Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Power of a Nation

I love, love, love writing sarcastic, funny (to some) or editorial type blogs. But tonight, I'm going to cast that reputation and writing style aside and write a schmoopie blog.

There's been all kinds of things written about the power of positive thinking. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale wrote forty two gazillion books about it. (He was only going to write 3 but he felt so confident in his ability, that he wrote forty two gazillion.) Motivational speakers talk about it all the time. Some in the medical community think it helps the body heal. But most of that comes from an individual's positive thinking for themselves.

What happens when a whole nation of people think that way? What happens when that powerful feeling of positive thinking and other related emotions and energy that come from love, prayer, encouragement or whatever else floats your boat are all directed at one person, simply for one ridiculously difficult note in a concert full of ridiculously difficult notes.

I'm not talking about a country, you see. Well, maybe not in the traditional sense even though it may sound like it. I'm talking about a nation filled with people from all walks of life, different ages, income levels, personalities, political affiliations and religions leanings. Men and women (OK mostly women but we need more nations like that). A nation that rarely agrees on anything and often disagrees vehemently on many things. A nation that loves to vote and vote often. A nation that does agree on one very important thing.

I'm talking about the Clay Nation. There's probably nothing else the Clay Nation loves more than concerts. Clay Aiken thrives on stage. We come together as family with friends old and new from all over the world just to watch this man perform. I went to a concert last summer in New Hampshire and at the pre-concert dinner there were people there from the US, Canada, the UK and New Zealand. We share rides, hotel rooms and food as we gather to hear the voice.

Clay's Christmas tour started Friday, December 1st in Waukegan, Illinois. He is performing with Symphonies this year as an invited guest rather than his traditional Joyful Noise tour. Some have dubbed this the Joyful Not a Tour since it isn't quite the same format. (Others have dubbed this the Mighty Fine Ass tour but that's probably another blog. Mouths to new stylist. THANK YOU for the PANTS!)

Clay chatted with his fans at the fan club site the night before the show (on his 28th birthday in fact) to ask us to pray he didn't cough up a kidney on the last note of song we've never heard him sing before called All is Well. (Written by Michael W. Smith). It's extremely high and is the encore song of a difficult set that pushes the upper and lower end of his amazing range.

The first night he was wound up, excited for the show. I'm sure adrenaline was pumping, which isn't necessarily good for singing. But he missed the note. Badly. And he rarely ever misses a note. He even bravely tried again and didn't get it. But the rest of the show was so spectacular, it didn't matter. The audience was still on their feet. But I know it mattered to Clay.

Now this is a killer note. It is a high A and he holds it for 8 seconds. It's been a long time since I read music but to me it sounds as high or higher than the note from his stunning performance of Bridge Over Troubled Water on the American Idol season 2 finale.

Predictably, the haters jumped on it as his voice is shot. Now when I say haters, I don't mean people who just don't like Clay because his voice isn't their thang. I mean haters, people who spend what seems every wakening moment spewing their venom all over the internet. It always amazes me that these people watch more Clay video than the fans. I really wonder why they don't just crawl back into their holes and find something that they actually enjoy. But whatever, their loss. And our amusement at their insanity.

Tonight Clay performed with a different symphony in Merrillville, Indiana. It was an even better show. But when he came out for AIW, everyone was a little nervous. And I mean everyone.

Fans in the theater, fans on the message boards, fans in chat rooms listening in over friends' cellphones. One of our Conclayve writers was there and she described it like this

He planted his feet, gripped the microphone stand and let it rip. Everyone all around me was leaning forward, afraid to breathe, almost willing him through it, and you could tell that he knew it. And when the time came, he grabbed the mic stand, planted his feet, squeezed his eyes shut and it just...came out. Wow. It was so gorgeous and so powerful. I heard a lot of gasps, and then everyone simultaneously jumped to their feet, screaming and applauding and jumping up and down.

I was in chat with about 80 other fans. The love in that chat room with people typing their support, their prayers, their encouragement was palpable. I think we were leaning forward toward our keyboards as well.

He felt it, he had to have felt it. He sang Alllll Iiiissss, took a deep breath and nailed it. Weeeeellllllll. I think he held that note forever. I think his voice soared to the ceiling of that venue and took the hopes of every fan watching at that venue and every fan listening at home over their headphones with it. We all soared at that moment. Our hearts were in his throat, while lumps of joy were in ours.

He had a look of relief and then utter joy. Joy that he had done it, joy that he had made us so happy. Joy in the song, which sings that all is well because born is now, Emmanuel.

In years to come, this year will be looked upon as a blessing in disguise. The lies in the gossip pages and websites made him determined to take back his life. And he did. The delays in the album gave him a greater bond with an Executive Producer who knows what his gift truly is and finds a way to bring that forth on that round piece of metal that transports his voice to us. And her famous brother saw it too. From that we got two wonderful albums and a gift of lyrics written by Clay in Lover All Alone that we might not have otherwise seen if the year had gone as originally planned. He handled everything with grace, from the crap to the ridiculous (or should I say Ripadiculous), which gains nothing but industry respect.

It really doesn't matter how many times he hits or misses that note for the rest of the tour. He has 18 shows in 23 days. He'll probably miss it again. But most wouldn't even try it.

The look on his face tonight is what I will hold in my heart as I watch with hope for a new beginning with a record label that knows that in many ways, this ridiculously impossible note defines the man. The Waukegan note represents 2006 to me. It was bad and it wasn't right for Clay. But he learned from it, worked it out and found a way to make it better. The Merrillville note and the look following its triumph is what will define 2007 for Clay. And the nation that held its collective breath will be beside him every step of the way.

All is well, Clay. Bravo.

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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I Haired it Through the Grapevine

So what's the big deal about hair?

Strictly speaking as mammals we essentially have it all over our bodies, well except that reptile sitting next to Regis. Oh sorry, Nan....we promised we weren't going to talk about her anymore. It creeps into our vocabulary in other ways. The hair of the dog that bit you. Now for a teetotaler like me, it means that which you constantly pluck out of your luscious new emerald green cashmere sweater bought on at an incredible price at Macy's this weekend. But for the rest of you lushes, it means drinking something in the morning to get over a hangover. The hair of the dog that bit you? If you have to do that too many times, maybe you need to have the dog neutered.

There's a hairpin turn and a hairy situation. It's a hairy situation when Clay Aiken does his own hair. There's angel hair pasta which is too thin for me and is like eating air. Give me a hearty gnocchi that sits in your stomach for hours any time. Every time I order gnocchi in a restaurant, I complain it looks like a too small of a portion and then I moan and groan to try and finish. Maybe eating a loaf of Italian bread with it isn't such a good idea. Now that is not as hairbrained an idea as making a great singer of pop abandon his second mainstream album with original material in favor of one of love song covers but then again, the person who mandated that doesn't have any hair. It must have shriveled inside his brain cells during the botox injections.

Clay Aiken makes news with his hair. First there was the really bad hair of the AI2 audition. I'm not even sure what color that was supposed to be, I don't think it exists in nature. But it got better over the season and pretty soon he was known for the spikes. The spikes were OK but when they got too long, fans coined various phrases for it. Rooster Hair, Statue of Liberty Hair, Aruba Hair (don't ask, something about high winds and tequila shots).

Then there was hair that could stand up to no explanation. The first one that comes to mind is the infamous Worcester, MA concert for the Independent Tour where he came out after Kelly Clarkson's set to do a duet with her. I was at that concert and a friend and I turned to each other at the same time and said WHAT is up with his hair? Well, his hair was what was up.

It seemed he had a chair massage backstage during her set and no one told him to fix his hair. He looked like he just saw a herd of cats carrying mocha chocolate mint ice cream laced with walnuts. Or that Kelly Ripa finally apologized for being such a....OK, OK, Nan. Stop hitting me.

Clay's hair actually has days where it gets named. There is the Charlotte NAT hair of perfection.

There is the Joyful Noise 2004 tourbook fauxhawk which was another Huh? Moment. For the sake of children and small animals, we won't scare you with that here. I think it looked much better during the actual concerts but I was too focused on the black pants of ass cuppage to notice hair. I would insert a picture of them here but every time I open up the file, I get distracted.

In the wonderful Jukebox Tour of 2005, Clay cut his hair very short, which became known as JBT hair. This was probably out of convenience as the show was 2.5 hours long and he played a lot of outdoor venues in hot locations. Otherwise, it would have been really sweaty...damp, curling around the base of his neck kind of sweaty......OK, who's brilliant idea was that to keep his hair short?!

In his Joyful Noise 2005 tour, which was based on a play he wrote reminiscent of It's a Wonderful Life, his spikey hair was blonder. He played an angel so I think they were going for that other worldy glow. Priiiiiing!

In May of 2006 during the AI5 finale, Clay surprised the world by abandoning the spikes for a very dark, straight shag. Discussion of his hair consumed the entertainment shows for days. The last time someone made so much news for their hair was Lady Godiva? Or maybe when Rapunzel decided to become a red head.

The “promotion run” for Clay's album A Thousand Different Ways brought us the highlighted shag. The color was gorgeous and it rocked on stage. He looked great but we were wondering if he would keep it.....I liked it but sometimes it didn't quite look like he did.

And then....the hair apparent.

Clay let it grow and grow. It went through that growing out stage but now it just fits him. He can run his hands through it and let us live through that vicariously. He looks like Clay but a more mature, grown up, worldy Clay that has been through the wringer but is more than ready to take on the next phase of his career. I hope it is with a record label exec who has hair as well as brains. And a pulse.

Probably the most famous industry related Hair gave us the Age of Aquarius.
I always thought that movie was less about hair and more about drugs. And skipping through the park. Probably to find more drugs. It isn't the age of Aquarius anymore but Jupiter is in Sagittarius. Jupiter is the lucky planet, Sagittarius is Clay's birth sign. I hope this means he'll be Hair, There and Everywhere in 2007.

Clay's special holiday performances with Symphonies begins on Friday. Hair we come a caroling. I'm glad that there are shows close to home so that I can drive because the hairfare is ridiculous this time of year.

Rock on dude!

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks: Clay Aiken's Hands

The dinner is over. The food has been put away. The house is quiet again.

My life has returned to its state of everyday chaos.

Today I have given thanks for my maddening, loving and supportive family and my quirky, interesting friends.

I’ve said a prayer of thanksgiving for my life and my health, for the many blessings I have received and for my country, even as we strive to make it “a more perfect union.”

I try to show gratitude every day: for the people who inspire me, in the work that challenges me and through the faith that uplifts my soul.

And as I run through my list of blessings, one more thing comes to mind.

I am so very thankful for Clay Aiken’s hands.

It is now nearly four years since Clay was first seen on television and, as he sung "Always and Forever", he moved his hands to underscore the words. First (and always) I was thankful for Clay’s voice, but I'm glad for all the times when he uses his hands and I catch a glimpse of the aspects of his personality.

As I considered four years of memories, again and again I remembered images of Clay’s marvelously expressive hands.

Just six months after Clay hit the national stage, he was featured on the cover of Rolling Stone. His "sinner and saint" pose included a windblown shirt and a hand crowned with a WWJD bracelet, a reminder of his faith while he was far from home.

In September, Clive Davis, the head of RCA Records, placed a plaque in Clay’s hands, representing two million albums shipped for Clay's debut album Measure of a Man.

A few weeks later, Clay’s hands reached out to accept the Fans Choice Award at the American Music Awards.

There is another side to this story.

Clay’s hands have been in some dark, dirty, dangerous places.

His hands have offered comfort in war-torn Northern Uganda, where children walk away from their homes each night to safe haven in the city, escaping the danger of kidnap or death at the hands of the rebels who lurk in the darkness.

Clay’s hands have gotten dirty, planting trees with Best Buddies, painting with school kids on Youth Service Day and playing games with children of all abilities at the inclusive summer camps organized by his Bubel/Aiken Foundation.

And on a beach in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, just a few feet from an ocean that swallowed a quarter million people, Clay used his hands to play and sing with children who lost their families, their homes and their schools.

Some of my favorite times of seeing Clay use his hands are when he uses them in song.

Songs where he expresses tenderness.

Songs where he expresses faith.

Songs when he rocks out, with three rings on his hands.

So what happened when Clay was interviewed by Tyra Banks, a woman as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside?

Clay talked about music and home and soul food, and he made Tyra laugh. He turned the tables and interviewed her and he listened with real interest. He sang "A Thousand Days" from his new album A Thousand Different Ways. And used his hands playfully and flirtatiously, and had a good deal of fun.

Clay shouldn’t be blamed for getting a little touchy feely.

After all, Tyra started it.

Lord knows Clay is not perfect --- no, not even close --- but he certainly makes an effort to make a difference, through his music and his life. On Thanksgiving Day and always, I am grateful that Clay Aiken has used his hands to reach out and touch the world, with joy, with love, with humor and with unmatched artistry.

Hmm… maybe that’s why he won’t sing “Touch.”’

Knowing that some things are better experienced than described, he probably thinks it would be redundant.

Thanks to galrow and Invisible926 for their photographs, and to Fountaindawg for the inspiration for this blog.


Please check out Kelly're a foolish foolish woman for a first-hand account of the real Clay during the Regis & Kelly taping.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Kelly Hipa-Crite

So much material. So little time to read. We are breaking the blog up to make it easier to manuever through the hypocrisy. To view Part I and see the clips -- click Kelly Ripa Gets Upstaged -- and sucks her thumb.

It seems The Insider entertainment program was backstage after Friday's taping. They asked Clay Aiken what he thought of the show. Here's the clip.

Hmmm, I ask again...who was unprofessional through this whole thing?

Another few things worthy of note. When Kelly Ripa first mentioned Clay's name yesterday, it was met with huge cheers in an audience that was not filled with Clay fans. Her rant was met with dead silence.

On Tuesday's show, her entrance was not met with much applause and of Monday's incident was mentioned. Methinks Kelly's ego bubble got a huge pin prick after viewer response yesterday. I wonder if her publicist did a little google searching. Waves.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water, Ripa (who must have locked her publicist in the bathroom) called into The View after Rosie O'Donnell talked about the event. Rosie was trying to say that Ripa thinks Clay Aiken is gay and so that explained her reaction. For the record, Rosie did not "out" Clay. He has said he is straight when he chose to address the issue in the past and recently said he is tired of fighting the fight and will not address it anymore since people will believe what they want to believe. Rosie believed Ripa thinks Clay is gay and that her reaction reflected that. Ripa acted like a banshee at that point.

Her excuse for her reaction was that it was cold and flu season. Oh please. Did your publicist come up with that lame "My dog ate my homework" reason once you saw the backlash in Monday's emails?

I guess she forgot the day germ freak Howie Mandel was on the show and showed her this gadget he uses to open doors because he's afraid of germs and she LICKED it.

Oh and Kelly. If it is cold and flu season, I guess Regis will be calling in sick. Hypocrite much?

If Mario had put any body parts over your mouth, you would have opened your mouth wider than a person having their teeth cleaned. Your excuse is so lame you completely overlook the fact that Clay used his left hand and he doesn't shake hands with that one. But logic wasn't playing a part in your tirade was it?

She claims Clay Aiken didn't thank her for the show. Um Kelly, see the last Youtube clip in this blog from The Insider.

Just how often are you going to make claims that can be refuted with actual on camera proof?

The media will have a field day spinning this as a Ripa/Rosie feud or as a Ripa/Clay feud. The truth is a funny guy went on a morning talk show known for its sharp banter back and forth between cohosts and played the role perfectly. He made a minor faux pas in an attempt to be funny and apologized. Ripa was ungracious to her guest cohost, ungracious to the winners of Dancing with the Stars and missed at least one if not two cues to a commercial that Clay picked up for her. She then chose for God knows what reason to make much ado about nothing. The question is why? Ratings? It is sweeps week. I can't believe she'd act like such a shrew for so long just for that but then again, when you over estimate a your popularity, that's what happens.

Do you think Kelly was thinking "This picture is being taken in February and in 9 months Clay will do this to me and I will make a BIG DEAL about it being bad." Ummm, Kelly . . . Hipo-Crite much?

Yesterday we wrote: My dream scenario? Clay puts his hand over the mouth of his copresenter tonight on the American Music Awards. Well they did even better!

Even Jimmy Kimmel, Tori Spelling and the American Music Award writers recognize this is a sitution worthy of mockery.

Can't get enough of the Ripa Hipa-Crite? Visit Kelly Ripa - A Coward By Any Other Name and Hands To Mouths. . . Across America

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Kelly Ripa gets upstaged...and sucks her thumb

They say a critic's comments tell more about them than the person they are criticizing. I have never believed that more than today.

This morning on Live with Regis and Kelly, Kelly Ripa tore into Clay Aiken for being hostile to her when he cohosted the show on Friday, November 17th. This was astonishing on so many levels, some Clay specific and some not. I have three main comments for her.

What host with any class rips into a previous guest on her show, especially when there was no bad press about it or any serious altercation to begin with? The answer has something to do with ego and an exaggerated sense of self worth.

I find it extremely hypocritical of her to say Clay wouldn't have put his hand over a man's mouth (implying he did it to her because she's a female) and then says Howard Stern (the bastion of women's rights) agrees with her.

The show (especially the first 20 minutes) was tremendously funny. Clay is a very snarky guy and they actually played off each other with each getting digs in that were witty and made the time fly. It was good TV. Here judge for yourself (it's in two parts).

Also, they did not show the full Halloween impersonation that she thought was so funny. In the full Halloween skit, she was crass and inappropriate. I doubt that Clay found the entire skit to be very funny.

I'd heard that she is very self-absorbed but after that opening, I actually thought the show was going very well and they were both good sports. I do think her pre-conceived notion of Clay was way off and she was expecting the pre-conceived notion she had of Clay in her impersonation. We saw the Clay Aiken that we know with the quick, sharp wit. She met her match and then some.

In the next segment, they were supposed to interview Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) winners, Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke. Ripa is a huge Mario Lopez fan and made that known from the beginning. During the actual interview with Smith and Burke, she asked question after question, clearly cutting Clay out with both her words and her body language. I remember thinking "Is she punishing him for stealing the show from her in the opening? Nah, even though full of herself, she wouldn’t be that obvious and unprofessional." Clay tried to play along with it and then made what was intended to be a snarky gesture of covering her mouth with his hand. I thought "Oops, Clay.. Rookie mistake." He could get away with something like that with Jimmy Kimmel but not with Miss it's all about meeeee. She was pissed as you can see from this clip.

Clay goofed and he knew it and her reaction was unprofessional (although she took that to a new level today) and I thought she knew it too. I mean, she's an "actress"-cover up your annoyance. Overall, she made no attempt to guide him as you would do with a guest co-host. She tried to insert her authority because the show had become too much of the Clay with Kelly Ripa show prior to that.

Clay wants a talk show so I'm sure he would have appreciated some honest feedback on what he did right and what he did wrong. Some private, constructive criticism would have been welcome and taken to heart. He was the one who probably brought it up to her at the break.

One thing Clay could learn from Ripa is how to be totally classless to your guests. Her line of questioning to DWTS runner-up Mario Lopez made it clear that she thought he should have won.

The thing is, Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke may have still been in the studio, watching backstage. I couldn't help but feel badly for them and I have no personal investment in that show or in their success.

Did Kelly Ripa see some little kid throw a classic pre-school temper tantrum this weekend complete with foot stomping and screaming Mine, Mine, Mine after someone took their toy? It must have inspired her because that is what her behavior seemed like to me today. Clay Aiken took her toy by stealing her show out from under her on Friday. He made it a better show and he did it at her expense. She could have seen that and appreciated it and worked with him to make it even better.

I'm not objective when it comes to Clay, I know that. But slamming a co-host who made one rookie mistake in an otherwise highly entertaining program lacks class, plain and simple. There was one unprofessional person on Friday's show, and it wasn't Clay Aiken.

Here's the thing, Kelly Ripa. If Friday was a first audition for both of you, you'd be crawling on your hands and knees back to the set of All My Children, begging them to take you back.

But thanks for the publicity. You just made a whole lot of people interested in seeing Friday's show to see why you are pouting like a baby who lost her pacifier. I'm guessing 75% will watch it feeling that it was good TV and wondering what the hell you are whining about.

For part II - see Kelly Hipa-Crite

For additional perspectives check out Well Shut My Mouth and Call Me Kelly Ripa

So What About That Kelly Ripa-Clay Aiken Hullabaloo?

Making A Mountain Out Of A Molehill

Kelly Ripa Goes Off (The Deep End)

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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Make 'em Laugh, Make 'em Laugh

They say that laughter is the best medicine, right? It reduces blood pressure, stress hormones and releases endorphins. Music can have the same impact for people.

I've always admired people with a natural sense of humor. My brother-in-law (who looks like a younger Tom Bergeron) is very funny, which helped him a lot in his career in sales. There is manic funny like Robin Williams, comfortable funny like Bill Cosby in his heyday and dry humor like the VP of Human Resources at my previous company. The people who can be funny naturally even though that isn't the main part of their entertainment focus are the ones I am drawn to. Donald O'Connor could act and dance and sing, yet he found a way to do it with great humor. It set him apart from the leading man types that he always worked with. What he did was a lot harder, in my opinion.

They say acting in comedies is a lot harder than acting in dramas. “Funny” is a personal thing, so what is one person's knee slapper is another person's “I don't get it.” I think you need a Y chromosome to appreciate The Three Stooges. I'm most impressed with good improv. We saw a touring company of Second City around here this year and 80% of the show was scripted and then they played off audience suggestions for the rest. To me that took great comedy writing, incredible concentration and really good instincts. My husband commented that everyone should get 90 minutes of pure laughter like that once a day. I often get that for 90 seconds each morning when he holds up what he thinks is a color coordinated outfit for my approval.

I'd forgotten how funny Michael J. Fox is until I saw him a year or so ago on Inside the Actor's Studio. He's got this baby face which surprises some people when they hear a rather bawdy sense of humor. Political humor is perhaps my favorite topic and he has managed to take a very serious issue and find the humor in it as well, especially after some people couldn't resist shooting from the hip as an automatic reflex. I guess that happens when your brain is disconnected from your mouth. Oh wait, this isn't a political blog...sorry!

For me, Clay's humor combines a lot of these elements. He has incredible instincts and in concert plays off any funny moments that might crop up. In his Jukebox Tour concerts in 2005, he did a bit just during a Motown Medley where he found a guy who had been dragged there by his wife or girlfriend and went out in the audience and bantered. Each night was different and each night was funny. Here's some highlights:

Clay's humor is very snarky and so some people don't quite get it at first. What amazes me about him on talk shows is that he is quick to pick up something the host says and run with it. He can completely take over his time with Leno or Kimmel as witnessed here in the numerous times they have invited him for “couch time”, which is rather unusual for the musical guest. It's fun to watch older clips and see his maturity in both age and in his comedic timing,which was always quite good but now is as good as many seasoned entertainers. He's a storyteller.

These two clips are broken into the years 2003/2004 and 2005/2006.

In concert, he plays off whatever is happening at the time. Many say he reminds them of a young Johnny Carson.

People ask me why I go to so many concerts. They get that he's a great singer. But I tell them that the humor in the concerts is so much a part of it as well that no two shows are a like. I hope that never changes. Music and laughter-yeah, by the end of the night I've got endorphins spilling out of my ears.

To catch Clay in concert, he will be singing with symphonies in the Northeast and midwest in December.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

What the Heck is a "Climmel?"

About 18 months ago, during a bout of insomnia brought about by late night construction work (and a very loud jackhammer) under my bedroom window, I happened to catch the Clay insult du jour on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Suddenly, the impulse to write a “revenge” skit came upon me.

Now, I had never written a skit before, but had long admired the wonderful writers in the Clay thread at Television Without Pity and later at the Clack House, where I post most of the time. Thus inspired (and sleepy, I suppose), my first two-parter flowed surprisingly easily. Then I recalled the hilarious “Reunited” promo Clay filmed with Jimmy Kimmel for the American Music Awards. . .

. . .and inspiration struck again -- my friend huskerfalcon and I thought the two of them might make a great modern “Odd Couple.” That one became a multi-part series.

Since then, I’ve heard Clay’s and Kimmel’s voices in my head often -- sometimes at very inconvenient moments -- to which what I laughingly call “my body of work” (or, the “Climmels”) can attest. Do I think they’re really friends? Well, Jimmy, who initially made fun of Clay (this stopped once he actually MET him), has had him on as a guest several times, and they always have great chemistry. He has called Clay “my best friend” on his show at least once. I’d love to believe he means it. It would make me very happy to think that Clay has a friend like Jimmy in the industry.

Anyway, I’ve had a lot of fun with these, and hopefully, they’ve been a nice diversion during some difficult times in the fandom.

Here’s the first Odd Couple skit. If you’d like to read more (WARNING: there are a LOT more!), you can find them here.

(Oh, and a quick disclaimer about the use of Clay's dialect: I've always thought his Southern accent contributed greatly to his charm. I've written it down exactly as it sounds to my Midwestern ears. Not casting any aspersions on Southerners, I promise!)


Sonorous male voiceover:

“On April 12, pop superstar Clay Aiken was forced to remove himself from his place of residence. An earthquake had struck, requiring extensive renovations. But Clay knew that someday he would return. With nowhere else to go, he appeared at the home of his newfound friend, late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel. Sometime earlier, Kimmel had moved into a swanky bachelor pad. Can two single men share an apartment without driving each other crazy?"

(Cue theme from “The Odd Couple”)

Place: Kimmel’s bachelor pad. The living room looks like a bomb hit it. An agitated Kimmel stands in the middle of it, arms folded, holding a scorched roasting pan with a flowered, quilted oven mitt. He’s wearing an apron and looks bewildered.

Kimmel (looking around): Where the hell is that voice coming from? (he shrugs)

(Clay saunters in through the front door, humming to himself.)

Kimmel (glowering): You’re late.

Clay: Well, Ah was recordin’ and we jest kept havin’ ta—

Kimmel (coldly): I made dinner. The London Broil is ruined. Ruined!

Clay: Hey, Ah’m sorry. (pause) What the heck’s London Broil?

Kimmel (gesturing to the scorched pan): Well, this particular London Broil is burned to a crisp. And for your information, it’s beef. Or it was, a couple of hours ago.

(Cue laugh track. Clay and Kimmel look around warily.)

Clay (whispering): There’s that weird laughin’ again. (they both shrug) Well, Jimmy, it was awful nice o’ you ta make me dinner, but you shouldn’t have – Ah’ll jest have a Hot Pocket.

Kimmel (shuddering): I can’t believe you actually eat those things. (picks up crumpled empty bag from floor) And news flash: the last time I checked, Cheetos are not a vegetable. Any more than tomatoes are a fruit.

Clay: But tomatoes are a fruit.

Kimmel: Sure, Clay – and I’ll have some of what you’ve been smoking.

Clay: But they--oh…never mind. Anyway, Cheetos have protein. Don’t they? Ah mean, thay’re cheese--

Kimmel: “Processed cheez product” is not exactly cheese. Or nutritious. You need to ingest something green once in a while, man. And Green River doesn’t count.

Clay: Hey, that’s not rilly fair. You know Ah had some lime Jello last week.

Kimmel (big eyeroll): Well, whatever. Clay. Dude. We need to talk.

Clay (cheerfully tossing duffle bag, laptop, paper bag and large bottle of Sprite onto the carpet): Shore, Jimmy. What’s up?

Kimmel (pointing indignantly): Tell me, what color is that couch?

(Clay studies it, covered with dirty clothes and dishes, fanmail -- some of it with women’s panties spilling out and one with a Depends partially visible -- old newspapers and magazines, Cheeto crumbs and a mostly empty pizza box of several days vintage.)

Clay: Um, lemme guess…green?

Kimmel: Fabric or leather?

Clay: Um…fabric?

Kimmel: It’s leather. Brown leather. I bet you couldn’t identify that couch in a police lineup. Now either we’ve been ransacked – a possibility I wouldn’t rule out – or you need to start picking up after yourself. I mean, in two weeks I don’t even recognize the place. (leans over and picks up the Depends) What’s this? A diaper? Man, that’s pervy – even for you, ya big slob. (picks up a wad of papers) And this? Somebody’s sending you a religious tract? A really looong religious tract?

Clay (grabbing the Depends from him and starting to straighten up): No! Talk about pervy – that’s from one o’ mah more mature fans. An’ that’s an epic poem. Although Ah cain’t seemta make it through the first page. (shudders) An’ yeah, okay, Ah’m rilly sorry. Ah guess Ah got useta havin’ mah roommates or mah mom clean up after me.

Kimmel: Well, nobody’s going to. The housekeeper quit. After she scarfed a bunch of my sedatives. And least I think she quit – I was having a little trouble understanding her. And while you’re cleaning up, would you mind looking in the fridge and telling me which of those milk bottles I can throw out?

Clay (protectively): Don’t choo tetch mah milk bottles!

Kimmel: For crying out loud, Clay, some of them are getting ready to stage a revolt. Do you just rearrange them, or do you actually smell them once in a while? I guess not, or you’d be passed out on the kitchen floor. Oh, and speaking of horrible smells and green stuff, some of those science experiments in the back of the fridge need to go, now.

Clay: Ah don’t know, Jimmy – that Cherry Yum Yum mah mom brought might still be good. An’ Ah might need some o' that other stuff.

Kimmel: For what – to start a salmonella epidemic? And your mom brought that Cherry Whatever when you came over for Christmas dinner – it’s April now, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Clay (testily): Well, if you do git salmonella poisoning, Ah’m shore you’ve got plenty of drugs to treat it with. Who alphabetizes their medicine cabinet? Only a hypochondriac, that’s who. An’ Ah think you need ta talk to somebody about yore “relationship” with that vacuum cleaner. Yore practically pickin’ out a china pattern. You wouldn’t let the cleanin’ lady tetch her—Ah mean, it. Ah bet that pore lady quit ‘coss she was sick o’ cleanin’ the carpet with a pair o’ tweezers an’ a toothbrush. An’ Ah gotta say those typed labels on the kitchen cabinets are rilly…weird.

Kimmel (defensively, surreptitiously popping Tums from a small bottle in his pants pocket): Don’t you say anything against Doris—I mean, (sotto voce) my vacuum cleaner. I just like to know where everything is. And considering that everything is covered in dirty clothes, unopened fan mail and half-empty Sprite cans, there’s not much hope of that.

Clay (ingratiatingly): Aww, Jimmy – yore jest up-set ‘coss Ah messed up yore perfect piles o’ magazines on the coffee table.

Kimmel: At this point, I’d settle for being able to find the coffee table.

Clay: C’mon, Jimmy, lighten up. Ah’ll be neater, Ah promise – startin’ right now.

Kimmel: Well, I hope so – I sure don’t see how it could get any worse…

(The doorbell rings. Clay walks over to open the door. Kimberley Locke is standing there, holding Raleigh and a huge bag of her toys.)

Clay (delighted): Kim! An’ mah Raleigh girl! (Raleigh wags her little tail in excitement, making cute little yipping noises and licking Clay’s face frantically as he takes her from Kim.)

Kim: I’m so sorry, Clay – I know I said I’d keep her for a while, but Don started having an allergic reaction and I just can’t anymore. I’m really sorry.

Clay (wrestling with Raleigh): Aww, Kim, that’s all right. Ah ‘preciate ya givin’ it a try. Ah’m sure it’ll be jest fine if she bunks here with me…right, Jimmy?

(Kim, Clay and Raleigh all turn to Kimmel inquiringly. Kimmel looks straight out at the audience in horror, hands on face, ala Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Or Macauley Culkin in “Home Alone.” Take your pick.)

Kimmel: Oh, nooooooooo…

(The lights dim as we hear Raleigh start to growl ominously at Kimmel)

(Cue audience laugh track and applause)


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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sex, Sexy and Sex on a Stick

So, I was thinking about sex the other day. No, not that way, I was specifically thinking about sex in music and entertainment. Why is it that so many artists today think sexy has to be about sex? If you have to sell it that hard, maybe you don't have the right product. If you have to announce you're bringing sexy back, what makes you think you had it in the first place?

Now I tend to vote more Democratic than Republican, but when Tipper Gore came out pushing for labels on CDs, even I rolled my eyes a bit. Then I became a parent. Now my teenager swears she barely listens to the lyrics, she just likes to dance to the beat. But have our kids become so desensitized to explicit lyrics that they don't even notice half the song is bleeped out on the radio?

Believe me, I'm no prude. You should see the little dance routine I have when I'm privately listening to Def Leppard's Pour Some Sugar on Me. But, what is sexy about songs like Magic Stick, London Bridge or My Humps? Do any of these songs really create a sensual response in the listener? Or could people be singing a nursery rhyme as long as it is danceable and has a dirty word or two? If American Bandstand was on today, would the typical answer to the “rate the record” question be Its got a good beat and my mom cringes every fourth word? Lyrics? What lyrics?

Clay has managed to create a sensual atmosphere with phrasing, guttural sounds, even anger or other emotions. He has turned a simple microphone stand into a prop in such a way that women have mic stand envy. You can feel the sexy from either audio or the visual. Low notes that vibrate in your chest, passion, high notes that cause his body to arch back into the note are just examples. And of course, there's that “thing you do with your eyes” as Tyra Banks observed when he visited her talk show. Sometimes, it's just walking or singing in tight black pants.

And how do you make anger sexy? Channel it into a song about being wronged and surviving to not only succeed again but to be so confident in yourself that you can sing a big kiss off. Here's one of the best examples of that from Charlotte 2004. Speculation was that Clay was channeling memories of his biological father but I'd like to see it again in 2007 with a big kiss off to RCA.

Of course, Clay can lose himself in the performance and push the envelope from sexy to sex as he did in Pittsburgh in 2005 while dancing with Angela Fisher, one of his background singers.

For some reason, I didn't mind that at all.......

But the bottom line for me is that sexy can be arousing and erotic without being explicit. (It holds true in the movies too. There were a few scenes with Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barkin in The Big Easy that were extremely erotic because of what they didn't show. ) The reaction to sexy music and performances is personal, while explicit is almost impersonal because it takes away the input of your own imagination and emotion. My reaction to Clay is almost visceral sometimes.

Smart is sexy too in an entertainer. Clay's ability to articulate intelligent responses to current events, politics and music as he did in a 15 minute guest spot on KTLA's morning show last month is one example. His witty but knowledgeable commentary was just as sexy as any guttural moan or that thing he does with his eyes. George Clooney has never looked as sexy to me as he does now that he's started taking political stands.

Funny is sexy too. Whether Clay is telling amusing stories to Jay Leno, goofing around with Jimmy Kimmel or teasing his audience in concert, he manages to exude sexiness with his laugh and his wit.

And sometimes funny is inadvertently sexy as in this little playtime in a 2004 concert in Charlotte, NC.

Smart, funny, handsome. That's more than sexy, that's sex on a stick.

To hear Sex on a Stick-check out his album A Thousand Different Ways. Getting in the holiday mood? you can pre-order a 4 song EP at called All is Well as a perfect companion to 2004's Merry Christmas with Love.


For another look at "what is sexy" visit Sexy Is As Sexy Does

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Sunday, October 29, 2006

Keep On Keeping On, Clay

Today I was listening to Blues Power by Eric Clapton and when he sang "Bet you didn't think I knew how to rock and roll?" . . . I just thought . . . Montage . . . Clay Aiken.

Usually I write long blogs - but this is really just like a little lagniappe - a little gift from Clay to Clive Davis by way of me.

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Monday, October 23, 2006

How About The Clay Aiken Music Variety Show?

Come on Clay. There's a huge lack of music on the TV and a bigger lack of an entertainer with talent for song, comedy - with a ton of charisma. If anyone can bring back that genre . . . you're the man to do it!

I've been thinking about all the different kinds of music I love. A lot of the music I've come to appreciate was because I had exposure to it when I was young. My parents used to take me to a Broadway show every year for my birthday. My first show was Mr. Wonderful with Sammy Davis Jr. when I was just 6 or 7 - and, oh man, did I fall hard for live theater. But it was the variety shows we watched on television that bring back so many memories. How I learned to appreciate the music my parent's loved. And how they learned to tolerate mine!

I was too young for the first Dinah Shore Show in the early 50s, but I remember the Dinah Shore Chevy Show in the late 50s and early 60's as well as her specials. This video of Dinah with her guest, the fabulous Peggy Lee, really shows how dynamic network television could be. And this is no easy song to pull off -- plus they both look FABULOUS!

My family would watch the Ed Sullivan show together and I can still remember that night I fell in love with George Harrison the first time I saw The Beatles. My American Bandstand memories are really strong -- singing and dancing with my older sister. How hard she tried to teach me the Philadelphia Lindy. And then there was Shindig and Hullabaloo. Wow - how many great pop and rock and roll artists did we get to see from 1964-1966? Here's a rare clip of The Beatles from Shindig when, in 1964, they presented a few shows from London. And look - The Beatles did covers!!!

I adored the Andy Williams Show (1962-1971) where I'd get to hear incredible performers. I remember it was the Andy Williams Show where I first heard the wonderful Brazilian guitarist and composer, Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Now, if you've read some of my other blogs, you know I'm a huge Bobby Darin fan. These two clips are GREAT! The first is also from The Andy Williams Show - with Andy, Bobby and Eddie Fisher performing Do Re Mi from The Sound Of Music. Just listen and watch - the incredible energy, the great singing, the charm - it jumps right off the screen.

PBS is a great place to watch great performers - and this Bobby Darin concert was no different. Recorded before a live audience in March 1973, just nine months before he died from heart failure at 37, the show wasn't aired until many years later -- but it really captures Bobby at the height of his talent.

And, of course, there was the amazing and controversial Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour from 1967-1969, where performers as diverse as The Doors, Glen Campbell and Herman's Hermits took the stage. And . . . the brilliant Pete Seeger, who had been invited to appear on the Smothers' second season premiere to sing his anti-war song, "Waist Deep in the Big Muddy." The censoring of Seeger created a public outcry, causing the network to relent and allow Seeger to reappear on the Comedy Hour later in the season to perform the song.

The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour was a fun mix of comedy, music and great Cher costumes. And I adored watching the very funny Flip Wilson Show where Flip mixed in musical guests as diverse as Isaac Hayes, The Temptations, Louis Armstrong and Johnny Cash.

So come on Clay . . . how about some musical variety specials? We know you've got the musical chops.

And we know you can bring the funny.

And what could be bad about looking at that face on a big screen tv every once in a while?

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

"Hey! I'm Runnin' for Office!"

Yesterday I was watching MSNBC in my office when I saw a pundit from Newsweek and a local politician raving about the junior senator from my state, Barack Obama. It was refreshing, to say the least, after weeks of negative campaign ads, to hear something good about a candidate for a change. Especially from the aforementioned politician, who LOST to Obama in the last primary election. And especially about a candidate who isn’t a candidate...yet.

Barack Obama has certainly come a long way in a relatively short time. One bestselling book, another one just out and sure to reach the same status, a high-profile, and some would say electrifying, appearance at the last Democratic National Convention, well-attended fundraisers, a highly-publicized and successful trip to Africa. If you get an endorsement from the likes of Oprah before you’re even a candidate, that’s pretty significant! I don’t think there’s any denying that he’s a star. But that was obvious to me from the time I met him, more than two years ago...cue flashback music...

Obama was to participate in a live political forum at my television station with the six other Democratic senatorial primary candidates. The broadcast was scheduled for 7:00pm sharp; when that time arrived, all the other candidates were there, but no Obama, who was apparently stuck in traffic. My fellow publicist and I waited apprehensively in the parking lot, although Obama’s photographer, standing there with us, was pretty blasé. "This happens a lot," he assured us.

Suddenly, out of the darkness, we glimpsed a bobbing head at the opposite end of the parking lot -- as it got closer, we could see that it was Obama, running toward us jauntily with a big smile on his face. I don't know where his car was. As he reached us, he asked (not at all out of breath), "Has it started?" Yes, we told him. "Okay,” he replied, “just tell me where to go.” We took off into the building and down the long corridor, two publicists in black and Obama in his impeccable suit, running side by side with his photographer behind, all of us cracking up. As we reached the studio doors, a newspaper photographer jumped out in front of us and got this photo. Just before Obama went in, he stopped, swiped a hand across his brow, grinned and joked, "Hey! I'm runnin' for office!"

Then he strode into the studio, cool as a cucumber (there was a subtle “Ooooh!” from the audience), and took his place at one end of the stage just as the moderator was introducing the first candidate at the other. The participants sitting closest to him, evidently under his spell, pulled out handkerchiefs and mopped his brow, straightened his tie and smoothed out his suit jacket. By the time the camera reached his end of the row, he looked as if he’d been sitting there calmly all along.

Of course he easily overshadowed everybody in the forum that night. And despite the efforts of his aides to move him along, he stayed afterward to talk to some high school students in the audience. I watched him for more than half an hour, patiently answering their questions with no reporters or photographers present.

Later in the campaign, Obama returned to our station for a press conference. Hounded for his reaction to a family scandal attached to his opponent, he refused to go there. “That’s personal,” he said. “I’d rather talk about the issues.” He took the high road. A road most politicians these days couldn’t find with a Rand-McNally atlas, a compass and a personal tour guide.

Will he be President someday? Here’s hoping.

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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Revisiting The Music Genome Project: Follow The Thousand Different Ways Road

Yeah. A Thousand Different Ways has been added to the Music Genome Project! Now I can set up a new Clay Aiken station and follow the path his new CD sets out for me --discovering new music along the way!

A while back I wrote a blog The Music Genome Project about, which is a website where you can create your own music stations. The foundation is built on The Music Genome Project and the founder, Tim Westergren, talks about how it was created and why:
Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or "genes" into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It's not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it's about what each individual song sounds like.

I was so excited to find that A Thousand Different Ways has been analyzed and added to the database - so I thought it was time to create a new station for myself and see where Pandora took me this time. Rather than using a song from ATDW, I decided to simply start once again with Clay Aiken. Pandora has a new section called Backstage where you can get additional information about albums, artists and songs. Similar artists listed on Clay's page are: Traveling Willburys; Scissor Sisters; The Samples; Survivor and Marti Pellow. I love the Willburys and have just started listening to some Scissor Sisters. I am familiar with some of The Samples and Survivor but know nothing about Marti Pellow. I'm intrigued by the listing.

When I click on ATDW album - the list for simiilar albums includes: Ta-Dah by Scissor Sisters; Two Lights by Five for Fighting; Alex Lloyd's self-titled album; the Howie Day Live album and Jesse McCartney's Beautiful Soul.

I'm very intrigued to see what Pandora's first suggestion will be for me - so I start my new radio station. First up is Land of A Thousand Words by Scissor Sisters. I click to see why this song and Pandora tells me:

Subtle use of harmony, acoustic rhythm piano, use of string ensemble, mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation and major key tonality.

These are the same elements that are noted when I started my Clay Aiken station. When I check the Backstage area for similar songs – they suggest: Clay Aiken – A Thousand Days; Robbie Williams – Better Man; Five for Fighting – Johnny America; Marti Pellow – Close to you and Jon Bon Jovi – All About Loving You.

I know this Scissor Sisters song - and like it. So I give it a Thumbs Up - so it will incorporate their elements into my station. Next suggestion is Five For Fighting’s The Riddle – I like this as well – so it gets a thumbs up too.

Pandora's next suggestion is Yellow by G4. Not feeling it – something about the lyrics – and the rhythms – so thumbs down. It's really not bad, but I want to see what other direction this station can go in. After all, that's the whole point to Pandora . . . give it your musical tastes and see what happens!

Don’t Want To Miss A ThingAerosmith. Big ballad - but today I like this. Checked to see why Pandora was playing this song and in addition to the elements noted above, they also included the vocal-centric aesthetic. So I gave it a thumbs up and wait for the next song.

Here’s My Song by Nicolai Dunger. I've never heard of him but I really like this song. Pandora makes it easy to download from iTunes – so I do that. I also checked out to find out more about him.
The Swedish music scene has brought the world many great pop acts over the years and has recently been a hotbed for edgy indie rock. But Sweden has not been known for introducing amazing singer-songwriters to the world. Until now. Enter Nicolai Dunger, a former professional soccer player who was discovered by a producer while he sang on a balcony in his hometown and gave up his sports career to pursue his passion for music. We're glad he did, for Nicolai is a tremendous talent whose voice recalls the joyful pastoral soul of vintage Van Morrison and the melancholy crooning of both Tim and Jeff Buckley.

Well – that explains it. Since I’m a huge Van Morrison and Tim and Jeff Buckey fan –as you can see in my previous blog Haunting Voices. Very cool.

Next up -- Clay’s A Thousand Days. Why? Same as the elements above including the vocal-centric aesthetic. Checked Pandora's Backstage for information on the Song and Pandora lists these as the features of the song:

pop rock qualities
a subtle use of vocal harmony
acoustic rhythm piano
use of a string ensemble
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
a vocal-centric aesthetic
a clear focus on recording studio production
major key tonality
a dynamic male vocalist
acoustic rhythm guitars
upbeat lyrics

Thumbs up - well naturally.

England Dan and John Ford ColeyWe’ll Never Have To Say Goodbye . Nothing bad – just nothing special. So I gave it a thumbs down just to see where Pandora would take me next. That was to Backstreet Boys and Drowning. I think we’re getting “too romantic” – so I decided to add some more music to the mix. You can do that in Pandora. Just click on I want to add more music. So I put in Lonely No More and Broken Wings by Clay Aiken.

Next up was Tracy’s Song/Only Time Will Tell by Nelson. I've never really listened to them. I kind of liked this. Clicked on Backstage to hear about the Song and it showed similar songs as A Thousand Days by Clay Aiken; Little One by Beck; Love & Regret by Deacon Blue and November Rain by Guns N’ Roses. Interesting grouping – I love Pandora for finding similarities in stuff that is unexpected. Thumbs up.

Creed was next – with Human Clay. Well even with Clay in the title and many of the same elements – I'm not a Creed fan -- just don’t like Scott Stapp’s voice – so thumbs down for me. Sorry Creed-fans.

So from Scott’s grizzly voice Pandora switches to smooth Peter Cetera’s voice – but still – not feeling it. So thumbs down on this one as well.

Next up – The Samples with Sad World. Now this is more my kind of thing. Still many of the same qualities we started with but I really like Sean Kelly’s voice and this is truly touching. Thumbs up for sure. Now we’re cooking.

Marti Pellow and Close To You comes up now. I really like this and when I check the Backstage area – it shows me that A Thousand Different Ways is a similar album to Marti’s Smile. I wanted to buy this from iTunes – but unfortunately, it’s not there. But it goes on my list of albums to check out somewhere else. Smile is from 2001 and was recorded when Marti left Wet Wet Wet (who had the big hit from Four Weddings & A Funeral – Love Is All Around).

Howie Day’s Live album – Collide is next. I can see where Lonely No More’s qualities are kicking into gear with Sad World and now Collide. Thumbs up and I’ve never heard this Live album – so off to iTunes to download this version.

I like where I’m heading now on this Clay Aiken station – next up is U2’s Original of the Species. I never get tired of this so thumbs up. But I’m curious to check the Backstage Song info – sure enough it says:

pop rock qualities
acoustic rhythm piano
use of a string ensemble
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
a vocal-centric aesthetic
major key tonality
a dynamic male vocalist
acoustic rhythm guitars

Yup – much in common with Clay Aiken’s A Thousand Days (excluding those damn spinning balls *g*) . . .

How Can I – by Mike and the Mechanics & Paul Carrick. This is new to me but I really like it. I take a trip to iTunes but unfortunately can’t find the song. So I look up the artist in Backstage - Well that’s interesting. . . Under similar artists – Clay Aiken is included along with Deacon Blue and Pet Shop Boys. No wonder I liked this.

David Pack is next with Tomorrow and Forever. Really like this and a trip to iTunes is successful – downloaded this one.

Shelby Lynne is next – and I’m a fan of Shelby’s and I like Wall In Your Heart. Matt Kearney is up next – I love Matt and Nothing Left To Lose is one of my favorite songs – of course it’s already on my iPod and on repeat a lot. I think the Shelby and David Pack moved me into an area where there’s additional elements not in Clay’s stuff. Here’s what’s listed for this particular song:

mellow rock instrumentation
folk influences
a subtle use of vocal harmony
extensive vamping
meandering melodic phrasing
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
major key tonality
melodic songwriting
acoustic rhythm guitars
subtle use of acoustic piano
upbeat lyrics

I decide to experiment and add Here You Come Again by Clay Aiken to the mix to see where that takes me.

Barenaked Ladies is where . . . Peterborough and the Karwarthas. I’ve always enjoyed this song. Here’s the backstage elements of this song:

mellow rock instrumentation
a subtle use of vocal harmony
mixed acoustic and electric instrumentation
major key tonality
a breathy male lead vocalist
acoustic rhythm guitars

I guess the HYCA addition gave me the breathy male lead vocalist. Fun!

Tides’ Tell Me comes up next. This is new to me. I like it but unfortunately can’t get it on iTunes. Don’t Let Go with Bryan Adams and Sarah McLachlen – is lovely. Never heard it before. Really liked this duet.

Next up is Five for Fighting with Freedom Never Cries. I love this song – it’s already on my iPod. But I’m curious about the features so I check backstage:

acoustic rock instrumentation
a subtle use of vocal harmony
acoustic rhythm piano
acoustic sonority
use of a string ensemble
major key tonality
acoustic rhythm guitars

Similar songs includes Clay Aiken’s Here You Come Again. Remember they aren’t analyzing actual words in the lyrics for similarity – just the musical elements and yes I can hear what they are hearing.

Well I've been following this path for quite a well and really enjoying myself. But it’s time to stop. My Clay Aiken station will be there for me to pick up on another day. And look at the new artists I discovered - very quickly: Marti Pellow and Nicolai Dunger – and I’ll be downloading more of their stuff for sure. Also found a few songs I never heard before like the Bryan Adams/Sarah McLachlen duet.

All in all, not a bad trip down the Clay Aiken Pandora path. What a fabulous way to discover music. No “too cool for school” critics telling me what I should like. No music suggested by radio play or popularity. Just music that touches my emotions – through the sound and lyrics.

Right now I’ve got 5 radio stations on my account at Pandora. One starts with Eric Clapton as the initial choice. One begins with Danny O’Keefe. Another starts at Peter Cincotti. And the fouth begins with Eric Andersen. I’ve got my blues, jazz, rock, pop and folk paths all taking me in on a road trip – discovering music that’s tailored to my tastes. What a great concept!

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Monday, October 09, 2006

Charm....What is it?

Charm......What is it? describes 'charm' as this:

*The power or quality of pleasing or delighting; attractiveness
*a delightful characteristic
*any action supposed to have magical power.
*to delight or please greatly by beauty, attractiveness, etc.; enchant:
*to be fascinating or pleasing.

Someone who charms is a rare thing these days. In fact, it seems to be an old-fashioned word, used to describe something in the past, a lost art, something that in today's modern age, seems strangely out of place. Yet it's the one word that comes to mind whenever I see Clay Aiken on television. I just watched him charm a nation on the Martha Stewart Show this week. Clay appeared in an interview segment, then a cooking segment with his grandmother, baking their 'hot pineapple salad'. His third segment was a performance of "A Thousand Days' from his newly released album, A Thousand Different Ways.

If you decide to try the recipe, make sure you only use ONE can of pineapple and salted butter, not unsalted, as the website calls for. The website is incorrect.

Watch Clay singing 'A Thousand Days' from his appearance on Martha Stewart:

Here is a man who understands how television works, who knows how to play to the camera for maximum effect, yet makes it all seem so real and natural that one can't help but be charmed by his sparkling personality. Clay's combination of natural charm, innate intelligence, and quick wit is a lethal combination that attracts viewers and invites them into his world.

He does this without posturing, without ego, without that macho attitude that some men think is attractive. He charms effortlessly and his self-confidence shines through in a way that is not overpowering, but is very welcoming.

Paula Abdul once said about Clay: You have a quiet confidence that draws people in. I've followed Clay for the past three and a half years and that is the one thing that has never wavered...his quiet acceptance of people, his confidence in who he is, and the way he welcomes everyone into his world, whether it's from the restricted box of television, or on a stage in front of 8,000 people.

I remember a story I once heard about Clay. In December, 2003, he took part in a mini-holiday tour called 'Jingle Balls' sponsered by radio stations which included a mix of performers such as Sean Paul, Michelle Branch, All American Rejects, Simple Plan, and more, a 'nerd amongst the cool kids', so to speak. Yet the story I heard was backstage, everyone, and I mean everyone from the performers to the DJ's, were all crowding around his dressing room because they liked him so much. All part of the Aiken charm.

So I challenge the readers. Leave your comments and let me know who else you think is charming.

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Saturday, October 07, 2006

Revisiting The Clay Fans the Media Conveniently Forgets

In honor of the absurdity that is the Bernie Alexander article on entitled 5 Things You Didn't Know About Clay Nation - I thought I would buy Bernie a clue. I can afford it . . . I'm a professional woman - with a good paycheck. So Bernie - if you are going to write an article about the Clay Nation - I've got a few things you might want to include. First and foremost, I'd suggest that you don't use gossip sites that have no basis in reality as your resources. How about actually talking to a Clay Aiken fan for information about Clay Aiken fans? Gosh what a concept. Oh, and Bernie - how hard did you have to look to find a picture of Clay that was less than appealing? I've got a better one for your next article.

So - for you Bernie - I'm revisiting an archived blog from May - all about Real Clay Aiken fans and who we are. If you get to the end of this article, Bernie, I'll be happy to go over the list of 5 Things You Got Wrong About The Clay Nation.

Where did the idea that the majority of Clay Aiken fans are conservative Christians, homophobic, miserable, lonely old women come from? Who created this fantasy that fans of Clay only listened to Barry Manilow (or Liberace) and stopped listening to music until American Idol came on the television? How did this nonsense that Clay fans think he’s the next Pat Boone or Perry Como become the mantra of the media? Is it lazy journalism? One reviewer or reporter writes up his misconception and other writers decide that person must be correct? Do these “journalists” actually speak to fans? Do they filter out anything that doesn’t meet that misconception? Could it possibly be something else that contributes? American Idol created a competition and, although the competition is over and many of the contestants have moved on to successful careers – some fans seem to think it’s important to keep the game going. Why do so many people who dislike Clay Aiken bother analyzing his music, his life, and his motives? Why do people actively work against Clay Aiken by pretending to be Clay fans or ex-Clay fans – spreading the extraordinarily inaccurate vision of Clay Aiken fans to anyone who will listen? It’s a mystery why this misconception is repeated over and over. But for any writer who is actually interested in something more accurate . . . a story that isn’t a rehash of the same old-same old . . . you might want to take a look at some real fans of Clay Aiken.

Amazing – but true . . .what I've found is that the Clay fandom is much more diverse than many others. Is the audience predominately women? Yes. Just as it was at the beginning of the career of many popular artists from Elvis, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. What’s extraordinary is the range of ages. I see youngsters, teenagers and young adults at all his concerts. Unfortunately, the insistence of the media that his fan base is a bunch of old ladies - makes it difficult for young girls and especially young men to admit they are fans. Is a large segment of his audience middle-aged? Without a doubt. About the same age as the audience I saw when I attended Eric Clapton’s concert at Madison Square Garden just last year.

What many of these reviewers and writers miss is who these middle-age women were 30 years ago. Contrary to popular media opinion . . . we didn't grow up from a fungus behind the Wal-Mart counter. Many of us were part of the Woodstock generation. Some of us wore flowers in our hair and danced in the mud that glorious summer of 1969. We were part of the sexual revolution in this country. We marched for civil rights, women's rights, gay rights. We worked for equality in the workplace. We organized marches and protests and sit-ins at campuses across the country. And throughout our generation, some of the best music was born. Why do journalists think we suddenly developed lousy taste? Are they so limited in their own knowledge of music that they cannot recognize where we came from? Our generation had the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Our soul music was Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding. Who would have heard of Pink Floyd if it wasn't for us? Or Cream or Blind Faith. Or Led Zeppelin or Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles or Jimi Hendrix. And we didn’t need to listen to only one kind of music to “be cool”. We could mix it up - go from Bob Dylan to Jefferson Airplane to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young to the Doors to the Butterfield Blues Band to Donovan to Bruce Springsteen. To dismiss people of our age is to deny the musical and social foundation of our generation.

Were we all hippies and punks and rebels? Of course not. But you’d be surprised how many of us were. What I've found in this fandom is people are drawn to Clay Aiken for all kinds of reasons. And while there are certainly a large number of Christian fans – to leap to an assumption that this means ultra-conservative and homophobic is a leap that is completely unjustified. Extremes exist in every group - but the overriding quality I've found in this fandom is tolerance and generosity. There are many many fans of different religions - or atheist or agnostic - who simply love the voice. There are people who are inspired by his charity and desire to serve . . . but are first and foremost fans of the entertainer. The women (and men) I've met in this fandom are a wonderful representation of the population. . . people whose lives were never empty. They are mothers, daughters, grandparents, fathers and sons, teachers, doctors, secretaries, lawyers, executives, librarians, salespeople, scientists. They didn't turn to Clay to fill an emotional void in their lives - they turned to Clay because he filled a musical need . . . a way to reconnect with a time when music was exciting - when singers had interesting voices, when concerts had energy.

My husband, in his youth, played in a rock and roll band. After he discovered Clay Aiken, he pulled his guitar out and started playing again. When I asked him why he's a fan of Clay's - he said "because Clay makes me feel hopeful". Now -- that's the kind of story I'd like to see the media write.

In honor of age - This blog's quote is: No wise man ever wished to be younger. Jonathan Swift

Oh, and Bernie - here's a brief rundown on your 5 items and the truth behind them.

1. The Clay Nation DID NOT sue anyone. Some anonymous people decided that they wanted to get some press by posting a hoax about Claymates suing the record label. A press release went out days before an anonymous letter was sent to the FTC. Using only first names and no addresses - the FTC was unable to look into the matter - even if they ever thought it had any merit. The fact that no contact information was given is proof enough that no one expected anything to be done. Considering the thousands of Clay fans on the internet - the fact that 9 first names were used to write this bogus complaint should hardly be worth a sentence - much less #1 on The Bernie Alexander List. The fact that a press release was written and sent to the media only shows that a majority of the media is completely unable to participate in rational thinking -- something that shouldn't really be surprising given the amount of nonsense the "media" spews.

2. Clay Nation Made Rush Limbaugh Apologize. Well, probably a few nuts who happen to be Clay Aiken fans contacted Rush Limbaugh. I wouldn't exactly call them Clay Nation -- any more than I consider you and your ridiculous article representative of real men. Surely within a fan base - there are always a few nuts. Here's an example of some at a sporting event - not sure if they are readers of AskMen. What do you think?

3. Clay Nation demanded a bridge be named after Clay - sorry Bernie is this supposed to be something scandalous? There was some joking around with Clay and the Governor and some fans decided to put up a petition. Am I supposed to be horrified at this? Sorry - I'm much more horrified at the price of gas.

4. Clay Nation bombarded his alleged lover with threats. Well at least you used the word "alleged" - but here's a question for you Bernie? Did you ask the police about Mr. Paulus's claims of harrassment? His incessent whining about losing his job because of the big bad Claymates? Or did it just fit your article better to write this crap without seeing if any of it held any merit. Oh and the apology? Did you buy that one as well? Bernie, Bernie, Bernie . . . you're really not a very discerning man are you?

5. Clay Nation planned independent release parties. Oh My God! Did they really do that? Oh My God! That's nuts. That's crazy. That's insane. Thousands of fans from the US, Canada and Asia actually got together to eat, drink and mingle and buy a Clay Aiken CD! I've never heard of anything so scandalous. Really. Those fans should be taken out and shot for doing such an insane thing. Do the fans of Bradley Walker know this? They had a CD Release party for his first CD. Of course, Walker's CD was produced by a Grammy winner, Carl Jackson. Maybe that's why it's not so damn silly as Clay Nation having a party. Jackie Ryan - well she's a jazz vocalist so maybe that's why her CD release party wasn't so silly. Greg Smith too. But I guess in the musical world of jazz - people aren't so condescending about what fans choose to do to celebrate artists they like. Bernie if this is the extent of what you can find to make fun of the Clay Nation - you really had better get moving. I'm just not impressed with your rehashing the same old junk. Next time, try to find something interesting to write about - like maybe Clay Aiken.

Addition: Just found a really great website who's mission is meet the unserved need for innovative, topical, relevant and entertaining programming of particular interest to women - Greenstone Media.

Gloria Steinem was recently interviewed in a phone conference by 10 women bloggers - they talked about the state of broadcasting, women and the conversation missing from the radio. Check it out at Greenstone Radio

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