Now that's entertainment
Tech advances such as YouTube changed forever the way we accessed music, movies and TV shows, says Damian Corless
DUBLINER Glen Hansard began the Noughties as one of pop music's yesterday men and ended it with the Academy Award for Best Original Song. The Frames' frontman had seemingly had his 15 minutes in 1991's ‘The Commitments’ movie, but the best was to come with 2007's low-budget Irish film ‘Once’, which delighted cinema and then Broadway audiences.
He and Czech girlfriend and co-writer Marketa Irglova shared the Oscar glory and a clutch of awards.
Having less fun on Broadway late in the decade were Bono and The Edge, whose musical ‘Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark’ was plagued with musical and technical problems after preliminary production began in 2005.
Meanwhile, Ireland's most unlikely international chart toppers of the Noughties, The Priests, were gearing up for their first album with U2 producer Mike Hedges. It duly went platinum in the UK and elsewhere at Christmas 2008. The trio of parish priests from Northern Ireland were thrilled but not entirely surprised, with one remarking: “We're like the Ronseal advert. We do what it says on the tin.”
The clerics credited exposure on the new medium of YouTube for their overnight success, and the video-sharing website did utterly change the consumption of music, movies and TV from its launch in 2005. Old pop clips, films and TV shows reappeared after decades in the vaults, while media corporations like CBS and the BBC caught on to the possibilities of posting limited material to promote new acts and classic back catalogues.
After The Priests, arguably the most surprising Irish singing sensation of the decade was ex-007 Pierce Brosnan. He gamefully conceded that his singing in ‘Mamma Mia!’ was “dreadful” and the critics agreed, with one remarking he sounded like “a wounded raccoon”. This didn't prevent the movie becoming box-office gold. Brosnan was joined on the Hollywood A-list by Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan, while Liam Neeson reinvented himself as a blockbusting action hero.
New technology shattered Ireland's 1990s dominance of Eurovision, in combination with a host of new Eastern European contestants.
In 2003, Eircom's phone-voting system collapsed, forcing RTE into a last-minute switch to an expert industry panel, but by then the writing was on the wall. A classic ‘Fr Ted’ plotline had Telly Eireann deliberately sabotage the Irish entry, and in 2008 phone texters seemed to do just that by selecting Dustin The Turkey for Eurovision, as the in-house audience booed at the travesty. Dustin proved a dead duck, but still did better than Dervish, who'd finished last the previous year.
As music downloading demolished the traditional income structures of the record companies, music acts found themselves increasingly looking to live performances as a source of ready money.
Veteran acts with a hatful of hits found themselves in steady demand with the likes of Rod Stewart, Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen regular visitors. The grand-daddy of all the acts to tread an Irish stage was Leonard Cohen, who dragged himself out of retirement when necessity became the mother of reinvention. He sued his former manager, who had allegedly siphoned off $5m from his pension pot, leaving a pittance. Big Irish crowds gave him a hero's welcome.
As the market continued to change, others made huge sums playing to niche audiences. When Colleen McLoughlin booked serial chart-toppers Westlife for her 2008 wedding to Wayne Rooney for a fee of €400,000, no one batted an eyelid. Louis Walsh's drones had previously taken a large paycheque for singing ‘Happy Birthday’ at the 18th bash of a girl whose parents had hired Will Young for her 16th. Nor was it any surprise to learn that Walsh's other big Noughties act, Girls Aloud, were charging €300,000 for 20-minute paytoplay party pieces.
While political correctness had driven the Miss World beauty pageant from terrestrial TV before the Noughties started, there was widespread jubilation in 2003 when Rosanna Davison became the first Irishwoman to win the title. Davison, who is Chris de Burgh's daughter, spent the rest of the decade in and out of the public eye.
As the decade ended, with money too tight to mention, staying in officially became the new going out. The sole compensation was that the course of theNoughties had changed the world of home entertainment beyond all recognition. There were 42-inch flatscreen TVs in the homes of ordinary people and they cost a fraction of what they used to.
You could even take exercise playing the new generation of console games that mimicked tennis, snowboarding and vigorous dance moves, with the Nintendo Wii established as the market leader over the Xbox 360 and PlayStation3. The Wii was targeted at broadening the gaming audience and it was largely credited with skyrocketing the number of women gaming from around 5pc to almost 50pc.
With Louise Redknapp as its marketing face, the Wiifit exercise board was especially popular. As the user base broadened, the average age of gamers shot from 13 to 30.
For better or for worse, the world of entertainment had changed utterly.