Beware the gossip pages. The words a writer chooses to craft a story can make a HUGE difference in how it is interpreted. From this week’s Taipei Times (in English, so not translated):
Fresh from being crowned the “king” of the Mando-pop charts, Jay Chou (周杰倫) was unceremoniously usurped last week by Mayday (五月天). The pretty-boy rockers announced that sales of their latest release Poetry of the Day After (後青春期的詩) totaled over 1.3 million copies, and noted that they edged past the Chairman’s Capricorn (魔杰座), which just broke the 1 million mark.
Chou’s record company JVR Music (杰威爾音樂) took the announcement as a dig. Instead of congratulating the competition, the company issued a long-winded, huffy response that ended with, “there’s no need to brag,” reports the Liberty Times [the Taipei Times’ sister paper].
The hoopla left Mayday’s lead singer, A-hsin (阿信), exasperated. “[Chou] is using Rubik’s Cubes [to sell records], we’re doing concerts — it’s a lot more tiring,” said A-hsin, referring to the Rubik’s Cubes plastered with Chou’s face that are being offered as a freebie with his new album. But he quickly composed himself. “Whoever’s number one is not important. The most important thing is for everyone to have good sales.” That is, just as long as Jay isn’t number one …
“Pretty-boy rockers”? Honestly, I don’t think they’ll be offended by that – it’s probably the first and last time that phrase will be used to describe Mayday.
Okay, seriously: did anyone but this reporter interpret the quote from Ashin about Jay using Rubik’s Cubes and Mayday using concerts to sell albums as a dig? If anything, Ashin is pointing out that they’re having to go to a lot more time and trouble than Jay is just to get the same sales. I’ve read a dozen Chinese articles on this, and none of them suggested that he was exasperated, annoyed, or accusatory.
The first paragraph is pure fiction – Mayday’s album isn’t even being pre-ordered on the mainland yet. I can’t find any statement about selling 1.3 million copies, and I can’t imagine they could do it without mainland China anyway. They have sold more than 130,000 copies, but what’s an extra zero between friends? The second paragraph is referring to the statement I noted in my last post, where the JVR rep compared sales figures, said Jay came out ahead overall, and then said that the sales figures are true and not falsified. It did not contain direct accusations against Mayday or anyone else, though apparently I’m not alone in wondering what exactly they were implying. But that set of statements from Mayday was at the same press conference where Masa joked about getting Jay to come to the free concert, and how great that would be.
Will this controversy put off that long-awaited idea of a Mayday-Jay collaboration? And frankly, I worry about the fandoms – Jay-Chou.net is filling with indignant remarks about Ashin’s “horrible” statements (it’s also got an article also with JVR accusing B’in Music flat out of inventing sales figures, though I’ve seen nothing of that in the press). I hate to point out the obvious, but “Pop Stop” is a gossip column, not a news page. Of course they’re going to write it to make it seem like some massive feud is developing, but I really hope not.
A few things:
1. Given the free concert tickets and the fact that numerous Mayday fans in Taiwan are buying more than one album, plus overseas fans are buying the Taiwan version, plus Mayday has built up more fans since Born to Love, plus the fact that it has been two years since their last album (as opposed to one year since Jay’s last) I don’t find it remotely implausible that these are real sales figures, and that they are selling more albums in Taiwan in their first week of sales than Jay in his
second first week (this is all that B’in Music has claimed). Frankly, I don’t think B’in Music can afford to buy chart slots anyway, or at least that’s what they tell us.
2. The two albums did not go head-to-head – Jay’s Capricorn came out a week earlier. It topped the charts that week. Then Mayday’s album was new, and it took the first spot (it’s still there in week three, and Jay is down to slot three, as slot two was taken by a movie soundtrack. Does JVR think the movie producers falsified their sales figures too?). This is pretty normal – the best sales are in the first week.
3. Capricorn, like On the Run, ain’t all that great. I see no reason why Jay should be the number one selling artist in Asia every year no matter what he produces and no matter what he’s up against – there was bound to be competition at some point. I haven’t heard Poetry of the Day After, yet, so no outright comparisons from me.
4. Ashin’s key point – which no reporter other than the Taipei Times guy has interpreted as him covering up his anger – was that both acts are getting good sales, which is great in a tough economy. If I thought it was any other way, I’d blast him for it – I’ve never been shy about criticizing Ashin or Mayday when I thought they deserved it. But the man just said on his blog that talk about sales figures is just for the press; it’s not what matters to him or the band. I guess I don’t doubt that on the word of the Taipei Times gossip column alone.
5. This is the second year in a row in which Jay and/or his company has stirred up the chart-buying controversy when his album slipped in the sales figures. I’m sorry, but at this point, I think Qingfeng is the more credible voice on this issue. It clearly happens, though the accusation has always been against the big companies promoting the pretty idols – not against little companies like JVR, B’in Music or Willlin Records.
This whole thing makes me sort of sad. Yeah, I’m down on Cowboy Jay lately on account of his medicore recent albums, but he’s still a major talent in the Mandopop industry and a ground-breaker who really helped set a standard for composing artists. I want that future Mayday-Jay collaboration, and all this bad blood makes me feel like it will never happen. And the truth of the matter is, it is really all so completely pointless: Mayday and Jay are both big right now. Both their albums are going to sell lots and lots of copies by any legitimate measure. I don’t want Mayday to start making statements about being better than Jay, but I want JVR to lay off the accusations that Mayday is making up its figures (if any direct accusations have been made, which is unclear). Is that so much to ask?
Update: That edit in point one is just a typo – me typing too fast. The first week you’re on the charts includes your pre-orders and often not much else. B’in Music says that Mayday sales figures for pre-orders in Taiwan topped Jay; they did not claim (to the best of my knowledge) to have sold more total records than Jay. At the end of last week, Jay had sold 139,475 copies in Taiwan (counting pre-orders and the first week the album was out); Mayday had sold 137,050 (counting only pre-orders). When Mayday had the press conference announcing the 137,050 figures, that’s when JVR came back with the total figures and the statement about not falsifying sales numbers. Frankly, JVR needs to produce some proof that the figures are being faked or be more cautious about its concerns – just the fact that Jay didn’t sell the most in pre-orders does not convince me Mayday’s lying.