Less than a year ago, the members of Sm*sh were unknown young men. Today, they are pleasing the ears and the eyes of millions of teenage girls all across the country. In a relatively short time, Sm*sh has gained fans from Aceh to Papua, and more than 100,000 followers on Twitter.
The boy band was formed in April last year by Syahmedi Dean and Benny Zuniar, from Star Signal management agency, in the hopes of curing what Syahmedi said was the “lack of exciting stage performances in the music industry in Indonesia.”
“A lot of entertainers today only offer performances that please the ear,” he said. “We decided to create something that would please both the ear and eye.”
The seven members of Sm*sh — Rafael, 23; Rangga Dewamoela, 22; Bisma Karisma, 20; Morgan Oey , 20; Dicky Prasetya, 16; and brothers Reza Anugrah, 16, and Muhammad Ilham Fauzi, 15 — have been winning teen hearts ever since.
The truth is in the numbers. So far, the band’s video on YouTube for the single “I Heart You” has been viewed more than 1.5 million times.
The group also has a television series called “Cinta Cenat Cenut” — a name taken from the single’s lyrics — on Trans TV. When the first episode aired on Feb. 11, it immediately became a hotly discussed topic on Twitter.
However, like most boy bands, Sm*sh has not escaped criticism.
The members have been accused of copying a similar band from South Korea that happens to share almost exactly the same name: Smash.
But Syahmedi dismisses the charge. “It’s not true. In the process of finding the right name for the group, everyone in the group was involved. We wanted a name that was easy to remember yet could represent a young and fresh spirit,” he said. “We found out that there are a number of bands with the same name, not only in Korea, after we officially picked the name for our group.”
And it seems that the band has had to fight battles on many fronts. One of the members, Bisma, said the boys had to deal not just with criticism but also insults.
“People insult us on Twitter, on YouTube, everywhere. We are fine with that no matter how terrible it is,” he said. “We remind each other that we can take criticism because it helps us grow and that we should just ignore the insults.”
“We thank people who criticize and insult us. Whether they realize it or not, they are helping us become even more popular,” he added.
While their current fame seems to have happened overnight, most of the members of Sm*sh put in long years as dancers before they were discovered by Syahmedi and Benny.
“Benny and I did look for people with dance talent because we wanted to sell an exciting stage performance,” Syahmedi explained. “We hunted them down in dance competitions until we finally felt the ones that we found would be great if put together as a group.”
He acknowledged, however, that singing skills were not a huge consideration when the band was formed.
“If they could sing, that was great, but it was not a problem if they couldn’t. It is something that can be learned,” he said.
“We believe that anyone who can dance knows at least a little about music. They know the beat and tunes and that was enough.”
In fact, Syahmedi added, he always reminds his “kids,” as he refers to the band members, to have self-confidence.
“I always say to them that it is OK that they don’t have voices as beautiful as Il Divo,” he said. “They have the same love to shine. So every time they perform, they should do it with all their hearts.”
He also admitted that there had been plenty of touch-ups to make the group look better, literally.
“We’ve been polishing them, inside and outside,” Syahmedi said. “Apart from the singing lessons and public speaking classes we give them, the Sm*sh kids have also been given makeovers. We changed their hair tones and gave them skin treatments so they appear smooth-skinned.”
As for the band members, instant fame is something they are grateful for.
“It still amazes us to see girls cry and hysterically call out our names,” Rangga said with a laugh. “It was something I had never imagined would happen.”
For Bisma, one of the most memorable moments for the band so far has been when an ailing young female fan asked to meet them “so that she could recover.”
“We are happy to know that someone could feel motivated by us,” he said. “In our journey as a group so far, we’ve definitely been learning a great deal through love and hatred.”
Love them or hate them, it’s your choice. Here is what people on the street have to say about Sm*sh, the rising stars of Indonesia’s entertainment industry.
Zullaeha, 20, shopkeeper
I heard about Sm*sh from my friends and from my customers, mostly young girls who come to the shop and ask for the DVD of the band’s video clips.
Although I am not a fan, I admit they are good. Their songs are catchy, their performance is very dynamic and full of energy. That’s what makes them appear more attractive than other bands.
Niken Oktavia, 21, university student
I like Sm*sh. I particularly like one of the members, Morgan [Oey], because he looks like my ex-boyfriend. They have nice songs and it’s easy to remember the lyrics. I think they are a fresh alternative to many of the existing bands. They have made a breakthrough in the music industry with their performances. I know lots of people call them cheesy and corny, but I don’t think that’s true.
Widhi Adhiatma, 19, university student
I don’t like the band. It’s not that I am anti-boy band. When I was in primary school, I used to like Westlife because most of my friends did.
I heard about Sm*sh because people have been talking about them. I think they are trying to copy a Korean boy band, that’s why they have the same name. When my friends showed me their video on YouTube, I was disgusted. Boys shouldn’t look and act like that.
However, I salute them for what they have achieved in less than a year. I guess this achievement is also indirectly supported by people who hate them.