After towering basketball star Yao Ming and actress Zhang Ziyi, China's biggest celebrity exports are two art students who wear Houston...
HONG KONG — After towering basketball star Yao Ming and actress Zhang Ziyi, China’s biggest celebrity exports are two art students who wear Houston Rockets jerseys and headgear and lip-sync to Backstreet Boys songs.
Thanks to the Internet, Huang Yixin and Wei Wei’s goofy homemade music videos that cover songs like “As Long As You Love Me” and “I Want It That Way” have become immensely popular worldwide.
On the Web, they’re known simply as “two Chinese boys,” as their English fan site is called. Wei and Huang say they were simply two bored Chinese boys who turned to lip-syncing videos for entertainment — and spawned a pop culture phenomenon.
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It all started with the relocation of their school, the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, from the downtown to the outskirts of the southern Chinese city once known as Canton.
“There wasn’t much in the way of facilities or entertainment. Our only connection to the outside world was the Internet and computers. When we have free time outside of classes, we’d play around with this kind of stuff,” Wei said in a phone interview.
He said the pair, high-school friends who ended up as roommates at the arts academy, saw a video of foreigners lip-syncing to a rock song online and decided to follow suit. They mouthed along to “As Long As You Love Me” in early March last year and uploaded it onto an internal Web site at their school.
Soon fans put the video onto the Internet and their lives haven’t been the same since.
“When we went to the cafeteria for meals, many people gave us weird looks. Later, when we took part in joint school events, people also gave us weird looks,” Huang said.
Internet users outside China also took notice.
Their “I Want It That Way” cover has been watched more than 1 million times on the video-sharing Web site Youtube.com. On their English fan site, their work has received props from fans from distant places such as Norway, Lithuania, Chile and Argentina.
In a major celebrity nod, Jessica Simpson posted a link to their cover of her new song “A Public Affair” on her Web site.
Part of their appeal is the sheer mismatch of two Chinese men wearing basketball jerseys swaying their heads while mouthing the lyrics to English pop songs. In their cover of “A Public Affair,” while Huang offers a silly smile and holds up his hands like a rabbit, Wei, who wears gogglelike sunglasses and holds his hair up with a blue headband, does the robot dance and performs exaggerated lip movements close to the camera.
They’ve demonstrated impressive range, tackling both Chinese and English songs, including the Black Eyed Peas’ “Don’t Lie.”
But the Backstreet Boys are a mainstay. That’s because the duo are fans. “As Long As You Love Me” is one of their all-time favorites. “Once we hear the intro, once we start singing, our eyes start shining,” Huang said.
They record their films with a Web cam. The fellow student often seen sitting in the background in their videos is their roommate Xiao Jing.
Wei and Huang’s extracurricular filmmaking has won them not only international fame, but a career. The pair, who graduated from college recently, signed with the Chinese record company Taihe Rye in February.
Now they’re known as Hou She Nan Sheng, or Back Dorm Boys — a tribute to their beloved U.S. group.
They said they’ll continue to make lip-syncing videos, but singing with their real voices is a possibility too.