Sunday, September 28, 2008

Clay Aiken and His Fans - Who We Really Are

Clay Aiken - singer, actor, humanitarian, father . . . oh, and gay.

And the majority of Clay fans are just fine. We're happy, supportive and honestly just looking forward to enjoying that handsome, sexy charismatic man wherever his career takes him.

But there is still this myth that surrounds the Claymates - this expectation that should Clay ever *gasp* come out . . . his Christian conservative base would spontaneously combust . . . leaving Clay alone in a puddle of ashes. Well, that myth was never based on any reality and the words I read around the Clay fandom bears that out. Way back in 2006 I wrote one of our first blogs about the Clay Aiken Fan Segment the Media Forgot. Somehow it seems fitting to revisit it and update it today.

Where did the idea that the majority of Clay Aiken fans are conservative Christians, homophobic, miserable, lonely old women come from? Who created this fantasy that fans of Clay only listened to Barry Manilow (or Liberace) and stopped listening to music until American Idol came on the television? How did this nonsense that Clay fans think he’s the next Pat Boone or Perry Como become the mantra of the media? Is it lazy journalism? One reviewer or reporter writes up his misconception and other writers decide that person must be correct? Do these “journalists” actually speak to fans? Do they filter out anything that doesn’t meet that misconception? It’s a mystery why this misconception is repeated over and over. But for any writer who is actually interested in something more accurate . . . a story that isn’t a rehash of the same old-same old . . . you might want to take a look at some real fans of Clay Aiken.

Amazing – but true . . .what I've found is that the Clay fandom is much more diverse than many others. Is the audience predominately women? Yes. Just as it was at the beginning of the career of many popular artists from Elvis, Frank Sinatra and the Beatles. What’s extraordinary is the range of ages. I see youngsters, teenagers and young adults at all his concerts. Unfortunately, the insistence of the media that his fan base is a bunch of old ladies - makes it difficult for young girls and especially young men to admit they are fans. Will it matter that Clay Aiken is gay? Don't we listen to music with our ears? With our hearts? How can it matter? My husband said that when Clay sings love songs, he doesn't think about who Clay is singing to. My husband thinks about his own life. He said this morning that Clay sings the soundtrack of his life. Yeah. He's a Clay Aiken fan.

Is a large segment of his audience middle-aged? Without a doubt. About the same age as the audience I saw when I attended Eric Clapton’s concert a couple of years ago or Van Morrison's concert just last April.

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

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

My husband said to me just the other morning when this news broke . . . "OK fine - now can we get back to the music?" Yes. Lets. So have a listen to Clay singing Ashes AOL Sessions (the commercial is short). The lyrics are particularly appropriate now:

Someone told me
What doesn't kill you only
Makes you stronger, sets you free
From all that held you down

With all my heart, I believed
The ember burning
Was a dream deep in me
When everything went up in flames
I still walked away

Turn around and see what love's done for me
You would not believe the way I used to be, so cold
Maybe love requires walking through the fire
To set me free, so I could rise up from the Ashes

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Corabeth said...

Funny how some of our older blogs about Clay Aiken still hold exactly true even after this week's news.

Nothing is really changed, except now my .1% chance at a shot with him is a little less than that.

jbc4clay said...

This is all so true.
My sub-heading on my blog is - The Voice, The Heart, The Man. That is what drew me to him and that has not changed.

Carolina Clay said...


Awesome! This should be required reading for journalists, as well as fans. Hope Clay sees it, too!


Anonymous said...

Most of these journalists have never been to a Clay Aiken concert. They start from what one person writes and embellish the story by adding a few more insults toward Clay fans. Sure, the extremes in the fandom may choose to no longer support Clay, but the fandom will rise up and prove these journalists wrong. Just like any other gay person Clay has gone through the struggle of who he is. Now that he has shared that with the world he can move on. I'll be there cheering him on!

Anonymous said...

I love your blogged. It is spot on. I don't know why they have sterotyped Clay's fans as they have. Maybe this blog will open their minds.

gerra said...

Great blog, and so true. The diversity in Claynation is endless.

Anonymous said...

Your blog is so true. I'm so hoping for a time where no labels are "needed", no one will ask "the question" because not only is it irrelevant, it is no one's business. The journalism in this country is in a sad state in this day and time. Yes, I'm older and I feel blessed to have seen the time of real journalism and not just copying and pasting information from the first idiot to write on a subject.

kfccanada said...

Beautifully written comment!When you were listing all the musical personages we've supported in our time ...who've covered a wide spectrum of talent and type of music..all I could think of was Helen Reddy and her memorable song intro...'I am woman ..hear me numbers too big to ignore...'

Well, we may not be roaring..but we're clearly taking a united stand in the face of the media in support of our guy, Clay Aiken, and all the good things he represents. Hopefully, this suport will initiate change in attitudes towards others who are faced with similar issues. They are also entitled to 'inclusion'.

Anonymous said...

When I hear some of the cracks made on the radio or elsewhere, I'm appalled that people who probably think themselves open-minded can be so judgmental and mean-spirited about not only Clay, but those who admire him. Unfortunately, that kind of attitude is nothing new. To quote the lyrics sung by Billie Holliday: "If I should take a notion, to jump right in the ocean, ain't nobody's business if I do."

Anonymous said...

I remember the day when journalists were journalists and they wouldn't think of asking questions about a celebrity's sexuality. I don't think Rock Hudson would have been the leading man that he was had they asked that question. I don't see what that has to do with someones talent. They just can't seem to legitimize someone unless they have the answer. Ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

hello nan!
beautifully articulated!
what you have said before about Clay Aiken continues to hold true, because Clay himself remains true to what he represents for each fan -- beauty, talent, grace, heart -- his orientation notwithstanding.
The magic that Clay has woven into our lives from the start still exists, because the magic is real.

If I may also add, most reviewers fail to recognize Clay's international fanbase. We may be on the outer fringes of the shockwave that Clay creates, but we are here, nonetheless, because Clay is more than just an "American Idol." We may not be as visible or as direct as those who are blessed to be within the "inner circle," but our ranks are probably just as diverse and just as loyal.

So if I may mix a few lyrics from songs as diverse as Clay's fans, "There is no mistaking the language of the heart.... The Song Remains the Same... all it takes is One Voice." =o)


skybar22 said...

Great blog Nan. I'm so glad you finally got to express what we have been sharing for a long time. Yes, can we please now just get on with the music and the entertainment?

Anonymous said...

Good morning all...Thank you for this wonderful blog!!! I could not have said it better myself! I have been a Clay fan since I care if he is gay? Hell, no! Did I think I was ever going to be "with" him? Hell, no! Am I an "older woman" ...Yes! Does any of this change the fact that Clay Aiken has the voice of an angel, sings songs that bring tears to my eyes, is an amazing humanitarian, is handsome as the dickens and makes me wish I were (now) a gay young man (LOL), and that I will love and support him and look forward to his amzaing career as long as he chooses to grace us with his presence? It changes nothing! Certainly NOT him!

Anonymous said...

One of the best articles I've read in ages!

Anonymous said...

YES!!! PERFECTLY STATED! How can we get this published in one of those trashy tabloids?

Ashes said...

Excellent writing.
Clay has been my rock since day 1 and always will be. Who else could get me all excited just by reading that he went out to meet his fans after a stage performance? Not anyone in my lifetime. ♥

Sunny said...

This is one of the best articles I have read about Clay. It says it all.I am thrilled to be part of the Claynation that appreciates all of the wonderful qualities Clay has. His coming out has not changed my adoration for this wonderful man.

Stephanie said...

I'd say I'm one of the most diverse fans within the Claynation.

People I talk to find it odd that on one hand, I can enjoy the horror genre, Rob Zombie, and Marilyn Manson... yet on the other hand I can also enjoy Clay Aiken.

My answer to that is, he's a lot more than entertainment to me. Clay Aiken is and always has been a huge inspiration in my life. He encouraged me to help disabled children, and, me once being child grappling every day by physical disabilities, this touched me. I decided to go into OT so I could make a big impact, too.

Not only that, he's a huge inspiration to me in that I was a closet bisexual for so many years, afraid to be myself. Clay now being open in his life makes me feel I should, too. His reasons were so selfless, anyways.

No, this changes nothing. I'll always love this man, and his music.

Elaine said...

I've been a fan since the wild card show. There are many reasons I love Clay. Too long to list but all of those reasons still remain and I'm even a bigger fan than ever.