December 1, 2006

Mexico’s RBD ready to conquer the U.S. market

By Isaac Garrido
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

NEW YORK - For the six members of RBD, the Mexican pop superstars, getting cold and wet in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade was one step toward achieving stardom here.

Warming up in a hotel room after the parade, the band members said the weather was nothing.

Maite Perroni, one of three women in the band, lay comfortably on a couch while her mate Alfonso “Poncho” Herrera talked about the “chill factor.”

“As we were on the float, Maite touched me, and my gloves were very wet,” Herrera said as he closed last week’s Billboard magazine, which featured the band on its cover.

“Water was dripping from them,” Perroni said as Christopher Uckermann, the youngest of the three male members of RBD, joined them.

“We felt very good, despite it was raining and it was very cold, people stayed. It is a new experience, and having sung there was something very cool,” Uckermann said. “It was a great honor being there, and I hope they invite us the next year.”

The band rode the Hershey float and performed in front of Macy’s and the TV cameras. It was just one way to let the U.S. get to know them before their English-language debut album “Rebels” hits stores Dec. 19.

In addition to Perroni, Ucker-mann and Herrera RBD’s six members are Anahí Puente, Dulce María Espinoza and Christian Chávez, all ages 20 to 24.

The band came from the hit Mexican soap opera “Rebelde.” With the launch of the group’s first album in January 2005, RBD became an immediate success in Latin America.

Since then, the band has released six more top-selling albums, including Portuguese-language versions and two live albums, boosting what Latin American media have called RBD-mania.

“Rebels,” due Dec. 19 marks RBD’s English-language debut. Photo by Marina Chavez. Courtesy EMI Music Latin America and Virgin Records North America.

RBD, which has been compared to the success of Puerto Rico’s Menudo in the 1980s, is now trying for a crossover to the Anglo market, starting with the just-released “Tu Amor,” the band’s first English-language single, which is also on “Rebels.”

“It is something that satisfies you, but at the same time is a bigger commitment because you are getting into more people and you have the opportunity to be known in other countries, as it might be now with our English-language album,” Perroni said.

The Spanglish-style ballad, written by Grammy award nominated songwriter Diane Warren, debuted nationally on “The Megan Mullaly Show.” RBD is also the first Latin musical group to be featured in Wal-Mart’s Soundcheck! online performances series.

But since RBD’s career started, the band has faced criticism as a prefabricated sales tool.

That’s because, following the success of the soap opera, which has also aired in Israel, Romania and Indonesia, marketing efforts have included an official magazine, a comic book, a clothing line, board games, school supplies and even candies.

RBD recently completed a South American tour, returning to Brazil. Alfonso called the concert before 120,000 people in the Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro a “healing process.”

While promoting the album “Rebelde” in Sao Paolo, on Feb. 4, three people died in a crowd of more than 15,000 who gathered in a shopping center where the group responded to an invitation to just show up.

The band claims it is the first Latino pop act to realize a sold-out tour all over the U.S. The tour earlier this year included shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Miami’s American Airlines Arena and the Los Angeles Coliseum. In L.A., 65,000 tickets sold out in 30 minutes.

Still, for RBD, crossover is a challenge.

We don’t know what is going to happen; it is a whole new market,” Herrera said. “We have been working hard and a lot in Latin America, but getting into the United States and enter to a market that is completely new, we don’t know.”

Uckermann and Chávez said they are nervous about “Rebels.” Chávez highlighted the U.S. market’s need for new and fresh things and said it is a good moment to release the album, as many Latino artists are opening doors. He also pointed out that the production might take them to the Asian market.

The upcoming CD offers a Latino rhythm. “I believe the essence of the English-language album, although it is in English, has a lot of Latin influence,” Herrera said.

“If they like music, they are going to identify, because we are young, maybe of different races with different traits, but we, somehow, live the same experiences, the same process of adolescence,” Perroni said.

The band is set to perform at New York Z100’s Jingle Ball 2006 radio concert Dec. 15 and will be part of ABC’s New Year’s Eve special, “Dick Clarks’ New Year’s Rockin’ Eve 2007.”

“We are not in a hurry,” Chávez said about the prospect of filming a movie, which has been postponed due to their agenda for 2007. They will release the sitcom “RBD La Familia,” promote “Rebels” in Italy and France and a publish book with pictures of the band.

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