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Feb 18

DARIUS – “Colourblind”

Popular35 comments • 2,578 views

#932, 10th August 2002

9107BD35-B240-405A-9FD3-5D696EB34B86 Such was the grip of Pop Idol on the singles-buying imagination that two winners weren’t enough – bronze medalist Darius Danesh got a career too. But “Colourblind” is not just a participation medal. In Darius we see not one but two of the classic reality pop tropes make their appearance. First of all – in his note-strangling debut on the Popstars series, wrestling “Baby One More Time” to the ground like prehistoric man tackling an aurochs, there’s the Freak: the terrible performer armoured in their own self-confidence who we indulge because we want to see what on earth they’ll do next.

There’s little question that if the public had been given any say in things we’d have seen more from Darius in Popstars. But by the time they got a chance to vote for him and carry him to third place in Pop Idol, he’d reinvented himself to fit the second trope, the Artist: the figure who is Actually Talented but who must yet put themselves through the circus of a singing competition to gain recognition. “Colourblind”, fittingly, was a self-penned composition he’d been ‘working on’ before Pop Idol. (Actually this is entirely believable – its procession-of-colours lyric certainly feels like the kind of solid but banal structure a beginning songwriter might try.)

In general the Freak and the Artist are separate reality-show characters, and compared to the real maestros of each form – Jedward on the one hand, James Arthurs on the other – Darius is far milder. But his trope-switching shows the basic linkage between the two ideas – in the sense that both need unusual reserves of self-belief, but also in the role both play in the keyfabe of reality TV. “Colourblind” became a hit partly because it was rejected by Simon Cowell, who decided Darius’ self-penned material didn’t cut it. The Freak and the Artist are both presented as rejections of Cowellism, one via excess, one via authenticity – they are useful parts of the reality show narrative because they preserve the illusion of autonomy, the idea that the story can be disrupted. We’ll come back to this bit of theatrical play again and again in 00s Popular.

All of this is a lot more interesting to me than the actual song. “Colourblind” shoots its creative bolt quickly – you get the basic lyrical conceit immediately, and in any case whatever promise and momentum the verses build is frittered by the chorus. The emotional core of the song – D has lots of ambiguous negative feelings about his relationship but can’t sustain them in the face of her smile – just doesn’t fit the treatment he gives it. The sense of the lyric suggests something dark, helpless and conflicted, but Darius, eager to please his crowd now he’s finally got one, belts out a big jolly chorus. (It’s also not clear he knows what colourblindness is.) The arrangers do a creditable job gussying up slim ideas into something listenable, but not for the last time Simon Cowell is right: willpower and good intentions aren’t enough, and even next to “Anyone Of Us” or “Light My Fire”, this is muddled and thin.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    Shiny Dave on 14 Feb 2018 #

    #9 Popstar to Operastar was a quite cute little conceit, perhaps better in concept than execution: the merger of the singing competition show and Channel 4’s “Faking It” nobody realised they wanted, pop singers from the mildly recent past getting a crash course in operatic singing (alas, one of the people responsible was the charlatan Katherine Jenkins, though at least the other was an actual opera singer of note) and taking to the studio floor for a performance-critique-elimination routine. The panel was quite the most remarkable thing about it, the two coaches being joined by the unlikely combination of Meat Loaf and Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen.

    Darius winning the first season – the second was a procession for a bunnied X-Factor winner, hardly a shock considering that show’s vocal coach at the time both kept the winners on as clients after the show and happened to be a former opera singer herself – was mostly a shock because everything was pointing towards a showdown between Marcella Detroit and one of the Nolans. (They came second and third, and not in that order.) The show thoroughly indulged in populist tropes about opera – it hardly couldn’t, to be fair – and possibly its most entertaining moments for the operatic connoisseur were Jenkins’ hilarious expressions of range envy at the soprani in general and Detroit in particular.

    I was not – and am not – an operatic connoisseur. However, in searching for Twitter comments on the show for use in a review I was writing for a game show website, I came across three of them – two regular opera-goers and one sporadically professional Wagnerian soprano – who were consistently good for entertaining tweets about the show. All three became literal friends I met in person later that year – one of them is still a friend, and indeed would go on to attend my wedding and operate a PowerPoint showing the lyrics to everyone – and the Twitter network of singer friends I met via them would end up growing to the point of forming possibly my largest friendship circle.

    Quite the digression, but this song is too underwhelming to deserve anything less.

  2. 27
    AMZ1981 on 14 Feb 2018 #

    Just going back to #5 and the conspiracy theories about Rik Waller; he wasn’t completely swept under the carpet as he did get to release his single when the iron was still hot and the public could have bought it in the same quantities they did for Will and Gareth.

    The `problem` at the time was that Pop Idol was designed to discover a very specific kind of performer and somebody like Rik Waller who had the voice but didn’t look the part would have presented a marketing problem. However with fifteen years hindsight we can see the wheels turning in Simon Cowell’s mind as he realised there was arguably a bigger (and less fickle) market that the reality TV machine could tap … and also this may have been the point when he realised that the public, or at least those who voted in these things, didn’t always get it right first time.

  3. 28
    Edward Still on 14 Feb 2018 #

    I’ve had this in my head ever since I posted above and I must say it’s not an unwelcome earworm at all. May revise my score up to an 8 due to this surprising fact – even great songs usually annoy when constantly relived in your head.

  4. 29
    cryptopian on 14 Feb 2018 #

    I’ll echo 28. Light, cheap and mostly nothingy, but entirely pleasant. There’s something in the line “feeling fine, it’s sublime” that’s really uplifting. Worth a 6 for me.

  5. 30
    NEIL on 19 Feb 2018 #

    I’ve always had a soft spot for this track, despite a complete lack of interest in both Popstars and Pop Idol (both then and now). In contrast to Tom, I think the chorus is the stronger component, and it’s regularly earwormed its way into my head over the years.

    My affection for Darius may be due to a Summer spent enjoying the sweet agony of a long distance relationship (400 miles!), while also packing shortbread for Walkers – still the only job I’ve held where the radio was on all day. Chart music probably had a stronger-than-usual resonance as a result! The incessant playing of the aforementioned ‘In My Place’ was a particular low point for me. On the other hand, I got to hear Idlewild’s ‘American English’ nearly as often, and I’ve adored it ever since. To echo FiveLongDays on the Elvis vs JXL thread, an alternate reality where The Remote Part was a huge hit is one I’d like to have lived through…

    Relistening to ‘Colourblind’ after all these years, I realised I’d forgotten the “funky” flattened 7th chords sprinkled liberally throughout, which give it an air of smugness that lets the rest of the song down. So I’m docking a point for that, but it’s still a firm 6.

    P.S. On Darius the stage performer – I saw him playing the Richard Gere role in ‘Chicago’ (opposite Shaun Williamson aka Barry from Eastenders) at a matinee in Edinburgh 2007. As an unscrupulous lawyer cynically working the media to his own ends, his performance was entirely convincing :)

  6. 31
    Steve Williams on 20 Feb 2018 #

    #27 The other thing about the Waller “conspiracy” is that they seemed really upfront about it – one of my favourite things about the first series of Pop Idol is that it seemed to be really honest about the whole business, so when it was initially announced that Waller was going to get a bye, they actually discussed it on air and invited the audience to comment and ask questions to the judges, and it felt really refreshing on a Saturday night to have a programme that would actually discuss its machinations on air, whereas before it would have been totally swept under the carpet. It really felt like the programme was on the audience’s side, so it always seems a bit of a shame now when The X Factor is consistently accused of manipulation and it comes across as really brash and arrogant.

    That said, the second series of Pop Idol was accompanied by Pop Idol Extra on ITV2 for three hours a day, five days a week, so it’s perhaps not surprising they used to talk about absolutely everything to do with the programme.

    I seem to remember at the time everyone assumed Darius would walk it into the live shows because his heat seemed extremely weak, it was him, Waller and eight other people who hadn’t made any kind of impression whatsoever in the series, so it was a huge shock when he lost and Aaron Bayley, whichever one he was, got through instead. In the second series there was the Wildcard round introduced to stop that kind of thing.

    I quite liked Darius, all told. It’s a further example of how the format worked because both he and Will Young benefitted from being able to grow over the series. Whereas if it had been a straightforward six-heats-vote-for-your-favourite-winner-goes-through-to-the-final format, like New Faces or something, Gareth would have walked away with it as the most immediately interesting.

  7. 32
    Ben on 26 Feb 2018 #

    I think Darius changed his surname to that of his mother’s because he was estranged from his father.

    Also, something to do with it representing his Scottishness. Probably thought it would help his career.

  8. 33
    Lee Saunders on 20 Mar 2018 #

    Elsewhere in the top 40

    Week 1
    3 – Will Smith – Black Suits Comin’ (Nod Ya Head) – A fifth as good as Men in Black, quite like how, as a film, MIIB was a fifth as good as MIB. In a shoehorned segue, I shall now tell you Men in Black famously sampled the same song as another #1, Fastlove, which apparently brings us on to…
    12 – George Michael – Shoot the Dog – After a top 10 hit several months earlier with ‘Freeek!’ (only the THIRD track on Now 52, odd when it could have been on 51 and was surely off the radio by July), the sluggish build up to 2004’s suitably named Patience continues with a checklist of 2002isms: Bush and Tony, 80s sample and 2DTV video. With the song’s themes would continue to hold weight into 2004, it made the final album undigested, whereas Freeek! had by that stage been curiously updated into an “’04” version. (In March 2003, George would appear on TOTP for the first time since 1986 performing Don McLean’s The Grave, though it wasn’t a single, nor was it on Patience).
    15 – NERD – Rock Star – like hits before and since, this is better known for its Jason Nevins remix I believe. It’s a long road from here til Happy
    36 – Ant & Dec – We’re On the Ball – up from #50 to #36 ???
    (Also, 87 – Korn – Here to Stay – still at #87. Given the name of the song I couldn’t help but point this out.)

    Week 2
    #3 – Madhouse – Like a Dream – once accurately described by Tom I believe as among the epitomes of generic dance covers, I only want to point out that Madge tribute act Mad Donna’s The Wheels on the Bus had made #17 a few months earlier, which I remember my dad buying my 4 year old self the CD single of
    #8 – Bowling for Soup – Girl All the Bad Guys Want – during both of Colourblind’s weeks at the top, the ground is laid for volume 4 of ‘The Album:’ throughout the top 40
    #17 – Status Quo – Jam Side Down – memorably made an appearance towards the end of Now 53. For Now 54 this resident veteran spot would instead be taken by Erasure on their hooky robo-disco take on Solsbury Hill (potentially more on that to come). Def Leppard made #23 this same week with one ‘Now’ but it was deemed by Ashley to not be relevant enough. Hence the Quo instead…
    #18 – Toploader – Time of My Life – the final week of their career in a sense, then.
    #21 – Royksopp – Remind Me/So Easy – So Easy!!! My 5th birthday in miniature, though I’ve already explained the basics of the story in the Elvis vs JXL thread.
    #37 – Raven Maize – Fascinated – During my days in the late 00s browsing the NOW! forums, I was fascinated by the seemingly trivial threads like ‘Now albums where the same artist appears more than once’. One of the ones I was most proud for spotting is that Dave Lee turns up twice on Now 53, in one instance as Raven Maize and in one instance as Jakatta, though whereas ‘My Vision’ was a suitable inclusion (it reached #6), also including a song that barely scraped the top 40 does show some barrel scraping. While Dave had scored hits under both names in 2001, one wonders what the distinction between the two pseudonyms was.

  9. 34
    Izzy on 23 Mar 2018 #

    33: In March 2003, George would appear on TOTP for the first time since 1986 performing Don McLean’s The Grave, though it wasn’t a single, nor was it on Patience

    I thought I knew all of George’s work, but I’d never heard or heard of this. It’s typically beautiful, what a singer he was.

    How did it come about? It seems a brave thing for Top Of The Pops to be putting on in March 2003.

  10. 35
    Lee Saunders on 30 Mar 2018 #

    #34 The Beeb weren’t taking every risk George proposed, preventing him from wearing his “No war, Blair out” T-shirt. I imagine pop’s reaction to the Iraq War will eventually get discussed but its hard to see where at this stage (a #2 single by another 80s veteran in April 2003 would have likely been the place if it had gone all the way to #1, though an actual #1 from later in 2003 is my guess).

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