Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Clay Aiken, UNICEF and The Search for Solutions

Banda Aceh, Indonesia, March 2005.

Up Close 2007 | UNICEF

Yahoo! and UNICEF are joining forces to save children's lives. Support UNICEF's life-saving work by answering a question. Watch videos to learn more about UNICEF and sign up to help.

Om Tuesday, January 30, 2007, Yahoo and UNICEF launched a public awareness campaign for Child Survival 2007. Nine UNICEF Ambassadors, starting with Clay Aiken, are asking a series of questions concerning promoting the health and safety of children worldwide.

Every day until February 9, the UNICEF Ambassadors will pose a question in one video and be featured in two additional videos, including interviews from various locations and a video essay of their field trips. Links to all of the ambassadors' pages are included at the end of this blog.

Tomorrow, Thursday, February 1, Clay will appear on ABC's "Good Morning America" to discuss his experiences with UNICEF.

Here is Clay's question:

The questions are open ended and brought on a variety of responses --- more than 5400 in Clay's case.

Here is my response --- what's yours?


Thanks for all you do to raise awareness, change attitudes and change behavior for the benefit of children, here in the United States (through your work with The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, Ronald McDonald House Charities, President’s Committee for People With Intellectual Disabilities, United States Marines Toys for Tots, Read Across America, Disney Teacher Awards) and across the world (with UNICEF and World Children’s Day).

It’s refreshing to see that you kept your promise to make a difference and not just be a “useless celebrity.”

To your question:

I have been involved with civil rights, human rights and women’s rights since my teens and, more recently, with children’s rights.

All of it began with having a glimmer of light turn into a lightning bolt moment, with learning about a concern and resolving to do something about it. It was never just a tear-inducing moment: I needed to know the facts and I needed to see why it was important for me to care.

I’ve worked in feature film, television and documentary film and one thing I’ve learned about communicating an issue is that it is better to show than to tell.

A recitation of dry statistics reaches no one. It’s not about survival rates, it is about real children, some in regions where our own families originated.

Make it personal.

Show us the need.

Northern Uganda, May 2005.

Personalize the issue by showing the children in the context of the situations they face: PSAs, podcasts, streaming internet content, news broadcasts, TV and theatrical movies, documentary films are all effective ways of informing the public. Reach out to people like me, media professionals, to volunteer our time and effort.

Use your voice. From the Concert for Bangladesh to Live Aid to Farm Aid to the Amnesty International concerts to the Bridge School Benefits, musicians like you have raised their voices for the cause. Through a series of benefit concerts, millions can be raised and earmarked for the most pressing needs, or for programs that will build stronger communities (supplying water pumps, building schools, establishing clinics.) Some will come just for the music; others will find reason to make a lifelong commitment to change.

Education. both here and abroad. There is no “there.” just one interdependent planet earth, where a drop of compassion can become a river of hope --- or a seed of discontent can yield a very bitter harvest.

Then show us the results.

Many people want and need to know that the money they give yields real results. What happened to that boy who lost his family in the tsunami? Where is the girl who was rescued from the rebel forces of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda? How are the siblings who lost their home in the Pakistan earthquake faring? By providing updates on past emergency campaigns, donors can be reassured that their money is going to affect real change in the lives of children, change that helps them to become self-sufficient adults..

I know that UNICEF gives aid to children in Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas, in 156 developing countries, regardless of race, religion, or gender --- that is their mandate. I know that there are other organizations that serve children both here and abroad. I think it is up to each individual to decide which organization best fits their desire to give: each serves a valuable purpose, as long as those who run it are scrupulously honest and every single dime possible goes to programs, not overhead. For me, UNICEF has an outstanding record of success.

I’ve given a lot of thought about the complicated scenarios behind some of the pressing problems of child survival. It takes a lot not to get discouraged, resigned to it all or completely cynical, because sometimes the situations seem intractable.

Too often, there is a rush to assign blame. I think a search for reasons is more useful, because only then can solutions be considered.


I cannot blame a child for earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, crop failure or drought.

I cannot blame a child for being caught in the tides of war and sectarian violence.

I cannot blame a child for his or her parents’ lack of education, or even for an adult’s foolishness or ineptitude when that is the case.

I cannot blame a child for governmental corruption or political posturing.

I cannot blame a child for being under the long shadow of colonialism and imperialism.

Each and every one of those problems requires a solution that might take a generation or more to solve.

The lives of children can be saved today… for just a few pennies, in many cases.

If I skip one café mocha and blueberry scone a week, I could save $5. In ten weeks, that would be enough for UNICEF to immunize three kids for life against six deadly diseases.

If I give up going to one concert or ballgame, with ticket, parking, snack and souvenir program or t-shirt, I could give $100. With that money, UNICEF can provide 17 families with insecticide-treated bed nets to protect them from malaria, or provide wool blankets for 32 children.

If I give up two outings a year, I can donate the $190 for UNICEF to provide 80 children and two teachers with an emergency school-in-a-box kit — “a ready-made educational solution packed in a lockable metal box, containing equipment such as pencils, erasers, exercise books, writing slates, scissors, carrier bags, marker pens, posters, registers and blackboard equipment.”

If I cut down on my gasoline bill by carpooling or using public transportation, I could save $400 in six months. With that money, UNICEF can inoculate more than 500 children against tetanus.

If I decide to wait another season to replace my old wardrobe, I could give $1000. With that money, UNICEF can provide a pump to supply clean water to a whole village, or large storage tanks for clean water storage.

If I take a less expensive vacation locally rather than a luxury vacation, I could give $3000 or more. UNICEF can provide tents for four families with that money.

Both at home and abroad, I hope all who are able will do something to help advance the changes that can bring about a healthier and more peaceful world.

“He who saves one life, saves the world entire.”

I guess I’ll let the change start with me.

Here is some footage from Clay's field trip to Uganda, May 2005:

All of the UNICEF Ambassador pages will be available through Friday, February 9.

Here are the links to view the videos and to answer the questions:

January, 30: Clay Aiken

January 31: Alyssa Milano

February 1: Danny Glover

February 2: Lucy Liu

February 5: Laurence Fishburne

February 6: Téa Leoni

February 7: Marcus Samuelsson

February 8: India.Arie

February 9: Elton Brand

For every child
Health, Education, Equality, Protection

Please visit UNICEF USA or UNICEF International to see how you can help.

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Sunday, January 28, 2007

Day 1, Year 5 --- The Singer: Photographs and Memories

It was supposed to be a way to spend a restless evening, nothing more.

It was supposed to be a chuckle, an eye roll and maybe one or two times when I said, “Not bad.”

Then a lanky young man with bad clothes and hair styled by an eggbeater opened his mouth and sang twenty seconds of “Always and Forever.”

Twenty seconds… and now I’ve arrived at the day when I have four years of memories of Clay Aiken.

Clay has been his own soundtrack to the images, the photographs and the memories I’ve treasured since the day his American Idol audition was televised. There has been so much music to delight in, so many things to celebrate, so many moments to enjoy since I first saw Clay during that second season broadcast. It was a fun and exciting time, but I don’t think about those Idol days much anymore. Those early days of promise recede in my memory, displaced by other songs, greater accomplishments and my interest in his ever-evolving talent.

First --- always first --- there is that voice. With it, a thousand images tumble through my mind. My memories are part music box, part kaleidoscope.

Spin the wheel, and it’s the summer of 2003. Clay is on the AI2 tour. He’s back in his home state of North Carolina, and he is very, very happy. When he smiles, there is a glow from within like a luminaria.

When I see that photo, I hear his goofy laugh. That infectious joy takes me back to hearing “This Is The Night” on the radio during that happy-hearted summer. It was the year of the loss that turned into a series of victories: a number one single, a number one album, "Measure of A Man", the cover of Rolling Stone, the American Music Award and the Billboard Music Award, and too many best-of lists and magazine covers to recount.

In his early television interviews, he had said that he wanted to make a difference. This was the year that Clay graduated from college with a degree in special education and started The Bubel/Aiken Foundation, too.

At the end of this incredible year, Clay is the perfect New Year’s cyber-date, appearing on MTV. The crowd of his contemporaries has a good time.

The wheel spins again and it’s 2004.

“Live from New York, it’s Saturday Night!”

Clay sings “Invisible”, which had a brief run on the charts, and introduces “The Way.” He shows a flair for comedy, appearing in a couple of skits that mock some stereotypes about him. Later, he guest stars on “Ed” --- and delivers a comic smack down to Jimmy Kimmel, a former nemesis who has the insight and good taste to become a friend.

Clay goes on another nationwide tour, this time co-headlining with Kelly Clarkson. Some critics say he stole the show: talent and charisma will do that. In any event, he shows new levels of range and versatility, and in his tour mate, he makes another good friend.

This was the year of the never-ending tour. It starts with the Independent Tour, rolls into the summer as the solo NotATour and finishes the year with Clay making a Joyful Noise. Each tour offers something different, something challenging, something amusing. Clay sings every song from "Measure of a Man" --- except “Touch.” He sings Avalon and U2. He sings Sting and James Taylor and Prince. He sings about the body and he sings about the soul, the sinner and the saint in every human being.

He’ll sing “Proud of Your Boy” for the reissue of Walt Disney’s “Aladdin.”

In his spare time, he appears at benefits for America’s Promise, the Rosalynn Carter Institute for Caregiving and at benefit galas for his own Bubel/Aiken Foundation.

He writes a book, the inspirational memoir Learning to Sing, and ends up on the New York Times Best Sellers List.

UNICEF names him an ambassador. His focus is education for all children worldwide.

And Clay releases his second album, “Merry Christmas With Love.” It shatters first week sales records for a holiday album and ties the record for debuting chart position at #4.

As the year ends, Clay will executive produce and star in his own television special, “A Clay Aiken Christmas.”

He is chosen to ride the first float for the Ronald McDonald House Charities in the Tournament of Roses Parade on January 1.

Two years, and Clay has gone from strength to strength. So much music, so many memories, such stellar accomplishments.

Again the wheel spins, the music plays, the colors whirl.

It’s 2005.

I know the voice, but the music is unfamiliar. The image comes into focus: it is a beach in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. There, Clay and fellow UNICEF ambassador Ferry Salim sing and play with a group of children, some orphaned, some homeless, all with lives disrupted when everything that was normal was swept out to sea under the force of a devastating tsunami.

Clay sings:

Disini senang, disana senang
Dimana mana hatiku senang.

I am happy here, I am happy there,
My heart is happy everywhere.

He can relate to these children, because he shares their remarkable resilience. His life has often been a very difficult road, but he has always been a strong person. Without doubt, he has known tremendous sorrow, but he is a man of faith and that is a key to surviving, overcoming, and then thriving. When Clay sings “My heart is happy everywhere,” I believe him.

This is the year Clay will guest star on “Scrubs”, help twin girls go to college on “Oprah’s Wildest Dreams”, talk to kids about overcoming bullying on “Dr. Phil”, host the Emmys for “The Insider”, sit in the front row for the Kenneth Cole show at Fashion Week and start an Official Fan Club.

He will deliver the keynote address at the Pacific Rim Conference on Disabilities and the Fearless Caregivers Conference, and appear at benefit galas for BAF in Hawaii and in Florida.

He is named the 2005 Spokesman for Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF, raising funds for children in underdeveloped nations and, for the first time in that charity’s history, for children here in the United States affected by the ravages of Hurricane Katrina.

In May, he will visit camps for displaced people in war-torn Northern Uganda. He will meet with the night commuters, children forced by war to leave their homes each night for the relative safety of the cities, and talk to other children who were abducted and forced to kill as soldiers for the Lords Resistance Army.

He decides to leave Los Angeles and move back home to Raleigh --- where he belongs.

That summer, Clay salutes the fifty years of rock and roll on the Jukebox Tour. He channels Elvis, teases like the Killer (“Oooooooo, feels good…”), communes with the spirit of Marvin Gaye, breaks hearts with the music of Bonnie Raitt, gives a nod to nothing-like-him Manilow and a wave to little-bit-like-him Astley --- and shows audiences that he is one of the few singers alive who could sing so many different styles so successfully --- and so authentically. He tries out four songs from the album he has been working on (“It’ll be ready when it’s ready.”) and introduces his executive producer Jaymes Foster Le… er, Jaymes Foster, who has become his good and loyal friend. Rock Star Clay is “Back for More,” premiering a song that should be all over the radio, the radio, the radio. The balladeer in him is left wondering what happens “When Tears Run Dry.” These are good songs, very good --- the first hints of a successful follow-up album.

In the fall, Clay says he’s recorded enough songs for four or five albums. He’s done. He won’t record more unless the theme is Mongolian Polka.

Clay doesn’t release an album in 2005. He tours again at the end of the year with the Joyful Noise 2005 Tour. It’s a sweet show he wrote himself, with acting, dancing and the best voice around right in the middle of it all.

And so the year ends.

The music fades to an echo. For a long time, there’s nothing to see in the kaleidoscope. It’s a time that comes to be called the drought of 2006.

For five months, Clay is more-or-less silent: no television, no radio, no personal appearances, no concerts.

In the vacuum, there is tabloid BS. It is transparent fiction, “scurrilous lies” as Clay will say later. The fans are still there, circling their wagons around him. He is family, and we know who he is.

Clay talks to us through his blogs on the OFC. He tells us he is still working on the album, explains that Clive Davis has introduced a new concept, and asks us to open our minds and prepare for something different. It is a very quiet time for Clay publicly, because in the world of what really happens, Clay Aiken leads “a boring life.” Well, perhaps not boring, but it is typical in many ways. He spends his time with family and friends. He moves into his new house. He works, and "Entertainment Weekly" reports he is looking at original songs and “lots of covers.”

Clay is seen on dates a couple of times, going to shows in New York. He tells us about his Eastern European vacation from hell with his best friend Kristy, with sightseeing in freezing weather --- then illness that lands him in the hospital.

There is still no release date for the album.

There is still no news from Clay.

In May, there are rumors that he will appear on the American Idol 5 finale. The rumors are denied, confirmed, then denied again.

After three years, he hasn’t lost his ability to capture the attention of the press and the public. There are dozens of articles in the press, speculating about the speculation.

Clay appears with no introduction, shocking the hell out of an idolizing fan who had been doing a cartoonish imitation of him --- and capturing the attention of the 38 million people watching at home. Clay, as always, is gracious, singing part of “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” with the fan, before turning his attention to the audience and bringing down the house. His Beatles-meets-emo-meets-anime hairstyle is long and dark, his suit is impeccably tailored and he sounds wonderful.

The next day, every newspaper in the known universe leads off with news of Clay’s surprise appearance on the show. Some of them mention Prince, too, but the other top name guests are more or less forgotten.

Who won that thing, anyway?

For the first time since his public life began, there is no summer tour.

Three years after his record-breaking debut album, there is finally a release date for Clay’s follow-up. It is a concept album: Clay will cover popular love songs from the past thirty years, as well as sing four original songs.

It is Clive Davis’s idea, his suggestion, his concept, his mandate.

There is very little pre-promotion for the sophomore album of an artist who has sold four million CDs and more than a million singles. A photo shoot shown on Entertainment Tonight and The Insider reveals a man who has matured, who is self-aware and a bit somber. He has grown from a cute and goofy kid to a serious and handsome man. There is, at the end, a hint of a smile.

On September 19, almost three years after the release of his debut album, A Thousand Different Ways finally drops.

Clay presses forward. He appears on "Good Morning America" three times in one week, performing on one show and doing a two part interview in which he talks about tabloids and reveals his struggles with anxiety.

He appears as Storyteller Clay on "The Tonight Show," cracking up Jay Leno with his tall tales of the European vacation. He is even funnier on "Jimmy Kimmel Live," coining half a dozen memorable lines and performing a five song mini-concept for those, like me, who were fortunate enough to be there. Just one and a half songs, "A Thousand Days" and "Invisible" are shown on air, with "When I See You Smile", "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" and "Without You" joining the list of lost Clack.

He takes his grandmother to visit Martha Stewart, enchants the ladies of "The View", trades quips with Megan Mullally and spends an hour in mutual flirtation with Tyra Banks.

He rises above the bizarre invective of a woman who shows the world that she can dish out mockery, but she cannot take a joke.

He sings. He sings, and the music rises from his belly, glows in his eyes and shoots out of his fingertips. His voice, as it was in the beginning, is clear and true.

In concept and in execution, the album is not what many would have expected. "A Thousand Different Ways" debuts at #2. It has been certified gold. The first single, “Without You”, touched the Top 30 on the AC chart. A second single, an original song called “A Thousand Days”, is slowly ascending the charts.

Many of the songs on this album were brilliantly reinvented. Most critics don’t seem to care: they review the idea, completely missing the creativity and inventiveness of the actual work. Clay’s voice has never been better: as every year passes, he’s grown as a singer and as an interpreter of songs.

But there is something more. For the first time, Clay has writing credits, something he said he would not take unless he made a significant contribution to a song. (He is also responsible for the New Age arrangement of “Broken Wings.”) Clay is one of four songwriters for “Lonely No More,” but he has the sole credit as the lyricist on “Lover All Alone”, arguably the best song on the album. Combined with David Foster’s riveting melody and Eman’s skillful production, the song is spare, haunting and heartbreaking, with an extraordinarily nuanced vocal and a mature, honest and introspective lyric.

Sadly, the song is not technically on the album. Half a million people have bought the album, but “Lover All Alone”, which I consider Clay’s best work in his four years as a recording artist, is available only as a bonus track for those who buy the complete album as an iTunes download.

There are perhaps as few as 25,000 people who have purchased it.

In November, there is more music. It is a holiday EP called “All Is Well”, featuring three newly recorded songs and a fourth that he has sung during his Christmas tours --- and in their second collaboration, Clay is listed as the Executive Producer, along with Jaymes. It is a masterful production, featuring what are arguably Clay’s finest recorded performances to date. Despite the fact that “All Is Well” is exclusive to WalMart, the nation’s largest retailer of music, the CD is almost impossible to find.

He ends the year with the Christmas Symphony Tour, aka the Joyful NotATour 2006. After the previous holiday tour communicating only through song, he has brought back Bantering Clay. He is the self-proclaimed King of Controversy, the Sultan of Scandal, as he mocks the ridiculousness of the rumors that trail those who are in the public eye.

He has grown into a truly wonderful entertainer but, more than that, he is proving his early promise as one of the preeminent singers of his generation.

It is all but impossible for me to explain how far Clay has come since “Take” --- his voice has added many layers of color and texture and his interpretive skills have grown exponentially.

He is no longer just a really fine singer. Clay has become an artist.

I don’t know if his record label realizes that, but Jaymes Foster’s brother David Foster, the musician, composer and producer who has won fourteen Grammy Awards, recognizes and appreciates Clay’s talent. At the David Foster and Friends Gala in September, David introduced Clay in the most glowing of terms, calling him “the fantastic Clay Aiken.”

It was a difficult and disappointing year, but that is the hope I hold on to as I look to the year ahead.

2007, and now a fifth year with Clay Aiken begins. I can still hear the question that was asked when the world at large first met him.

“What’s special about him?”

The Voice.

The Heart.

The Humor.

The Face.

The Frame.

The Memories.

The Future.

From “Take time to tell me”…

to “Take these broken wings”…

to the challenges he will take on tomorrow.

So spin the wheel, and think about the music he will make in the year ahead. Listen to the melody of imagination. Visualize the images that will come to pass.

This week, Clay will appear on "Good Morning America" and this time he will talk about something really important --- his experiences as a UNICEF Ambassador.

Two weeks from now, on Valentines Day, he’ll return to "Jimmy Kimmel Live." The quips will fly and the laughter will be real and deep.

Sometime during the year, Clay will return to the concert stage, a place where he is utterly and completely at home. Thousands will come together to share the experience. The music will be outstanding, and many will remember his performances for years. The quicksilver banter will be deeply amusing. The joy will be tangible.

And as for what else lies ahead?

Clay has said that he is excited and happy, and I have a feeling that in the coming months, many of his fans, old and new, will share that excitement and happiness with him.

Clay has said that he hopes that we will be proud of him.

Proud of him?

Clay Aiken, you gorgeous goofball, through all of your words and actions for the last four years, you have given me nothing but reason after reason to be proud of you.

You have survived the rigors of fame. You have overcome the challenges and the controversies. You are no false idol. You have shown that you are a flawed and utterly remarkable human being.

So spin the wheel, and reveal the new photographs, the new memories, the new music that you will make. The very thought of all of your promise continues to thrill me.

Wherever you go, Clay, whatever you do, I know that there will be fun and exciting times ahead. I can see it in your smile.


I thank you.

I love you.

See you tomorrow.

Photo from Merrillville concert by dc4clay.

Here's a wonderful blog worth reading Reality Check - The Truth About Clay Aiken

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Take Time to Tell Me

He had me at Take. Something you hear often in the Clay Nation. What the heck does it mean? Is it an outtake of a sniveling Rene Zellweger from Jerry McGuire? (If she knew then what we know now about Tom Cruise, it should have been You had me at...oh hell, you never had me. Get out of my house and go board a spaceship with L. Ron, you little nutcase)

This weekend is the fourth anniversary of Take. Take was the first words we ever heard Clay Aiken sing. He sang Always and Forever for his audition in front of Randy and Simon. Paula was..indisposed.

Here's a great montage of all known clips we have of that audition. You'll see that he actually didn't start the song on the line "take time to tell me" but in Idol tradition of slicing a song to unrecognizable bits, the producers only showed that part of it. The rest of it came off the Idol website later.

It's funny, people even talk about what they were doing when they heard Take. At that time, Idol was mixing good and bad auditions in the early shows, unlike today which is just a parade of brain sucking freakshow rejects. So back then, you couldn't tell who was going to be good and who was going to tank. This young, gangly geeky kid in ordinary clothes that he describes in his memoirs as having been bought in the best store in Raleigh, came walking out. The number 5230 was on his chest. I don't even remember if I was looking at the TV. But when I heard him start to sing, I sat on the edge of my seat. I don't think my life has been the same since.

I remember when the Hollywood auditions started, I don't even know if I remembered his name but I was looking for him. They didn't really show him much, one clip had him rehearsing in the hotel room with another singer from the Carolinas who would later become a close friend and his background singer from the beginning of his solo career to present. She's part of our Clay Nation family too and when she had a baby last spring, we had a virtual baby shower for her.

So really this blog really is more of a mini blog of sorts simply to say Happy Anniversary to Clay and to us. Everyone should go play 5230 today in their state lottery. I hear it's a winner.

Photo by Karen, eh?, montage by Hosaa and Photoshop by Invisible926

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

There's A Whole World Of Music Out There - Live A Little

So, Clay Aiken’s A Thousand Days is playing a bit on the radio. I know that the general consensus is that radio play is important and I’m sure it is. But I also know that if I’m listening to the radio, it’s either Air America or Fordham’s public radio station WFUV 90.7 where I can hear Patty Griffin, Taj Mahal, Paul Simon, Tom Waits, Morphine, Stephen Stills, Chris Smither, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters and Radiohead all on the same station. Pretty obvious why I’m not a fan of “popular” radio.

To radio or not to radio. Such a dilemma. I started thinking about the CDs I’ve bought in the last 6 months. Of course, there was A Thousand Different Ways by Clay Aiken. I also picked up Neil Young’s Living with War. And I had to get Eric Clapton & JJ Cale’s Road to Escondido. I’m a huge Georgie Fame fan and a bunch of imports are now listed for preorder on so I had to preorder Fame At Last. And I also picked up Diana Krall’s From This Moment On.

Where do people hear about new music anyway? What ways are they exposed to all the incredible stuff that’s out there? I know for me it’s I have mentioned a couple of times how much I adore Pandora for discovering new music in Revisiting The Music Genome Project and Music Genome Project: Follow the Clay Path to New Music.Because of some of the artists I was exposed to there, I bought Matt Nathanson’s Beneath These Fireworks and Matt Kearney’s Nothing To Lose just a couple of months ago. Then there are indie stations and friends recommend stuff. Sometimes you hear something that just clicks with you on a movie soundtrack or a tv program. Or get lucky and catch something good in an unexpected place like watching a late night show. But all the wonderful artists that I gravitate to are never hyped. And I think only Eric Clapton and JJ Cale’s cd is standing on Billboard’s recent chart – at #65!!!!!! Sheesh.

So for those of you who may be bored with the same old-same old . . . eager to see what else is out there . . . Looking to do a little music exploration . . . take a trip to Putumayo World Music . As stated on their website “
Putumayo World Music has become known primarily for its upbeat and melodic compilations of great international music characterized by the company's motto: “guaranteed to make you feel good!
And boy, does it ever!

I recently ordered two compilations from Putumayo. The cds come with wonderful inserts in French and English and Spanish describing all the songs and artists in detail – great reading and really informative.

French Café is a collection of classic and modern French music featuring some of the greatest names in the history of French music as well as new artists who are inspired by classic chanson, gypsy jazz and musette. As a fan of Pink Martini – I was excited to hear Paris Combo, with the same kind of happy, jazzy, flavor. I immediately went out and bought one of their albums, Motifs, and I was not disappointed. Check them out on this video:

I fell in love with Mathieu Boogaerts whose song, Ondule, is a wonderful mix of chanson, reggae and electronic music. This video is Mathieu (on the right) singing with Mathieu Chedid – great great fun!

And one of my favorite cuts on this cd is by Polo. I’m a fan of Django Reinhardt’s music – so Polo’s really reached out to me – a swinging gypsy jazz song.

The second CD I ordered was Blues Around The World described in their catalogue as
a collection of musicians from Mississippi to Mauritania, Memphis to Madrid, demonstrating the powerful influence of the Blues on musicians in every corner of the earth.
What an incredible combination of talents on this CD. Simply amazing.

First song on the album was Listen My Son by The Unseen Guest, a group led by an Irish musician, Declan Murray, and an Indian musician, Amith Narayan. I loved it and immediately went and ordered their album, Out There.

Big Mama and Victor Uris – great guitar and harmonica blues performed in Catalan but oozing Mississippi blues spirit - what a treat this is.

One of my favorite collaborations on this cd is Back Around, by Bonnie Raitt and Habib Koite. I’m already a Bonnie Raitt fan – but I’d never heard of Habib Koite who is from Mali . One listen to this song and his fabulous guitar work and I went back to Putumayo and ordered Baro, an amazing album. Here’s a clip of Habib performing Batoumambe:

Amar Sundy, a member of the nomadic Tuareg tribe who inhabit the western Sahara Desert, spent time in Paris and then moved in 1986 to Chicago, working with legendary Albert King. In the early 1990s, he returned to Paris and his cut, Ouallache, is a great combination of American jazz, French lyrics and African/Mid-East influences.

There’s so much incredible music out there . . . you can spend hours wandering the Putumayo site just listening to clips and clicking Buy. I know I’ve still got to pick up Louisiana Gumbo, Mali to Memphis, Congo to Cuba and Samba Bossa Nova , It’s a great way to sample amazing musicians, lyricists and singers. It’s a big world out there – filled with wonderful surprises. Start traveling!

So . . . what does this have to do with Clay Aiken? Nothing really except that the fans of this wonderful singer are a mixed bunch - far removed from the stereotype perpetuated by the so-called media. And if Clay ever wants to duet with Habib Koite - I'm there in a heartbeat!

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Tuesday, January 16, 2007


(A big thanks to Fountaindawg for the fabulous photoshop!)

(Kimmel at desk, just back from a commercial break. The band finishes with a flourish. Applause.)

Kimmel: Welcome back, everybody. Our first guest is no stranger to this show…and we thought, in keeping with our Mardi Gras theme this week -- and because it’s still sweeps -- we’d invite him back because it’s always a party when he’s here, right, Claymates? (Audience cheers vigorously) And Clay Nation, Clay Dawgs, Lecherous Broads and whoever else? (Audience cheers even louder. Slyly) And you thought I didn’t read my mail. Anyway, I can’t think of anybody I’d rather have here on Fat Tuesday than my buddy, multi-platinum recording artist, and pilferer of stuff from my office, CLAAAAY AIKEN!

(Cheers and applause from audience…which quickly fade as they are mingled with gasps as Clay appears from behind the curtain, wearing an enormous – and convincing – fat suit. He looks like a double-wide deep freezer. Somberly, he waddles over to a shocked Jimmy’s desk, carrying a shopping bag in his bloated hand, which he hoists onto the chair next to him. Out of breath, he unbuttons his jacket and slowly and laboriously sinks into the guest chair. This takes a while. The audience remains standing and staring, whispering among themselves.)

Clay (glaring at them pudgily): What.

Kimmel: Hey…uh…Clay…good to see you. Um…what happened?

Clay: Whaddya mean?

Kimmel: Clay, you were just here last week. I can’t believe—

(Clay reaches into the shopping bag and pulls out a big bottle of antacids. He flips open the cap, upends the bottle and pours them into his mouth, chewing loudly.)

Kimmel: Hey, weren’t those on my desk?

Clay (around a mouthful): Yeah. Here, you kin have some, too. (He slams the half-empty bottle down in front of Kimmel)

Kimmel: All right, I give up. What’s going on?

Clay (trying to stifle a belch): Hey, the Globe is claimin’—(he fails; the audience groans)—‘scuse me, y’all—that Ah’m a pill-poppin’ fat guy. An’ ya know the tabloids NEVER lie. So Ah jest thought Ah’d let everbody see the REAL me.

Kimmel: I see. You must’ve worked pretty hard to get this fat since last week.

Clay: Yep, it was a challenge, though Tyra’s mac ‘n’ cheese shore helped, Ah must say! But accordin’ to the rags, Ah’m rilly depressed, too, an’ ya kin see what THAT does to a person. (to audience) Ah’m shore y’all kin relate, cain’tcha? (He reaches with some difficulty into the bag again, and brings forth a big greasy turkey drumstick.) Don’t mind me – keep talkin.’ Ah gotta keep up mah strength. (He gnaws on it, ala Henry the Eighth. Audience groans)

Kimmel (to audience): Okay, I don’t know about you, but I’m getting queasy.

Clay: So…Ah guess that means ya don’t want any PIE, huh? (shrugs cheerfully) Too bad – more fer me! (He tosses the drumstick into the bag, and brings forth a lemon meringue pie. He dips his finger into it, and sucks the filling noisily off. Kimmel stands suddenly, his hand to his mouth)

Kimmel: Okay, now…Clay, stop that! This is not like you!

Clay: How d’ya know? Ah mean, Ah’m purdy upfront ‘bout who I am, an’ Ah’ve said so. A LOT. But does anybody listen? Heck no! They’d rather believe the most ridiculous stuff, even when it’s impossible. Why, Ah betcha tomorrow this’ll be all over the dang ennertainment shows, an’ they’ll be sayin,’ “See thayre – we toldja he was rilly FAT!”

Kimmel: Yeah…I think I see what you mean. Tell you what – why don’t we take a break, and maybe when we come back, things’ll be back to normal. ‘Cause this is creeping me out. Whaddya say? (Relieved, the audience cheers and applauds)

Clay (shrugs): Well, if you think it’ll help, Jimmy. Hey – you wanna Mountain Dew? (The band energetically strikes up a tune, and Kimmel leans over urgently)

Kimmel (sotto voce to Clay): Hey -- who said you could borrow my Halloween costume?

Clay (grinning, taking a big swig of Mountain Dew): Well, YOU weren’t usin’ it…

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Monday, January 15, 2007

Measure of A Man

There is a small book by the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. called The Measure of A Man.

It is a "pair of meditations (that) contain the theological roots of his political and social philosophy of non-violent activism."

The title is taken from this quote from Dr. King:

"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."

Since coming across that quote in the fall of 2003, I've always wondered if Clay Aiken declined to self-title his first album because he was inspired by Dr. King, or if it was simply providential direction masquerading as coincidence.

Clay's album "Measure of a Man" was released on October 14, 2003 --- the 39th anniversary of the announcement that Dr. King had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Another coincidence, I suppose.

Still, Clay has learned a lot about measuring up to challenge and controversy during his four years in the public eye. I think he's doing just fine, but if Clay ever feels in need of inspiration, it's rather wonderful that we have a national holiday for a man of Dr. King's caliber.

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King.

To read the "I Have a Dream" speech, go HERE.

To read King's Nobel lecture and to hear an excerpt, go HERE.

To read King's Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, go HERE.

To find out more about the Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial, go HERE.

To find out more about the work of The King Center, and to help build "The Beloved Community," go HERE.

A tribute from James Taylor:

"Shed A Little Light"

Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood

That we are bound together
In our desire to see the world become
A place in which our children
Can grow free and strong

We are bound together
By the task that stands before us
And the road that lies ahead
We are bound and we are bound

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest

Shed a little light, oh lord
So that we can see
Just a little light, oh lord
Wanna stand it on up
Stand it on up, oh lord
Wanna walk it on down
Shed a little light, oh lord

Can't get no light from the dollar bill
Don't give me no light from a tv screen
When I open my eyes
I wanna drink my fill
From the well on the hill

Do you know what I mean?

Shed a little light, oh lord
So that we can see
Just a little light, oh lord
Wanna stand it on up
Stand it on up, oh lord
Wanna walk it on down
Shed a little light, oh lord

There is a feeling like the clenching of a fist
There is a hunger in the center of the chest
There is a passage through the darkness and the mist
And though the body sleeps the heart will never rest

Oh, let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

Clay Aiken: Truth In Advertising

Pictures speak louder than words - don't you think? In the interest of truth - may I say that every one of these pictures was taken on the same exact day at the same exact event.

As the wonderful fountaindawg said
I'd send this to the Globe . . . But ... But ... But ... All those pics of NotFatClay looking kinda hawt might contribute to Globe-al Warming.

And, of course, this gem from Pink Armchair:
And as far as the pictures go, how is that rag going to rationalize it the first time Clay shows up in public or on TV as his natural slim self? I can see it now: "PILL-POPPING SINGER LOSES 30 POUNDS IN ONE MONTH! HIS AMAZING WEIGHT-LOSS DIET REVEALED!"

and a big thank you to fountaindawg for the collage!

. . . and a shout-out to Oprah Winfrey and her fans. Clay's in good company when he's on the front page with you!

To those "non-fans" who feel the need to share their advice and wisdom here on this blog -- I've been putting through your comments, but honestly, they are really boring. Try to put some humor in them or something fun, please. In the wonderful words of Mose Allison:

If you must keep talking, please try to make it rhyme

Because your mind is on vacation

And your mouth is working overtime

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

What's Next?

What's Next? Jed Bartlet used to ask that all the time on The West Wing when he was ready to move on. The first of the year seems like a good time to ask What's Next?

What's next is that some of the better TV shows are finally returning from Christmas hiatus next week. House is back although if they drag this damn cop story out any longer, I may foreclose on my TIVO season pass. David Morse's character is starting to deserve that rectal thermometer that House “forgot” to remove. Most detectives don't have the kind of time he is spending on this case, so it is moving past the believable stage. I predict he had a younger sibling or something that was a drug addict and he couldn't save them so he's got a bug up his ass about it. Maybe the bug got irritated by the thermometer.

I'd like to see Clay Aiken guest on House as a long haired rock singer with some kind of strange disease that House will solve at 9:55 after nearly killing him with some kind of chocolate enema. I think they should put him in a johnnie that doesn't quite close all the way in the back. Unlike that detective, Clay has a mighty fine ass. (For those who don't know, a johnnie is slang for a hospital gown. I've mentioned the term to a few different people and they had never heard of it. Is it northeast slang? The south has Larry the Cable Guy-do we have Seth the Orderly?)

I'd also like to see some changes to the House doctors. Can Cameron please get rid of the 3rd grade haircut? Can Chase actually grow a pair? (For benchmarking see Aiken, titanium) Can Cuddy just be a smart, strong, sometimes nice and sometimes shrewd woman in power without always wearing tops where she's exposing more boobage than Pamela Anderson at the OB/GYN?

Studio 60 returns on January 22nd. I think this show has hit its stride after they realized that the comedy sketches they wrote into the fake SNL show weren't, well...funny. Aaron Sorkin takes time to fully develop his characters and I'm starting to get a feel for who these people are now. When the delicious Bradley Whitford said to Amanda Peet's character “I'm coming for you, Jordan” well, I don't know how she just stood there. I'm coming for you too, Brad, but perhaps we don't mean the same thing. I'd like to see more backstory on some of these people as well.

Clay would be perfect for this program but he'd probably have to play himself as the musical guest of the fake SNL program. There is a Clay parallel in just about every episode and they even mentioned his name once. It's like a game to watch the show now and look for the similarity to something in Clay's life. He is a big fan of Sorkin's West Wing and his suit raised some serious bucks for Whitford's Clothes Off our Backs charity so how about it, Aaron? You could use the ratings bump. A good director like Tommy Schlamme could pull a great performance out of Clay. Don't you just love that name? Tommy Schlamme. I wonder how many kids he had to beat up in middle school.

LOST will remain so until February. I don't know what's next for that show but I hope they tie up some story lines before they add five more. Clay doesn't really like water so unless he lives in the hatch somewhere, that one is probably out. That's OK, it lets me cheat on him with Desmond. I must have a thing for a guy with an accent. And no Pink Armchair, I do not have one.

So, that leaves What's Next for Clay? His single, “A Thousand Days” hits AC radio on 1/15. Of course, if RCA supports it in the same way it has his last few singles (which has the likelihood of me joining the Kelly Ripa fanclub) than we'll call to request it and the DJ on the phone will hem and haw with some lame excuse. It's really the way I want to spend the month of January since I don't ski...except not. (Although we've had no snow in the northeast yet this year because El Nino has bad breath or something.)

Here's what I'd like to see next for Clay after a well deserved bit of time off for another hour or so. What could he have been alluding to with his mention of a fresh start in 2007? (And I don't think it was just another New Year's reference, if things are going well than you don't need a fresh start.)

I hope he's reading scripts right now for the above mentioned TV appearances as well as a big sweeps performance on SNL where he parodies the crap out of all the absurdity from 2006.

I hope he's reviewing offers from Paul Smith, Kenneth Cole or another designer because Clay was meant to model designer suits.

I hope he and Eman are writing songs for soundtracks like The Kite Runner and some romantic comedy where maybe he has a small role as the leading guy's best buddy who ends up falling for the leading gal's best buddy. I'd like to see him with Ashley Judd, I think. And one huge screen kiss where she sucks on that bottom lip in a close up that results in the female portion of Clay Nation negotiating for overnight accommodations at every movie theater in North America.

Finally, I hope what's next is that he's ready to fulfill whatever obligation he has with RCA over the next 90 days or so and that what's REALLY next is the first day of his new career with a company that knows marketing this entertainment genius is a no brainer and a lucrative one at that. My dream for what's next is that RCA is his history and the next chapter is the world. If that isn't the case, the dream just became a nightmare.

Eyes on the Prize.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Our Year End Thoughts and Wishes

What a wonderful time we've had posting on The ConCLAYve. So many voices. Once again, our members (and guests) are sharing their thoughts. Please share yours. We love to read your comments.

Our newest contribution from Michi:
Another year has gone by and Clay Aiken is still in my life. It surprises me yet at other times it seems as natural as breathing.

I wasn’t looking for anything when Clay appeared on his season of AI. I wasn’t lonely, I wasn’t desperate. I wasn’t looking or needing to have an “empty place” in me filled. I loved music - many, many types and I still do.

I am a firm believer in “things happen for a reason”. The reasons may be slow in revealing themselves or never all that clear but yet I still hold this belief.

I didn’t know it at the time when Clay was on American Idol but my life was going to be shook up and in ways I never would imagine. Would I have survived all the crap if I had never heard of Clay Aiken? Sure I would have. It is what I do. I have a strong support system. I have good friends.

So why did Clay make a difference?

What happened is that I discovered a voice that almost never fails to move me. The past few years when I have felt numbed by circumstances, that voice has made me feel whether I wanted to or not. It wasn’t only his singing voice but when Clay spoke also. I find myself always wanting to hear more. By listening, I also found people that wanted to listen also and have come to call many of these people my good friends.

Who can have too many friends? When things have been tough I have that many more people to care about me. How can that be wrong?

It has been another tough and emotional year in my household but I am humbled by how hard this year has to have been for Clay just because some people are so caught up in hate and sensationalism.

Clay says he loves doing Christmas concerts because it revitalizes him and prepares him for the unknowns of the next year. Funny thing but those concerts do the same thing for me. Meeting up with friends I dearly miss and hearing him sing gives me strength to face what will come in the new year. The Christmas tour was the only tour we got from Clay this year and although I don’t want to have to wait that long again, it was worth it. Clay sang beautifully and heartfelt as always but he also incorporated his wit and humor into each show. At one of the two shows I attended, I witnessed the men (omg there were men at the concert!) cracking up at Clay’s jokes and they didn’t hesitate to give Clay a standing ovation.

I attended one show where the viola players actually sought my friends and I out to comment on how much they enjoyed playing with Clay. They praised not only his musicality but his sense of humor and the fact that he is a nice guy. They didn’t have to say anything. The fact that they did spoke volumes to me.

The New Year is here now, and I am strangely at peace for what will come. I think it will be a good year for Clay and a good year for me even if that means sorting through some of the bad things that happened this past year.

I have a friend that will say “think of it as an adventure”. From the day Clay walked into the Atlanta AI auditions, it certainly has been an adventure. One I wouldn’t have missed for the world and one I look forward to continuing - not just in 2007 but in many years to come.

Always and Forever - thank you Clay.

Contribution from Berkeley:

On September 26, I saw Clay Aiken for the first and only time this year. It was Clay’s fifth --- and funniest --- appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” featuring a hysterically funny, quote-worthy interview, followed by a five song mini-concert.

As I stood there in the crowd looking up at Clay, one word came to mind.

(No, not that one! Not that I would admit in print, anyway.)

The word was confidence.

Clay knows what he is doing, knows where he is going and he is happy with his life. After a year few would have predicted for him, it makes me smile to see how self-assured and content he seems at the end of it.

Clay Aiken, blessed with a blue-moon vocal talent, is becoming even more than one of the finest singers of his generation.

On the Official Fan Club, there is a tantalizing piece of video --- I can’t link it, since it is exclusive content, but I can describe it here. Clay is sitting at a counter in the studio, working on a song with Emanuel Kiriakou, producer of two of the songs on “A Thousand Different Ways”. They go through the lyrics, the phrasing, the breaks: it is a rare look at Clay during the creative process of interpreting a song.

I wish I could see footage of the creation of another song. In the archive of my imagination, I hold a picture of Clay working through the lyrics of “Lover All Alone,” his magnificent collaboration with multiple Grammy-winning composer David Foster and producer Eman. It seems that Clay sat on the music for a couple of months, while his friend and executive producer Jaymes Foster urged him to try his hand at writing lyrics for the tune. In the end, Clay wrote his lyrics in a few hours.

As much as I love Clay, I’m not given to building pedestals. I hope for excellence (not perfection) from Clay, because he is very capable of meeting that standard. If Clay’s lyrics were just fair, if the song was pedestrian, if the production was mediocre, I would say so. (Lord knows no one will ever mistake me for the president of the “When You Say You Loved Me” Fan Club.)

“Lover All Alone” is a spare, bittersweet, and introspective work. It is sung wonderfully, poignantly, and with absolutely restraint. The lyrics are thematically mature, the song is sophisticated musically and it is arranged with a light but firm touch. Had any of my favorite five or six well-respected indie artists written this song, it would be the breakout hit of their careers.

“Lover All Alone” is one of the best songs of 2006, but there has probably been fewer than 25,000 downloads of the exclusive iTunes version of “A Thousand Different Ways” --- and that is the only way to hear this song. That is not just a shame for Clay and his fans: that is a loss for everyone looking for distinctive voices in music.

So what do I wish for Clay in 2007?

Health, happiness and hope.

Days filled with laughter.

An enduring love.

A rare vision.

Challenges overcome.

Respect --- and radio play.

His name at the top of the charts.

A chance to work with people who realize that Clay Aiken isn’t some piece of a franchise, he is sui generis.

And at the end of 2007, may “Lover All Alone” be considered the first great work from Clay Aiken, artist.

He'll still be my favorite goofball, though.

Happy New Year and many blessings to all!

Contribution from Shadylil:

We're at the end of year 2006 and as I reflect back, my thoughts turn to my internet friends, the friends I made on the message boards because of Clay Aiken.

I think back to what he went through via the tabloids and what WE went through, too. Because, you see, when you love someone, their pain is your pain. And I can't imagine that the tabloid rumors didn't hurt Clay deep inside.

The fans and friends on the message boards stayed strong and we banded together because we were tired of hearing all the negative crap about Clay, a guy who is just trying to live his life the best way he can.

So......What to do? What to do?

BLOGS! We decided to start blogs about Clay. Blogs about the man we know him to be, about the good things he does, about his wonderful voice and his compassionate heart and, oh yeah, we talked about his hair and his concerts. And some of us talked about pop culture and critics and radio. We were quite varied in our thoughts and opinions.

Quite a few people participated in the blogs and many, many more read them. We laughed and cried, we were funny and sometimes maudlin, but in the end, we learned a lot about ourselves.

Clay was absent for pretty much the first 7 months of the year with the exception of his spectacular appearance on American Idol. And what an appearance that was! He was the talk of the media for the next three or four weeks, then, nothing. Oh, the boards heard rumblings about the CD release, but we missed Clay. We missed seeing him and hearing him, watching him sing and watching him laugh.

September, 2006 saw the release of the new CD, a CD of covers (with four originals). The boards exploded with varying opinions about the CD, the song choices, the promotion, and Clay's appearances to promote the CD, but the one thing we all agreed on was that we were so happy to see him. Finally. At last.

His fans flocked to his TV appearances, watched him light the UNICEF star, and attended his annual Christmas Tour, where he sang backed by a full symphony orchestra and where he did at least four shows riddled with vertigo. He didn't cancel, he didn't give a lackluster performance, in fact, this tour was the best I've ever heard Clay sing.

I think all of the fans are looking forward to seeing what 2007 has in store for Clay and ourselves. A new year and a new start, for both of us. Bring it, Clay, we have your back, always and forever.

Contribution by MrNan:

All is well.

It started for me on AI2 when my wife called me into the den w/ “wow you should come and listen to this”. I moved quickly as these were pre-Tivo times.

I’ve been connected ever since and freely attend Clay Aiken events within a doable distance. And please note: doable has expanded greatly over the years . . . turns out to be defined, in my house anyway, as any location within the continental United States. We will expand globally as needed.

I had the splendid opportunity to see two of Clay’s 2006 Christmas concerts, and even got to the second row-center in Red Bank thanks to tickets from Teresa4624. Along with my wife, Corabeth & Cynical One (& everyone in the first 5 rows) we collectively had Clay’s back. If he fell we would catch him. I truly haven’t felt that level of “one goal” group bond since the 60’s. What a wonderful energy resides in those first sections of seats. It reminds one of Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre and the proximity of the audience to the actor. Where the audience is part of the event, where anything can happen. Even with much of Clay’s patter scripted, once you open it up to a live audience you can pretty much expect to kiss it goodbye.

But let’s talk about the MUSIC. When is the last time you listened to so much Christmas music? When’s the last time you cried listening to Christmas music? Over the years it’s become a “gimmick song” that everyone always picks up on, “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” style of songs. Thanks to All Is Well and two concerts, I’m filled with an amazing energy and inner peace. Don’t want to analyze it, just want to enjoy it. However My Grown-Up Christmas List is now owned by Clay.

If you ever questioned Clay’s talent (shame on u) this Christmas tour put that to rest. Full orchestra, All Is Well, Emmanuel – Please, his voice is an instrument! What a show.

The biggest crime of 2006 has to be how RCA handled (mishandled) A Thousand Different Ways, easily one of the best produced albums of the year, and what a fiasco the distribution of the disk was. RCA didn’t/couldn’t even press & deliver enough copies for the fan base, let alone anyone new. Not having Lover All Alone on a recording of love songs is just criminal. Can you get anymore obvious RCA? Nice business plan, take the high road. That was sarcasm!

Pray for Change!
Persevere . . .

Contribution by ConCLAYve-Nan:

Clay Aiken. That name seems to conjur up all kinds of emotions for people. For those who haven't seen him since AI, or those who only hear about him from late night comics or gossip sites - the image is far removed from reality. I recently played Lover All Alone and You Don't Know Me By Now for a good friend. She doesn't follow Clay's career and hasn't really seen him except for little bits on television. She knows about Ripagate only from reading or hearing about it. She never knew about the tirade made by Kelly or Kelly's comments about seeking solace from her good friend and bastion of good manners and respect for women (that's sarcasm), Howard Stern. She laughed like crazy when I showed her the pictures of Kelly with her hand over Regis's mouth. She was amazed that part of the story has been lost to the Rosie/Kelly fight which is much more "interesting" to lazy media people. She was floored by the two songs I played for her. She wrote me an email that said: "How beautiful and sad Lover All Alone was. And I really enjoyed the other song as well. I wouldn't have known it was Clay if I just happened to hear them somewhere." Of course she wouldn't. Her expectation of his music was formed by the media who perpetrate the same old myths. She is now anxiously waiting for me to send her a copy of A Thousand Different Ways.

So I sent her this picture and said this is what Clay looked like just a few weeks ago. Her immediate response: "Great shot of Clay - he looks hot! " Ummm . . . yeah

The NaJNT was an extraordinary experience for me. To see that man give so much of himself to his audience. To hear so much laughter. And then watch him move effortlessly to heartfelt singing was a relevation. The determination to fight through his illness in order not to disappoint was staggering. And he never disappointed. I saw an amazing man - a beautiful, radiant, fascinating man. An incredible voice in magnificent wrapping. A dorky, funny, bawdy, smutty, witty, silly guy. A courageous, fearless, tenacious person. A craftsman, a virtuoso. A painter with his voice. A valiant being. A mystery.

Thank you Clay. I've bought my ticket and I'm ready to board this magical mystery tour. I cannot wait to see what 2007 holds for you . . . and for me.

Oh - and just because I believe in truth in advertising - here's a real picture of Clay at the Unicef Snowflake Lighting.

Contribution from CB:

This has been such a rollercoaster year and not at all what I expected 12 months ago. Clay is such a good man and he had to polish those titanium babies so many time this year, it's a wonder he didn't break his zipper. (Then again, he did!) There were those who tried to separate us from him. Oh how foolish you are and how much you underestimated the bond that is here.

I said all summer that I would wait for the promo before I passed judgment and then it was hard for me to ultimately realize that RCA must have taken advance lessons in incompetency. From the covers mandate to the pulling of promo to the total lack of understanding Clay's iconic status in pop culture, they screwed up a good thing in a thousand different ways. Ironically, their lack of "getting" Clay and getting the fans may finally work in our favor for next year.

I'm hopeful, more than hopeful and I think in years to come we may look back on this year, as hard as it was, as a blessing in disguise. (All except one frog.) I sense a low level marketing hum out there, it's the kind of feeling that I had expected to have in the early summer. I like what I'm feeling, my marketing radar is pinging all over the place. All is Well.

How fitting that this year ended with the December tour where we saw not only Clay in great voice (even on days when a lesser entertainer would have easily called off the show due to illness that required he be helped on and off the stage) but we saw the real Clay burst forth. Quick as a whip Clay, unrestrained, happy, snarky, in control Clay. I realize these women do think I'm sexy, Clay. A Clay seemingly free from filter in both language and opinion. A Clay who had the bully pulpit and could roll his eyes and mock at the ridiculous from tabloid rumors to Ripa to the obviously agenda filled EW rankings. When he showed how stupid he thought they were, it made it easier for me to feel the same. It just seemed like everything in December, right down to the long hair, was so very Clay.

As we end this year, I wanted to offer my holiday thanks.

Jerome and all the Jerome Juniors: I'm counting on you.

Clay's “family” of Andy, Felix, Angela, Quiana, Daniel, Jesse, Jamie, Clarence. Thanks for being loyal friends and exceptional at what you do. (Jamie: Keep it long, honey.)

The Fosters:
David for understanding his talent and his potential, for treating him like a friend, a protege, a son and a brother all in one.

Jaymes, for ATDW and AIW with the Vox front and center, for putting up with the fans and sharing even though we aren't always the easiest ones to talk to, for standing by Clay through thick and thin, for being a “deep friend” and probably one of the reasons he smiles a lot, for loving him in whatever way it is that you do.

For Clay

I admire you more than I can ever say. Vocally, you astound me. Your comic timing is what legends are made of. Your strength and resolve is what I can only hope to achieve when faced with the adversity that confronted you this year. Your compassion for those who need help is something I hope to instill in my children.

We walked through fire together this year and the vast majority of us are still here, closer than ever it seems as you reached out to us and embraced us this December.

I believe that in 2007 we may know the purpose of 2006, or at least begin to see. I am hopeful that you will find/have found a label that is the piece to complete the puzzle that represents all that you desire.

Thank you for getting fat.

I wish you joy in your first Christmas in your new home.

I wish you comfort from those who are so troubled in this life that they seek to hurt you instead.

I wish you peace of mind over Brett's safety.

I wish you love from your friends, your family, your fans and a soulmate to “share your everything”, wherever she may be waiting.

God's blessing on you this Christmas.

Bring on 2007, the year we never looked back!

Contribution by ForeverYoung:

My blogs seem to have a theme, so why change it now. Here is my top ten list of What Clay made Me Do in 2006:

1. Clay made me retire in April after 30 years in the workforce so I could be free to travel everywhere he would be touring ... Of course he only did one tour at the end of the year when I was otherwise occupied and couldn't travel!

2. Clay made me buy a second home in Jacksonville, Florida so I would be able to accommodate out of town friends who were following Clay everywhere he would be touring... Of course my sleep sofa didn't arrive until the day after the Jacksonville concert
so anyone who wanted to stay over had to sleep on the floor! But wait until his next tour...

3. Clay is making me contemplate purchasing more homes in the other corners of the country so I'd have a jumping off point to follow Clay everywhere he would be touring ... This idea not only gave my accountant a heart attack, but had my kids consulting the yellow pages for a therapist.

4. Clay has made me smile, giggle, jump for joy, groan, moan, cringe, tingle, desolve into tears, laugh like a lunatic and act like a kid... All of which made me happy to be alive!

5. Clay made me traipse all over Connecticut looking for a Walmart that sold AIW... None to be found... but a dear Clay fan bought extra and mailed one to me.

6. Clay made me stay up way passed my bedtime attending a wonderful CD party somewhere in the heart of Connecticut and had me driving home at 2am in the morning with my car CD player blasting away on the Merritt Parkway... Passed only one patrol car on that dark and winding parkway... Got home safe and exceedingly happy and slept with a smile on my face in my Clay tee shirt that I won at the party

7. Clay made me buy multiple copies of ATDW

And then ...

8. Clay made me become an ITunes user and download customer allowing me to download and burn the same tracks, plus one special track - Lover All Alone

That track made me very sad but incredibly hopeful..

9. Clay made me connect with new Clay fan/friends from all across the world thru chats, cellstreams, blogs, message boards, concerts, luncheons, dinners and parties... All of which enriched my life immensely

10. Clay made me feel both sorrow and joy for humanity ... And I thought I couldn't be surprised at the cruelty in the world anymore or be amazed and inspired by the courage and grace exhibited by those under attack

Clay made me do all of the above and for that I will be forever grateful .

Thank you Clay and all my friends - I care about you very much - you bring me such joy... We are truly one very big amazing global family.

Contribution by Pink Armchair:

This was, undeniably, a tough year to be a Clay fan. We literally did not lay eyes on him for five months, from the end of December until the end of May. Nor did we hear much of him, either -- only ludicrous stories in the tabloids and lies perpetrated by the usual wannabes and bottom feeders who always seem to follow in the wake of celebrity.

And when Clay finally did surface, spectacularly, on the AI5 finale, he seemed to have reinvented himself (OMG, who is THAT guy?), and proved, reassuringly, that he was still capable of creating incredible media buzz without saying a single word (Prince was on the show? Really?). We had been hearing vague things about his travails with RCA, as the new album we all eagerly anticipated was eventually released, with inexplicably poor support from them. Which was tragic, because it's so good. We fans were baffled and did our best, but wanted so much more for him. Controversy seemed to dog him, no matter what he said or did.

And through it all, we wondered: Was he really happy? How could he be, given everything that had happened? Had the past year beaten him down? Were good things in store for him? Which Clay would appear when we saw him again?

I was fortunate to have tickets to the first two concerts of Clay’s holiday symphony tour, and had no idea what to expect. Well, I needn’t have worried. I said on the cellcert that first night that when Clay, looking gorgeous, walked out on that stage on the day after his 28th birthday, I had never seen anyone so happy to be anywhere. And it was true. He was as thrilled to see us as we were to see him, at long last. Undeniably, his relationship with us had changed -- we had been through the fire (tm David Foster, how appropriate!) with him, and now we were in cahoots. Clay teased us, joked with us, made fun of himself and the absurdity of his life, and knew we’d understand. And he gained a lot of new fans in the process -- even an unknown number of husbands and boyfriends who probably didn’t want to be there in the first place. He won over some critics, too.

Just as Clay seemed physically to have filled out and matured, his golden, incomparable voice showed a new beauty and richness as well. Yes, on this tour he was unwell at times, and his vocal problems sometimes reflected it, but he was still better on his worst day than most singers are on their best. And he doggedly went on with the show, when many other performers would have turned tail and run. That alone speaks more for his character and strength than almost anything else could.

Clay has given me far more -- new friends, new experiences, fun and excitement and love -- than I could ever hope to return. If 2007 brings him even a fraction of that happiness, I’ll be satisfied. Because nobody deserves it more.

Many of you are familiar with the great voice. For a glimpse at the great sense of humor - visit Clayigraphy. Believe me, you'll enjoy it!

Also - start off the New Year with a laugh - Jemock's 2026 - A Year In Review is fabulous!

And for more another Year in Review - visit Carolina On My Mind

And our very own contributor, Shadylil, has an indepth Year In Review that must not be missed at ClaySpots

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