Monday, August 10, 2009

Don't Look Back

There comes a moment in everyone’s life when you know that it’s time for a fresh start. Maybe it’s work, maybe it’s a relationship, maybe it’s even just where you live. I know the time I decided to leave my first real employer, not high school job or the college summers job but my first honest to goodness adult job. I was grateful for the initial opportunity; they took a chance on me when all I had was my diploma and a smile.

But I started to feel that they were using my talents and skills and in return I got more work with more headaches. There was just a day that something in my head clicked. This employer was doing more harm than good for my career. Yes, my customers liked me. Most of my colleagues were good people with the exception of the one or two who lied just to make themselves look better at anyone’s expense. But my career had plateaued there and the only way up was out. It was funny but literally the day I heard that click in my head, I received a call from a headhunter who had a new employer who had heard of my work and wanted me. As it turns out, leaving that job was the best thing I could have ever done.

Don’t look back
A new day is breakin’
It’s been too long since I felt this way
I don’t mind where I get taken
The road is callin’
Today is the day

Today, the fans of Clay Aiken received glorious news. Well it’s kind of part two of glorious news, the first being back in February when we learned he had parted ways with RCA. I wrote about it here Listen blog. You can read there about the stunning incompetence, indifference and self-indulgence from those who were charged with taking a proven seller and treating his recording career like they took the playbook from a college paper graded a D minus. It’s a tribute to his talent (now stretching beyond music), his perseverance and his ability to create loyalty that they failed to beat him down. His situation was similar to mine, only on a grander scale and with a binding contract to boot.

I can see
It took so long to realize
I’m much too strong
Not to compromise
Now I see what I am is holding me down
I’ll turn it around

And now we know that Universal/Decca Records sees what we saw and what much of the world saw. There are enough fans with connections to the recording industry and radio to hear professionals shake their collective heads at the way Clay’s musical career was treated. But, that’s the past. RCA is in his rear view mirror.

I finally see the dawn arrivin
I see beyond the road I’m drivin
Far away and left behind

It’s a new horizon and I’m awakin now
Oh I see myself in a brand new way
The sun is shinin
The clouds are breakin
cause I can’t lose now, there’s no game to play

Universal Music Group's Decca Records has an extremely eclectic artist list offering a wide range of music genres. From Andrea Bocelli to Rufus Wainwright to Sting and a whole bunch of interesting pop, jazz, opera and instrumental artists in between. International artists. Respected artists. Decca was a powerhouse in the early years too with many of the biggest names in music on its roster, from Bing Crosby to Bobby Darin to Bill Haley and the Comets.

And in 2009, they want Clay Aiken.

Universal Music Group (UMG) also gets marketing music in this decade with a new playbook required. They don't rely on radio and trying to insert their artists in between the bubble gum pop princess of the month and 42 Rihanna songs. UMG worked with MySpace to start MySpace Music in 2008. They delivered one BILLION video streams to YouTube in that same year. In 2009, they partnered with YouTube to form VEVO which many are calling MTV 2.0. Videos for the digital age. Personally, I don't think Clay could have found a better fit for his music. His online fanbase is strong and knowledgeable in pushing along internet information. It's a partnership made in digital music heaven.

Here’s the voice of his generation. The one who can put lyrics to a simple melody and create heartache in the form of a poem. Perhaps Decca will give him a chance to do more of that. Here’s one who can sing just about every genre and do it better live than he can in the recording studio, something that would cause a mild breakout of hives in today’s young Pro-tools polished singers. Maybe now we’ll get to see what a well promoted album looks like. Maybe when his new album (promised in the first half of 2010) gets the right spotlight, it will bring attention to his last album, On My Way Here, quite simply the best album he’s ever recorded and one of the best albums I’ve heard, period. Maybe now, the versatile voice and the name recognition will end up on a movie soundtrack, where he should have ruled since 2003. (And maybe now that it is pretty obvious that he’s a damn good comedic actor, he’ll get a little part in that movie too.)

For the first time in years, I feel like those maybes are not just wishful thinking. That the shackles are gone and his recording career will be ruled by strategy and smarts instead of stupidity and imperialism and perhaps even retribution. That I won’t have to watch a mediocre marketing effort that makes my head hurt but instead observe one that makes me jealous that I didn’t think of something so clever.

Clay sang it best in a great song that was a bonus track to the last album.

Walk away let my heart pretend
The dreams come true when the story ends
I get on my feet and start again
Say goodbye to all I've been through
And forget I ever knew you.

Here’s a little Boston . Don’t Look Back, Clay.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Real Faces Behind The Health Care Reform Debate

I know that we don't usually get political here on the ConCLAYve blog, but this particular issue is very personal to me. This may or may not represent the feelings of other members of this blog - but it definitely does represent mine.

I would write something long and detailed about why we so desperately need health care reform and why we need a public option that takes the profit out of the health care industry . . . but nothing I would write could possibly be as eloquent as this short video by Brave New Films. It shows the true nightmares of what regular people who think they have insurance are faced with when they actually need to use their insurance to combat serious illness. These are real people and the frightening thing - any one of them could be -- and may be -- us.

I pray for a day when need and not means dictates health care.

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