Friday, December 28, 2007

Funds Pour in for Clay Aiken's $100,000 UNICEF Mexico Campaign, Deadline December 31

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken with boy at a flood shelter, Ostuacan, Chiapas, Mexico.

Footage from "Entertainment Tonight," screencaps by Invisible926 and CAP121

Monday, December 31:

As of 2 PM PST today, more than $101,000 has been raised as a result of UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken's $100,000 in 10 Days for Mexican Flood Relief Campaign, exceeding the original goal!

Though the goal has been reached, there is much more that can be done. remains. The deadline for the fundraiser is the end of the day today, Monday, December 31. Please act now to support recovery for children and families in Chiapas and Tabasco!

Clay has spent Christmas week traveling on behalf of UNICEF in the flood-stricken regions of Chiapas and Tabasco, Mexico. Also participating in this humanitarian field visit are Clay's mother Faye and his brother Brett, a Marine on leave from Iraq.

In Ostuacan, Chiapas, Clay and the Honorable Isabel Aguilera de Sabines, First Lady of the state of Chiapas, participated in games with the three hundred children in the flood shelters.

Clay has spent the last two days in Tabasco's capital city of Villahermosa, visiting the largest flood shelter and meeting with the children and families residing there.

Please go HERE to make a donation to help the children and families recovering from the floods.

It has been nearly two months since massive flooding in the wake of Hurricane Noel displaced one million people, one third of them children. Additionally, seventy percent of the schools have been damaged and 100% of the state's crops were destroyed.

In the spirit of this season of giving, please do all you can to help the children return to school and help families in Chiapas and Tabasco return to their normal lives.

Please go HERE to make a secure, tax-deductible donation to UNICEF.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken & Family Celebrate Christmas With Survivors of Mexico's Floods

UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken celebrates Christmas at a flood shelter with the children of Ostuacan, Chiapas.

Photo courtesy US Fund for UNICEF

Last month, in the wake of Hurricane Noel, the states of Chiapas and Tabasco, Mexico suffered extensive flooding, forcing one million people from their homes. Many remain homeless and are living in UNICEF supplied shelters.

Here's your chance to share the holiday spirit with children and families waiting to return to their homes and schools.

Help Clay Aiken and UNICEF raise $100,000 by December 31 to help the children of Mexico!

In just four days, UNICEF supporters and fans of Clay Aiken have raised $44,000 toward this goal. In the spirit of the season, please do your part to help raise $100,000 to support recovery for the children and families of Chiapas and Tabasco.

In his Fieldnotes blog at the US Fund of UNICEF, Clay wrote:

Merry Christmas to all from Mexico!

I couldn’t be happier than to be with my family and UNICEF in Mexico sharing the Christmas holiday with the people of Chiapas and Tabasco who have suffered such tragedy.

They have lost so much... but they have an unbelievable spirit and contagious joy. This is the holiday season and the spirit of family and giving is alive and well here.

As upbeat and positive as the people are they still need our help. There is much to do to reconstruct their village and get their lives back to normal. Thank you on behalf of myself, UNICEF and the people of Chiapas for your generous donations… and if you haven’t already, please consider opening your heart to these wonderful people who have opened their hearts and homes to me.

Read the full blog HERE.

Here is an excerpt from this morning's news article on PR Newswire:

CHIAPAS, Mexico, Dec. 25 /PRNewswire/ -- UNICEF Ambassador and critically acclaimed recording artist Clay Aiken today wrapped up the first leg of his trip to the flood affected areas of southeast Mexico by participating in a gift exchange and "sing along" with over 300 children and their families at a camp erected for flood victims.

Aiken, who is traveling in the region with his mother and younger brother, a Marine on leave from Iraq, will also be part of a UNICEF delegation scheduled to visit the state of Tabasco over the next two days.

"The situation in Chiapas and Tabasco has really become a forgotten emergency," said the U.S. pop star who became an ambassador for the children's agency in 2004. "Telling the story of these brave people, especially the children, to a U.S. audience is the reason that I am here. Sharing this experience with my family during this time of year makes it even more special."

In one weekend last month torrential rains in Tabasco and Chiapas produced the worst flooding the region has seen in more than 50 years. More than one million residents of the two states have been affected, one third of which are children.

While an integrated humanitarian response lead by government and U.N. agencies has stabilized the emergency in Mexico, thousands remain homeless and displaced. According to UNICEF officials in the region, children are the most vulnerable in these situations. Hundreds of them are at risk of psychological trauma and many more are out of school due to extensive structural damage to school buildings.

Today's event, also attended by Hon. Isabel Aguilera de Sabines, First Lady of the state of Chiapas, was held in the city of Ostuacan where 19 deaths were recently reported after a series of mudslides engulfed the small mountain community of Juan de Grijalva and the search for six missing residents is ongoing.

Clay Aiken's $100,000 UNICEF challenge. Raise $100,000 by December 31 to help the children of Mexico!

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Noel in Mexico: UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken and the Spirit of the Season

Escaping the flooding in Tabasco. (Photos from the BBC)

Noel: the Christmas season, literal meaning "the birth of Christ."

At the end of October 2007, Hurricane Noel began to batter the state of Tabasco in southeastern Mexico. After more than a week of steady, torrential rain, eighty percent of Tabasco was flooded, and more than a million people were forced from their homes.

In the days following the flooding, UNICEF immediately mobilized to provide emergency supplies of food, baby formula, clean water and safe shelter for the children and families displaced by the flood. The organization is also proving thousands of recreational and school kits for children who have been displaced or whose schools have been destroyed.

Two months later, in this season of noel, many remain displaced. Much more remains to be done.

Now you have a chance to help those affected by the flooding in Mexico.

This Christmas season, UNICEF Ambassador Clay Aiken will not be on a skiing holiday in the French alps. He won't be relaxing around the fire at his North Carolina estate. Realizing that UNICEF never takes a vacation, he has decided to spend his Christmas with the children and families displaced by the floods. He will be traveling to Mexico this weekend, at the conclusion of his fourth Christmas concert tour.

In support of Clay Aiken's work on behalf of the children affected by the flooding, UNICEF has established a special donation link to challenge UNICEF supporters to raise $100,000 by the end of the year to support relief efforts in Mexico.

Clay Aiken being greeted by Indonesian children, following the tsunami. (Photo courtesy UNICEF)

Clay is just part of a UNICEF team giving of themselves in the spirit of the season. Richard Alleyne, a member of UNICEF's Tabasco delegation, was among the first to respond.

UNICEF's Richard Alleyne with mother and child at UNICEF shelter. (Photo courtesy UNICEF)

Read Richard's Field Blog, "[In the Field] On the ground in Villahermosa, Tabasco."

When I look at the first picture in this blog, I wonder who those people are and what happened to them. It could be a father and mother making way through the flood waters holding their child, as so many thousand were forced to do.

This Christmas, I recognize that for some, not only is there is no room at the inn, there is no inn and no manger at all. The time is now. Before year's end, do your part to help people survive this crisis and rebuild their lives.

In the spirit of this season of giving, please act now to help Clay Aiken and UNICEF raise $100,000 before the end of the year for those affected by the flooding in Mexico.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Soul Music

We hear the same songs over and over at the holidays. They are all over the radio or on the 200th repeat of Christmas specials and so you sort of just sing along on auto-pilot. You probably sing outloud or maybe just in your head but mostly you aren't hearing the words or at least the meaning behind them. Sure, I'll remember to laugh the HAHAHA at the right time when singing about dashing through the snow but the non secular songs usually sit in my brain as simply another pretty melody.

When I watch performances like Oh Holy Night from this year's Erie, PA stop along the Joyful Noise 2007 tour, I am reminded how much Clay Aiken's Christmas songs have really allowed me to connect with the words again. Perhaps it is because he connects with the music in such a way that you have no choice but to listen to the words. He turns his soul inside out and paints the words onto yours.

This performance is made even more special as long time backup singer Angela Fisher was unable to be at the concert so Clay and Quiana Parler improvised some beautiful harmonies

Clay sings with his entire upper body on these songs through an oddly effective combination of movement and isolation. A good friend of mine commented that it is like he conducts himself, but I think he is conducting the words and the spirit of the song around the room. It is like it flows out of him and around him. You can almost see the words written in light, like something out of a Harry Potter movie.

He's also gotten incredibly good at telling a story while he sings. Again in Albany, we saw this with a new song that I had never heard called Welcome to our World by Chris Rice. Nanjeanne often talks about the great Barbara Cook who teaches a Master's class for singers. The premise of this class is that she teaches them to sing the reality of the song. Nan posted after we returned from two Christmas concerts in New York that Barbara would be proud of what Clay achieved on those memorable nights.

You know it is an incredibly moving performance when you realize you forgot to breathe and you are rendered immobile in your seat even after he has left the stage.

But less I fall too far down the schmoopy hole, I find that he makes secular songs more fun too. Singing jazzy arrangements by Jesse Vargas and others, he calls on Elvis and other legends of Christmas music for inspiration. This medley gets me smiling every time. I couldn't find a video of Elvis doing it but I did find a montage with him singing in the background. They both go a-walking but Clay's winter hit the lottery since he goes a-walkin through a Winner Wonderland. Here's a partial sampling.

Combining this voice with this ability to both interpret and entertain promises to be on full display in January when he starts his limited run on Broadway in Monty Python's Spamalot. Not to mention, we'll get the same hair color every night which is a Christmas miracle in itself.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'll Be Home for a Clay Aiken Christmas --- if Only on My iPod

Courtesy SmartyPantsSuz

I've survived --- and even thrived during --- another Thanksgiving, avoided the brick-and-mortars on Black Friday and even postponed my Cyber Monday online shopping spree, but the start of the Christmas and winter holiday season is pretty much unavoidable.

Frankly, I don't even want to avoid it, because my favorite part of Christmas is the music.

(Yes, that was me driving up Pacific Coast Highway in July, listening to Clay Aiken singing "Mary, Did You Know?" Hey, he sings it too well to limit listening to the song to one month a year.)

I'm lining up my favorites, old and new, as the soundtrack of my season. There's Clay, of course, with his record-breaking 2004 smash, "Merry Christmas With Love" and the legendary Luther Vandross, singing "This Is Christmas". There's the instrumental brilliance of "God Rest Ye Merry Jazzmen" and my childhood favorite, Vince Guaraldi's classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

There's my priceless EP from 2006, Clay Aiken's "All Is Well". Available only as a limited edition last year, be sure to check it out when it is available on iTunes on Tuesday, December 4.

I love live music, so I usually take in a concert or two --- a popular music artist and perhaps a Messiah sing-a-long. Clay is touring again, for the eighth time in four years. He'll be spending his Christmas in The Heartland. Apparently, the "heartland" is far away from California, so I won't be seeing Clay this year. (I won't complain: I'll be home with friends and family during the holiday season, while, when the tour ends, Clay will be far from home at Christmas, living the tenets of his faith and his commitment to children on his fourth field visit as a UNICEF Ambassador.)

Be sure to check him out if the tour stops near you. The schedule is at the end of this blog.

Last night was Clay's first tour stop in Wichita, Kansas. For a man who has done everything in the last four years to make each of his Christmas tours different from the last, I had no idea what to expect. One year, it was Clay and his three backup singers, with little children reading passages from the Nativity story. The next, Clay decided to write a play, using actors, dancers and local choirs and, instead of using any of the witty banter for which he has become known, Clay "spoke" his part entirely in song. Last year, he was a solo act with orchestra, and drew reviews that praised his comic skills just as much as his singing.

This year, his long time backup singers, Quiana Parler and Angela Fisher, have joined him again, along with Jesse Vargas, his masterful music director, on piano, and a new addition from the summer tour, Sean McDaniel, on drums.

I'm a couple of thousand miles from Wichita, so my experience of the concert was audio only at first, then through video this morning. How I love the Internet...

My reaction to Clay, singing Michael W. Smith's "Welcome to Our World":

First, I laughed out loud.

Then, the smile spread slowly across my face.

Finally, the tears started in the corners of my eyes.

What an utterly rewarding experience. I just delight in how much Clay has grown as an artist. Personally, I love that he delivers something different every year: whether or not I think his choices are wholly successful, his creativity is so very satisfying to me.

Here's a video from last night's concert, courtesy GibbGal:

It's not an original thought, but Clay has delivered something entirely different every time he has gone on tour. I can see the artistry, the work, the thoughtfulness, the inspiration and the professionalism that go into putting his shows together.

He even took time to blog to members of his official fan club after the concert, talking a bit about the change of pace he was looking for in this show, which falls between his 2007 summer tour, full of "lighthearted and silliness", and his starring role as Sir Robin in the Tony-winning musical, "Monty Python's Spamalot", starting on January 18, 2008, which he describes as "goofiness and stupidity." I guess he doesn't think that his mastery of slapstick, his quicksilver wit and his occasional, subtle (or not) use of innuendo always have to be front and center when he appears on stage.

Last year saw Snarky!Christmas!Clay! (complete with body function jokes of your own making, Blogger Man *g*) and, with a couple of brief exceptions, he delighted me with what he did on that far-away-from-me tour.

This year, instead of continuing to escalate the mood until it turned into a burlesque, Clay went with tradition, formality and simplicity.

He's relying on the music, on his voice, on Quiana and Angela's talents and on Jesse's skillful arrangements, supported by the symphonies with which he appears.

I find these choices to be quietly bold.

He has my attention --- and my appreciation --- completely.

Bravo, Clay.

Courtesy dc4clay

Clay Aiken's Joyful Noise Tour 2007: Christmas in the Heartland


11/26/07 Wichita, KS, US Central Christian Church
11/27/07 St Louis, MO, US, Fox Theatre
11/28/07 South Bend, IN, US Morris Auditorium
11/29/07 Waukegan, IL, US Genessee Theatre
11/30/07 Kalamazoo, MI, US Miller Auditorium
(Happy 29th Birthday, Clay!)


12/02/07 Washington, DC, US Warner Theater
12/04/07 Wilkes Barre, PA, US FM Kirby Center
12/06/07 New Brunswick, NJ, US State Theatre
12/07/07 Albany, NY, US Palace Theatre
12/08/07 Poughkeepsie, NY, US Mid-Hudson Civic Center
12/09/07 Uncasville, CT, US Mohegan Sun
12/11/07 Red Bank, NJ, US Count Basie Theatre
12/12/07 Easton, PA, US State Theatre 8:00 PM
12/13/07 Morristown, NJ, US Community Theatre at Mayo Center for the Performing Arts
12/15/07 Williamsport, PA, US Community Arts Center
12/16/07 Erie, PA, US Erie Civic Center Complex
12/17/07 Cleveland, OH, US Playhouse Square Theater
12/19/07 Minneapolis, MN, US Orchestra Hall
12/20/07 Minneapolis, MN, US Orchestra Hall
12/21/07 Omaha, NE, US Orpheum Theatre
12/22/07 Merrillville, IN, US Star Plaza Theatre

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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Feels Like The First Time

I would climb any mountain
Sail across a stormy sea
If that's what it takes me baby
To show you how much you mean to me

You know how too much of a good thing can make you forget how much you liked it at the beginning. How that chicken parmagiana from your favorite restaurant still tastes good but maybe a little too familiar? Or that long time favorite vacation spot that still has a beautiful view but one that may not take your breath away every time?

Friday night, I traveled with friends to New York City see a tribute to Neil Sedaka for his 50 years of hits. We knew Clay Aiken would be performing so we decided it might be a fun evening all around. We met up with friends from all over including Canada and New Orleans and I know there were people who had come from the West Coast. And while that might have created awe in year's past, it didn't seem out of the ordinary any more.

We'd heard Clay sing Solitaire many times since Neil Sedaka night on American Idol in 2003. He returned to Idol on the following season and sang a bit of it there. He's sung it on TV. He encored with it during his 2004 solo tour. He does a great job with it but the song itself, while well written, can get old. It's not exactly your upbeat, pepppy song with a hook and a beat you can dance to.

So I went because I love the chance to see Clay live and I enjoy New York. The line up of guest acts honoring Neil Sedaka looked interesting and it turned out to be just that. Iconic acts like Connie Francis and Dion performed along with promising new acts like Renee Olsteed. But the funny thing is on the ride to NYC, we kept talking about what else we wanted Clay to sing besides Solitaire. It was like we were looking past the old, familiarity of Solitaire and hoping for something new.

David Foster teased us with a possible Clay entrance a couple of times and then introduced him to a nice hand. Clay walked out in an expensive pinstriped suit with great hair (always important)and a big smile. He adjusted the microphone higher, smiled at the audience and began to sing.

He crafted that song like a master painter works a canvas. He started out slow and soft, almost as if the sad storyteller has a wistful hope that the girl will return. He used his hands as much as he used his voice. As the song built, so did the anguish of the storyteller. He transitioned from notes that floated on air to notes that vibrated into your chest to notes that cut slivers from your heart.

The glory note was 12 seconds long and the fans rose to their well decked out feet. By the time he wailed that last ounce of pain and regret, the majority of the crowd was standing, including the entire Sedaka box.

And I guess it's just the singer in you
That brings out the fan in me
I know I can't help myself
You're all in the world to me

Perhaps words are not enough and you need to see and hear it for yourself.

And it feels like the first time
Like it never did before
Feels like the first time
Like we've opened up the door

The first time? You mean four and a half years ago?

Here's to many more first times, from his fun appearance on November 1st on a charity edition of Are You Smarter than a Fifth Grader to his Broadway debut as Sir Robin in Monty Python's Spamalot from January 18-May 4, 2008. And I think there's the familiar,warm blanket of his annual Christmas tour in between.

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Spamalot: Killer Rabbits, The Black Knight, Clay Aiken - Oh My!

As some of you who read this blog may know, I love the theater. I was an actress, I graduated Performing Arts High School and majored in theater at Boston University. Some of my theater stories can be found in the archives of ConCLAYve. I was never a fan of what is sometimes called "stunt casting". I have to admit, when American Idol contestants went to Broadway or got a big role in a movie musical, well I rolled my eyes a bit. What a snob I could be!!!!

But look how wonderfully well Fantasia is doing in Color Purple. Brava! I adored Jennifer Hudson in the film Dreamgirls - handling a part that is incredibly difficult and then making such a "big" role work on the screen - that is not easy as the camera shows the truth of what you are thinking and doing and being able to translate such a powerhouse role and make it work in close up is difficult. Beautifully done, Jennifer.

So now Clay Aiken is coming to Broadway in Spamalot and suddenly - who cares about "stunt" casting? I'm so thrilled I'm jumping out of my skin. What a brilliant move for Clay to choose Spamalot as the place to make his Broadway debut. And how wonderful that Mike Nichols and Eric Idle chose him. I saw this show with the original cast and my husband saw it once more. Now we're all set with tickets on my birthday to see it again. This is not your typical BIG VOICED musical. If Clay had done Les Miz or even RENT it wouldn't be such a surprise.

But Spamalot? Spamalot? What a wonderfully brave thing for Clay to do. A musical comedy that requires so much more than singing - and I've seen Clay's terrific comedy timing. I've seen his quick wit and his charm. I've seen him have fun with impressions of people and accents. I've seen enough of his concerts to know he's got a bawdy irreverant sense of humor. But most people remember Clay Aiken as the skinny geeky guy from AI. The earnest guy with the big voice. That's what makes this choice so intriguing, smart and brave - he is building an interesting career, full of surprises for his fans, challenges for himself and an opportunity to break down an identity some people have of him from AI that is completely one-sided. People who have the opportunity to challenge themselves, to work with great talents, to learn and grow - produce the best and I expect that the next CD that Clay does is going to be infused with all these new experiences. In the meantime, while he's working on that - he's also finding ways to bring excitement to his career, to stay in the public eye, and to have fun and give fun in return.

Here's a bit of Clay Aiken, the entertainer, this summer at Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC (with thanks to scruffy13)

What can I say to those Broadway snobs that I wouldn't say to myself? Give him a chance . . . you may be pleasantly surprised. If nothing else, his desire to stretch and grow - to challenge himself by tackling something so unexpected - should be admired. Broadway is full of wonderfully talented people. He recognizes that this is a big step for him to take and he is looking forward to working with the Broadway performers. As Clay says himself:

Taking part in a show alongside some of these multi-talented performers will definitely force me to stretch! A show like Spamalot seems to be such a departure from what I have been doing for the past four years. This show is not just a change of scenery from many typical Broadway shows, I think it is also a great opportunity for a temporary shift for me. So, I’m really pumped about being able to branch out. A little variation is always nice. And, it's a chance to learn and grow. Lets cross our fingers on that!

Thanks to Invisible926 for the great photoshop of Clay as Sir Robin!

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Sunday, October 14, 2007

Red Sox Nation and Clay Nation Collide

I'm a big Red Sox fan, as I noted in my Boys of Summer blog back in the spring. The Sox are battling it out with the Indians for the American League Championship with the winner headed to the World Series. I hope the Red Sox make it all the way and I hope the World Series doesn't go any longer than six games. If it stops before 7 games, I get to see Clay Aiken on a celebrity/charity edition of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader.

This morning on the website for Major League Baseball, writer Mark Newman did a piece on 20 characteristics of a Red Sox fan. I couldn't help thinking of the similarities as my two Nations intersect once again.

Clay fans certainly have our rituals, from the way we purchase tickets to the things we do to prepare for a concert to the fact that (as Clay once told an audience)we spend “25 hours a day” on the message boards.
2.Always a Love Story: The point of Newman's story was that romances are created among Red Sox fans. I don't know about romances but some of the best friends that I have right now, I've met since 2003 when Clay stepped on to the Idol stage. One fan interviewed for the MLB article said
It's almost like a culture. It's probably not an accident that 'cult' is in 'culture.' We have so much in common."
3.History Buff: I know fans who can see a picture of Clay wearing a particular shirt and tell you every single time he's had that shirt on camera or at a concert. And that's a feat to be proud of as Clay tends to stick with clothes that he likes.
4.Respects all other fans: Unless of course they have a sign, are stealing a front row seat or are just plain famewhores. But I think that applies to Fenway too, at least until they stop selling booze in the later innings.
5.Passes it down: We're definitely on second generation Clay fans at this point, whether it be family or friends or just somebody you met at the grocery store when Invisible was played on the PA (that's public address system, not Pink Armchair) and you may have squeeled a little less discretely than you had intended. Newbies at concerts? Clay Nation members by the time we get through with them. Clay explains here.
6.Never Forgets: The good times like the AMA award or every concert you ever attended. The low points like the Vincident, the Anamoly, the fauxhawk hair for the 2005 Christmas tour merchandise. Those things are right up there with Bill Buckner in the 86 World series or Bucky Dent's pop fly that somehow ended up in the Monster screen for a home run.
7.Passionate: Sometimes to a fault, but nearly always with the right intentions.
8.Crazy: Apparently a synonym for enthusiastic.
9.Loyal/diehard: Jimmy Kimmel, honorary Clay Nation member, said it best here.
10.Knowledgeable (baseball/music) fan: Clay Nation knows about HDD and Media Base and what a radiospin means and that a drop isn't when Manny Ramirez misplays a flyball
11.Willing to travel: Some fans report the first time they ever got on a plane by themselves was to go to a Clay Aiken concert. Need to know the best route to get to a mid-west show and the best deal on a hotel? Ask a Clay fan.
12.Loves the players: We love Clay but we also love his band. I was happier to see
Quiana Parler get a little screen time on AI Rewind than anybody in the top 12.
13.Knows the words to Sweet Caroline: This is the Red Sox 8th inning song. I think most Clay fans would turn their heads when they hear the AI theme song (or else get that nervous feeling in their stomach)
14.Best Dressed: Newman was referring to Sox gear. Most fans have some Clay shirts and the really err... enthusiastic fans tend to take that one step (or 10 steps) farther than that. But yes, I had my red shoes during the AI tour. But that's so 2003.
15.Hates the Yankees: I guess Simon Cowell qualifies or any of the slovenly bloggers who eat too many donuts to try to make up for the lack of brain cells.
16.All walks of life: I've met students, business owners, doctors, LA Assistant Movie Directors, stay at home Moms, teachers and just about any profession you can think of as a member of Clay Nation. We have other things in common and we disagree on a lot. But, we all like to spend our money on Clay.
17.Loves an old ballpark/Venue: Some of the most beautiful venues I've ever seen are the restored old ones. And some of the best acoustics I've ever heard are from venues that just look like a roof and a stage. Each one brings its own memories. Now the only thing I need is for Clay to play Fenway.
18.Gets here early and is happy to stay late: Fans have waited for hours in the cold for a quick handshake after a concert. And the pre-concert parties which lead to the post concert parties are a way of life for us. It's all part of the experience.
19.Hardy: I believe the temperature was in the 20s the night fans slept on the sidewalk for a book signing by Clay the next day. We've also melted in 109 degree weather in the summer and it never stopped us from dancing.
20.Likes Sausage.....I really didn't know how to match this one, perhaps a picture is worth a thousand words.
Personally, I think this is more like Bratwurst.

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Friday, September 28, 2007

This Man

American Idol has been “rewinding” this year. Tribune Entertainment is distributing the episodes of all the seasons, compressed into one hour episodes. New interviews are included and Season 1 ended with a “Where are they now?” retrospective of the first season.

I only caught the last couple of episodes. I recalled how bad Justin Guarini's hair was or how strange his nose looks now. I noticed how much more genuine Kelly Clarkson was then and how she resembles the thinner (via photoshop) Kelly of today. Cool Beans! I did not realize how pretty Niki McKibbon was, dayglo fuchsia hair and all.

The season that etched Idol into the American culture was Season 2 where Ruben Studdard prevailed as the show's winner.

Or as the press release noted

the year that put American Idol on the map with legendary talent and unprecedented ratings

Ruben versus Clay. The Velvet Teddy Bear versus The Vox. The ratings were huge and so was the vote count, given the set up at the time. Much was said about the bigger vote counts for Season 3 and beyond but since Ruben and Clay only had one phone line each as opposed to the three each the finalists get now (not to mention the million of my votes that wouldn't get through), it really did electrify the country. And the two artists who were the most responsible for making that happen remain friends to this day.

Season 2-where I found Clay Aiken and have had my fingerprints almost etched onto a keyboard since then. Clay returns to season 2 as the narrator of the Rewind series, beginning September 29th.

Four and a half years later, the boyish looking guy with the big voice is still a big part of my life. He's changed a lot. Some changes are obvious, such as his physical appearance. He's no longer the too skinny guy. He's filled out with broad shoulders and a fuller face one would expect from a man who will be 30 in a little over a year.

The impression Clay gave was that of a shy, goody-two shoes, awkward kid who could sing. Dance? Not so much. But the real Clay is a loud take charge guy with a quick wit and a little bit of a bawdy, wicked sense of humor. He can move as the music fills his body but choreography is still not his friend.

He's a good man who has made a difference as he sought to do but he's no goody-two shoes. Nor is he a bad boy like some of the pop stars of today. He walks the talk. On the music side and the philanthropic side. He's imperfect but will be the first to admit it. Well, all except his horribly bad habit of forgetting how to blog.

The green eyed spark is still there but the twinkle is joined with a more worldly knowledge and hardness born of enduring tabloid lies and label battles. I like this Clay. I think much more of him was always there. While I'll forever be fond of Idol Clay, I admire this man, this 2007 Clay so much more. He's more open with his fans, he's not taking crap and (thankfully) he is much more comfortable with his sex appeal.

So while Clay belongs on the concert stage and will be returning there in November for this fourth consecutive holiday tour (and his 8th solo tour overall), he also belongs on television.
So he takes us back to Season 2 and the juxtaposition of the manchild and THIS man will be a fitting “bookend” to his AI2 career. To find if your cable system shows Rewind, visit

Many thanks to Invisible926 for the side by side pictures from her collection.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Time in a Bottle but Not on the Radio?

What's really wrong with radio?

So, I'm sitting on a Southwest flight to Tampa on a business trip, eating my traditional inflight Milky Way. Funny thing is I only eat Milky Ways when I fly or when I steal them out of my kids' Halloween bags. Before I turned my ipod on to watch some concert video of Clay Aiken, I browsed through the Southwest magazine known as Spirit.

I came across an article by assistant editor Mike Darling (and how many fights did he get in while in middle school with that name?). He was interviewing a guy named George Gimarc who used to manage a radio station in Dallas and who has a great idea about saving radio. His solution? Make the songs shorter.

Huh? Make the songs shorter? How about make the songs better? How about getting rid of the 2000's version of payola which may not involve straight cash for airplay but still involves things like a car giveaways and other perks.

His theory was that people tend to punch a new station in their car about every 2 and a half minutes and that overall song length has grown from years past. He figures by shortening the songs, you eliminate people changing stations and keep listeners longer and advertisers happier. He calls this SASS for Short Attention Span System and has even spent six figures to patent it as a radio protocol. (Note: the article wasn't clear if just the protocol was trademarked or the name as well.)

But here's the deal. Audience listening has dropped 30% and that means people aren't listening at all, not just station hopping. It's because, in addition to internet available music and portable music via ipods and mp3s, people are probably sick of the same old crap. When Clear Channel owns (or has owned) 8 of the top 10 top 40 stations and they play the same songs in rotation over and over by people who all sound alike, listeners simply get bored. In the book The Future of Music by David Kusek and Gerh Leonhard, they say
The Berklee Media division of Berklee College of Music conducted a study in June 2004 of radio airplay patterns across CHR/Rhythmic, Country, Urban and CHR/POP in multiple cities in the US. The study showed that the biggest stations in the biggest markets played the same songs an average of 58 times. When station owners were taken into account, the five top CHR/Pop stations owned by Clear Channel were playing the same songs 78% of the time.

And the songs? I asked my teenage daughter the other day as she assaulted the inside of my car with a Top 40 station "Do all male singers on the radio whine their songs?" Nan says that the women all sing in this kind of whispery voice as if they are trying out for a 1-900 line.

So is the real reason that people have short attention spans? I can still listen to the whole version of Hotel California.
Or is it because there is nothing worthy of keeping their attention. Is 2 minutes 45 seconds of crap really any better than 3 minutes and 45 seconds of crap? The article states that "shorter song lengths translate to a larger catalog of music, giving DJs more freedom to play tracks that don't normally receive mainstream airplay." Yeah right, is there anyone out there that still believes the DJs decide what goes over the airwaves?

I agree with Andrew Whiteman (lead singer of an indie Canadian band Broken Social Scene) who argues against this idea.
It's heinous. Music is not meant to be hook after hook.

Darling thinks the idea is refreshing. Hmmm, about as refreshing as Febreze. It covers up the stink but only for a short time. I think putting real singers with interesting lyrics and strong melodies would be more refreshing.

Gimarc hopes that with the pending sale of 400 of Clear Channel's smallest stations, that new owners might be more open to the idea. Just the fact that Clear Channel has 400 smaller stations to sell is appalling. I should go into how George Bush and TBTP of Clear Channel have done business deals together but this isn't a political blog. (Yet..wait until 2008.) I'd rather new owners be more open to playing new acts who can't afford the high cost of airplay or whose labels won't play it, so that the listening public can decide what they want to hear. Not some program director who talks to his liaison at corporate who is cutting a deal with the label's radio liaison. Gasp! A novel idea, I think I'll call it a radio protocol and patent it.

I'd rather they give the opportunity to real singers like Clay who should be all over the radio regardless of what his dinosaur label thinks. His new Grammy winning producer obviously knows what good music is, but it won't matter in the end if the label doesn't give in to the cost of a top 20 single. And it won't matter how long the song is either.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Wicked Cool

So, can someone define cool for me? If you have to put it in your name (Coolio, LL Cool J) are you trying too hard or just getting a head start. Why is it when an ex-Mousketeer sings lyrics as insipid as this..
Dirty Babe,
You see these shackles baby, I'm your slave
I'll let you whip me if I misbehave
It's just that no one makes me feel this way.

that people don't laugh so hard they lose their breath while tears of absurdity roll own their face.. Is it cool because there is a dance beat to it?

In Clay Aiken's recently concluded Soft Rock in a Hard Place tour, he did a great intro into a medley of some of Top 40 radio's greatest "hits". He said he was tired of not being cool and not being on the radio and that it must be all related to the material. (In part it is, which is why it still baffles that his label made him put out an album of love song covers last year.). But when he performed (effortlessly) a medley of hits ranging from pop to rap to hip hop to country to rock, it showed just how silly some of the songs were. ( And to be fair,it also showed how great others were. Say what you want about Michael Jackson today, the man could write hits.) Here, Clay realizes (sarcastically of course) that being cool is all about the fact that he sang those cool songs.

I'm tired of people telling me what is cool in the way the fashion industry decides what color is in this year. (Fifty bucks it won't go with my skin color.) Clay has won the Sexiest Crooner for InStyle Magazine three years in a row. So tell me why he wasn't even nominated this year and (gasp) Justin Timberlake won with the comment that he'd come so close in the past. Now I think JT has talent but I laugh every time someone tries to tell me he's cool, much less sexy. But then again, I like guys who don't need platform shoes in order to be taller than I am. And I'm not tall.

There are different levels of cool and different types of cool. Someone who fits the exact mold the industry peeps force upon the public (especially when marketed to impressionable teens) is exactly what isn't cool to me. It's just more of "me toos and wannabees". Original is cool. Smart is cool. Quick wit is cool. Confidence is cool. Style that fits a person's personality is cool. Gee, Clay is cool x 5. Or as Quiana Parler (his backup singer and insanely talented herself) would say, Clay is C to the O.O.L.

Radio singles processed in the studio is not cool. Gossip made up wholesale with a snicker, a wink and a nod is not cool.

Totally being silly and not giving a crap (Hey, everyone take a drink!) is cool.

Perhaps Leslie Gray Streeter of the West Palm Beach Post said it best in her/his review of the concert.

He is so uncool that he sort of is. And that's a talent.

Cool isn't someone who is one fabricated persona (half the female singers on the radio), or one troubled teen queen who hasn't grown up yet (Britney, Lindsay…and on and on) but one who is a blend of many things, all that represent their true self. Or as John Petric, music critic of The Other (A Columbus, Ohio newspaper) put it after being won over by Clay in concert.
So yes, Clay Aiken. He’s a piece of work isn’t he? A cross between John Edwards and Paul McCartney

Unlike other music critics Mr. Petric didn't write this review before he set foot in the venue. He admits he had different expectations and seemed as surprised as anyone that he liked the show and Clay. That's because Mr. Petric had succumbed to the media created image of Clay Aiken. The same media that had us convinced Angelina Jolie was one step from incest and now has us convinced she's one step from sainthood. Mr. Petric saw the cool
He had a fine sense of humor, often self-deprecating and a little bit wicked.

Oh, I'd say more than a little bit wicked. Wicked Cool.

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Thursday, August 02, 2007

Clay and Kimmel: It Don't Mean a Thing...

(Clay and Kimmel are talking on their iPhones.)

Clay: Well, Jimmy? Are ya comin’ ta the Greek or aren’tcha?

Kimmel (reluctantly): Um...I wanted to talk to you about that--

Clay (firmly): Uh-UH. No excuses. It’s on a Saturday night, so don’t be tellin’ me ya got a show or hafta tape that goofy game show o' yores. NOT.BUYIN.’

Kimmel: Actually, I was going to ask if you had any more VIP tickets you could--

Clay: MORE tickets? (smiling) So yore rilly comin?’

Kimmel: Of course. (laying it on thick) You’re my best friend and soulmate, aren'tcha? Your poster is over my bed, isn't it? I’m all about supporting the arts, aren't I? And--

Clay (sardonically): --AND y’know if ya didn’t show I’d send a bounty hunter after yore ass.

Kimmel: Yep, that’s the ticket. Speaking of which -- got any more?

Clay: Jimmy, I alriddy got ya four. How many more d’ya need?

Kimmel: Well, I had Sarah and Uncle Frank and Aunt Chippy coming, but now Cousin Sal and Guillarmo and Veatrice and my bandleader Cleto and Cleto Senior want to come, too.

Clay: Wow...Ah’m rilly flattered they all wanna be thayre. So...that’ll be nine altogether? You need five more, right?

Kimmel: If four plus five equals nine, then yeah, that’s what I need.

Clay: Yore nothin’ if not a math whiz, aren’tcha? You shore all these folks’re gonna be able ta make it? Ah’d shore hate ta take the good seats from mah intrepid clackgatherers fer nothin.’ What're the venue security guys gonna do with themselves? An' otherwise who the heck is gonna record me pickin’ mah nose an’ hittin’ bad notes an’ fallin’ on mah butt?

Kimmel: Well, if you really want that filmed for posterity (or posterior, heh heh), I’d be glad to send over one of MY cameramen. Lord knows they're used to you making an ass out of yourself. (mock pleading) C'mon, Clay...pleeeeaze, can I have those extra tickets? Pleeeeeze? Can I? Huh? Can I? Huh? Huh?

Clay (giving him a hard time): Ah don’t know...that’s a lot. What if yore people don’t show up? Ah don't wanna be lookin' at a buncha empty seats.

Kimmel: Oh, they’ll be there all right. (cackles) If they want to keep their jobs.

Clay: Jimmy...ya cain’t fire yore family. Especially Sarah. (slyly) Unless she’s gotta than Ah thought.

Kimmel: Ahem! Oh, hey. I wanted to talk to you about this celebrity golf tournament thing.

Clay: Oh, yeah. Nice of ya ta agree ta do it, Jimmy.

Kimmel: No problem. You’re gonna be in my foursome, aren’t ya?

Clay (appalled): Jimmy! Ya know Ah don’t approve o’ that kinky group stuff.

Kimmel (patiently): No, Clay...for golf. A foursome for GOLF.

Clay (blushing): Oh. Ah see. (pause, deadpan) No.

Kimmel: Why not?

Clay (shrugs): Ah suck at sports.

Kimmel (snorts): Puh-leeze. Golf isn’t a sport.

Clay (drily): Rilly. Don’t tell Tiger Woods.

Kimmel: I mean, yeah...those professional golfers, they’re athletes. But guys like you 'n' me--

Clay (wry laugh): --like YOU, ya mean--

Kimmel: --like me, we just ride around on golf carts and scratch ourselves and have a few laughs and knock back beers and every once in a while we flail away with a nine iron. It’s just a social thing.

Clay: Ah guess Ah kin think of more innerstin’ social thangs than gittin’ loaded, fallin’ inta a lagoon, an’ gittin' pneumonia, which Ah don’t need ta remind ya is what happened the LAST time ya played in one o' these golf tournaments. In which case, Ah'm not shore this is such a good ahdea.

Kimmel: Hey, could I help it if Regis pushed me? Ruined a perfectly good fake Rolex. Anyway, this social thing’ll raise boatloads of money for your foundation -- what’s it called again? The Bugel-whatever it is.

Clay: Oh, you are SO fulla shi-stuff. You know durn well mah name is on it...y’know...jest fer fundraisin’ purposes an’ all.

Kimmel (bemused): Uh huh. Aren’t WE full of ourselves. And I can't believe you said "durn."

Clay (flustered): I--you--oh, skip it. Anyway...Ah don't know how ta play golf.

Kimmel: That's okay -- I can teach ya. It's all in the swing, and keeping your eye on the ball. Coordination and all that. Piece of cake.

Clay (doubtfully): Coordination, huh? (major eyeroll) So...if I do that foursome with you, that’d mean we’d hafta pick two other kinda well-known folks, right?

Kimmel: NOW who’s the math whiz? Yeah, we’d have to get two more. (teasingly) I was thinking maybe I’d ask a friend of mine...a lady you’ve actually met...

Clay (suspiciously): Who?

Kimmel: Let’s just say I’m sure she’d be happy to lend a HAND.


Clay (slow burn): Jimmy, are golf clubs considered blunt objects?


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Monday, July 23, 2007

Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Yeah, it's a song by the Beatles but that's probably another blog about great influences in music in the last decades. Nan usually writes those kinds of historical musical retrospectives, probably because she's got more history than I do.

(Checks email for ConCLAYve pink slip)

I was thinking about cars. Probably because my daughter is bugging us for her first car. The marketing people at the big car companies must sit there with a thesaurus to try and come up with yet another jazzy description to get you to buy the car when everyone knows that as long as the stereo plays Clay in the front and back, everything else is just superfluous. I mean can it get me to the Newark concert on time? OK, then I don't care if it is bright yellow and looks like a Tonka car and the horn sounds like Britney Spears without studio correction software.

So I started looking through the automaker websites and it seems everything reminded me of Clay Aiken. First, the Toyota site which talked about cinema-quality surround sound. I can attest to that, in my Toyota Clay's music makes a vibration in my…..chest. Then they note, "with amenities like these, you can surely sense it."

Then there's the claims of powerful performance which I'm sure they meant on the concert stage and not in the privacy of his own home or anything. After all, on the tour of his house, he wouldn't show us the bedroom because of underwear on the floor. I guess those performances were done in haste.

Finally, it seems my Toyota has a comprehensive safety system. I need to write to them and tell them that Jerome did NOT come in the trunk as promised.

Then there are the hybrids. This quote is perfect… "When a car becomes more, it surprises you at every turn." We heard those same quotes from a reviewer from Columbus, OH

Aiken’s strongest moment was his performance of Lover All Alone, for which he wrote the lyrics. In spite of jarring intonation problems from his guitarist, he loosened his grip on the polished, practiced stage manner and truly connected with his own soul.

And for those few minutes, the squealing fans, the strong-willed women, the devoted husbands and the rest of the audience fell absolutely silent in appreciation.

as well as a man seeing Clay for the first time since American Idol who said to a fan
Man, this is a great show isn't it?' "What guy is an entertainer! I always thought he had the best voice. My wife made me go to the American Idol show when it was here, but I haven't seen him since. This guy is great!!

Clay first bought Volvos after he became a professional singer. He probably related to the fact that the Volvos have a "unique front structure."

They also offer a great rear seat entertainment system for backseat listening pleasure. He must use that from time to time because as he reminds us nightly...

But last week at a tour Meet and Greet, he told fans he likes Audis now too. I found this interesting but once I saw the Audi marketing people at work, I knew why. It seems that "Audi represents Vorsprung".

Now, I've never found a tractor sexy and I lived near farms years ago. But apparently, I will find his tractor sexy since John Deere tells us that we don't have to worry about stalling and that their LoadMatch can adjust speed and force to maximize available power in all applications. Phew? Do they take American Express?

Must be something to do with that unique front structure in the Volvo. I know my volvo's never been the same and I don't even drive one.

Clay's on tour right now, check out his fanclub site for the schedule through August 19th.

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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Clay and Kimmel: Ding Dong, Perez is Dead


Celebrity gossip blogger and frequent defendent Mario Lavandeira, aka Perez Hilton, died tonight as a result of fatal injuries suffered in a freak accident off the Pacific Coast involving the Coast Guard. Mr. Lavandeira was aboard a yacht belonging to a celebrity who has asked to remain anonymous. “One minute he was there leaning on the railing, and the next minute, somebody pus--I mean, he must have fallen overboard. Nobody noticed him missing for a while, but when we did, we called the Coast Guard, pretty much right away. I think. Hey, there was a lot of alcohol involved,” revealed one anonymous source. Arriving on the scene, Coast Guard officials tragically mistook Lavandeira for a rare species of orange-crested killer whale and shot him repeatedly in the posterior with a harpoon. The Coast Guard regrets the error; an investigation is pending.

The first of Mr. Lavandeira's VH1 specials, What Perez Sez, was due to air in September, but was shelved due to pending litigation.

(Pitch darkness in Clay’s bedroom. The phone rings. A loud groan from Clay. The bedside light comes on. His eyes squeezed shut, Clay picks up the receiver and hears...)


Clay (yawning): Jimmy, y’ could wait until yore done havin’ sex ta call me. Makes me feel like some kinda creepy voyeur or somethin.’

Kimmel: I just can’t believe it. Oh, my God. This is big...REALLY, REALLY big.

Clay (bemused smile): Y’know what Ah cain’t believe? That Sarah’s still puttin’ up with yore puffed-up ego. Conceited much? (laughing) Hey, put her on...Ah bet she’d tell me a different story.

Kimmel: Clay, turn on the TV...NOW.

Clay: Jimmy, it’s three in the mornin’ here. The only thangs on are reruns o’ those dang Ta Ketch a Predator shows, bad slasher movies an’ infomercials fer that Miracle Mop. An’ Ah alriddy bought one.

Kimmel (insistently): Turn on CNN. DO.IT.

(Clay stumbles out of bed in a ratty UNCC t-shirt and pajama bottoms and flips on the TV. He sinks onto the edge of the unmade bed and jabs clumsily with the remote. Bathed in the TV screen’s flickering blue light, he stares in amazement as we hear the somber drone of a newscaster.)

Clay: Holy crap. What--

Kimmel (gleefully): Incredible, huh?

Clay (beginning to smile): How the heck--?

Kimmel: I know! Can ya believe it? Talk about ironic. I guess now we'll never know What Perez Sez.

Clay (drily): Isn't that a tragedy. (silence, as they watch some more) Boy, how embarrassin.’ Ah mean...Ah always said karma would bite him in the ass, but Ah never in a million, zillion years thought--

Kimmel (laughing): It’s classic! A modern day Moby Dick. Heh heh heh.

Clay (bewildered): Hey, Jimmy...what’re YOU so happy about? Ah mean...y’know Ah have a few reasons ta have a beef with him...but what did he do ta YOU?

Kimmel: Clay, are you kidding? This guy is a bleeding barnacle on the Botoxed butt of Hollywood--

Clay (wincing): Whoa, Jimmy -- too much alliteration fer three in the mornin.’

Kimmel: --And New York. Nah, I’m ecstatic. And so is most everybody else out here, I’m sure. (teasingly) Sooo...of course you’re going to the funeral.

Clay (incredulous laugh): Oh, aren’t you funny. An’ ANYone? Most of showbiz is prolly breakin’ out the champagne. Ah bet they’ll declare a citywide holiday and organize a parade down Hollywood Boulevard. Go ta the funeral? HAH! Ah’d rather walk around with a house cat in heat plaistered ta the top o’ mah head than show mah face thayre. ‘Course, mebbe Ah should...somebody rilly needs ta shovel some lime inta that grave.

Kimmel: Yeah, just like the outhouse at boy scout camp.

Clay: A rose garden compayred ta this. Although mebbe what he rilly needs is a stake through the heart.

Both: Oh, wait...

Clay (slyly): know everbody out thayre...any idea whose yacht it was?

Kimmel: many candidates, so little time. Still, brilliant idea, huh? Whoever did it deserves a medal. Sure wish I’d thought of it. Of course, they probably wouldn’t let me keep my show in prison.

Clay: Ah don’t know, Jimmy...if VH1 would give Perez Hilton a reality show, Ah don’t see why they wouldn’t let YOU do one as a jailbird. Rilly,’s somethin’ ta think about. ‘Course you’d hafta commit some kinda felony first.

Kimmel: Oh, I’m sure I can think of somebody else I’d like to bump off. After all, a certain blowhard "comedian" who looks like Woody Woodpecker is taking over the Tonight Show in two years. I sure wouldn't mind THAT gig.

Clay (giggling): Lemme know if you need money fer ammo.

Kimmel: Will do. Anyway...I thought you’d wanna know about this.

Clay: Oh, absolutely. Well, Ah guess Ah better git on the phone an’ call off that hit man. So sense in wastin’ the money now, huh?

Kimmel: Nope. (off, to Sarah) Hey, would it’ve killed ya to take that jam outta the fridge first? Yow. Okay. (to Clay) Later, dude. (He hangs up quickly.)

(Clay switches off the TV and climbs back into bed, singing softly to himself in the darkness)

Clay (smiling dreamily): “Ding dong, Perez is daid...”
Many thanks as always to my partner in crime Fountaindawg for her fabulous 'shop.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Houston - We've Got Interviews

On July 3rd, a really good interview with Clay Aiken was printed in the Houston Chronicle. The interviewer, Joey Guerra, actually asked interesting questions and elicited some great responses from Clay -- who was his usual funny, chatty self:

Clay Aiken embraces his inner dork
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Clay Aiken — despite the stylishly shaggy 'do — still isn't hip.

"I'm never going to be, and I'm fine with that. We all must embrace our inner dork," he says with a laugh.

Aiken has still managed a successful post-American Idol career as the soundtrack of choice for enthusiastic grandmothers. He performs Friday with the Houston Symphony, and he doesn't expect to see a lot of people his age in the crowd.

"People always come up to me and say, 'My grandmother's your biggest fan,' " Aiken, 28, says. "There's a misconception among these ladies that I'm cool and hip and now. And they think that by liking me, it makes them cool and hip and now.

"But shhh. We aren't going to tell them that I'm not cool and hip at all."

An affable Aiken took time to talk about his future as a talk-show host (maybe), turkey basters (keep reading) and how Claymates saved Jericho from TV extinction (seriously).

Q: Fans still get worked up over you. What's with the enduring Claymania?

A: I don't get it. I don't know why. They don't see me right now in my pajamas, with my hair all messed up, one contact out. There's nothing to be excited about, honestly.

Q: What's the most unique gift you've received from a fan?

A: You mean turkey-baster unique? Like that? Because I've gotten one of those. Let's just let you sit on that for a minute. (Brief pause.) And there it is.

The show Jericho . . . I loved it. I started blogging about it on my fan site. It got canceled, and I blogged about how upset I was. I said, "The Claymates can do anything. How do we get this show back on the air?"

Honestly, within a week they had organized a campaign amongst Jericho fans to send nuts to CBS. It kind of started in that place. And it's back on the air! It just blows my mind.

Q: Do you feel that Aiken love in Texas?

A: Texas is really a tough market for pop. I think sometimes the fans don't understand, and they think I hate Texas. I love Texas. It's just people there don't love me that much. You want me to come, you've got to come to the show!

Q: Any songs that didn't make the cut on A Thousand Different Ways?

A: Things other than covers. Sorry, I'm being way too honest today. How do I say this politically correctly? I was strongly encouraged by other sources to do an album of covers. There was the feeling that it might be successful because there'd been success with Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow doing covers. I guess the argument against that would be I don't have the reputation that Rod Stewart has. I really don't have the credibility that he has, so there's no reason for me to do them.

Q: Do you like the disc at all?

A: It did turn out to be something I was really proud of. My mom's always told me, 'Take lemons . . .' I think we really did that.

Q: Are you itching to do new material?

A: The goal for the next album is to go with one producer. The person we picked is very credible, has won Grammys and has really done an eclectic mix of stuff. The hope is that we'll be able to find really great songs that suit me and produce them in a way that . . . makes me hip without trying too hard. I'm sorry I'm teasing you, but you're getting more than anybody else.

Q: Do you hear anything on Top 40 radio that you can relate to?

A: This Rihanna girl — she's got a great voice. I really think she deserves to be where she is. . . . (But) what happened to Whitney Houston on the radio? Not literally — let's not go there — but what happened to that kind of stuff on Top 40? I think nowadays radio doesn't care how good someone sings. They just care whether or not people can fake having sex while standing up dancing to it. That's all they want.

Q: What was the first record you purchased?

A: I got in big trouble when I was 6 or 7. They had that Columbia House, seven albums for a penny or something like that. I was young enough to not really know what I was doing, and I stuck the little penny on. You want to talk about being completely not cool and hip? One of the ones that I remember was Crystal Gayle. God help me. It's somewhere around the house.

I don't know if that's my first album, but it's the one that I remember — and it's got a better story.

Q: What one record would people be surprised to find in your collection?

My brother's a Marine, and he's into this group called Breaking Benjamin. I don't know much about them, but I own that. I wanted to kind of see what he was listening to. There's a song called Diary of Jane that I think is pretty good. . . . Breaking Benjamin is going to kill themselves because they got mentioned in the same article (as) Clay Aiken. There goes the rep.

Q: You've got a great sense of humor. Ever consider hosting a talk show?

A: I'd be great. There are probably 15, 17 different shows I could pitch. One of the basic ones would just be going around and letting America tell their story. Everybody has a story, if you let them tell it. I'd love to do Charles Kuralt's On the Road again, somehow. I loved that.

But (by) the same token, I'd love to have a variety show. Like Andy Williams or Carol Burnett or Donny and Marie. I remember my mom watched the Mandrell sisters' show like it was some sort of religion.

Q: If you're the anti-cool singing star, who's the ultimate pop hipster?

A: I think that Justin Timberlake's going to have that market cornered for a while. And I honestly believe that he's extremely talented. He can believably pull out an album like (FutureSex/LoveSounds). I'm not a huge fan of that one, but I'm a fan of his.

Q: Will we ever see you bring SexyBack?

A: I'm actually going to do — God help me for saying this — with the Houston Symphony, a little bit of SexyBack. We're going to do a little medley of songs that people wouldn't expect to hear with an orchestra. I know that it's not going to be cool. I have no problem making fun of myself.

I could never pull songs like that off without knowing where my place is, and it's not as Justin Timberlake. Thank God we have him. I'm happy to be the person who gets the old ladies covered.

Stripedshirts had given us a heads-up that this interview would be happening. She has been in correspondence with Mr. Guerra, and was fortunate to receive 4 excerpts of answers that were saved but not put into the original article. Thank you stripedshirts! Wonderful Extras:

On today's music:
`If it doesn't have a melody or a hook, I really can't get into it. If it's just people screaming, I get confused. It reminds me of my childhood too much.''

``The first preset on my radio is the top 40 station, and I try my best to listen to it. But I find myself switching away and going to the AC station or the country station or the Christian station. There are so few real songs on top 40 anymore. And so few real singers. I'd love to try to find a middle ground between songs that are great, hopefully good singing and production that's current.

``I think nowadays radio doesn't care how good someone sings. They just care whether or not people can fake having sex while standing up dancing to it. That's all they want.

On being roommates with Kimberley Locke:

``She and I became really good friends. I think she was probably a better roommate than I was. I was lazy and kind of messy. She's very meticulous and likes to get her stuff done on time. She would wake up at 6:30 in the morning. By the time she was back from the gym, I was just rolling out of bed, sitting in my pajamas watching TV. She would say, 'Clean up this kitchen! Leaving dirty dishes in the sink.'''

On Idol: The Musical:

``I just heard about it not too long ago. I don't know what to think about it. I think it's kind of flattering, a little bit. Someone put some money into it. They think people are going to show up. I kind of want to see it. That way if they do make fun of me, they'll have to deal with me sitting right there. And then I will boo them loudly. :hehe

On his Broadway aspirations:

``When you grow up in N. Carolina, you don't really think about being a pop singer. Maybe you might be a country singer. But when you sing in school, the thing that you do is theater. I never really had any aspirations to do (Broadway). But I'd never really seen a real Broadway play until after I got off of Idol. When I watch them, I'm like, 'Wow - people think I can do this?' I've seen Wicked, and I'm like, 'Whoa!'''

Joey also included this lovely remark about his interview w/ Clay:

He has been warm, funny and sincere. This recent interview was particularly entertaining. I often laughed out loud, as did he.

Yes, Joey . . . He is quite an entertaining and charming man.
And not bad looking either!

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