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UPDATED: August 19, 2008 No.34 AUG.21, 2008
Blooming Pop
China's top pop band moves on from scandal and scores a major movie bonus


BLOOMING BUDS: The members of Flower, (from left to right) Guo Yang, Shi Xingyu, Zhang Wei and Wang Wenbo, appear at the 11th Global Chinese Music Awards in 2004 

A young Chinese band has had a major career boost after being asked to write and perform the Mandarin version of the theme song of the hit U.S. movie High School Musical 2.

The High School Musical franchise has taken the U.S. audience by storm since its first launch in 2006. It proved so popular that in 2007 Disney released High School Musical 2, which aired on the movie channel of CCTV, China's national TV station, on July 6 this year.

The band, called Flower (Huaer in Mandarin), had two members in their teens when they started out back in 1998. Singer/guitarist Zhang Wei was just 15 and the drummer Wang Wenbo, 16. Bassist Guo Yang, 20 at that time, was the "elder statesman."

Talking about the name of the band, Wang said in China young people are often compared to flowers. "Flowers also represent the positive and active attitude of Chinese youth-healthy, sunny and friendly," he said.

Their first album Beside the Happiness, released in 1999, reflects their attitude toward the world and the illusions people live under. Before the album, the band had scored some success with a single called Class Is Over, released in 1998.

"We are not happy about anything we learnt in class. I just want to leave here as quickly as possible. I hope the bell rings soon to tell us that class is over. Class is over!" go the rebellious lyrics of the song.

Due to their fresh and lively music, Flower was then regarded as the most promising band of China's new generation. The three boys and their energetic stage act won more and more fans as well as many music awards.

"We just want to bring happiness to as many people as possible. Since many people now live under great pressure, I hope our music can make them smile and relieve the heavy burdens," said Zhang.

In 2001, guitarist Shi Xingyu joined the band, allowing Zhang to focus more on his vocals. They gave many performances around China, causing a stir wherever they played. In 2002, Time magazine called them the representatives of China's youth.

"We are happy to be busy doing something we all like a lot. What we show in our music is our attitude toward life," said Zhang. He said being cool was not as important as being enthusiastic and energetic about life.

In 2004, Flower joined the EMI Company and set the style of its music as teen-pop. "Actually our music has no fixed style. It's not funk or hip-hop or anything. We make music just for fun. If you have to categorize it, call it Flower's style," said Wang.

The band has come up with the three "P"s to illustrate their spirit:passion, play and popular. This spirit was evident in 2005, when their new song Xi Shua Shua became a hit in China and could be heard on every street corner.

However, a major scandal followed the success. Xi Shua Shua, and several other songs by Flower, were said to have been plagiarized from foreign songs. After much media attention, the band finally admitted they did copy some parts of the music and apologized for their indiscretion.

"This taught us a great lesson," said Zhang, who believes the obstacles they have faced have been a growing process for the band and given them more confidence.

Although the members are no longer teenagers, their music has not changed much over the years and has retained its lively feel. They are funny and easygoing and have clearly moved on from their scandal episode. Being asked to do the High School Musical 2 theme song has also been a big confidence booster.

"We are all fans of the movie High School Musical, and the music in this movie fits our band's style very well. We are very happy for the cooperation this time with Disney," said Guo Yang, "We spent only half a day writing the lyrics of the Chinese version and enjoy the whole music-making process very much."

Talking about the future, the members of Flower plan to develop in other aspects and have shown a keen interest in movie acting. They are now busy preparing for a New Year film celebrating 2009. They will act as street rowdies of ancient Beijing, getting involved in a lot of comical situations.

"For us, this is not even acting, because we do almost the same tricks in our daily lives," said Zhang, smiling.

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