Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What a Difference a Decca Makes

As we countdown to Clay Aiken's album dropping on June 1st, I think most fans are still trying to get used to all these constant teasers of songs, tidbits of information, firsts class PBS special, beginnings of videos for viral marketing and just overall respect from his record label. And the full scale promotion hasn't even started yet. I can now forget he who shall not be named and the old label that I've always said should be a Harvard Business Review case study in how to boot the marketing of a sure thing.

Why?-because someone finally gets it. And pretty soon the whole world is going to get it, again. They are going to remember why they liked Clay Aiken in the first place. They are going to wonder why he hasn't had been allowed to explode in song like this before, probably because they never even know about his last album.

Here's a taste of some of the music, the great arrangements and the voice that launched a thousand redials on my cell phone just about seven years ago this month. (If you get a Rufus Wainwright video, just hit refresh.)

Clay said in that video that they chose songs from the best singers of our time. Perhaps that's because he's the best singer of HIS time.

Want to pre-order the album? You've got all kinds of options.

Go to itunes and hear snippets from the tracks plus a bonus song of You Don't Have to Say You Love Me. If you're like me, you want instant gratification at midnight on June 1st.

Go to Live Nation and pre-order the album and get an immediate download of Suspicious Minds.

Go to Amazon and have your choice of an album, a deluxe album with two bonus songs or a DVD.

The album is up on other sites including Best Buy and Barnes and Noble too.

Thank you, Decca. Thank you for fulfilling a lot of my wish list blog back in October right down to the non use of that Claymate tag. Thank you for the foot tapping at my desk when I can't get a 30 second snippet out of my brain. Thank you for the smile that lights up Clay's face more than usual. Thank you for getting it.

UPDATE 5-27-2010
Check out the new (and very nicely done) Clay Aiken fanclub site. It has three full songs from the new album and snippets from all of Clay's albums.


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Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Smell of Lilacs

I arrived home from work last Friday, eager to see the nice new landscaping for which my condo association had collected all those exorbitant special assessments. And it didn’t disappoint. Rusted-out iron fence gone, new sod, freshly planted flowering shrubs, trees trimmed back. Everything looked great. I walked up my front steps, put my key into the lock, and burst into tears.

Now, I guess you couldn’t be blamed for chalking it up to one of those hormonal things. Maybe that was part of it. But mostly, it was the smell…

…of lilac bushes. New ones, on either side of my front door.

Lilacs were, hands down, my mother’s favorite flower. My grandmother’s, too. For as long as I can remember, there was a big lilac bush monopolizing our front patio, the product of one of my mom’s few successful forays into the world of horticulture. (I’m reminded – as I’m sure my mom would be -- of the famous Dorothy Parker adage “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.” That phrase was pretty much the sum total of our collective knowledge on the subject, because in that one respect, I'm a chip off the old block.)

Just about everything my mom planted quickly died. Her tomatoes shriveled on the vine, her peonies laid their rosy heads in the grass and gave up the ghost, her lilies held their own funeral. Her attempts to maintain an herb garden were a running joke. About the only vegetation that seemed to thrive, ironically, was poison ivy. Our house would have made a great “before” picture for Better Homes and Gardens.

But that lilac bush was truly a triumph. Even my father’s occasional clumsy slips with the lawn mower couldn’t vanquish it –- it bloomed faithfully every year with zero effort on my mom’s part, making it the ideal plant. Its scent would get stronger and its branches fuller and purpler until one day my mom would gleefully venture out with a basket and a pair of shears and cut herself some nice big bouquets that perfumed the entire house for at least a week. I think this made her as happy as it was possible for her to be; she felt genteel out there cutting her own flowers, Jane Austen-style. Those lilacs were evidence that despite what she evidently saw as her miserable fucked-up life, she had created one thing that was really beautiful.

A couple of decades sped quickly by; my mom fought cancer and lost. Her beloved lilac bush survived her, but somehow it seemed to sense that its biggest fan was gone forever – it hung on but was never quite the same. My dad sold the house and moved across town, and the new owners decided to demolish it to make room for one of those huge ubiquitous “McMansions” springing up all over suburbia. A corner lot that had once comfortably accommodated a smallish ranch house with a horseshoe pit, badminton court, sandbox, picnic table and numerous fruit trees would now only have room for this aluminum-sided behemoth with its golf weathervane and lawn jockey, laughably out of place alongside the flat cookie-cutter stucco houses populating the rest of the block.

A few days after our old house was razed, my dad and I bravely drove over to take a look. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to see your childhood reduced to a surprisingly small trench in the ground, surrounded by nothing but piles of dirt. Not a trace of our lives there remained -- no grass, no trees with our initials carved into them, no handprints in the cracked sidewalk leading up from the driveway, not even the cracked sidewalk! And no lilac bush. It had, finally, taken a big yellow bulldozer to put an end to its hardy existence. As I stood with my father contemplating that dusty vacant lot, I was thinking that in many ways I mourned its loss most of all.

We heard a happy shout and swung around to see Hank and Marian, our former next-door neighbors (and my parents’ weekly bridge partners) ambling toward us. Marian had been a beautician who worked out of her kitchen – when I was a child, my mom used to funnel her seven bucks every few months to give me (bad) pixie haircuts. Hank was a retired cop who was missing a finger – he always claimed, thrillingly, that he lost it in an armed robbery at a liquor store; my dad privately slipped it to us that an accident with a circular saw was the real culprit.

After we exchanged pleasantries, shared a few pithy comments about the stark change in the landscape and joked about the monstrosity to come, Marian made a touching confession:

“I hope you don’t mind, hon,” she said, giving my shoulder a friendly squeeze, “but the night before your house was knocked down, Hank and I came over for a last lil’ look-see, and we ended up digging up your mom’s lilac bush.”

I was speechless for a second. Swallowing hard, I croaked, “You did?”

“Yeh, well…it was just gonna get plowed under anyways, and I figured your mom wouldn’t mind. So we—“

“Where is it now? I asked.

“Over there,” Marian replied, pointing. We walked a few yards toward their house, and sure enough, there it was next to their back fence, its purple blooms nodding at me in the breeze. I wanted to throw my arms around it.

“You don’t want it, do ya, hon?” she asked, concerned. “’Cause if ya do, I can stick it in a pot or something and ya can plant it somewheres else.”

“No,” I assured her. “It’ll be much better off with you. Knowing me,” I told her with a shaky laugh, “I’d probably kill it.”

Marian let out her unique gravelly three-packs-a-day chuckle. “Hey, if your mom couldn’t kill it, NOBODY could.”

Good point. Still, it looked content where it was, so I left it. I hope it got lots of sun and Marian enjoyed it as much as my mom had.

My dad and Hank and Marian are all gone now – I like to picture them, and my mom, as they were back in the 1960s – playing bridge on Hank and Marian’s screened-in porch on a hot summer evening, knocking back Miller High Lifes and happily chain-smoking their Parliaments.

And me? I have a lilac bush next to my front door again. I think my mom would have loved that.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Back in Town

You know when you have a great experience and you try to hold the memory in your mind as time tries to erase it? The more time that elapses, the more it fades and at some point you wonder if it was even as good as you remembered it. Was I just caught up in the moment? Did I have a bad week and that was just something better than everything else?

Back in March, I wrote a blog describing a trip to Raleigh where we saw the taping of Clay Aiken’s PBS Tried and True: Live! concert special, which will air in August of this year. Fans have described it as the OMG concert because that’s the phrase that punctuated the Memorial Auditorium in words, thoughts and exhausted but excited chatter well into the early morning hours back at the hotel.

I tried to focus on the fact that the album drop date is right around the corner on June 1st. I focused on the Ticketmaster Tango for his upcoming Timeless tour with friend, Ruben Studdard. I must have done a pretty good job of describing the Raleigh event and its sound of big band with a modern twist because my husband agreed to attend the show in Foxwoods.

But every few days, someone who wasn’t there asks us to describe the concert. What was that new note like in Unchained Melody? How did Clay and Linda Eder sound in their duet of Crying? People who know Clay has a great voice figured we were exaggerating when we say he never sounded better.

International Media is producing the PBS special for Decca Records. Today, they gifted us with a three minute montage of some of the highlights. (They did not include the aforementioned songs; it might be too much to handle.) What I love is that the band is just as into it as the audience. Hang on to your headphones and give a listen.

Oh and Clive? Who’s Sorry Now…

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