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There may be little that is musically authentic about RBD, a prefabricated pop/rock act that was initiated on television, yet the group of Mexican teens achieved astounding commercial success, quickly becoming a multilingual pop culture juggernaut whose market impact stretched from Brazil to the United States. The group is comprised of six youths, three of them boys, three girls -- Alfonso Herrera, Christian Chávez, Dulce María, Maite Perroni, Christopher Uckermann, and Anahí Portilla -- all of them telegenic, able actors, and physically fit to perfection, each with a uniquely fashionable look. They're like a supergroup comprised of both Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys -- manufactured for optimal appeal, no doubt, and forcefully marketed across a range of entertainment mediums, television above all. In fact, music came second for the group, who began as the cast of a prime-time telenovela, Rebelde. The show proved so popular throughout Latin America that the extension of the brand into pop music seemed natural (if not prearranged), for this is a common practice in Hispanic media, as numerous Latin pop stars -- from Thalía and Shakira to Carlos Vives and Chayanne -- got their starts in telenovelas. RBD doesn't write their own songs or play any of the music; they sing, act, dance, and give the music a marketable face. Moreover, there's little that's "Latin" about the group in terms of music. They may be Mexican and sing primarily in Spanish, but their music is tried-and-true pop/rock, modeled primarily after arena rock and power ballads of the '80s. Critics, of course, loathed RBD, often mocking the notion that there was anything "rebellious" about the act. Still, that didn't stop RBD from garnering legions of young fans across the world and selling tons of CDs and DVDs in the process.
It all began with a television show. The telenovela Rebelde debuted in October 2004 and concluded in June 2006, running for three seasons, 440 episodes in total. The show was produced by Pedro Damián for Televisa, the largest media company in the Hispanic world, headquartered in Mexico City. (Televisa owns a stake in Univisión, the leading Hispanic television company in the United States.) A remake of an Argentine telenovela of the same name, Rebelde is set in an elite private boarding school near Mexico City. The main characters are upper-class adolescents, and the major plot point is that they decide to form a band. That band is RBD, which provides a reality show touch to the music. Likewise, real-life music stars frequently make guest cameos on the show, among them Hilary Duff, Luny Tunes, Gorillaz, and JD Natasha. Too, the show employs extensive product placement -- for instance, lots of Cola-Cola is drunk by the characters. Overall, Rebelde isn't all that different from a typical telenovela, with the exception of its popularity, which was international. Not only did Rebelde earn top ratings in the Spanish-speaking world, but it also proved extremely popular in Brazil and the United States.
The group RBD debuted in 2004 with the album Rebelde, which was released by EMI and opens with the show's theme song of the same name. The primary writers for the project were DJ Kafka, Max di Carlo, and Armando Ávila, and their songs proved nearly as popular as the show. The first three singles ("Rebelde," "Solo Quedate en Silencio," "Sálvame") were all number one hits in Mexico, with the fourth single, "Un Poco de Tu Amor," reaching number two. A Portuguese-language edition of the album was released for the Brazilian market in 2005. And though no English-language edition was released, Rebelde sold well in the States (released there in 2005), breaking into the Top 100 of the album chart and reaching number two on the Top Latin Albums chart. The releases continued with little pause. In July came a live CD/DVD, Tour Generación RBD en Vivo, commemorating the group's sold-out tour of Mexico (35 sold-out concerts across the country, including six in Mexico City alone). And in October came their second studio album, Nuestro Amor, which set new sales records in Mexico, selling 160,000 copies in its first week alone. In the U.S., the album topped the Latin Albums chart and again broke into the overall Top 100. The first four singles all were number one hits in Mexico: "Nuestro Amor," "Aún Hay Algo," "Tras de Mi," and "Este Corazón." These singles were hits in the U.S., but didn't do any chart-topping.
The following year (i.e., 2006) brought no rest for RBD. Tragedy struck early, when a 38-year-old woman and her children, ages 11 and 13, were trampled during an autograph rush in the parking lot of a shopping mall in São Paulo on February 4. The three died and another 42 were injured in the incident, which involved the breach of a security fence holding back an estimated 15,000 rabid fans. Not long after, RBD toured the United States for the first time, in April issuing a commemorative CD/DVD, Live in Hollywood. Several months later, Rebelde the telenovela came to an end with the finale of its third season on June 2. With the finale came promising news for fans, however, as the group announced that they would begin filming a movie and recording an English-language album comprised of songs from their first two albums. (Earlier in 2006 they had released a Portuguese version of Nuestro Amor, titled Nosso Amor.) Plus, the group announced that they would continue to tour and would begin working on their third Spanish-language album. EMI released the two albums -- Celestial (Spanish) and Rebels (English) -- shortly before Christmas; the former sold very well, led by the number one single "Ser o Parecer," while the latter was greeted with comparatively minor success, led by the single "Tu Amor," which was a popular video on MTV Tr3s.
2007 saw the group release another live album, this time recorded in Madrid, Spain in the summer of 2007. Hecho En España, available on both CD and DVD, was followed later that year by what turned out to be the band's penultimate album. Empezar Desde Cero was seen as a departure for RBD with more self-written material on show and a greater number of solo songs than on previous efforts.
In October 2008, RBD announced they were to split soon after the release of their sixth studio album. Released in March 2009, the fittingly titled Para Olvidarte De Mí (To Forget About Me), featured the melancholic title track and lead single. But this wasn't quite the final goodbye, as the release of DVD Tournée do Adeus -- a recording of RBD's final concert in São Paulo in November 2009 -- brought the curtain down once and for all. ~ Jason Birchmeier
- Mexico City, Mexico
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