroom and say "let's start a group!" Then again, neither did Not yet or any of the other AKB creations. There is no doubt in my mind that AKB48 is the biggest pop phenomenon in Japan right now. And for sales, SZ started way behind from Day One. So Johnny had his work cut out for him. This is an epic win for Johnny's and for Sexy Zone. They worked so hard in their debut week, and in the short time leading up to it. They did everything they needed to do and much more. Sure, they got help from their senpais, but some day they'll be there to pay it forward. There's no question that Kisumai, etc. got many fans to pay attention to SZ for the first time. But it wouldn't have worked if the fans didn't like what they saw. Sexy Zone is a talented, fun, likable group and their comeback in Week One is phenomenal.

Anonymous said...

Nothing's against SZ but I wish Johnny didnt include Ebi in the handshake events. I wonder how those 5 feel. According to fanreport, Totsu didnt look happy when SZ was at their first concert and performed which is understandable. If I were one of them, I would be pissed of to witness and help the kohai selling debut cds. You're right. This is a big win for J&A. I've never seen Johnny tried this hard (or desperated) to get SZ landed at no.1 on the Oricon weekly chart.

natalie said...

I'm happy for SZ and I think we can't forget they work really hard for that number one as well even i they needed a little help.

I love Kis-My-Ft2 by if they really had a problem with helping their jr's (Which I hightly doubt btw considering how lovly they have been to SZ thus far.) then JE isn't the right agency for them. From Day one Johnny has promoted this, their all in this together aspect to the agency so it will only get worse when they are forced to co-star in a drama with their jr's, invite their jr's to their shows ect.

Anywho My biggest worry now is that SZ are gonna go the way of NYwBIS. Do SZ have their own section on Jweb yet?

Chris said...

Uff, now that was hard work to bring them to No.1 but congrats to SZ !
Reading Anonymous´comment, I don´t think Tottsu or anyone of ABC-Z were sad that SZ came to their concert and why should they get pissed at helping Kouhai to sell their CD´s ?! Ebi is known for its good releationship to the other Juniors, I can´t imagine they would get angry like that.
And isn´t it more like a honour for them to be invited with members of Kisumai to the handshake event, in order to make people buy the CD? For me it shows that J√≥hnny´s have faith in Ebi that they can pull lots of fans to the event.
I´m sure Ebi was glad to be able to help out! If for example they´ll get a hard debut start, then other Juniors or debuted groups might help them as well, and I think Ebi would be very grateful.

Okay, I go on..
I wonder what will happen to SZ now. I can´t remember to have followed such a desperate try to bring a Johnny´s debut to No.1. and Johnnys know that it might get the same difficult with the next release of SZ. I´m not sure if they want to experience that kind of hell trip again.
It makes me worrying that SZ still haven´t their own section on J-Net. Are Johnnys still unsure about them?

Ani2 said...

I always love your " Let´s Speculate..." ^^

Of course I´m happy for Sexy Zone that they won the fight against NY but I also feel a bit sad for them. They are so young and were giving all their best in performances and TV appearances but still, in the end they weren´t be able to achieve the final sale number by themselves.
But Johnny´s are a big family where everyone helps each other .
I like that.^^

I agree, Shori , sou and Marius are quite unknown. They didn´t appear from example in any drama and only Johnnys fans watch Shounenclub or their variety I guess. I think especially Kento made people buy the CD since he is known from many dramas.
Also, a unit with young boy teens doesn´t attract many people as for example boys of 20 years old.
Maybe it would have been better to have waited a bit until the younger 3 got more exposure and until they had a bigger fanbase.

I don´t know what is planned with those boys but I really hope they will continue and I´m sure, in a few years they will become really popular and then no one will believe that they had such a difficult start in the past.
Go Sexy Zone!

Anonymous said...

Dear Chris,

Ebi slipped the chance to get debut many times (HSJ, Kisumai and now they even lost to 3 or 5 young kohai) so they might be upset that they had to help out the debut one to sell CDs while their debut chance is just a "might" from Johnny. I'm glad that Ebi had their first solo concert but why did they have to share their first one with other juniors and especially SZ who performed a whole medley there? The people who attended the concert (Ebi fans) weren't happy about it either.

< isn´t it more like a honour for them to be invited with members of Kisumai to the handshake event> -> Kisumai isn't Ebi's senpai. In fact, they were friends and rivals so I doubt if it's reasonable to use "honor" in here. However, you made a good point that Ebi attending the handshake events means they can pull people in.

Chris said...

Hi Anonymous ,

Thanks for replying ;)
I´m sorry, I didn´t mean to attack you or so. I was just pointing out my personal opinion as a non-Ebi-fan.
Yeah, I understand what you mean.
Ebi wait for ages to get a debut and when they finally achieved a first concert, some kouhai who are going to debut perform a medley at Ebi´s own concert. Sure, many Ebi fans might have not liked to see SZ performing there and taking away their spotlight and Ebi.. I don´t know. Since you seem to be more into their fandom and say that they were upset, then probably it was like that. But in the end, we are not Ebi, we only can imagine how they feel so maybe some were upset and some maybe not. We don´t know for sure.
I could understand if they were upset but we fans, ebi or SZ can´t do anything against it. It´s all in Johnny´s hands who perform where. They just used every chance to promote SZ and and they didn´t let out Ebi´s first concert.
But I agree, I also would have preferred if Ebi would have had a concert without any other kouhais or sempais, espeically since it was their very first concert.
But thanks for your reply. It´s always interesting to read or discuss with people who have different opinions ;)

Thennary Nak said...

@ markl02

Perhaps you misunderstood what I meant but I was thinking more in the line with the fact that they were not able to sell so well with their names alone and had to have others brought in. And I don't think any less of the boys because of this, it does make sense why it happened with the fact that they aren't Juniors well known outside of the Junior fan base at the moment.

And I do agree that like their senpai groups one day they will be able to help a kouhai group just the same. And I think after this experience they will be more than happy to do so as they will know how precious that help is.

@ Anonymous #1

I'm wary about fan reports that talk about how unhappy boys are about supporting certain groups. I've come across reports and the like of events/concerts I've been to myself that insist they could tell what the boys were thinking even though I never saw any of the cues that were talked about even being there. So sometimes I have to wonder if it just isn't fans imposing their own feelings on the boys for things like that. And it doesn't seem right for them to be mad at the SZ members as they didn't choose to debut, that was all on management.

Also A.B.C-Z right now are easily the most popular Junior group and not only have had a solo concert, a musical created just for them but also Johnny Kitagawa himself has mentioned that he wants the group to debut. Even if they haven't debuted yet they are doing more than any of the SZ members have yet and have been set on the path to debut so to me bearing grudges like that, and letting fans know, is petty. Especially groups members that have been with the agency longer than even some members of groups like NEWS.

I'm sure A.B.C-Z will have their time eventually, Johnny's has set them up for a debut, but they just can't debut yet another group so soon if anything is to be learned from the Kisumai & SZ debuts being so close. I understand Ebi fans are anxious, I was there with Kisumai for years, but I think patience will pay off.

@ natalie

I'm sure Kisumai didn't have a problem helping their kouhai out as they had a lot of help from their senpai (SMAP) when they debuted. It may have come in a different form but it was help all the same.

If SZ are to only be a one-shot debut they haven't told the boys, as I'm sure they wouldn't be aiming to be a group like Arashi if they will just disband. If anything they will be around until the end of the year as they have the handshake events as well as FNS Kayousai for next month, plus the SC appearances. I'm not sure why Johnny's net hasn't put up a section for them but it would be strange for the group to only be a one-shot considering all the indicators that they're not.

@ Chris

I don't get why people assume that the older Junior groups must hate new debuted groups myself. Especially since they have been around long enough to understand how things work and that not everyone is going to debut and it's management in the end making the decisions, not the boys in the groups. I'm sure it can get frustrating but it's unprofessional to let those feelings show when you're being asked to support a group in front of thousands of fans, and A.B.C-Z has always come off as being a rather professional group so it doesn't seem right, IMHO.

I think Johnny's will make sure to be more careful when choosing when to release their next single. The 48 groups are proving to be a challenge for the lower selling Johnny's groups, which I think is why Johnny's is more than willing these days to have the groups without #1 streaks to protect up against the stronger selling 48 groups.

If Johnny's was really unsure about the group I don't think they would have signed them with a non-Johnny's music label. If anything they need to figure out now how to bring in more fans of the group so they won't struggle so much next time.

Thennary Nak said...

@ Ani2

I'm sure in time they'll be able to get a #1 without all the help, and I think that will make that single all the most special for them and their fans. And usually new groups get some help from senpai, just in different ways.

I think with time this group will finally hit it off. There's just so much potential there I can't fault Johnny's for selecting the Juniors they did even though it's understandable that a group like this can't have the big start people have gotten used to with Johnny's. Just watch though as a few years down the line SZ fans will be talking about how hard SZ had to work to get their success and they are the ones supporting the next volleyball group.