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
Posted by The ConCLAYve-Nan at 12:48 PM