Released: 18th October 2004
Writers: Kara DioGuardi / Greg Wells / Darius Danesh
Peak position: #8
Chart run: 8-24-41-55-71-72-72
After delivering on his infamous promise to secure a platinum-selling album before the age of 35 (he did say triple platinum, but let’s not split hairs), Darius Campbell-Danesh was back to do it all over again. And with a song like Kinda Love, it was clear he meant business.
Although one of the many new acts to find success in the early ‘00s as a new dawn of TV talent shows gripped the charts, Darius stands out as a little different because it’s apparent he knew precisely and uncompromisingly what sort of artist he wanted to be. Having overcome a misjudged performance of …Baby One More Time on ITV’s Popstars (a moment that could easily have defined him as an example wheeled out on clip shows of what not to do on television), he staged an extraordinary turnaround to finish third on the inaugural series of Pop Idol the following year. While Simon Cowell handed many acts from the show record deals, Darius declined, choosing to sign with Mercury instead. That was almost certainly the right decision because Will Young and Gareth Gates would always have been the priority ahead of him. Moreover, it allowed Darius far more input to his debut album than would otherwise likely have been the case. Dive In was pretty successful, too. It peaked at #6 in the UK – selling around 300,000 copies – and yielded three top ten hits, including Colourblind, which reached #1.
Having had the artistic freedom to establish his musical identity, Darius could use the follow-up as an opportunity to stick with some of the songwriting partnerships that worked while also broadening his sound with some new collaborators. Kinda Love is a product of the latter, and saw him team up with Kara DioGuardi, who was working with acts like Kelly Clarkson and Anastacia at the time. It’s a great partnership; her penchant for anthemic pop-rock songs complements Darius’s ear for hooky guitar melodies perfectly. Thus, Kinda Love brings out the best in him. It’s bigger, bolder, and everything the lead single for his second album should be.
The track is expertly crafted to resonate with the most fundamental aspects of musicality. It bursts into a jaunty, metronomic honky tonk piano melody that carries the first verse and is strikingly quirky. As Kinda Love edges further into the song, it throws in some thumping drum kicks, becoming more and more involved until – finally – exploding into the sort of glorious chorus that makes you want to stomp around the dancefloor and wave your arms rhythmically in the air: “This kinda love is amazing, aww she makes me cra-zay, I love how she never can sta-a-a-ay; but it’s enough that she wants me, li-i-ike her cup of coffee, one kiss baby she’s on her wa-a-a-ay, that kinda love just makes your day”. It’s quickly followed by a naggingly catchy: “Ba da ba ba ba-a-a-a, ba-a-a da ba ba, ba da ba ba, ba ba ba ba” refrain, ensuring Kinda Love will – one way or another – lodge itself firmly in the brain as an all-consuming earworm.
The way Darius enunciates and emphasises with a Scottish drawl is immensely satisfying. Although Kinda Love doesn’t necessarily come across as a deeply personal song, it’s still peppered with knowing nods. The pre-chorus: “A guy like me so insecure, I never ever was before, somebody finally put me in place”, in particular, could be read as a callback to the over-the-top personality we first met on Popstars. Yet, take Darius out of the equation for a moment, and it’s not hard to imagine that a year or so later, this could very credibly have been released amid the mid-’00s indie boom and been a major hit. It’s not to diminish his role in Kinda Love, which is utterly terrific, and a real triumph of accomplished songwriting. But the track was always going to be judged first and foremost as a Darius single, which – by 2004 – came with a certain amount of preconceived pop snobbery.
Arguably, that wasn’t helped by the music video for Kinda Love. It is, objectively, lovely to look at, featuring Darius and his then-girlfriend Natasha Henstridge (the couple married in 2011 but later divorced in 2018) in a concept that draws visual influences from Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind. There’s a bed on the beach, and despite being physically close, the pair don’t seem to be aware of each other’s existence. As a metaphor for poor communication, it’s not entirely removed from the message of the song, and the scenery is unquestionably stunning. Yet, mixing business with pleasure is always a risk and having a real-life couple frolic around does feel slightly fanciful. It’s otherwise difficult to put a finger on what’s not quite right here, but it’s as though something has been lost in the transition between albums. Looking back at Darius’s earlier videos, they convey a strong sense of authenticity and inherent, unknowing coolness. On the other hand, Kinda Love feels less grounded in the music – which takes a bit of a back-seat here – and almost comes off as a bit self-congratulatory.
Although Darius had missed the top ten with his previous single (Girl In The Moon reached #21), there was still every chance that it could just have been a blip. However, Pop Idol was a distant memory, and this was now the era of ITV’s next big hope for the TV talent show genre: The X Factor. It quickly became apparent that Darius consolidating his debut album was going to be a bit of an uphill climb when Kinda Love peaked at #8 in the UK. That was still a reasonable outcome given the circumstance; he went up against some big acts (Kelis, Manic Street Preachers, Depeche Mode), although there is also a sense that a few years earlier, he would easily have challenged them for a top-five position.
A few weeks later, Darius released his second album, which debuted at #36 and confirmed there was a problem here. Sure, parts of Live Twice are a bit heavy going in places, but that’s hardly surprising given it was dedicated to his father, who’d been diagnosed with terminal cancer and told he had three months to live (happily, he ended up making a full recovery). Again, though, many of the flaws highlighted by critics essentially amounted to Darius being, well, Darius. And that’s quite a difficult barrier to overcome. There was still one more top ten single to come from the album, though, so the campaign wasn’t over yet.
Despite being a top ten hit, in hindsight, Kinda Love was still largely going through the ritual renewal process of TV talent show acts, where the previous year’s contestants are phased out in readiness for the next batch. However, Darius had always done things a little differently, and though it may not have changed the eventual outcome, this single is a real keeper from the Pop Idol-era of the charts (if not the TV talent show genre as a whole). It’s a sorely underrated gem that deserves far more recognition.