08. "4th Ikimasshoi!"by Morning Musume
One of the greatest challenges in being a J-Pop fan is trying to explain to newcomers, even very open-minded and willing newcomers, the strange world you've fallen in love with. It's just not the norm of Western music culture to talk about a group of 15 distinct young women as if they are your heart and soul. Yet, at its largest incarnation, Morning Musume was 15 strong. And yes, the wonderful and lovely girls that made up the group were my heart and soul.
I'm going to keep this primer on Morning Musume brief. They are the quintessential idol group. They were, and still are, the idol group perfected. Because, in creating Morning Musume, producer Tsunku managed to create a launching pad for some incredibly and uniquely charming, talented young ladies. And the group took this all the way to superstardom with personality, aplomb, and a wicked sense of humor.
Morning Musume's gimmick was... not simple, really. The original group, created in 1997, had five members. A second generation added three girls to the mix. Then girls began to "graduate" as they moved on to other things. Over the years Morning Musume's lineup would continue to change like the wind, but for a stint from 2008-2011 when things got frankly boring with a few major hiccups (personal opinion). They have currently been through twelve generations, 33 members, and 49 singles. What always makes Morning Musume a universal and quintessential idol group is its different incarnations, its generations, and their ability to appeal to different fans in different ways. You'll never meet a wota (J-Pop idol fan) who loves Morning Musume in the same way.
This is a thing.
I've been a fan since 2002. And, while every MM fan has a different favorite album, most fans from all generations will agree with little grousing that 2002 brought the world Morning Musume's best album. That album is "4th Ikimasshoi!"
( おいで、踊ろう！ )
Hint for Part Nine: AFI and Sugar Ray opened for this band when I saw them in 1997. NO ONE KNEW WHO THOSE BANDS WERE.