The Joy Of Jedward
On the 7th December last year, the teen pop duo Jedward met Sir Paul McCartney backstage at rehearsals for that weekend’s X-Factor show. Ever the keen documenters of modern life, they asked an associate to take a picture of them with the former Beatle, and shared it with the world via their Twitter account. The picture is a cheery snap: John and Edward, in bright blue suits, matching ties and trademark upright peroxide hair, flank Macca, clearly accustomed to posing for photos with fans. All three are mugging obligingly at the camera.
It’s the kind of photograph that, under usual circumstances, one party will cherish for the rest of their life, and the other – erstwhile Beatle, biggest-selling musician ever, inventor of the album as we know it and pioneer of popular song as a cultural force – will shrug off merrily enough. One might’ve assumed this to be the case here, too, until you read the caption Jedward appended to the photo. Some appreciation of McCartney’s contribution to the industry in which Jedward find themselves? Or an acknowledgement that Sir Paul once held the kind of grip on the nation’s youth to which Jedward also aspire? Or even an insight into what the man who wrote Yesterday, Penny Lane and Let It Be is really like? No, nothing so banal. Instead, the caption read, precisely: “When we met Paul mccartney our hair was really cool what why do you like our hair?”.
This sort of behaviour is precisely why I love Jedward. They are not disrespectful, they are not self-involved, they are not truculent or posturing – but neither do they feel intimidated by the presence of greatness, experience nervousness before performing or worry about how they come across. They exist in a world devoid of neuroticism, working on a do-first-don’t-even-think-later basis that exposes their endlessly charming personalities, their frequently Dadaist observations (“we’re in a wardrobe”, read one recent tweet) and their downright joy of the world around them. It’s a glorious life to behold.
Jedward’s origins are as Simon Cowell’s court jesters, preserved by the public on the 2009 series of X-Factor for far longer than their talent deserved, despite and defiantly because of the judges’ protestations. Their presence on the nation’s TVs for all but three of that series’ episodes was a collective trolling on behalf of the audience – a knowing wink to the puppeteers that says we’re enjoying the charade, but we’re not all fooled. But where the following year’s Wagner or Strictly Come Dancing’s John Sergeant were absolutely in on the joke, there is no plausible way that Jedward can be. It has been suggested that their manic and wild love of everything, immunity to criticism or self-reflection and utterly extraordinary tweets (all of which are addressed as “we”, never specifying which twin is which) is actually the work of a comedy situationist like Chris Morris. But it would be impossible to keep up the act in the manner the pair do, perform it with such is-it-isn’t-it realism and yet remain so likeable.
More likely, here are a couple of boys having the time of their lives, utterly unaware of even the concept of irony, taking everything at face value for lack of any good reason not to. Operating in a pop world where cynicism and micromanagement rule the roost, their delight at sharing everything about their gambolling, surreal, mad mad mad mad life, from the mundane to the glamorous, is endlessly heartwarming. They are hedonists stripped of the greed, competitiveness or self-destruction most possess, and their greatest gift is to allow the rest of us to view life through that prism.
But what of their music, ask the naysayers – after all they are, at least nominally, musicians. Who cares? Jedward certainly don’t. I have never heard a note of it, beyond their cartwheeling “covers” of Ice Ice Baby and the Ghostbusters theme, and nor have I any desire to: to scrutinise Jedward at any level is to miss the point of their appeal entirely. The minute you compare their behaviour to other things, their most attractive quality, obliviousness, is gone. In a world of unmediated celebrity and constant bickering and clamour for attention, here is an oasis of antediluvian innocence, a simple life where tweets like “Good Morning Good Nights its always a good time!” don’t read like cruddy life-coach claptrap, but as an expression of the genuine, visceral thrill felt by simply being alive – something which they appear to savour constantly.
Jedward are naturally hilarious, utterly impossible to criticise and live life with a chutzpah and zest that most of us would kill for. Wouldn’t everyone want their lives to be a little more like that? Being Jedward for the day would surely be the greatest transcendence of all.