Move over Heidi Klum and Hugo Boss. The new ambassadors of German popular culture have arrived in the United States, but they're not what you'd expect.
Tokio Hotel may sound like a new Japanese resort, but it's actually a group of four rocker guys whose singer is often mistaken for a girl but is actually the identical twin of the dreadlock-haired guitarist. Puzzled yet? The band scored two No. 1 albums in its native Germany, and yet most of the band members aren't even old enough to legally drink here.
Tokio Hotel's sharp rise to fame, from playing school concerts and weddings a few years ago in its hometown of Magdeburg, a hundred miles southwest of Berlin, to currently selling out venues in New Jersey, San Francisco and Chicago, can arguably be seen as Internet-driven. The band has amassed a frenzied fan base of mostly young women who take the title of the band's first English album, "Scream," seriously -- by doing just that at a mere glimpse of the band.
Wendy is a young fan from Brooklyn, N.Y., but jokingly claims, "Ich bin ein Deutsch!" She thinks the band is "hot," but also found the music to be so powerful it "can bring tears" to her eyes. "Tokio Hotel ist der beste!," says Doris, 18, who says she is learning German because of her interest in the band.
"I've spent over $600 this past week for all the tickets I just bought and the traveling I have to do," said Kiila, a 20-year-old student who plans to attend as many concerts as she can on the band's tour through North America this month. She spent four days hanging around Times Square near MTV's studio in the hopes of meeting the band, which recently hosted the network's show "TRL."
Like the launch of some resplendent blitzkrieg, Tokio Hotel is eager to conquer American shores. Its success abroad draws comparisons here as the "Jonas Brothers of Germany" -- if the Jonas Brothers were a long-haired, sexually ambiguous-looking act, blending genres from pop to glam rock to hip-hop.
Tattooed lead singer Bill Kaulitz, 18, is rarely seen without black eye makeup and with his hair, also dyed black, styled in a gravity-defying lion's mane. Born in the Internet and video game era, he already seems astutely aware of the power of the visual, and credits the Internet with the band's breakthrough outside Germany. "Especially as newcomers, it's really important to have the Internet, where people can talk about you and listen to your music," he said in accented English. When thousands of fan Web sites, blogs and YouTube postings began sprouting up worldwide, its record company noticed.
"The fans outside of Germany send us e-mails, they come together and shoot a video or something, and they say please come to wherever, Israel, whereever," Kaulitz said. So the band did -- not only Israel , but France, Italy, Switzerland, Russia and other countries, often selling out stadiums and fulfilling a kind of prophecy of the band's chosen name -- which band members changed from "Devilish" in 2005 -- which evokes their love of foreign destinations.
"It was always our dream to travel the world and play in big cities and ...," Kaulitz starts to say before his twin, Tom, chimes in, "and to stay in good hotels!"