Based on a popular Japanese comic, Hana Yori Dango (literally translated as Men Are Better Than Flowers), Meteor Garden was the vehicle that launched the careers of Jerry Yen (25), Vic Zhou (20), Ken Zhu (22) and American-born Vanness Wu (23), transforming them from total unknowns into pop idols who inspire mass hysteria when they so much as enter a room. Their rise to stardom has been nothing short of meteoric. The series debuted in Taiwan in April last year, and in the short space of nine months, these four guys have become household names not only in their native Taiwan, but also in Singapore, Hongkong, Malaysia and even Brunei.
They have been likened to Japan's boyband supremos, SMAP, and Jerry Yen, the most popular of the four, has even been compared to Takuya Kimura. Their debut album has sold over 180,000 copies in Taiwan alone and the album made it to the third spot on the local charts three days after it hit the shelves. The hunkiest in the group is ex-model Yan, who also is the lead in Meteor Garden. Singaporeans would feel a keen affinity with Ken Chu, who lived and studied in Singapore for eight years before returning to Taiwan. Vic Zhou is the silent but cool type, and his boyish good looks and megawatt smile is enough to send hearts a-flutter. Vanness Wu hails from Los Angeles and is definitely the best singer and dancer in the group. Which isn't surprising since he used to hang out with the guys from former Taiwanese boyband, L.A Boyz.
The last time F4 was in town on Polling Day last year, almost every teenage girl aged 12 to 17 was out in force. They created a major disturbance in the normally sleepy neighbourhood of Bishan, where 5,000 frenzied fans queued overnight for a meet-the-fans event at Junction 8. Close to 2,000 people turned up for another with the lads at The Heeren, which was transformed into a sea of bodies pressed together like sardines in a can. The most amazing thing about their tremendous fan base is that it is not limited to young schoolgirls. There are serious working women in their 20s and 30s, mothers with toddlers and even grandmothers who become as giggly as fresh-faced youngsters when talking about their idols. What is stunning about their overnight fame is that there is nothing really extraordinary about them, apart from the fact that they are all lanky (1.8 m) and good-looking. Which in this day and age, seems to be all that matters. No one seems to care that they can't carry a tune to save their lives. Their success is based on the strength of their one hit song, Meteor Rain.
The irony about the F4 frenzy is that the boys are not really a cohesive unit. In reality, they were just four guys thrown together to act in a drama about a gang of four guys, dubbed the Flower Four (F4), who terrorized the students at their exclusive prep school. In fact, the plan is for each member to eventually launch a solo career. Vic Zhou (Zai Zai), has already done so, and his debut album, Make A Wish has been garnering brisk sales since it was released earlier this month.