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.

Score: 4

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