Morning Musume: An Introduction
Morning Musume is a Japanese idol group that was formed in 1997. Over the group’s 22 years of existence, they have released 69 singles and 15 studio albums, and in total, sold 23 million. But who are Morning Musume, and how do they work? The early years (1997 - early 1999)
Morning Musume is the brainchild of Tsunku, a member of the Japanese band ‘Sharam Q’. In 1997, Sharam Q held auditions for a female vocalist on the show ‘ASAYAN’, and this competition is where the first five members of Morning Musume started. They were all losers of the audition, which was won by Heike Michiyo, and Tsunku then decided, ‘why not make an idol group?’, for lack of a better term. He selected 5 runners-up, Iida Kaori, Nakazawa Yuko, Abe Natsumi, Ishiguro Aya and Fukuda Asuka, to make up the first generation of this girl group, which after a couple of other options was named ‘Morning Musume’. These 5 girls were given a challenge in order to debut, which was that they had to sell 50, 000 copies of their debut single ‘Ai no Tane’ in 5 days of promotion. This goal was achieved by the 4th day, and Morning Musume were born!
Their major label debut single, Morning Coffee, was released in January 1998, and it featured Abe Natsumi on lead vocals. According Kaori’s 20th anniversary interview, she was originally supposed to be the main vocal, however, Natsumi being pushed as the vocal of the group turned out to be a success, and she became the most popular member. This was followed by an audition to add a second generation of members, which resulted in 3 members, Yaguchi Mari, Yasuda Kei and Ichii Sayaka, being added to the group in time for the next single, ‘Summer Night Town’. This was followed by another single, however, around the release of the third single, Asuka announced that she was leaving the group. The 4th single, Memory Seishun no Hikari, featured a rap by L Da Headtoucha, an American rapper, who rapped entirely in English. This was to be the last American rap feature on a Morning Musume track, and I’ll let you decide why.
Following Asuka’s depature, two more singles were released, ‘Manatsu no Kousen’ and ‘Furusato’, the latter pretty much being a Natsumi solo. Apparently, diminishing sales led to the threat of disbandment looming over the girls head. But this was changed by the arrival of a new member. The Golden Era (1999 - 2003)
This member was Goto Maki, the sole member of the third generation. She bet out thousands of other girls, including Koda Kumi (apparently), to become Morning Musume’s newest member, in time for the release of their next single. This single, Love Machine, turned out to be a runaway success, exceeding any of the girls expectations. In total, it sold a million copies, and over a million more than their previous single (justice for Furusato!), and until today is known as Morning Musume’s signature song. This was followed by Ishiguro Aya’s graduation, and another million seller, Koi no Dance Site, which is a perfect embodiment of Morning Musume’s quirky side, a side that showed up in both songs and variety shows.
The third million selling single, Happy Summer Wedding, introduced the fourth generation, which consisted of four members, and farewelled Ichii Sayaka. Around this time, subunits were formed, which included Tanpopo, who had been around since 1998, Minimoni, made up of the shortest of the Morning Musume girls, and Petitmoni, who’s 1999 song ‘Chokotto Love’ was another million seller.
A good resource from this era is the Morning Musume utaban appearances, which are hilarious, avilable on youtube and provide a good introduction to the first few generations of girls.
A fourth and fifth million selling single, I Wish, which highlighted the fourth generation and featured a high note done by youngest member, 12 year old Kago Ai, and Ren’ai Revolution 21 came in the latter parts of the 2000s.
2001’s first single was preceded by scandal, namely, that Up-Front, Morning Musume’s company were being blackmailed by, according to one source, the Yakuza, and threatened with the release of videos of the girls changing. Up-Front and Tsunku’s response was a middle finger in the form of ‘The✩Peace!’, which featured footage of the girls parodying the incident, and a monologue from fourth generation member Ishikawa Rika.
Around this time, the girls also had a show called Hello! Morning, which featured skits and games done by the girls themselves, both current members and graduated girls, and is a must watch for all fans of the group. Many of the girls had distinctive personalities, such as grumpy old lady Nakazawa Yuko (who by the time of her graduation in 2001, was 28), Iida Kaori’s airhead personality, Kago Ai and Tsuji Nozomi, the annoying pair of not actually related twins who once socked Yaguchi Mari in the crotch, along with other personalities who will be covered later.
Musically, Morning Musume were incredibly experimental during these early days, for an idol group, who can draw comparisons to Disney Channel stars. They experimented with big band (Mr. Moonlight ~Ai no Big Band~), whatever the heck ‘Koko ni Iruzee!’ and even blessed the children with ‘Morning Musume no Hyokorri no Hyountanjima’. The Inbetween Period (2003 - 2007)
Sales began dropping around the time of the addition of the 6th generation. The 6th generation’s first single was ‘Shabondama’, a growled, angry ballad about an ex boyfriend, which featured 6th generation Tanaka Reina as a main vocal.
Two singles after the 6th generation joined, in 2004, the original main vocal of the group, Abe Natsumi, graduated. Ai Araba! It’s Alright, a bouncy, bubblegum pop song, was her sendoff. After this, the last original member, Iida Kaori left. Her graduation was followed by Yaguchi Mari, the next leader, leaving because she was involved in a dating scandal. This was followed by the addition of the 7th generation, which consisted of one member Kusumi Koharu, who was considered the ‘miracle’ member. Her first song was the salsa-inspired ‘Iroppoi Jirettai’, which contained the girls talking about their ‘sexy island’, whatever that means. Iroppoi Jirettai was followed by several lacklustre songs, a slump that didn’t really stop until the addition of the 8th generation, which was won by Mitsui Aika.
The 6th generation had personalities of their own, with Kamei Eri being an airhead, Michishige Sayumi being self-absorbed, and Tanaka Reina being a rebel. Another prominent character was Ishikawa Rika’s Charmy personality, a self-absorbed, barbed wire tongued, self-confident character. Platinum Era (2007 - 2010)
Aika bet out several idol group members for the position, including AKB48’s Kashiwagi Yuki, Tanabe Miku and Honey Popcorn’s Mikami Yua, and was soon joined by two generation mates, Chinese members Junjun and Linlin. They were added in attempts to expand to Mainland China and Taiwan, however, that, along with several attempts at making Taiwan based groups, flopped, so instead Junjun and Linlin were just there.
In between the addition of the two girls, another member graduated, and another member, 6th generation member Fujimoto Miki, left due to being caught dating underage.
Platinum Era was probably the lowest-selling period in Morning Musume history, owing to the competition, as this was around the time AKB48 showed up, among others, but it’s known among fans as having one of the most talented line ups and some of the best songs in Morning Musume history.
The songs during this era were often more mature ballads, and also included a cover of a Pink Lady song, Pepper Keibu, a song that contained orchestral arrangements (Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game), and another Latin-inspired song (Kimagure Princess).
The line up remained stable for nearly 3 years, with no additions or graduations, however, in 2010, 4 members left, reducing the line up to 5. This led to 9th generation auditions, which ushered in a new area. The Inbetween Era: Part II (2010 - 2012)
This second inbetween era introduced the 9th generation, who released their first single with the group, a peppy, ska-inspired song called “Maji deska?” This was followed by another single, and then a double A-side single, released to commemerate the graduation of Takahashi Ai, fifth generation member and main vocal. Following this, the 10th generation joined. Their first single was ‘Pyotopyoto Ultra’ a song which featured, among other things, the members, which had several over 18 year old members, dancing wearing chicken costumes. This was their lowest selling single ever.
This was followed by the last fifth generation member, Niigaki Risa’s, and Mitsui Aika’s graduation song, Re’nai Hunter, which was the start of a new era. Colourful Era (2012 - ?)
The Colourful Era started with the release of ‘One Two Three!’, which was a success for this current line up. Since the Platinum Era, Morning Musume had been struggling to sell 50, 000 copies. ‘One Two Three!’ however, sold 50, 000 copies, and presented a new image of Morning Musume. The newer generations were good at formation dancing, and their charm came from their synchronised dancing, along with the good songs.
The Colourful Era primarily features songs with EDM components, however, there are songs that aren’t primarily EDM, such as ‘Sukatto! My Heart’.
From 2013, Morning Musume’s songs have had english subtitles, and if I remember correctly, they were done by Mitsui Aika at one point.
As of 2019, there are no members who joined prior to 2011 in the group. Michishige Sayumi, the last member who’d been there since 2011, left in 2014, after 12 years in the group. Her solo on her last single is something, but it’s to be expected as Sayumi herself acknowledged that she couldn’t carry a tune.
Morning Musume, since 2014, has changed their name every year, to include what year it is, in order to make it easier to tell what line up sang what.
And, as of 2019, the latest single is Jinsei Blues/Seishun Night, although there has been one announced for 2020.
They currently have 14 members, who span over 4 generations. The 15th generation have yet to feature in a single, as they were only announced last month. TV shows and Things to Read http://wotaintranslation.com/morning-musume-20th-anniversary-official-book/
Hello! Morning https://helloproject.fandom.com/wiki/Morning_Musume#Singles
- The official Hello! Project wiki, which includes Morning Musume and the other female idol groups Up Front Manage. Recommended Music From the early years Ai No Tane (Demo single) Morning Coffee (Major Debut Single) Never Forget Memory Seishun no Hikari From the Golden Era Love Machine Koi No Dance Site I Wish Happy Summer Wedding The Peace! Souda! We're ALIVE Shabondama Do it! Now Dekkai Uchuu The Inbetween Period Osaka Koi no Uta The Manpower!!! Joshi Kashimashi Monogatari Sexy Boy Platnium Era Kanashimi Twilight Naichau Kamo Resonant Blue Shouganai Onna to Otoko no Lullaby Game Inbetween Part II: Electric Boogaloo Maji desu ka suka? Only you Ren'ai Hunter Colourful Era Seishun Night One Two Three Utakata Saturday Night Mukidashide Jealousy Jealousy Tsumetai Kaze to Kataomoi Mikaeri Bijin Wakaindashi! Furari Ginza