A Jedward Eurovictory?
We’ve sent some turkeys to the Eurovision Song Contest in the past, but the smiley, sparkly, high-haired twins might just have what it takes to win next Saturday night, writes RÓISÍN INGLE
The pair have also been extremely busy jumping around in stage gear inspired by Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson while explaining the philosophical aesthetic behind their trademark blond quiffs: “It’s like angelic halos and like a flame.”
There has even been a bit of singing of their song Lipstick. Here’s a sample lyric: “She’s got her lipstick on, here I come, da da dum.” (It’s the Eurovision. What were you expecting, Keats?)
It’s true we’ve sent some turkeys to the contest in recent years, but if the prize was for doing cartwheels, wearing sparkly jackets, making people smile and for the number of times a set of twins can say “amazing” and “bringing it to the next level”, then these two boys would walk the thing.
The song, by the by, is infectious in a get-behind-me-earworm kind of way. And then there’s the twins’ entertainment value. Their recent interview via a Russian interpreter, which you can watch on YouTube, is comedy gold.
“The press and the general public love them over here,” says their mentor, Caroline Downey of MCD, on the phone from Dusseldorf. “They are like a breath of fresh air blowing through the Eurovision. The whole of Europe has taken to them.”
RTÉ used a new format to find our Eurovision entry this year. It involved five music-industry professionals each finding an act and a song which was then entered into competition in Ireland. Downey was one of the mentors; her friend Louis Walsh suggested she use Jedward. After trawling through almost 50 songs, she decided that Lipstick, by a team of English and Danish songwriters, was the one best suited to her charges.
Downey is not fazed by the “Dusseldorks” headline that appeared in an Irish newspaper recently. “There has been a lot of negativity about them at home, but over here people just see them for what they are: really nice guys, living the dream, funny, enthusiastic and loving every minute,” she says.
As you might imagine, being a mentor to the hyperactive Grimes brothers is not easy. “There is definitely a mother role involved. Myself and their tour manager, Liam, are kind of the grumpy parents,” she says with a laugh. “We have to remind them to eat and to clean up their room. They are total professionals, though, and like everyone else, I don’t know where they get their energy.”
Does she really think they have a chance of winning? “I genuinely believe they have a decent chance. It’s a very difficult contest to predict, but I’d be really surprised if they weren’t in the top five with the likes of Norway, Sweden, the UK and France.”
It’s hardly surprising that their mentor would back them, but there is other support for the brothers. An internet predictor gadget, based on Google search data, shows the popularity of each participant, then calculates the scores they would get if voting took place today. Jedward are way ahead, an encouraging sign even though half of the final result is decided by the jury.
And although it often happens that an early favourite emerges, Eurovision academic Karen Fricker (who will be reporting on the event for The Irish Timesnext week), reckons the contest is “wide open” this year.
“In my opinion something would have to go grievously wrong with their performance for Jedward not to get through to the final at least,” she says. “Their song is youthful, it has a trendy edge – and appealing to younger voters is key.”
Another Eurovision aficionado, RTÉ broadcasting coordinator Paul G Sheridan, agrees. “They have youthful exuberance and energy and a great stage presence, which I think is going to win over voters on the night,” he says. “Their vocal ability may not be 100 per cent, but I think they may stun even the sceptics.”
The first semi-final is on Tuesday night; the twins are scheduled to perform last in the second semi-final, on Thursday night.
Sheridan’s own tip to win is the operatic entry from France, but he says the eco-inspired Finnish entry Da Da Dam(no Keats here, remember?) is one of the darker horses. Other entrants include the pop band Blue, who are representing the UK, and Dana International, the former Israeli winner, who is entering for a second time.
In their debut rehearsal this week, Jedward’s performance was as visually arresting, enthusiastic and madcap as some of the more successful entries in recent years. And at their first press conference, when asked to sing an a cappella version of the song, Jedward appeared to be singing in tune without the aid of special effects.
The Jedward charm offensive will now step up a gear. Expect photo opportunities with the contest’s other identical twins, the very blonde and very leggy Twiins from Slovakia, and plenty of quiff-denting pillow fights with fellow contestants.
The boys are said to be going down very well with the Germans. Enda might send them in to renegotiate the bailout deal yet.
Italy are backThey have been in a big Euro-sulk since 1997 after not doing very well despite having been one of the main funders of the event. Now the European Broadcasting Union has got the Italians back on side. As a carrot, this year the Italian broadcaster Rai can broadcast that country’s Sanremo song competition in conjunction with the Eurovision final. Other countries are fined for tampering with any aspect of the live Eurovision broadcast.
Voting changeTo heighten the suspense during voting, the order in which countries announce their vote will be strategically scrambled. This is designed to avoid a repeat of the Lordi result, a few years ago, when after only a few votes it was obvious the Finnish monster rockers were going to romp home.
Online monitorMany experts say the best predictor of who’s going to win is a Google tool, at google.com/landing/ eurovision. It gauges the number of searches for an act. Look who’s well ahead!