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Colour by Numbers is the second album by the British new wave group Culture Club, released in October 1983. Preceded by the hit single "Karma Chameleon", which reached number one in several countries, the album reached number one in the UK and has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. It has been certified triple platinum in the UK and quadruple platinum in the US. It was ranked #96 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Best Albums of the 1980s.
Colour by Numbers has sold more than 10 million copies worldwide, and like its predecessor, Kissing to Be Clever, contains several hit singles. In the United States, all the album tracks peaked at #3 on the US Dance Club Songs chart. "Karma Chameleon" was the signature track from the album and when released as single reached number one in many countries. "Church of the Poison Mind" reached #2 in the UK, and went top 10 in the US, Canada, Australia and many European countries. "Miss Me Blind" was released in North America, South America, Japan, and Australia to great success (Top 5 in the US and Canada), "It's A Miracle" became a Top 10 or Top 20 hit in several markets. "Victims" was released in Europe and Oceania and was a Top 5 hit in the UK and Australia, but was not released as a single in the US. "Mister Man" was also released as a single in South Africa.
The album was certified triple Platinum in the UK, Diamond in Canada, and 4x Platinum in the United States where it peaked at #2 for six consecutive weeks behind Michael Jackson's Thriller.
In 1989, Colour by Numbers was ranked #96 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 100 Greatest Albums of the 1980s. The album is also included in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die.
In an interview in 1998, the four members of Culture Club agreed that Colour by Numbers was their best work. It was remastered in 2002 and 2003, for the Culture Club box set and for a re-release of the album. In 2005, the album was also released in Japan in a cardboard sleeve, similar to the original vinyl artwork, also featuring the remastered tracks and five bonus songs that were on the 2003 version.
Reviews for Colour by Numbers have been generally positive. It was ranked at number 7 among the "Albums of the Year" for 1983 by NME.Smash Hits magazine gave the album a rare 10 out of 10, with reviewer Peter Martin commenting "This is simply one of the most enjoyable records I've ever heard." Allmusic's Jose Promis retrospectively rated the album four-and-a-half out of five stars. He noted: "The songs were infectious, the videos were all over MTV, and the band was a media magnet." He explained that it was "flamboyant, fun, sexy, soulful, colorful, androgynous, and carefree" like other 1980s music. He concluded by calling it "the artistic and commercial pinnacle of a band that still attracted new fans years later." Robert Christgau rated it a B+, explaining that "[Boy] George's warm, well-meaning, slightly clumsy croon signifies most effectively when it has the least to say – when it's most purely a medium for his warm, well-meaning, slightly clumsy self." He also stated that "his real aim in life is to reenact the story of the ugly duckling – and to radiate the kind of extreme tolerance that's so often engendered by extreme sexual ambiguity."
Stephen Holden of Rolling Stone rated it four out of five stars. He explained that it "secures lead singer Boy George's place as a blue-eyed soul balladeer in the first rank." He also stated that it "has gobs of emotion plastered as thickly as Boy George's makeup, and ten tunes that stick." Although he stated that it "is by no means a weighty album", he concluded by saying: "Whether you like the band or not, Culture Club is one pop group that matters." Scott Shetler of Slant Magazine also rated it four out of five stars, noting that "Culture Club hit their stride, and the influence of its 10 colorful songs can still be felt today." He explained that "its greatness can be measured by the fact that its album tracks are just as good as its singles." Although he stated that "simply describing [it] as a "catchy pop record" would be a mistake", he concluded by saying: "[I]n the end, Colour By Numbers is an album that needs no tinkering."