John Paul Henry Daniel Richard Grimes and Edward Peter Anthony Kevin Patrick Grimes — the Irish twins better known as Jedward — understand the power of self-obsession. It’s a state of mind that has catapulted them from contestants on the X-Factor to the world’s most famous set of identical singing twins. Over the past year they raked in $4.7 million in gigs, advertising campaigns and endorsements. And they’ve reportedly replaced the Coco Monkey as the official mascot of Kellogg’s Coco Pops. But as the 19-year olds prepare to represent Ireland at Eurovision 2011 with their song “Lipstick,” it’s obvious they want more than bags of money and a cereal box with their face on it.
“Basically we’re doing Eurovision because we don’t like going on holidays where people don’t recognize us,” Edward told me over breakfast recently. “So now we wanna conquer the whole world so people can recognize us in every single country.” John nods his head — and along with it his 10-inch tower of blond hair, apparently held in place by cement: “It’s a really big deal. It’s, like, Jedward going global.”
They carry a divisive brand of eccentricity — one characterized by outlandish costumes, an inability to self-edit and occasional delusions of grandeur. As they tweeted recently: “‘With great power comes great responsibility.’ This is my gift, my curse. Who am I? I’m Jedward man.” It’s no wonder that when the boys competed on the X-Factor in 2009 Simon Cowell described them as “two of the most irritating people we’ve had on here in a long, long time.”
Yet they still managed to place sixth, and have amassed a cult following from France to Japan to England. For everyone who boos or hisses at the boys and their success, another four people worship at their altar. For those crazed fans living on Planet Jedward, the hysteria surrounding the twins has become a religion, their songs some form of holy scripture. More than 200,000 fans now follow them on Twitter, and wherever they go a steady stream of crying teenage girls follow. The boys clearly thrive on stardom. “Okay, we, like, love our fans,” Edward says. “We always spend hours upon hours talking to them. We don’t have a private life. Everything is about being famous.”
In the process of courting that fame the twins have developed a thick skin — and they can give it as well as they take it. When the boys won the Irish national final, some members of the audience booed. Edward brushes off the mix of fans and haters: “The boo and the woo turns into woo-hoo!” They’re not afraid of Eurovision legends, either. Johnny Logan, who won Eurovision twice for Ireland, blasted the twins in an interview in Romania, saying it was an embarrassment these boys were representing Ireland — the nation that has won the contest more than any other.
“It’s called the Eurovision Song Contest, and we have a really, really good song,” John says. “The thing is people who watch it are mainly young funky and cool and they want to see something new, something different something fresh, and something they can be a fan of. And that’s what we’re bringing to Eurovision.” It’s a roundabout and rather sophisticated way of saying Johnny Logan is bitter and washed-up — a dinosaur of Eurovision’s ancient past.
Jedward are the last group to perform in the second semi-final, and they’re promising to deliver something big. “Our stage show in Dusseldorf is going to be really, really hot,” Edward tells me, later adding that his delegation wouldn’t let him bring tigers on stage. “It’s going to be the hottest performance ever.” Insiders tell me the act will involve massive lips lowering from the ceiling, and that the country’s national broadcaster has turned red in the face over the amount of money spent on staging and promotion. Given their starting position and the surrounding hype, Europeans will struggle to forget this one when they pick up their phones to vote.
In recent weeks the bookies have narrowed the group’s odds of winning their semi-final. Back in March it was thought they wouldn’t reach the final, but throughout April they’ve been listed as the eighth or ninth most likely to win the semi — suggesting they will, in fact, advance. The group enjoy a cult following throughout the continent, so expect points to roll in from France, Germany, Italy and beyond. Beyond stage tricks, their song “Lipstick” gets stuck in your head, which suggests it has a degree of commercial appeal. Surely that will go down well with the professional jury of music producers.
You can count on Jedward reaching the final. It’s much harder, however, to predict how they’ll go down once there. Recent winners — like Norway’s Alexander Rybak and Germany’s Lena — have performed mainstream songs that would fly in London or the country village. “Lipstick” may prove too edgy and hip for grandmas in Transylvania.
Regardless of these or other predictions, Jedward remain confident in their chances, as they explain in this rather breathless exchange.
John: “We want people in Europe to realize that Jedward live in Ireland, and that we do have cool songs.”
Edward: “And that everyone loves music, and everyone loves Jedward, and Jedward are everywhere.”
John: “And we want everyone in Europe to know that Ireland is really sunny.”
Edward: “And that Ireland is totally ready to host Eurovision in 2012. And that the Olympics will be in U.K. and we’ll have Eurovision in Ireland!”