Since the late 1990s, TV musical talent shows have become a permanent fixture, with would-be stars dazzling viewers with their talent in an attempt to make it to the top. Furthermore, it’s not only the contestants’ talents who win over viewers’ hearts, their personal stories do too. And Irish singer Barry Darcy can attest to that, after he pulled on the heart strings of the audience and panel alike with his sad tale.
Indeed, Cork resident Darcy decided to use Ireland’s Got Talent to tell his story. And as with many people who go on television to promote their skills, he revealed to the panel of judges in March 2019 exactly what had motivated him to perform. And for their part, they listened with interest before he sang for them.
Talent show judges know that guests’ stories can add more meaning to their performance choices. So of course, all eyes and all cameras were on Darcy as he explained how he had come to appear before the often-caustic Louis Walsh and his co-stars.
Going right back to before Darcy entered the picture, Ireland’s Got Talent is just one of many shows in the successful eponymous series. It follows a similar format to English talent show judge and manager Simon Cowell’s The X Factor, which began in the U.K. in 2004 and later spread overseas.
Meanwhile, Cowell’s company SYCOtv owns the massively successful Got Talent TV format. And as of April 2019 it has led to spin-offs in over 70 countries worldwide. Work on the original show began in 2005, but the original host of the show, presenter Paul O’Grady, had a disagreement with the show’s network, ITV. In turn, this led to Cowell bringing the brand over to the United States.
As a result, the series got its premiere a year later in the U.S.A., with America’s Got Talent. The show’s premise was to draw in performers of all kinds, such as musicians, magicians, stunt artists and more. Also, contrary to the show’s name, it accepted applicants from across the world.
Meanwhile, after their initial appearance on the show at the audition stage, successful performers then have to impress a panel of celebrity judges. During the act, any panel member can press a buzzer on their desk to signal their dissatisfaction. And a full round of buzzers means a premature end to the performance.
When the act’s performance finishes – or if the buzzers end it for them – the Got Talent judges will proffer their opinions. A vote then takes place, with a majority vote meaning the act is through to the next round. However, the show also added a potential saving grace for performers in season nine of America’s Got Talent.
Specifically, America’s Got Talent added a golden buzzer. Each judge can use this once per season to automatically advance an act to the next round. For their part, performers face several rounds competing their talents against each other before the public votes on the winner. Meanwhile, the series champion gets to headline a show – usually in Las Vegas – and gets a monetary reward, too.
Meanwhile, though there’s been some deviation of these rules over the years, the concept has remained largely the same. And it seems like the Got Talent brand is onto a winning formula. In fact, the Guinness World Records named it as the most successful TV format ever in April 2014.
For its part, Ireland’s Got Talent is one of those spin-offs, albeit a relatively recent one since it debuted in 2018. It welcomes contestants of all ages to showcase their skills for recognition prizes similar to its American counterpart. Alongside performing on a primetime TV slot, the winner also gets a cash reward of just over $55,000.
Meanwhile, when Darcy walked onto the Ireland’s Got Talent stage in March 2019, he stood in front of four celebrity judges. An equal number of men and women make up the panel. U.S. singer Michelle Visage and English presenter Denise van Outen represent the women. The men are Irish comedian Jason Byrne and talent show veteran and manager Louis Walsh.
Footage uploaded by the official Ireland’s Got Talent YouTube page shows the moment when Darcy walks on stage and announces himself to the judges. He announces he is from Cork, much to the interest of fellow Irishman Walsh. However, the contestant’s composure begins to crumble as his mini-interview continues – and it soon becomes clear why.
Subsequently, when Walsh asks Darcy what brought him to the show, he is overcome with emotion. The latter tells the expectant panel, “It’s… to be honest, it’s a bit of a sad story. It’s quite difficult for me to talk about…” Indeed, when Darcy tries to describe the events from 2013 that led him to the talent show, it brings him to tears.
The singer takes a few seconds to fight back his feelings and apologizes to the judges before continuing. He says, “I thought I’d never sing again, so I’m here to try.” The program consequently shows a pre-recorded clip of an interview with Darcy, where he elaborates on his heart-breaking journey.
“I had a herniated disk in my back,” Darcy tells the Ireland’s Got Talent producers. A column of separate bones called a vertebrae makes up the spinal column, and a disk rests between each one, functioning like a cushion between the bones. These spinal disks have a robust casing, but their inside is filled with a jelly-like substance. And when something breaches the disk exterior and they leak, it results in a hernia.
Of course, a myriad of causes can lead to a herniated disk, and symptoms of the condition can vary from tingling or numb sensations in the limbs to severe pain. And in some cases, sufferers don’t even know they have the injury, as sometimes there aren’t any symptoms.
Meanwhile, Darcy explains on Ireland’s Got Talent, “[The herniated disk in my back] crushed the main nerve feeding the nerves into my legs. I just went to get out of bed one day and fell onto the floor.” The singer realized that not only was he unable to stand, he couldn’t feel his legs at all. In the video, he adds, “I was paralyzed from the waist down.”
Darcy recalled how his conversation with the doctors went that day. They told him that as a consequence of his injury, they couldn’t be sure if the nerves would recover. The hospital could give him everything he needed to try, but the rest was out of their hands.
In the video, Darcy continues, “[The doctors] gave me a 50/50 chance of ever walking again – and I took it.” And the singer did indeed find his feet, as he displayed when he walked onto the Ireland’s Got Talent stage. However, his journey wasn’t an easy one, and he relied on his family a lot.
Darcy reveals that his loved ones were rocks during his recovery and helped him through the darkest moments. He explains, “My wife, she took everything on her shoulders when I was getting better. And the kids helped her out, so we are a solid, solid unit.” In fact, the ordeal only seemed to deepen their bond.
“You know, we love each other, as all families do I suppose,” Darcy continues. “But we have, for us, a deeper love, because we’ve gone through something pretty, pretty hard.” Yet even in the worst times, the singer’s family remained his biggest fans, as his wife reveals in the video segment.
In the clip, uploaded to YouTube, Darcy’s wife tells him, “You deserve to be here, you know what I think, it’s unreal. All you’ve got to do is show them your voice that you’ve been showing me for years. And you’re always telling me I’m biased. I am not biased.”
Meanwhile, on the subject of his music, Darcy reveals the piece he plans to perform on stage. It’s “The Wonder of You” by Elvis Presley, and the singer uses the opportunity to explain just why he chose that song in particular.
“It means a lot to me now,” Darcy says of the song, “because I sat back in that wheelchair, and I looked at my family. And I saw what they were doing for me. [They had] to carry on with their own lives, while dealing with what was going on with me…”
“The words in that song – ‘when no one else can understand me’ – they did understand,” Darcy explains. “And they understood very well what was going on with me, and ‘the wonder of you…’ [The lyrics conveyed] how wonderful you people are to me.” Meanwhile, the VT ends there, and cuts back to the singer’s audition.
With a thumbs-up to his family watching in the audience, the music rises and Darcy waits for his cue to begin. On the judge’s panel, van Outen is already swaying with the famous tune. Then, just before he starts to sing, Darcy picks up his mic and steps forward to the edge of the stage.
Darcy begins singing the song’s first line line, “When no one else can understand me,” and the crowd goes wild. And the performer’s voice is uncannily similar to Elvis’ own. Not only do the audience erupt in cheers and applause, the judges also try to suppress their surprise. All of them, that is, except for van Outen.
Van Outen grins widely as Darcy sings “The Wonder of You” in a rendition of Elvis’ dulcet tones. But she’s not the only one the singer is impressing. Ireland’s Got Talent’s current presenter, Lucy Kennedy, is likewise amazed as she watches backstage with Darcy’s family. Indeed, the “Wow” she utters as she looks to the latter’s speaks volumes.
As his performance goes on, Darcy seems to pick up confidence in his singing voice, improving his stage presence. Indeed, the judges seem to notice too. Walsh adds his own “Wow” to Kennedy’s, and turns to the crowd, inciting another round of applause. Then it’s comedian Byrne’s turn to grin from ear-to-ear.
At this stage, the audience is fully invested in Darcy’s classic Elvis cover. They begin to join in with their hands in the air and judges soon follow suit. Byrne and van Outen are the first start, with Walsh and Visage soon coming after.
Meanwhile, when Darcy reaches the chorus, his performance enraptures the entire room. The judging panel links hands to make a swaying wave, and they even sing along with the lyrics. Another round of applause ripples through the crowd when Darcy repeats the chorus. But there’s one part of the song left.
For the final line of “The Wonder of You,” Darcy effortlessly hits a high note and the audience roars with approval. For his part, Walsh emphatically nods his head while looking to the rest of the panel. And considering the crowd’s reactions to Darcy’s performance throughout, it’s no surprise that the judges give him a standing ovation.
“Barry, Barry, where have you been?” Walsh asks over the roar of the crowd. Darcy laughs, answering, “I’ve been in Cork, Louis,” much to the amusement of the other judges. Then Walsh responds by doing something that surprises the panel. Specifically, he gets up and walks to the center of the desk.
With the open-mouthed expression on her face, van Outen seems to know what Walsh is about to do. In fact, so does Darcy; when the camera pans back to him, he can barely contain his emotions. That’s when Walsh hits the golden buzzer, securing the singer’s place in the semi-finals of Ireland’s Got Talent.
As golden confetti showers the stage, Darcy’s family run up to embrace the husband and father. Presenter Kennedy then questions Walsh on his decision and the judge explains, “Because he got to me. When he started singing, it was like, ‘wow.’” And to a tearful Darcy he says, “You were brilliant, and you deserve it, and I loved everything about it.”
Then, another judge, van Outen, adds, “… To hear you speak before you starting singing and to hear your story just meant when you did sing, it just meant so much more. It was just brilliant, you put everything into it. Your vocal was just fabulous, this was truly deserved. I’m so pleased for you.”
Byrne then offers some warm words of his own to Darcy, “… When you said you were injured and you thought you’d never sing again, that is some story. You definitely sang again, and you sang really, really well, that was perfect.” And Visage agreed with the sentiment, telling Darcy he could do anything he set his mind to.
Indeed, Darcy made waves on Ireland’s Got Talent, and while he proved a worthy contestant, he didn’t win the competition. That honor went to Dublin dance troupe BSD in April 2019. Nevertheless, Darcy hasn’t given up on his dream and he continues to perform at live events.
Hopefully, Darcy will take another shot at Ireland’s Got Talent in the future. Indeed, it certainly seems like he has the determination and skill to succeed, despite the stiff competition. He told Echo Live in April 2019, “My message to my kids and to everyone, is never give up. If you put in 110% good things can happen.”