As I mentioned on the BEST article for Morning Musume（モーニング娘。）, the peak time of my interest in the Hello Project group was between 1999-2001 starting with their mammoth hit, "Love Machine"(LOVEマシーン）. Before that 7th single, I knew about the Asuka Fukuda（福田明日香）years of Morning Musume when they started out with the original 5 members soon to expand to 8 with the addition of the 3 2nd-generation members.
However, when I think about the big heyday going into the 21st century, there is that figurative haze surrounding those first 6 singles and their videos...perhaps something like the sepia tones that fill ancient photographs. So when I have seen any of those early entries such as "Morning Coffee", it's usually interesting for observing how the group was trying to take those baby steps into grabbing for some sort of representative identity and sound.
Of course, that also includes "Memory ~ Seishun no Hikari" (The Light of Youth), Morning Musume's 4th single from February 1999. Honestly speaking, tonight was the first time that I actually saw the video from beginning to end, although it showed up often on the ranking shows when I was living in Japan. From remembering those early MM days, I felt that the group was going for that sultry R&B...perhaps even hip-hop...sound, and the official video for "Seishun no Hikari" is one of the common images that I had of Yuko Nakazawa（中澤裕子）and company: nighttime settings, party dresses, sighing voices and strutting dances.
Tsunku（つんく）was the writer and composer of "Seishun no Hikari", and when I compare all 6 singles from the early days, this particular single is the one that I like the least due to the fact that I don't think the harmony in the refrain worked all that well among the members. It's too bad, too, since Natsumi Abe（安倍なつみ）and Asuka Fukuda were the singers here and this was the final single for Fukuda after she had decided to leave the group.
"Seishun no Hikari" managed to reach No. 2 on Oricon and sold a little over 400,000 copies. It is also included on MM's 2nd album "Second Morning"（セカンドモーニング）which came out in July 1999 and peaked at No. 3 on the album charts.
One other track from "Second Morning" that was also one of the accompanying numbers on the "Seishun no Hikari" single was "Never Forget" which has become the graduation song for any of the members leaving the flock, starting with Fukuda herself. In fact, she was the main vocalist on the original recorded version.
Not a dry eye in the concert hall, I take it. I never went to a Morning Musume concert but I remember when the first leader Nakazawa graduated from the group a few years later. There was a rather huge TV special for the event with all of the members giving a tribute in song to her. Of course, copious amounts of tears were shed, and I believe that "Never Forget" was sung there, too.
Well, how about that? Almost 20 years after leaving Morning Musume, Fukuda has begun a solo career under the name of asuka and released a mini-album in March called "sing" which includes a cover version of "Never Forget". Back in 2010, she became part of a vocal group called PEACE$TONE that is still continuing, and for about a year (2017-2018), she was part of Morning Musume 20th, the alumni group consisting of the original members.