From the moment John and Edward burst onto the X Factor stage with their faux-American accents and questionable singing ability, TV viewers have been obsessed with the two spiky-haired teenagers from Dublin.
Six months ago, they were completely unknown, with little more than a few talent contests under their belts. Now they are the talk of the tabloids -- and chat rooms.
The singing siblings have beaten thousands of wannabe stars and made it to the last 12 of ITV's flagship weekend show. But not all the X Factor judges were as impressed as their mentor Louis Walsh -- Simon Cowell famously branded them "vile little creatures" on the show.
In reality, identical twin brothers John Paul and Edward Grimes (17) from Lucan, Co Dublin, are well brought-up, middle-class boys. They went to King's Hospital, one of the country's most expensive schools, which charges €1,910 per term. They are currently enrolled at Dublin's Institute of Education, where fees are €6,950 for an academic year.
Their odyssey began in June, when the duo travelled to Glasgow for the first round of auditions for the show and made it through the gruelling boot camp before surviving another round at Louis Walsh's X Factor getaway in Tuscany. Since then, they have been busy honing their act. Tomorrow they will learn if they have progressed to the next stage when they perform in front of a live TV audience in London.
The Grime brothers wooed the Irish pop mogul with their rendition of the Backstreet Boys song 'As Long As You Love Me' when they first appeared on the show. Dannii Minogue (below) dismissed them as "the cockiest singers without a record deal" after their performance.
The first impression they left on the show's token grouch Simon Cowell was less then flattering. "They're vile little creatures who would step on their mother's head to have a hit," he said.
Echoing Cowell's thoughts, the twins' inclusion as one of the 12 X Factor finalists has been met with an enormous online backlash. A staggering 400 groups have been set up on social networking site Facebook with over 100,000 members calling for the brothers to be axed from the TV show.
Online support for the duo is not so impressive -- only 1,800 people have signed up to pledge their allegiance to them.
Among the mountain of comments left on Facebook, user Kate referred to the twins as "obnoxious, irritating little brats". Comments left on other pages are equally scathing: one member, Ben, pleaded "for the most insufferable contestants of all time to be shown the door".
However, their father John Grimes was quick to hit back at his sons' doubters. "My lads are great. We are all really proud of them and behind them 100pc," he said.
The twins' former athletics coach Ann McGee told the Irish Independent she got the impression that they have been putting on an act with the hope of gaining a place in the final. "From my experience they're lovely lads, and I think they are probably playing up to the camera," she said.
Jim D'Arcy, principal at the Institute of Education on Leeson St, Dublin, agreed: "I think their persona on the show must be a bit staged because they're not arrogant or anything like that, but it is getting them a lot of publicity."
The brothers have their own explanation for the polarising effect they have on viewers: "We're like frosted flakes -- some people are afraid to admit they like us," they told an Irish newspaper.
The public's long-standing fascination with the legions of fame-hungry contestants who have auditioned for the X Factor -- which is now in its sixth season -- has always been fickle.
One minute, they are the darlings of tabloid newspapers, plastered to the bedroom walls of an army of teenage girls, selling out stadium concerts and signing highly lucrative endorsement deals. Then, in an instant, they fade into obscurity.
For major record labels, the reality TV format is one way to guarantee profitability in the age of illegal file-sharing and dwindling CD sales. The incredible popularity of programmes such as X Factor, Pop Idol and Britain's Got Talent is a boon to the ailing music industry. It's certainly a much more cost-effective way of doing business than the old model of a record company investing in and nurturing an artist from scratch.
The modern formula seems a much better bet for record company executives as the acts essentially pay for themselves, through phone-in voting, merchandise, etc.
Are the Grimes brothers any different? Louis Walsh said that from a marketing point of view the brothers have the potential to make it in the cut-throat industry of disposable reality TV pop stars.
"They're not great singers, but they could be great pop stars," he said when asked if he thought they had what it takes to make it. He added: "It's a great marketing opportunity as we've never had identical twins make it so far in the show."
Whatever your opinion of the 'Brothers Grim', as a British tabloid dubbed them, they have made their mark.
It remains to be seen if Edward and John Grimes will end up headlining the O2 or playing weddings and kids' parties, but the world of reality TV will no doubt have many more willing participants to take their place should their 15 minutes of fame run out.
Source: The Belfast Telegraph