When " The 5 " first stepped out to perform live on MBC's version of " X Factor " stage last month, nobody anticipated such a powerful reaction from fans. From memes to the Twitterverse, the boys have been the talk of the Internet.
But now, as the competition heats up, the Middle East's favorite new boy band is unsure of victory, despite their widespread fame.
Comprised of Egyptian Ahmed Hassan, Moroccan Adel Echibi, Lebanese Kazem Chamas, and the Algerian duo Said Karmouz and BMD (Mohamed Bouhezza), the group has been hitting its stride in the last few episodes. When the boys stepped onto the Beirut stage last month, performing live for the local audience and MBC’s pan-Arab television viewers, fans went wild.
With the exception of the Algerians, Karmouz and BMD, none of "The 5" knew each other prior to the competition. After auditioning as solo performers, the show’s judges gave the boys the option of either continuing as a group or going home empty-handed.
Although "The 5" aren't confident they will win "X Factor," their fans – the 5-ers – have clearly already chosen their new dynasty to fan-girl over. I caught up with the guys backstage as they took a break from their busy rehearsal schedule to talk with them about "X Factor," their social media fame and who Elissa really likes more.
When I enter the backstage room, the guys are obviously relaxed and comfortable with each other. They are lounging on the couches and chairs in the room in sweats and comfortable clothing, using their smartphones and joking happily together.
As they introduce themselves, they joke that all they have managed to see of Lebanon is the MBC studio, their hotel and an empty shopping mall. Echibi points out that he is the oldest at 29, while the rest of the guys range between 19 and 21. Hassan eagerly reminds everyone that his birthday is in two weeks and he will be turning 22.
The guys exude a strong comradery together and it’s hard to believe that they were strangers to one another just a short while ago. During the interview, Echibi takes the lead followed by Karmous and BMD, with Hassan and Chamas chiming in occasionally.
To start out the questions, I ask how they felt when the judges told them to team up or head home.
“It was too weird,” they say almost in unison. The guys didn’t know each other before and some of them met for the first time on stage.
“To be honest, we were a little bit confused, we almost said 'no' at the beginning. But we knew that they wanted to make something out of this, so we were like, ‘We’re in,’” Karmouz explains.
When asked about the challenges that the merge caused, the guys seem more excited about how joining together has allowed them to develop a unique sound together. However, they admit that it’s challenging sometimes to find songs that work for all of them.
“We look for the songs that all of us can sing, which can be hard but we have to try to find something that works for everyone, because every performance on 'X Factor' we are a team,” Echibi explains.
Karmouz adds, “The thing that we were scared about [initially] was our individual strengths. We had to think, how can we mix our strengths? We've got it now.”
And what about their social media fame? They laugh at the question, eyeing each other knowingly.
“Of course we were shocked!," Hassan says.
They say it’s crazy that they have somehow gained more followers than many established musical artists. It was something they never expected, and they are still not quite sure what to make of the unexpected level of fame.
And what about some of the craziest things they have seen posted on social media? They all quickly agree, the “selfie with Said,” is one of the strangest. In case you missed it, one diehard fan found a photo of Karmouz and BMD and photo-shopped herself over BMD. Also a bit creepily, several of the guys have even seen pictures from their childhood floating around the Internet.
“They [found] the pictures of Ahmed and me from when we were young, from I don’t know where!” Echibi tells me.
Of course, we all want to know who is Elissa’s favorite. The guys aren’t sure themselves but its definitely between BMD and Karmouz. They point out however, that she tells them all the time as a group, “I love you guys.”
As to the future of the band, they agreed that they will definitely stay together after the competition. They just need to figure out how it will work logistically, as each member comes from a different country.
“Each one of us can work for himself if he is solo but as a group, we can’t because we all come from different countries. It's impossible. We need a strong hand to collect us all and to give us a push, so we will wait [for someone to approach us],” Echibi says.
However, even though "The 5" are confident they will stick together following "X Factor," they aren’t so sure they will win the show.
“Its hard. It's tough competition. So, we’re not sure,” Echibi admits.
Regardless, it is clear that the band has won over their fans. They are quick to point out, though, that all of that could change if Karmouz lost one of his dreamy eyes.
We hope that doesn't happen any time soon.
The 5's journey continues this Saturday night live on MBC 4 and MBC Masr at 21:00 KSA.