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: Dancing to his own tune; Phil Gould catches up with Pop Idol finalist Darius Danesh to find out how he's playing the fame game.

Byline: Phil Gould

IT'S TRUE that miracles can happen - even in the music business. If you need proof ofThe 21-year-old, whose debut single, the self-penned Colourblind, is currently sitting at No 1, has gone from the beardy weirdy who performed scary renditions of Britney Spear's Baby One More Time and declared, ``Can you feel the love in this room?'' to the hunky guy who has teenage girls - and their mums - screaming for more.

``I am over the moon that people like something that I've written,'' he said. ``Colourblind is the best way that I can thank the public for their support through Pop Idol, not by churning a cover song out off the back of the incredible success of the programme, but by going in on my own.''

It seems that there is now enough love in this country to make him the top of the pop charts. Ironically, he toppled his friend and Pop Idol runner-up Gareth Gates from the No 1 spot. But Gareth won't be too bothered, unlike the bookmakers, as it was his second chart-topper since finding overnight fame at the beginning of 2002.

Earlier this year online bookies Blue Square offered odds of 20/1 that the Pop Idol finalist would have a number one hit by the end of 2002. Colourblind's success means that it will have to pay out an estimated pounds 50,000 to punters.

Darius has also been slashed to 16/1 from 33/1 for Christmas No 1, following the success of his debut single Colourblind.

His achievement is no mean feat for somebody who, 12 months ago, was a national joke and only got into the final 10 of talked about TV show Pop Idol when Rik Waller was forced to quit because of a throat this, look no further than rising star Darius Danesh who has transformed himself from a Popstars' joke to Pop Idol prize guy.

infection. Darius is full of praise for the TV show which helped put him on the path to solo stardom, although he is not so sure about the whole Popstars experience 12 months earlier.

He says: ``Doing Pop Idol was an incredible experience. I was really lucky to be in a position where I was working with the best of everything. We had the best musicians, musical directors, PR people - everybody.

``For me, performing with a live band on stage was a dream come true. There are so few people of my age who can say they have ever sang with a band, let alone in front of an audience of millions of people on TV.

``I think Pop Idol was fantastic and took things to another level. It's a Formula One of an idea which started with Popstars.

``But I think they made me look tragic when I did Popstars. I was naive and over-enthusiastic.''

Following Popstars, Darius was offered a record deal which he put on hold tocomplete his university degree. However, he soon realised he'd made a terrible mistake when he was told that the offer had been withdrawn.

``I was very, very low,'' he said. ``I wasoffered a record deal afterwards but I was in my third year studying English Literature at Edinburgh University and decided to stay on for four months to finish my degree.

``Then, at the end of it, I rang the record company to start the record and they said no, it was too late. I hit a real low. The tabloid media completely turnedon me and I had all sorts of weird stories coming out in the papers. I got to the point when I didn't want to perform again because of the hounding.'' Darius also admitted that his arrogant persona, which came through during the Popstars series, was merely a reaction to the way he and the other wannabes were treated by Nasty Nigel and the tough judges.

``A lot of it was my fault and I set myself up for a fall, but the rest of it was out of my hands. I cringed at the time but I laugh now. Maybe I came across as arrogant but it was my self-defence mechanism. We were being emotionally bullied on the show and I was bullied at school, so I wasn't about to be bullied on national TV.''

Rather than seizing the opportunity to have the last laugh at his critics, Darius said: ``I would actually like to thank them because it was through the criticism, the lessons I learned, that have allowed me to get where I am today.''

The singer says he just laughs off his humiliating Britney Spears rendition, adding: ``We all make mistakes and I made mine on national television!''

Darius has revealed that he almost didn't bother applying for Pop Idol because he was worried how the media would treat him, following his notorious appearance on Popstars.

``I remember going to the first auditions and turning up thinking, `they're gonna crucify me'. I'm gonna walk through the door and they're gonna kick me out.'' Darius recalled. ``I'd spoken to Nigel Lithgow the week before and asked him if I should audition. He said no and told me `Simon Cowell's taken over as the bad guy and he'll probably kick you out in the first week'.

``When I heard that, I spoke to my mum and dad and they were worried I'd get a bad media reaction and my friends thought I was nuts. But, on the morning of the audition, I just had a gut feeling that I should do it and stand in the firing line. I did and it turned out all right in the end.''

Darius admits that he has stayed good friends with many of his Pop Idol finalists.

``I got on well with Hayley because I knew her from Popstars and when I first met Gareth we got on well. He's really cool and we are good friends.

``I also got to know Will when we made the final 10 and we all lived in the same hotel. We still bump into each other at gigs and roadshows.''

Even though he is indebted to Pop Idol, after finishing in the top three, Darius made the brave decision not to stick with Simon Cowell's BMG label, which has guided Will Young and Gareth Gates to No 1 twice over.

Cowell wanted the Glaswegian star to record a double A-sided single of Make It Easy On Yourself and You've Lost That Loving Feeling but Darius had other ideas. At one point it was also suggested he should record a cover version of Rick Astley's 1987 No 1 Never Gonna Give You Up.

``During my time on the show it would have been really easy for me to have accepted Simon's record offer to do the cover versions. It would have been an easy option.

``I knew it would probably have gone straight to No 1 but I don't think I would have been true to myself. I would have felt like I was cheating myself.

``It was a tough decision not to sign up with BMG and I knew there was no guarantee that I'd get a record deal with anybody else if I refused Simon's offer.''

So, instead of signing up, Darius took a deep breath said thanks but no thanks and started knocking on record company doors. It was not too long before veteran U2 producer Steve Lillywhite, who is now a Managing Director of Mercury Records, offered him the chance to write and record his own material instead of relying on cover versions of previous hits for success.

And the move seems to have paid off as Darius's debut is receiving a good response and seems to be shaping up into a major hit. The lad himself seems more than pleased with the way things are working out.

``Having Steve Lillywhite at the helm of my album is a fabulous feeling. He has produced my favourite acts and favourite songs. Bono is my hero. What more could I want?''

It seems that record deals have not been the only thing that have been offered to the all-new charming Darius.

``To put it one way, appearing on TV hasn't done my love life any harm. Some of the female celebrities I have met so far have been a little disappointing. I met one who was really stuck up and just thought the world revolved around herself.

``I have to say I prefer the girl-next-door look myself.''

While he might be currently single Darius says he has had six serious girlfriends and is still good mates with them all.

Although Darius has dramatically improved his appearance in the last 12 months he is the first to admit he still might not be your average man in the street.

``All celebrities are abnormal - that's me included.''

CAPTION(S):

FINAL CHOICE: Darius with the other Pop Idol finalists Gareth Gates, Will Young and Zoe Birkett plus the judges, Simon Cowell, Pete Waterman, Dr Fox and Nicki Chapman; FULL COLOUR:; Darius has defied his critics by ploughing his own furrow and reaping success in the form of a number one hit - ``Colourblind is the best way that I can thank the public for their support through Pop Idol, not by churning a cover song out off the back of the incredible success of the programme, but by going in on my own.''
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Aug 10, 2002
Words:1567
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