I remember the first time I saw Maki Goto（後藤真希）on TV. It was either just before or after she was officially brought in as the sole 3rd-generation member of Morning Musume（モーニング娘。）back at the end of the century. She kinda wobbled in on those high-heel shoes like a newborn fawn, all arms and legs. It was quite the contrast with the 1st-generation member who had left, the more pixie-ish Asuka Fukuda（福田明日香）. Because of the timing of her arrival, I will always see her as the one face for MM's monster hit "Love Machine" although I am well aware that it was a group effort.
A couple of years later after being with the main group, it was decided that she would start her own parallel solo career. And so Goto started off with a song that had a pretty in-your-face title "Ai no Bakayarou" (Fool of Love). Yeah, the way I translated it right now doesn't make it sound too threatening, does it (for those who know their Japanese)? Well, the way I know bakayarou, I would have to choose from a few profanities, including one which also starts with the letter F. So, we'll just go with fool and just imagine it as being supercharged in meaning.
Getting back to the main topic "Ai no Bakayarou" made quite the splash when it was released in March 2001 due to Goto herself, the title perhaps and the lyrics by Tsunku (つんく) which were perhaps seen as being a bit racy for a 15-year-old to handle. Mind you, Momoe Yamaguchi（山口百恵）had done much the same thing back in the early 1970s with some of her songs when she was about the same age as Goto. Not that the words rated the label "NSFW" or "Explicit" by any stretch of the imagination but I guess the folks in Japan thought that a teenage aidoru from Hello Project expressing rage and despair about a romance gone wrong was a bit of a leap in maturity.
I guess another comparison to Yamaguchi would be in order since Goto was raging away in a way that reminded me of the Aki and Uzaki-fueled hits for the legendary 70s aidoru when she sang about some angry and embittered women.
"Ai no Bakayarou" got a lot of airplay as I remember since I kept seeing Goto dancing about in that hall of mirrors in the video almost daily. I hadn't been paying too much attention to the lyrics at the time but whatever the lyrics were like, she sang them sweetly if forcefully. Finally reading them, I realized that Goto's heroine was alternately cursing her ex while at the same time missing him. There was some pretty interesting imagery in the video as well with that desert, the image of the innocent Goto of the past in her regular clothes compared to the Goto in that exotic regalia of the present...maybe representing someone in mourning. And perhaps there was something about the hall of mirrors possibly reflecting the various aspects of her. But before I lose all of us in fake psychoanalysis, I have to say that desert reminds me an awful lot of the same environment used for Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" video...it was out on rental, maybe?
Tsunku composed the music which also provided a departure from the usual Morning Musume mode along with the lyrics. At the time, I was accustomed to a bit of old-timey 70s disco with the MM, but with "Ai no Bakayarou", there was more 80s synthpop in there although I don't think I could really compare it with anything by Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark.
"Ai no Bakayarou" hit No. 1 right from the get-go (eventually ranked at No. 37 on the yearly charts), and apparently it is still the only single by a solo artist from Hello Project to reach the top spot. Furthermore, Goto became the youngest solo female singer at 15.5 years to hit No. 1 since 80s aidoru Marina Watanabe（渡辺満里奈）reached that mark at nearly 16 years of age back in 1986. According to J-Wiki, that record still stands.
Incidentally, the youngest singer to hit No. 1 is Osamu Minagawa（皆川おさむ）for "Kuroneko no Tango"（黒猫のタンゴ）all the way back in 1970. He was only 6 years and 9 months old.