When C-pop band FFC Acrush made their debut in April 2017, millions of fans across China had already pledged themselves in devotion, and news sites around the world had already named the band China’s hottest. No one yet knew if the band’s music would be any good, and most didn’t care. The band had already set up its official Weibo (Chinese Twitter) account and made public appearances to greet nascent fans. The five members – Lu Keran, Peng Xichen, Lin Fan, An Junxi, and Min Junqian (Peng Yiyang and Feng Yuxuan joined later) – posed for press photos ahead of the release of any music, and fans started calling them ‘husbands.’
Who are they?
Lu Keran, Peng Xichen, Lin Fan, An Junxi, and Min Junqian aren’t men, though, and FFC Acrush is not a boy band.
FFC Acrush is a highly manufactured girl group composed of, now, seven androgynous women between the ages of 18 and 24.
The group was put together by Huati Culture Communication LTD, an entertainment giant that selects and trains China’s upcoming music superstars. While Zhou Xiaobai, the band’s manager, intended from the start to create an androgynous super-group, the women who were selected to be a part of it did not change their appearances to fit in with Zhou’s expectations. “I was a professional ballroom dancer who dresses in sexy skirts. But in real life, my look is similar to the band look,” Acrush lead singer Peng Xicheng told CNN Entertainment. In fact, all of the women prefer gender-neutral styles even when they are out of the spotlight.
With boyish looks reminiscent of male K-pop megastars like G-Dragon and T.O.P, the women of FFC Acrush have attracted a mostly-female audience. While the band’s selling point has the potential to draw attention to LGBT issues in China, the members are careful not to discuss their sexual preferences. However, one truth about the band is public: the women do identify as women, though they often refer to themselves only as ‘handsome youths.’
It is clear that the band is not trying to be revolutionary. Indeed, it’s not even trying to be original. The idea for an androgynous girl group came from one of China’s biggest pop stars of yore, Li Yuchun. Li was the winner of singing contest Super Girl in 2005 and went on to star in fashion campaigns for luxury brands like Chanel and Givenchy. She shot to stardom thanks in part to her unisex appeal.
Androgyny in China
Even before Li Yuchun, androgyny was an accepted part of the arts in China. Peking Opera has traditionally employed men in women’s roles, and Yue Opera women in men’s roles.
So the women of FFC Acrush know they have to produce good music, lest they be reduced to a gimmick. And it seems that they are doing just that. With most female C-Pop groups churning out ballad-esque snoozers, Acrush have held on to their early-won fans with music and choreography that play to their strong suits as women, and carry with them a quiet strength.
Whether or not Acrush will continue to wow fans remains to be seen, but if they keep producing the kind of music they have been, it’s likely they will.