The Eurovision Song Contest has been know to launch the occasional musical career as ABBA and Celine Dion know all too well. However in the 21st century I would argue there is no Eurovisionista that would get as a much public adoration as John and Edward Grimes. They are the stand-out Irish act of the decade. Wherever they go their fans know, and are bound to follow. Ben Robertson writes about the phenomenon that is and forever will be Jedward, and the lessons that the Irish phenomenon can teach the Eurovision Song Contest.
I’ve been in and out of Arlanda quite a few times, to pick up relatives or jet away myself, but there was a certain difference upon getting sight of the arrivals hall this past weekend. A growing gathering of around one hundred swarmed just past the obligatory customs checkpoint. This group had cameras at the ready, anxious not to turn around or go to the toilet or miss the explosive entrance of two blonde haired twins.
As fate would have it, John and Edward suffered a flight delay from Helsinki, increasing the tension, but the boys’ entrance was even more dramatic as they leaped into the arrivals hall to greet the screams and ensuing chaos. The rope barrier was crashed aside and barely with one step out of arrivals had a female stampede descended upon them both, desperate to hug and to adore their idols.
Doing This Each And Every Day
John and Edward are probably used to this experience on a daily basis at the moment, indeed it was a similar story across in Finland earlier in the day, as Sami Luukeka from Wiwibloggs told us.
When the boys came out, they started to hug everyone. Throughout the day they made sure that they had met everyone and that everyone got their picture taken with them. It felt like they really care about their fans, being super nice, sweet and full of energy.
This rollercoaster ride is part of Jedward’s seventeen stop summer tour and they take the spotlight with ease. After calming the hysteria by splitting up to ensure everybody gets a hug faster, they shout across to find each other in the melee and suggest they meet up again outside. You can tell they have been doing this every day.
But this, and only this, is what they have been doing. Unlike most acts who have a concert tour, or perhaps a signing tour, Jedward are doing what they call an Airport Tour, meeting up fans in arrivals lounges before whisking themselves off to departures once again, on some days travelling between four different countries in a twelve hour period. On one side of the coin, you may comment under your breath about how they are out of the limelight. You have to go back to 2012 for them to have a top 10 hit, and this might be the only way to get PR for their new single out in July (It’s called ‘Oh Hell No‘ and is the theme tune to ‘Sharknado 3‘, honestly you can’t make a line like that up…. Ewan).
On the other side there is a selflessness to this entire venture.
When Jedward ran out into the crowd, they were with nobody. No security, no management – it was just the two boys jumping around with their equally bouncy fanbase. Fans told me afterwards that this is just about meeting their followers, some bonkers type of summer holiday, and they planned this whole thing alone. It might sound crazy (and the cynic in me would note that the boys at least have got somebody else to look after their bags) but if we are talking about Jedward then quite frankly crazy is the way it’s going to go. When you see the adoration from their fan base, it’s easy to see how hysteria develops, but also less likely that the stories are complete make believe.
Keeping Up With A Changing Fan Base
John and Edward know their fans well, they have grown up together from the terrible twins that first were thrust into the spotlight in the British edition of X Factor in 2009. The welcoming group in Arlanda as you would expect were mainly female, and some insisted the duo were ‘cute’ and ‘hot’. However as Jedward have grown up, making their music more ‘cool’ rather than just in-your-face pop, the fan base has had to grow up as well. Arlanda’s Army was generally in the older teenage category, who have stuck with the Jedward brand as they go through some of their biggest changes in taste and style.
Julia, 18, was typical of those fans who came up to Arlanda from Stockholm for the meet and greet.
I met them first two years ago. At first, they were cute and there was hype, but they are just so nice with their fans. I don’t think you can compare it. Other artists are bitchy to fans, and they see themselves above their fans, these guys don’t. They came here just to see us.
[The first time we met] was so long ago. They were here two years ago and they just want to keep us. It was nice to see them, hug them, go back in time. Two years is quite a long time.
Through these changing times it means the boys need a little more caution, but they have great one-liners ready at their disposal. Three boys rocked up at the meet and greet, seemingly dragged along by their female companions. “Ooh, is this your boyfriend? You’re all getting older now I need to check”, John and Edward asked, proceeding to give them both big hugs and take the obligatory silly-faced selfies.
What was especially nice to see was how both John and Edward showcase such a high level of emotional intelligence and maturity (barring me and one mum, the boys were the almost certainly the oldest people around). They make sure not to linger in one place for too long so to circulate the group but they balance this by giving their fans plenty and plenty of time. They know the loudest of the screams are not always the most passionate and seek out everybody who came to meet them. Both boys are experts at noticing the quieter and shy types lingering to the side and include them, checking they are ok and making sure they get a picture or video as their souvenir of the day.
Jedward fans follow every stereotype from every spectrum that young modern girls live in. Some have clearly spent hours perfecting each strand of hair and every lashing of mascara, while others rebel against the norms of fashion and possess hair colours that would be the bane of most school headmasters. Many others in-between though are just run-of-the-mill young Swedes, who still wear Converse a la Bergendahl and short shorts a la Timoteij. I was repeatedly told throughout the evening that because Jedward are who they are in such a loud way, that helps these fans feel they can be who they want as well. It makes Jedward role models in their own unique way.
There was still screaming and fangirling though, but the overall feeling after the initial excitement is calm. Everybody knows how much Jedward appreciate their fans, and unlike other stars who need to dash off, John and Edward made sure the crowd knew they had all evening.
This time Jedward give up to the fans pays off in ways you wouldn’t expect. They remember. They recall with fans their previous adventures, reciting where they were, and even asking about how mum is doing (who, of course, would have had to accompany dearest daughter on the boys’ last visit). Salome, 23, is one of the most ‘jepic’ people on site at Arlanda, having saw them not just in Sweden, but also in Ireland and even last week on their visit to Norway.
They are so nice and so hardworking. They know so much about us, our names, where we live and they ask questions about us.
There is something so different and unique about them they have so much energy.You can think what you like about their music but they are giving their best and that’s what I love them.
What Jedward have following them is not just a fan base, it’s a deep-rooted community. The boys act as clergy leaders, ensuring every one of their pilgrims gets their special moment to share with the world afterwards. It’s truly fabulous. Never before have I seen an act doing a meet and greet ninety minutes in still going strong, rotating around to sign shoes and eat sweet home-made kanelbullar (if you come to Sweden next year, you’ll be eating plenty of these). That is devotion to the cause, and the love from the fans to Jedward is without question replicated.
What This Has To Do With Eurovision?
With the sun beginning to drop out of the sky, I opted not to linger and linger all night (I know some girls were trying to chase after which hotel John and Edward were staying at, which the boys expertly deflected and distracted from revealing) and caught a bus home as the crowd stayed strong. On this journey my mind lingered back to the Jedmania that appeared in Sweden after their first Eurovision entry, after Danny Saucedo awarded Ireland the douze points. My local shopping centre was rammed beyond even the pre-Christmas rush as, dressed in tiger costumes, the boys did a quick-fire three song set before scrambling through the hordes to get to their concert venue on time.
The level of hype may have subsided, but the fan base they have kept is as steady as a rock. And that is a blessing to our beloved Eurovision Song Contest. Jedward have always been the biggest ambassadors to Eurovision even after the juries shoved them last in the 2012 Grand Final, turning up in Copenhagen for us to laugh with them at their big hair and OTT-shoulder pads. Here in Stockholm they got the crowd’s attention by congratulating Sweden for winning, exclaiming how ‘you’re going to beat Ireland next!’ to much cheer.
As many of these fans grow up, it would be easy for them to latch onto new types of music and change their musical idols. After all, two years is still a long time as a teenager. Jedward and their enthusiasm keeps this group engaged in the Song Contest. It means while away from the immediate circle surrounding either John or Edward, I’m not surprised to catch Julia humming the tune to ‘Golden Boy’ with her pals.
And this is what we want, our Eurovision Song Contest should be embracing all types of music fans. It needs to be a place where all types are there to be accepted and loved, as long as they give love in return. Acceptance and diversity in Eurovision means far more than the current trend of booing Russia and waving pride flags, it means accepting all musicians of all types and backgrounds and letting them have equally footing. The eclectic folk band from Georgia deserve their moments of fame as much as the classical opera singer from France, the Estonian who’s never lost a talent contest and yes, Finland’s punk band with learning difficulties. Eurovision is not about having the most talent after all, it’s about showcasing what you do have to the maximum through three minutes of song.
Through Jedward their fans, who can combine such a high levels of tolerance with energy, look upon Eurovision each May which such excitement that you can’t help but adore (even if my merest mention of seeing them on Twitter caused a retweet meltdown). We want more of this from the patchwork of music, coming together no matter your musical taste to embrace the best of what everybody has to offer. Chances are in the marathon of Saturday night entertainment there will an act with something for you to like. It happened to all of these turning up to see Jedward and it can happen again, and I’m sure Jedward wouldn’t mind sharing their fandom with somebody else (if anybody else on the planet has the patience to give these fans the love they deserve).
After my summertime ninety minutes with Jedward and their crazy fans, consider me a Jedhead and consider my Post Eurovision Depression well out the window.