Does This Qualify as a Miracle?

Filed in Cult of Pop 1.0

According to ikimasshoi.news, Morning Musume’s “Iroppoi Jirettai” sold 68,000 copies in the first week – their best since “Ai Araba” in January 2004 and better than the total sales for each of the past three singles. I’m happy at the marked improvement, but at the same time wonder how much of it is an artificial inflation from their handshake lottery event and if that doesn’t make the higher figures a pyrrhic victory at best.

The closest analogy I can make is the event-driven summer-crossover in American superhero comics. On the one hand, such tactics pique the interest of the fan base and gets more of them to buy the product. But it drives sales lower in the long run because such gimmicks tend to become jumping-off points once the novelty fades. The analogy is by no means perfect, but the main point is this: gimmicks cannot replace a strong product and a dedicated marketing strategy. And the latter just doesn’t seem apparent with Morning Musume – though admittedly, observing from halfway across the Pacific certainly leaves me out of the loop.

Some argue that “Iroppoi Jirettai” is a strong single musically which is why it’s sold well, and I’ve even read a few people on MM-BBS who think it’s the best Momusu has produced in a long while. (Or at least the catchiest) I hope that’s a part of it. Personally, I prefer “Osaka Koi no Uta” but apparently it sold the least of all Momusu singles in Hello! Project history – this despite having at least one day as #1 on the Oricon, something “Iroppoi” didn’t get. (“Iroppoi” had steadier day-to-day sales which is why its numbers are better.)

At least two people, Alice Lee and JunHagi, have wisely pointed out to me in comments to previous posts that the idol market in general is on a decline. JunHagi further pointed out the false assumptions in my mildly inane notion that the current Morning Musume line-up would do better if they jettisoned the name and the “burden” of its legacy. It’s not that Morning Musume doesn’t remain at the top of the girl-idol heap, it’s that the heap is shrinking.

I think I’d feel better if I knew Morning Musume would be doing even more handshake events and not have to Willy Wonka invitations to such events. Perhaps they can also do surprise lives of the kind that Santos of Idolizing St. Anna describes for Avex idol groups such as dream and Paradise Go!! Go!! – and now that I think of it, W had a surprise live earlier this year, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Momusu. And definitely, packaging a PV DVD with their CD singles would at least make them current with other idol groups who do this already – which as I noted already, Matsuura Aya will do with her next single.

It’s like Hello! Project has to be nudged little by little to try out new things, when fans who care about such matters are wishing they’d speed up and enact more drastic changes. What someone like me sees as re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic could actually be, from UFA and Zetima’s point of view, a desire to not mess with a formula that’s worked in the past and could work again in the future.