Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Blow Your Mind: Clay Aiken Fan Segment The Media Forgot

So 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. I bet if you go to a Toby Keith concert - the majority of the audience will be easily categorized. That doesn’t seem to be true of a Clay Aiken concert. 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 . . . those women didn't grow 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

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Anonymous said...

Smart man Jonathan Swift - thanks for the blog.

pandarose said...

I am bemused by the tendency of critics and other commentators to want to stereotype a fandom. As your post points out, the fans are truly a diverse group and deserve to be recognized as such. Nice article.

~ YSRN ~ said...

"...he said "because Clay makes me feel hopeful"."

Well, dang. You know I haven't said that to myself in a little bit, but that's exactly what it is.

What a great blog - thank you.

*stands up to be counted*

marlee said...

Very interesting blog......great work!

Pink Armchair said...

This was great! I wish the idiots who lump us all together as Clay fans could read this.

ivy said...

You make some great points. It has been shocking to find out how lacking many in the media are in originality and integrity. Today everything is all about ratings. I miss quality reporting and dislike the tabloid focus on celebrities on previously legitimate news shows.

Anonymous said...

moved me to tears. God bless ya, God bless ya! (tm Kenny) Hee!

Idle-wandering said...

Nice blog! I used to work too much, and thought I didn't have time to socialize. I always wished I could meet other women like me--independent, love music, like to have fun, diverse interests. Then I became an Aiken fan. Now I have a bunch of great friends, lots of laughter, lots of joy, lots of love. Clay fans rule!!

beauzzartz said...

Right on sister!!! What a great blog!

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. ~John Barrymore

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams. ~John Barrymore
Oh, I love that quote. Thanks!