Saturday, February 28, 2009


So, the Clay Nation has been buzzing about the good news that Clay Aiken has parted ways with RCA after his team decided to walk away from the negotiations. Yeah, some of the entertainment sites have been twisting the story that Clay was dropped and the fans are in mourning but they are trying for good copy rather than truth. When we got the news, I don’t think I’ve seen so many dancing bananas on the message boards since the night Clay won his American Music Award.

Snide comments about his fifteen minutes of fame make me laugh at their wishful thinking. He’s starting his seventh year in show business and just came off a highly successful and critically acclaimed role on Broadway in a part described by one critic as “not a debut for cowards.”

Listen… to the song here in my heart
A melody I start but can't complete
Listen… to the sound from deep within
It's only beginning to find release

There appear to be a lot of choices out there for a singer with Clay’s talent, name recognition and built in loyal fanbase. Since the negotiations were ongoing, he was probably fielding offers (and may have even made a choice) but I like to speculate. He could get picked up by a major label, one like Atlantic that has figured out how to attack the new digital model. He could get picked up by David Foster’s label; the rumors have been out there for years that David wanted him, long before Clay and Jaymes Foster made David an uncle. He could choose one of those hybrid models, like Hickory Records which work hand in hand with the publishers to make records pay better for the artist.

Oh, the time has come for my dreams to be heard
They will not be pushed aside and turned
Into your own all 'cause you won't

He could also choose the new model with Live Nation, especially since he is a touring artist. Clay’s hit the road nine times with a shows that are like no other. A Clay Aiken concert is a smartly woven blend of music and comedy (both scripted and improvised) that leaves you wishing it would never end and wanting to see it again as soon as possible.

Clay tried to tell RCA what he wanted and it never seemed to happen. In the summer of 2005, he hit the road with his Jukebox Tour, a fun filled journey through the decades of music. He ended the show with his own music including introducing new songs that were under consideration for the next album. The fans responded in a big way. Clive Davis responded by tossing all of that aside and making Clay start over with an album of tired love song covers. The same formula that was forced on older artists like Rod Stewart who refused to sing the covers in his concerts.

Listen, I am alone at a crossroads
I'm not at home in my own home
And I've tried and tried to say what's on mind
You should have known

RCA had gold in their hand (actually platinum) and they tossed it away with such glaring incompetence that I cannot wrap my business trained mind around it. When he finally got to record the album he wanted, On My Way Here, they rushed it out and promoted it in the same way that a student council would promote the latest Friday night dance. Cheaply and last minute. Actually, I think some student councils may have had better budget.

Oh, now I'm done believing you
You don't know what I'm feeling
I'm more than what you made of me
I followed the voice you think you gave to me
But now I've gotta find my own

He found his voice with songs like Ashes, Sacrificial Love and As Long as We’re Here. He wrote for the first time, including the bridge for Lonely No More and the lyrics for Love All Alone. He produced (uncredited) the haunting new version of Broken Wings. Why is it that only the internet fans know that? He found his voice in acting too and I hope to see him spread his wings there, possibly finding an intersection of his acting and his music in the movies. The voice that sells albums was never on a movie soundtrack, despite the fact that Jaymes Foster’s sister is a force in the soundtrack business. Old Clive, I guess he likes power more than money.

He’ll have some rebuilding to do. Something that lets people know that he can sing funky songs like Everything I Don’t Need and other uptempo songs found on his last album. Songs that make him rock out in concert and just when you can’t dance anymore, he’ll float a ballad on the wind so you melt back into your seat and let the voice envelope you the way warm maple syrup surrounds French toast.

I don't know where I belong
But I'll be moving on
If you don't, if you won't

Move on, Clay. I’m already packed.

Sony/RCA is releasing a “Best of Clay Aiken” CD on March 31st. One more chance for the label to make money off the fans without supporting Clay. I shall buy it because I consider it more than a CD.

In 2006 when Clay toured with his Soft Rock in a Hard Place show, Angela Fisher (one of his great back up singers) would perform Listen every night. On this night, she was ill and Clay performed it as a duet with his other equally gifted backup singer, Quiana Parler. It came on my ipod the other day and I realized how much of a siren call it was. I found a youtube of it that is a blend of the best audio with the best video. It's got a few minutes of goofy Clay at the beginning so he can make you smile before he knocks your socks off.

Pencil drawing by Linda Hubert with blend by Pax.

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Saturday, February 21, 2009

Come Sail Away

Clay Aiken and RCA Records have parted ways. I and many in the fandom couldn’t be happier. There have long been rumors that Clay has been trying to get out of his contract. You might recall how I feel about the myriad of ways that RCA blew it when it came to Clay’s recording career. They never chose the right single after Invisible. His promotion was not worthy of a multi platinum seller. Actually, his promotion was not worthy of a new, unknown artist never mind one who has sold nearly six million albums. RCA plays with its artists the way a puppet master plays with a marionette. All one has to do is look at Kelly Clarkson’s career to see another example.

I’m sailing away, set an open course for the Virgin Sea
Cuz I’ve got to be free, free to face the life that’s ahead of me.
On board I’m the captain, so climb aboard
We’ll search for tomorrow, on every shore
And I’ll try, Oh Lord, I’ll try.
To carry on.

Free is the perfect word to describe Clay, on a personal and professional level. He’s got so much talent in so many areas that his career will endure and thrive now that he is out from under RCA’s lack of sound business logic and blunder after blunder. I’ve always said their handling of his recording career could be a Harvard Business Review case study in how to botch a sure thing.

When he was riding high after selling double platinum in one week, they made him do a Christmas album. (Yeah, I know it was a big seller but it was the wrong time.) When he was ready with an album of originals, they discarded it and made him put out an album of love song cover ballads. When he finally got to make "On My Way Here", a gem of an album with original music, they forgot to promote it. Why would anyone in any profession want to stay at a company that stifled your talents and skills? In my opinion, by being free of their incompetence and indifference, he's got tremendous opportunity.

The gossip blogs will spin it as a bad thing, even though the majority of fans are relieved. Clay could have done a dance of happiness on the spot when it came time to renew his contract and they declined. But, "Clay Aiken and fans feel great about his future" doesn't really get many hits now does it?

The best voices will not be silenced. His voice soars in a recording studio, a television studio, on the concert stage, on a Broadway stage and on the world stage.

Upset? I’ve been waiting for this day for years!

A gathering of angels appeared above my head
They sang to me this song of hope, and this is what they said.
They said, come sail away, come sail away
Come sail away with me.

I’m ready Clay. Can I bring my computer?

And I can't wait to hear Clay sing I Survived You this time. Here he is from 2004.

Here's a blast from the past. Styx in concert, 1977

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