Their mock music videos draw millions of Internet viewers and thousands of fawning reviews by fans around the globe who declare them hilarious, talented, cute, and hot.
Now, Huang Yixin and Wei Wei, former college roommates from south China who last year found worldwide Web notoriety with their low-quality, high-hilarity lip-synching clips, are aiming for a career in the performing arts.
"We want to do movies, ads, music, abstract art, everything," said Huang, who is known to fans as "the little one." He usually "sings" the high notes and has perfected the pretty boy's doe-eyed gaze.
In February, the duo signed a five-year contract with Taihe Rye Music, a Beijing talent management company. Other clients include pop star Xu Wei and the winner of China's own American Idol-style singing contest Li Yuchun.
"We think they have a lot of artistic potential," said Taihe manager Song Zhe. "They could do a lot of different kinds of projects like movies, singing, maybe funny cameo bit parts ... their own art exhibitions."
They are known in English as the "Two Chinese Boys," "Chinese Backstreet Boys" or "Back Dorm Boys," which is a direct translation of their Chinese nickname "Houshe Nansheng."
The 24-year-old sculpture majors graduated from the Guanzhou Academy of Fine Arts in June and moved to Beijing in October to study singing, dancing and stage arts. At Taihe's office in Beijing, they show off their senior project: lifesize sculptures of themselves performing in red sweatshirts and chunky basketball shoes.
Huang and Wei are part of a new generation of Chinese who spend hours online every day, surfing, blogging, playing interactive games, doing video and text chat, and downloading music and movies.
China's Internet market is the world's second biggest after the United States, with more than 123 million people online.
Their tongue-in-cheek faux delivery of schmaltzy ballads and fluffy pop — all filmed in their dorm room with Huang's cheap little web camera — has spawned dozens of spoofs and countless copycats.
They posted their first "performance," a nearly 5-minute clip of lip-synching to the Backstreet Boys hit I Want It That Way, to their college intranet in March 2005. It quickly migrated to big sites like YouTube and Google Video and fast became one of the most watched and highest rated amateur clips online.
A French fan leaves them a message on YouTube saying "j'adore!!!!!!!!!!" while another from Brazil writes "Perfeito!! Love u boys..love love love de video!!"
Over the past 18 months, they've done five more music videos and landed jobs advertising Pepsi Cola, Motorola, and Jessica Simpson's latest album 'Public Affair.'
Wei, the 'big one' who Huang insists looks like basketball star Yao Ming, said the two just want to have fun and approach whatever they do with an artistic attitude.
"The way we do things too is very easy going, we are really just looking to have fun and enjoy life," he said.
They won't reveal how much money they have earned since making it big on the Internet but say it is enough for them to maintain separate apartments in a Beijing suburb and keep spending money in their pockets.
"The secret is: enjoy yourself," the two said at the same time, when asked to explain why in a sea of amateur videos, they stand out. "And do what you like."
(Agencies via China News Service December 14, 2006)