Archive for the ‘Clay Aiken’ Category

MR. POPULARITY

March 14, 2008

After I wrote the entry, “Ghosts Of Idols Past,” a week ago, I had my biggest number of page looks since I began blogging on January 1st: 206. I immediately realized the reason was the article mentioned the names of a few popular formal “Idol” contestants, and their fans found out and clicked in. So I had the idea that if I wrote about the “Idol” star with the most dedicated fan base, I thought I might reach a new plateau… and boy, was I right!

Over 1500 people have looked at my last entry, “My Life As A Claymate” (thanks to one of the comments, I now know  I should have called myself a Claydawg, but I don’t think I’m going to change it…). Obviously that’s many more people than I thought I would ever reach, and that doesn’t even count the many Clay fans that have read the article when it was reprinted on other websites.

I especially enjoyed looking at the chart WordPress provides showing  how many hits your blog gets each day. In the past, it looked like a series of small hills. Today it looked like a straight line with one very tall and thin triangle on one side reaching all the way up to the top of the page!

So I thank everyone for taking a look at my work and for all the kind words about my writing. I did want to add a few comments though. First off, to everyone who recommended that I fly out  immediately to see Clay’s turn in “Spamalot,” sadly, I won’t be visiting the east coast again until later in the summer when he’s long gone.

To those who are eagerly awaiting what I might have to say about Clay’s upcoming album, be careful what you wish for! While there is no doubt in my mind about Clay’s talent, I am very tough when it comes to judging song quality. If the songs aren’t up to snuff, I won’t be afraid to say so… although maybe I should be, considering the passion I’ve seen all of you display! Still, like you, I hope Clay reaches a new, even higher standard when it comes to the CD.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to get some sleep so I’ll be wide awake tomorrow for interviews which only my usual thirty readers will care about. It’s just a shame George Clooney and Renee Zelwegger don’t have the popularity Clay does!

MY LIFE AS A CLAYMATE

March 13, 2008

While this season of “American Idol” is shaping up as an especially exciting one full of surprises and reversals, I don’t know if I agree with the show’s claims that the current Season 7 features the best lineup of talent ever. After all, I’m partial to Season 5’s combo of Taylor Hicks, Katherine McPhee, Elliott Yamin and Chris Daughtry, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the most exciting season was number two, featuring the neck and neck competition all the way to the end between Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken.

While I had tuned in at times to Season 1 of “Idol,” the second season was the one that really captured my attention, starting with an appearance by my friend Fred Bronson, who pitched the show the idea for the theme, “Billboard Number Ones.” That theme night was followed up with shows devoted to some of my favorite artists, including Billy Joel, the Bee Gees and Neil Sedaka, but I think what really sold me on the show was Ruben’s fabulous performance of “Kiss And Say Goodbye,” the final song on that Billboard night.

But as I continued to watch, I started to grow more and more impressed with Clay, who shined on both ballads (Neil Sedaka’s “Solitaire”) and fun uptempo songs, like one of my alltime favorites, “Build Me Up Buttercup.” Then on the season finale, Clay let out a one-two knockout punch: first a transcendent version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” (while Ruben sang a rather boring take on “Imagine”), followed by his soon to be number one hit, “This Is The Night,” which I liked much more than Ruben’s “Flying Without Wings.” But Ruben still ended up winning the “Idol” crown, which I didn’t feel bad about because it seemed like it couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. As it turned out, I still haven’t met Ruben, but I would cross paths with Clay again and again.

The first time I met Clay was at a radio studio across from the NBC building in Burbank where Clay was appearing on “The Tonight Show” that evening. Fred Bronson had been assigned to do one of the first in-depth interviews with Clay after his “Idol” stint, and as often happens, I tagged along. Fred conducted a long interview that covered Clay’s life from singing in the carpet department at Sears at age five all the way to the Idol finale, and along the way added a lot to his fans’ knowledge about their hero. I found Clay to be an excellent storyteller, funny and also brutally honest about his “Idol” song and wardrobe choices. One other thing surprised me: Clay gave me a hug when he left (a year later, when Fred interviewed Season 3’s Diana DeGarmo at the same studio, I gave her a hug as she was leaving, probably surprising her at the time… but then, I’m no Clay!).

After the interview was released on the internet, Clay’s fans came out of the woodwork, deciding Fred was a reliable insider when it came to Clay and sending him e-mail after e-mail with questions and comments. One such e-mail came from a lady named Diann in Lancaster, PA, which is my hometown, so Fred asked if she knew me when I lived there. She hadn’t, but she mentioned it to a few of her friends, including Anita, who I had indeed palled around with during summers at the local pool. We ended up getting back in touch and I always make time for dinner with Anita and her Claymate friends whenever I’m visiting Lancaster.

Fred interviewed Clay again a few weeks before his debut album, “Measure Of A Man,” was released. This time Fred and I met Clay at the hotel he was staying at in L.A. and joined him for breakfast in the hotel restaurant. With no publicists in attendance, this interview was much more informal than the first one. I was impressed by Clay’s determination to learn all he could about the music business. He often stopped the interview to ask Fred questions about radio play and the charts.

Eventually, I got a chance to interview Clay myself, but it would have never happened if I hadn’t been at those earlier interviews. One of my friends hosts his own movie review show on TV. He was based in Portland, Oregon at the time and couldn’t make it back to Los Angeles to cover the festivities celebrating the DVD release of Disney’s “Aladdin.” He asked me to do the interviews on the red carpet outside Hollywood’s El Capitan Theater for him, and I gladly agreed, having never done any interviews for TV before. Many of the stars attending were featured in Disney produced shows, and I got a good number of them to talk to me. But when Clay arrived, it seemed like he was in a hurry to get inside and skipped talking to most of the gathered press. Fortunately, I caught the eye of his publicist, who recognized me from the earlier interview with Fred (as did Clay) and steered Clay over to me for a few minutes.

I got in four questions. First I asked Clay how he keeps his energy up on tour, to which he replied, “McDonald’s!” He laughed and added that he tries to change his show a little bit every night to keep things interesting for him, and in turn, the audience. I also asked him about his upcoming Christmas album as well as the song he did for the “Aladdin” DVD. But the best response I got from him came when I said that I know his female fans love him to death and go to great lengths to see him in concert, but does he ever hear from the husbands and boyfriends they drag along? Clay said every once in a while, he’ll see a T-shirt on a guy in the audience that says, “I got dragged to see him,” but to him the funniest thing was how the women manage to make it to the front row in front of the stage, leaving their men stewing fifteen rows back.

I’ve seen Clay a few other times as well, like at a Halloween party at Kim Locke’s house (Clay didn’t bother to dress up in a costume, but he did stay a while), and also backstage at two of his concerts I attended with Fred. And while I thought his last album was a bit of a disappointment, I’m hoping the one he’s releasing later this year will mark a return to the strong songs and melodic diversity of “Measure Of A Man.” Plus any time Clay’s out promoting a new CD, he makes a stop on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” which is always hilarious. I can’t wait!