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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Anonymous said...

He missed a few notes and there were actually people saying his voice was shot?? Glad I canceled my Google alerts last year. Anyone who could make that type of assumption after listening to the entire Waukegan concert has no credibility anyway. Does anyone still believe these losers. I've downloaded the videos. AIW (both nights) gave me chills. Clay Aiken has a beautiful and haunting voice. Can't wait to see where his talent takes him next. Wonderful blog!!!!

berkeley said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

The note in BOTW is a b-flat, one half-step above the note in AIW. But in AIW, he's singing sustained at the upper end of his range for much of the last portion, which is very difficult.

berkeley said...

Let's try that again...

And brava to you, CB. Great blog!

As much as Clay joked going into the song and showed his joyful relief when he finished it, there was more.

There is something about Clay Aiken and the transcendent moment, a moment in time when he seems to leave the stage and go to someplace... exalted. I wonder if, in that instant, he sees the face of his god?

Over the last four years, I have heard Clay use his sublime voice on hundreds of songs --- and he's hit maybe half a dozen bad notes. It is only noteworthy because it happens so rarely. Hey, even Tiger Woods has failed to make the cut a few times, and in the same season he'll win the British and US Opens, and don the green jacket at the Masters. Just goes to show that even the best aren't perfect.

I love music and I love Clay's voice, but I know where to go if I'm interested in expert commentary. The people whose opinions matter to me are the ones who really know great singers, from Gladys Knight and Neil Sedaka in the early AI days, to David Foster (14 Grammys, 43 nominations) now. All of them see in Clay an exceptional, blue-moon talent, well on his way to becoming an artist for the ages.

And hey, even on the rare occasion when Clay hit a bad note, in the snarky words of the late, great Warren Zevon...

"His hair was perfect."

I'm looking forward to the rest of the tour.

I've been enjoying Clay's "All is Well" EP, but I'm going to be replaying that Merrillville AIW clack for quite some time!

Anonymous said...

Bravo for writing these wonderful words for us to read & Bravo Clay.

Anonymous said...

Wow, CB, what a wonderful blog! I was there in chat last night and it was exactly as you described. It was the next best thing to being at the concert itself. The pictures and video just bring to life what was felt in my heart through that moment last night. To wake up this morning and see that moment on his face is very special. Thank you for putting into words so well what I felt in my heart.


Anonymous said...

The opinion of "haters" means nothing to me, other than curiousity. Do they feel any joy in their daily lives?

I'm glad that Clay Aiken and the members of his nation got to experience this moment in time. What a voice and what a man!!

The ConCLAYve-Nan said...

I didn't think it was possible to admire and love him more - but that sealed the deal. My goodness - his face - his reverence - his desire to praise his God and his desire to please his fans and himself is palpable. How gorgeous.
My husband wanted to see this so badly but had to leave for a meeting early this morning. I know when he gets to his hotel he'll read this blog and watch this video and agree. Absolutely amazing.

Vox Vixen said...

AIW was an amazing performance from an amazing man. I hope Clay felt the love and will of his fans tonight. I think he did.

Anonymous said...


Really fantastic blog!! Thanks so much. I sent it to several non-fan friends this morning :o) I'm not one to be all schmoopie, but what a fanfreakingtastic night. Wow. How did we all get so lucky?

Pink Armchair said...

I'm writing this bleary-eyed from our hotel in Merrillville -- CB, you captured our feelings so well (and considering you weren't here in person, that was quite a feat!). Last night was an unforgettable experience, and it made anything the haters think or write seem totally trivial and irrelevant. You can get schmoopie any old time!

Shell said...

I love your blog CB. That video has already become one of my favorites. Clay still amazes me with his voice and his determination. He could have changed songs around last night to sing All is Well earlier instead of at the end of a very challenging concert. He also could have taken the song out of the set list altogether but he didn't; instead he shared with us such an amazing moment.

laljeterfan said...

Beautiful blog about a beautiful man! I don't listen to the cell-certs, but I have been following along on the messageboards in anticipation of my first of 4 concerts (Monday night in Verona- WooHoo!).A missed note is nothing. The words of the haters (and the haters themselves!) are nothing. The LOVE that was shared Saturday night between Clay, those in attendance, and those listening in and sending their love and prayers, is EVERYTHING!

Thank you to all who shared this exceptional moment with us.It will become another in the long list of cherished "memories" of the ClayNation.

lindygal said...

Thank you so much for this blog and especially the You Tube vid. He is extremely amazing. I was listening to the cellcert and had my fingers crossed, too.

Anonymous said...

Great article; but one tiny error. We have heard Clay sing AIW before-over and over and over...-on his glorious new EP. We just hadn't heard him perform it live. Clay, you amaze us every single day!

Carolina Clay said...


Awesome blog! You summed up the moment and the evening for those attending the concert and for those of us not there. Through your words, the photos, and the video, we can all revisit this triumph often.

Clay's appreciative gesture to the fans just before leaving the stage was also very special.

All Is Well, indeed!


Shadylil said...

Great job, CB! No wonder you said the words just flowed from your fingers. They also flowed from your heart.

Last night was freaking amazing, both for the physical audience and the the people listening on cellcerts with lousy connections. Another moment in the legend that is Clay Aiken.

Anonymous said...

It wasn't about the singing. It was about love, hope and joy and triumph of the spirit. Frankly, he probably will do this song better and better as the tour goes on but Waukegan and Merriville will be my two fave concert experiences, though through cyberspace. I am attending 4-5 concerts in NJ/NY but it will always be these 2 I will remember.

beagle2 said...

CB, this may have been the best blog I have ever read. You captured it all.

Many of us have said in the past that Clay is to us like a sports team is to many others. We follow his career, we cheer for his successes, we hurt for his disappointments. Last night I felt that more than ever. He had the entire Clay Nation rooting for him to hit one out of the park and he did. I love and admire his determination and guts and just his sheer joy in entertaining us!

The haters aren't even on my radar. Life is too short to spend time on something I hate. I'll let them waste their lives, I'm not about to do the same with mine.

Anonymous said...

Great blog!

Even those of us following on the boards felt something special - it was the entire Clay Nation saying a collective prayer and holding a collective breath. The shear joy of knowing he hit the note (and later watching the download) still lingers with me. In fact, I think I'll go watch again and smile.

AlasForOMC said...

CB - beautifully written and shared by the hearts of the Clay Nation.

Southern Girl said...

CB, this was masterful! Thank you for such a lovely description of why the Merrillville AIW will forever be special to Clay fans.

I've linked to this post on my blog about the same subject. Hope that's okay. :)

Anonymous said...

Excellent blog! You've beautifully stated what so many of us feel about this man with the voice of an angel.

Anonymous said...

Missed note or not, this man thus far has the greatest voice I have ever heard. I have never in my life admired a singer like I do Clay. I am not being biased but, I listen to different music by different singers with good voices, too but none of them has really captured my attention. Nothing really special there.But with this man, it is a different story. He is just so charismatic. Beautiful voice couple with incomparable personality. I have not been to any of Clay's concerts but I've watched all his concerts in the clack (thanks much for this)gazillion times. He is a joy to watch and listen to!For haters (this is just a strong word), I think that people who hate other people for no apparent reason are unhappy in their lives and the only way to vent their unhappiness and anger is to go after someone who is unable to defend himself in the open. However, this special someone is too smart to stoop down to their level. That is the Measure of a Man!
Thanks for a great blog, CB. This gives Clay's fans the opportunity to express their feelings.

QBBabe said...

I was there in Waukegan and Merrillville and could not have found the words you did to perfectly describe what took place. With all of this love in the world, indeed All Is Well!

YesI'mEthel said...

Thank you for your beautiful words.

I thank God for allowing me to attend both nights so that I could witness the joy and goodness that defines Clay Aiken as well as the joy of friendships that abound within the Clay Nation.

Anonymous said...

Another one who was there both nights and he is totally, incredibly awesome. I would dare anyone else, male or female, to try the set he just did, after almost a year of not singing in concert, to come out and sing one glorious song after another the way he did. And with the exception of one note, he nailed everything the entire time. I was originally upset when they added the Waukegan show, cause we grabbed Merrillville tickets as soon as they were on line and we were thrilled to be getting to go to the first concert--we had promised ourselves that last year -- that the first on this year, no matter where it was, we would go. When they added Waukegan, so did we--figuring to just make it a weekend -- only about 2 more hours drive. I was totally thrilled with the first show, missed note and all. But after Saturday night, I was extremely thrilled for the Friday show that jumped in. If Saturday had still been first, that might have been the missed note -- and I would have seen it and loved him more than ever anyway. But seeing him come back, the very next night, determined he was going to nail, was totally breathtaking and mesmerizing. You just knew by the look on his face, throughout the whole song, that he was truly building up to it. He was gaining confidence and momentum and he was so deep into singing that song as a true praise to the heavens, that he just kept climbing higher and higher. More and more of his "new word for the night" -- crescendo. It was mindblowing to sit there and watch it and listen to it. He just got more and more powerful as he went -- and there really was nothing that was going to stop it. I have never seen anything like it. He blew my mind years ago with BOTW -- and then blew it with Solitaire. And then watching him perfect those till they were actually easy and automatic hits for him was amazing. I didn't know I could be blown away even more now. I knew he could master anything he tried and succeed. No, maybe not perfect on the first try. Neither was SOTR the first time on AI -- a little stretch on that last note. The next time he did it, he nailed it perfectly. Same for BOTW -- on performance night he was climbing and reached it --- but it looked like it was a stretch he was grabbing with everything inside him. The very next night, on the finale, he nailed it and almost made it seem like no big deal. When he performed it during the JBT, it was perfect, flawless, and looked totally effortless. The same for Solitaire -- as time went on during the NAT -- it was spot on every night. And dang if he didn't do it again this weekend -- on what may be the hardest song he has ever sung. The range of this song it amazing. His voice on this song is amazing. The power on it is astonishing and just goes from slow and kind of soft to so powerfully bold and high.

I truly don't know another singer out there now, I don't care whether male or female, who could do what he did Saturday night. Almost 90 minutes of non-stop singing and talking and joking, and sound utterly perfect every step of the way.

As for the haters -- let them compare their chosen stars -- they will come up short every time. We know it and they know it -- and that is part of why some of them ARE haters. They can't stop him and they know it.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful Blog. The strength of this Nation is amazing.

I for one just do not get the haters, do they not have any love in their life, do they not have families to celebrate the Holidays with. Even if you do not love Clay Aiken you must have some love for something instead of spending every moment trashing a wonderful human being.

The haters loss, the love he shows to his fans and to his friends and family says it all for me. This kid is the real deal, and his voice is awesome.

I know of several wonderful singers, but there are only a handful that could sing and talk for 90 minutes and still hit all those notes.

May 2007 bring joy and happiness in your life Clay, and may others who want to hurt you find some kind of joy in their lives.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Blog..thanks so much. I was in Merrillville on Saturday and the electricity in that audience was undeniable.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned very much...when he came back for the encore of AIW he faced the audience, and had his fingers crossed behind his back..towards the orchestra...and those of us that saw that, raised our crossed fingers in the air for him for a second...then he stepped up to the mic and began his beautiful song.

He could not have been any better.

Anonymous said...

Bravo again for another great blog. We need more people like you to write positive things about Clay, who very well deserve it. We need more people like him in the industry and that is why it is so important for us to wholeheartedly support him as long as he's willing.

I watched the AIW video on YouTube few days ago and I watched it here again today. It again brought tears to my eyes. I was moved more by his singing than the song itself.

For the haters, I do not know why you still bother because nothing you say will ever sway us from the love ClayNation has for Clay. And it's funny how you always pick on a single little incident all the time and do not look at the whole picture. It seems to me that our angel Clay has shine his pure light into your dark soul and it's freaking you out.

WRU-WRU-WRU said...

The is no entertainer in the world especially a singer that hasn't missed a note or more. Clay is one of the few to even try to hit those sustained notes. He is a true entertainer and is a wonderful human being.

God bless Clay Aiken and Merry Christmas to all!

Chardonnay said...

Wow CB! I was breathing every word right along with you as I was reading that. And though it was nearly (EXACTLY) a month ago that moment will always and forever be with me. And what an incredible moment it was. Thank you so much for sharing those thoughts!