Power of nine: Winners of a reality show release 1st album

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Nine Percent, the nine-member boy band that came into being through the Chinese reality show Idol Producer broadcast by online streaming service iQiyi this April, released their debut album To the Nines on Nov. 12.

They gave a live performance at M Space, a popular music venue in Beijing, to an audience of around 500 enthusiastic fans. The show was also live-streamed through the online platforms hosted by the Tencent Music Entertainment Group, including QQ Music, Kuwo and Kugou, which racked up over 15 million clicks.

Consisting of nine members - Cai Xukun, Chen Linong, Fan Chengcheng, Huang Minghao, Lin Yanjun, Zhu Zhengting, Wang Ziyi, Wang Linkai and You Zhangjin - Nine Percent was the product of three months of intense competition on the reality show.

One hundred trainees chosen from around the nation from entertainment companies and agencies competed for nine places in the final lineup of the boy band.

The winning members of the lineup later traveled to Los Angeles for training sessions ahead of making their first public performance in Shanghai in May.

Now, they are one of the most popular boy bands in the country.

The first single released from their debut album was titled Rule Breaker, which was co-written by group members Cai and Wang Ziyi. Rooted in hip-hop music, the song incorporates a variety of genres, from EDM to rap. With their elaborately choreographed dancing, their fans - who refer to themselves as "Nines" - shake light sticks while singing along.

"We chose this song to be the first one to be released to our fans, because it really speaks for us," says the group's leader, Cai, who is also known by the stage name Kun. The 20-year-old gained more than 47 million votes, which pushed him into first place out of all the contestants during the final of the contest.

Echoing his bandmate's excitement, 19-year-old Chen says: "Since our journey as Nine Percent kicked off, there is so much more we want to do. The debut album is just the beginning."

Besides group performances, each member of Nine Percent has launched their own careers ranging from film and TV to fashion, which has helped them to build up an immense fan base individually.

One of the members, Wang Ziyi, traveled to Spain to participate in the annual MTV Europe Music Awards on Nov 4 as the "ambassador" for China.

"I wanted to become an artist ever since I watched MTV as a kid. It was great to see all the artists I really admired," says Wang Ziyi, 22.

Within three days of the album being released, it made almost 8 million yuan ($1.15 million) in sales through Tencent Music's online platforms selling for 20 yuan a download.

On Nov 22, they plan to launch a national tour opening in Shenzhen.

While Nine Percent fits the mold of a classic boy band in terms of looks, moves and sounds, it also symbolizes the phenomenon of the rising popularity of Chinese reality shows, which have given birth to these young stars. The program gives an insight into the intense behind-the-scenes training of the competitors.

Fans interacted with their idols and voted for them via social media, which is generally regarded as a driving force for their online fame.

"I became a big fan after I watched their live performances during the finals of Idol Producer on April 6. They worked so hard for the show," says Qi Qi, 20, a young woman from Beijing, who went to the fan meetings and other public events for the group. "Their songs deliver the positive messages of individuality, ambition and hope. Their performances onstage were very cool.

"It's like witnessing our mutual dream coming true all at once, which makes the fans feel connected."

According to iQiyi, the second season of Idol Producer will be released next January and an all-female version of the reality show is now being planned.

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