Name: モーニング娘。(Morning Musume.)
Date of group’s debut: November 3rd, 1997
Record label: SPREE RECORDS –> zetima
Morning Musume (モーニング娘。) is a Japanese girl group which debuted in 1997. They are one of the best selling groups in Japan, and is managed by the agency UFA. Their producer, Tsunku, was responsible for the composition of the majority of their songs and lyrics was in charge up until he had to back down due to an illness in 2014.
In 1997, an audition program called «Sharan Q Rock Vocalist Audition» were held in association with ASAYAN. ASAYAN was a tv show aiming at producing new music artists, and the band Sharan Q with their lead man Tsunku, were looking for a female vocalist to join their group.
The finale of the show was on September 7th, 1997. In the final episode the number of girls were down to 11. All girls were singing an original song, penned by Tsunku, called «GET.» Michiyo Heike would be the winner (all though she forgot the lyrics), making the other 10 the losers.
However, despite the fact that Yuko Nakazawa, Aya Ishiguro, Natsumi Abe, Kaori Iida and Asuka Fukuda lost the audition, they were promised to make a major debut only after selling 50,000 copies of their original single, “Ai No Tane” («Seeds of Love») in just 5 days. The name of the group was decided as Morning Musume, based on the image of “Breakfast filled with variety and volume, great value meal, easy to approach and familiar to everyone.”
In November, their road to major debut began at HMV Sinsaibashi branch in Osaka, continuing the sales events in HMV Canal City branch, as well as HMV Tenjin branch in Fukuoka. Sales event continued in Kirin Beer Garden in Sapporo. After four days, the 50,000 sales mark was reached at the fourth sales event location, Nagoya Baseball Stadium!
For their major debut single, three songs were recorded; «Morning Coffee», «Usotsuki Anta» and «Dou ni ka Shite Douyoubi.» Demos of the songs were played on ASAYAN while the girls were interviewed. The hosts of the show started laughing listening to «Dou ni ka Shite Douyoubi», because they thought parts of the lyrics were funny («Douyoubi nante / kirairai / terebi datte / no no» meaning «Saturdays / I hate, hate them / Am I interedted in watching TV / No no»). People could phone in and vote for the song that would be their debut single, and on December 28th, “Morning Coffee” was chosen to be the song for their major debut.
It was released as their major debut single on January 28th, 1998. It’s highest Oricon ranking was 6th, and it sold a little over 200.000 copies.
Just a few months later, in March, Tsunku announced a plan to increase Morning Musume’s members. This initiated the autition called «Morning Musume Addition Audition.» The audition was aired on the tv show ASAYAN, who would be a big part of promoting Morning Musume in the earlier years as they were to perform at the show and them airing future auditions, changes and line-ups.
A few weeks later, the groups’ second single, «Summer Night Town», was released landing in 4th place on the Oricon charts with total sales of 417.330 copies. Their album was released a month later and landed 4th place on the charts, selling 310.000 copies. All these releases led up to their first concert, held at Shibuya Kokaido Hall.
Their first number one single was released on September 9th, 1998. «Daite! Hold On Me» sold almost 500.000 copies. At around the same time, Morning Musume released their first movie, «Morning Cop», and a soundtrack with original songs for the movie.
The end of the year concluded with Morning Musume winning the award for best new artists of the year, and was invited to perform at the annual Kouhako Utagassen. Something they would do for the next nine years (they weren’t invited in 2008 and forward.)
This year started with somewhat of a surprise to everyone. At the end of 1998, Fukuda had told everyone that she wished to leave the group, the official reason being to focus on school. Everyone was shocked by her decision, but the agency knew how to profit from this. They called her departure a «graduation.» In February, Morning Musume released their 4th single; «Memory – Seishun no Hikari», which reached second place on the Oricon charts, selling 410.850 copies. It was a single with two b-sides, one of them titled «Never forget.» This was a song written by Tsunku for Fukuda, and is a solo song by her with the rest of the group doing the harmonies.
Fukuda’s pending graduation and the release of the 4th single led up to a series concert called «Morning Musume 1999 Memory – Seishun No Hikari.» The tour started at the end of February, with the last performance at Tokyo Kousei Nenkin Kaikan in the end of April. This was Fukuda’s last performance, and her final song was «Never forget.»
After her graduation it was clear that the real reason for leaving the group was not to focus on her studies. She dropped out of school shortly after and started working at her father’s bar. It was also later revelaed that she was unhappy being an idol and felt like she was being a scapegoat for everyone, as she was the youngest. She also said in a later interview that she thought they all were fake crying when she was graduating, and that the only one who had treated her decent was Nakazawa.
A month after the tour ended, Morning Musume released their fifth single; Manatsu no Kousen.» It’s highest ranking was #3 and it sold aprox. 235.000 copies.
Around this time, Tsunku had decided that he wantet the group to have a steadier developmental process, and announced that he wanted to add two more members to the group. While the process of finding new members were taking place, Morning Musume released their 6th single; «Furusato.» This was their last single to be released in the 3″ format cover, reaching a disappointing 5th on Oricon, selling 170.670 copies.
Just a few weeks after, their second album, «Second Morning», was released. It ranked 3rd on the Oricon charts, and sold 426.620 copies.
In August, the audition for “Morning Musume’s Additional Members” was held. Out of 11,000 candidates, Goto Maki from Tokyo was the only one who was added to the group, different from the original plan of adding 2 more members to the group.
On 99.9.9 (September 9th) Morning Musume released their 7th single, “Love Machine.” With a new member, a more idolized image, and a different, poppier and more digitalized sound, the single went on to sell over a million copies (1.646.630 copies), scoring 1st place on the Oricon charts for 3 weeks in a row, 6th place in the category of annual music chart, 3rd in the annual karaoke chart of 1999, and 2nd in the annual karaoke chart of 2000!
On December 31st, Morning Musume had their second performance at Kohaku Utagassen, performing «Love Machine.»
At the end of the year, Aya Ishiguro decided she wanted to leave Morning Musume. Her reason was that she wanted to change her career and become a fashion designer. Her last performance with the group was at the concert «Hello! Project Happy New Year 2000.»
Shortly after leaving the group she got married and had a child. She had met her future husband while being a member of Morning Musume, and she had to sneak out to get to see him, as their agency was firm when it come sto the rule of not having boyfriends. She did study fashion later on, but having two more kids in the years to come she became an author of life style books and a talento instead.
In the years to come members would graduate, new auditions would be held, singles and albums were released, and the group Morning Musume is still going strong. As of now they count 13 generations, and they will soon release their 63rd single (2017).
From 2014, they will also be re-named every year, having the year added to their name. So in 2014 they will be known as Morning Musume. ’14 etc. The reason for this is because they have been in the industry for so long, that Tsunku wanted people to know which year the single was released.
Every MM member ever: Yuko Nakazawa, Aya Ishiguro, Kaori Iida, Natsumi Abe, Asuka Fukuda, Kei Yasuda, Mari Yaguchi, Sayaka Ichii, Maki Goto, Rika Ishikawa, Hitomi Yoshizawa, Nozomi Tsuji, Ai Kago, Ai Takahashi, Asami Konno, Makoto Ogawa, Risa Niigaki, Miki Fujimoto, Eri Kamei, Sayumi Michishige, Reina Tanaka, Koharu Kusumi, Aika Mitsui, Junjun, Linlin, Mizuki Fukumura, Erina Ikuta, Riho Sayashi, Kanon Suzuki, Haruna Iikubo, Ayumi Ishida, Masaki Sato, Haruka Kudo, Sakura Oda, Haruna Ogata, Miki Nonaka, Maria Makino, Akane Haga, Kaede Kaga, Reina Yokoyama.