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gfx  |  Archive  |  Solo Tour 2004  |  SOLO TOUR MEDIA - PREVIEWS, REVIEWS & MORE

Author Topic: SOLO TOUR MEDIA - PREVIEWS, REVIEWS & MORE  (Read 31036 times)


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« Reply #15 on: June 27, 2010, 01:07:04 AM »
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« Reply #15 on: July 25, 2004, 11:38:07 PM » 


The Latest Feat of Clay
'Idol's' Aiken makes nightclub debut
By David J. Spatz

Chalk up another first for the guy who came in second on "American Idol."

When Clay Aiken steps onto the stage of the Circus Maximus theater at Caesars Atlantic City next weekend, it will mark his nightclub debut.

"All of the dates we've done so far have been in, like, 4,000- or 6,000-seat venues,"Aiken says. "I've never played a nightclub before."

Or such a small room. At 1,200 seats, the showroom at Caesars is considerably smaller than any place Aiken has played since he bagan touring after finishing second to Ruben Studdard on the 2003 edition of the TV talent competition.

But Aiken, 25, won't change his music or how he presents himself for his new surroundings. Casino or not, the skinny kid with a massive voice from North Carolina feels his is a family show that will play to all generations.

"We've got a good and very wide audience base," he says during an exclusive Daily News interview. "We have preteens and teens and an older generation coming to the shows, and we try to do a little something for everyone."

The song "Invisible," he adds, plays well to younger fans. "Solitaire," his breakout hit, appeals to the folks who were glued to their televisions while he made his "American Idol" run.

In addition to songs from his debut triple-platinum album, he also performs covers of songs that cater to folks who came of age musically in the 1970s and '80s.

"We've got a very eclectic mix of music," he says.

What he's really looking forward to, though, is unpacking his suitcase. Since launching his tour earlier this month, Aiken has been doing nothing but one-nighters, waking up in one city and going to sleep in another. The two-night stand at Caesars will be the first and only multinight gig on the tour, which ends in late September.

"That'll be a treat," he says with a big laugh.

Aiken, who'll warm up for his Boardwalk debut by working Foxwoods casino in Connecticut the night before, says he had some preconceived notions about casinos that are turning out to be completely unfounded.

Until last September, he had never set foor in a casino, not because of any big moral objection, but simply because -- growing up in Raleigh -- he never had the opportunity.

"The only vacations we took were ones where we could drive there," he says. "Virginia Beach, Myrtle Beach, the mountains of North Carolina."

"I'd never even been to Atlanta before I went there to audition for '[American] Idol.'"

Everything he knew about casino life came from TV and movies. "My vision of a casino was that it was a lot of desperate people...and five people in a lounge listening to Don Ho with a martini glass," he recalls. "That's what you see in movies."

He's also looking forward to venturing out of his hotel suite to do a little Boardwalk exploring. But he admits it isn't easy trying to blend in with the crowds.

Owing to the enormous popularity of "American Idol" -- and a massive publicity blitz -- Aiken is instantly recognized the moment he steps into public view. Even with a hat and sunglasses, fans see through the disguise and mob him for pictures and autographs.

"I don't do incognito that well," he says. "It's easier if I'm in Los Angeles, where people expect to see [celebrities]. But if I'm in Portsmouth, Va., or Grand Forks, N.D., people don't expect to see me and it becomes a big deal."

And, yes, he admits that signing autographs, shaking hands and posing for pictures get a little tiring when all he wants to do is run to a mall and do a little shopping. But whenever Aiken feels he's a prisoner of his own success, he remembers one very salient point.

"All those people asking for autographs are the ones who helped put me here," he says.
NY Daily News (no link yet.)

Aiken hopes to shed 'Idol' image some day

At The Shore

Clay Aiken may be the most successful "American Idol" contestant of all, but that's not how Aiken wants to be recognized. He wants to be known as a great singer who just happened to be on "American Idol."

He may get his wish. The 26-year-old, who was the runner-up to Ruben Stoddard on the second "American Idol," certainly knows how to sing. Whether he was dazzling audiences with his vocals or his Southern charm, the Charlotte, N.C., native earned a legion of fans.

Even though he didn't win, his crisp voice and boyish charm made him an instant pop star. What makes Aiken so special is his ability to capture the older audience, as well. Although he has called upon great writers to pen songs for his album, his covers of Simon & Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Waters" warmed the hearts of the moms who were watching "Idol" with their kids.

Aiken has certainly not left the spotlight like some of his "Idol" peers. His first single, "This is the Night," shot to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart and made history by selling more than 392,000 copies in the first week, topping Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997." When his full album went on sale, Aiken didn't surprise anyone when it also went to No. 1 by selling 613,000 copies out of the box.

Aiken will make his Atlantic City headliner debut at Caesars Atlantic City on Saturday, and he took the time to talk about "American Idol," his career and even Atlantic City.

Q: The last time you were here, you sang in the Miss America Pageant. Any memories?

A: I sang "This is the Night," and it was pretty neat. It was really something being up there being part of a family institution. It was a great experience coming straight off "American Idol." I really liked it, and I really like the Boardwalk.

Q: Did any of the contestants hit on you?

A: Probably a few of them did. I think we were all star struck with each other.

Q: You've been very successful so far recording other people's tunes. Is there a songwriting side of you?

A: I kind of look at people who write songs on their own albums closely. There are people who write for their album, like Alicia Keys, who is amazing. And even the ones that (first "American Idol" winner) Kelly Clarkson wrote are great. Then there are the other artists, who I won't name, who write songs because it's a way to make some more money on their album. On those albums, usually the first three songs are written by someone else, and they're great, and the rest of the album that the artist writes is mediocre. They make a little more money, but then the album won't sell as well because there's some songs that aren't so great on it.

If money is the motivation, it's the wrong motivation. That said, I don't think I have the talent and I don't really have anything to say. So if I wrote music at this point, the motivation would be the money, and I won't do that.

Q: Are you working on another album yet?

A:Right now, we're putting the finishing touches on a Christmas album, which is really going to be nice. We'll have a lot of promotion for that album, and then there will be another album hopefully coming out in the first half of next year. There's a lot to do.

Q: Are you sick of the phrase "15 minutes of fame" yet?

A: It's not too much of a problem any more. I don't hear it that often any more. That comment comes from those who assume that if you come off "American Idol," you're only entitled to the same fame as game show contestants. They liken us to reality shows. I like to think that those of us who come off "American Idol" can be successful. Kimberley (Locke), Kelly, Ruben and I all have more talent than those who come off "Blind Date" or "Survivor."

Q: I sense some agitation there.

A: A little. I am very grateful for "American Idol," obviously, but it is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it was very beneficial to us. Heck, I could have resigned myself to being a teacher. But the show has also held a few of us back a little. I long for the day when the fact that I was on "American Idol" becomes a side note. Kind of like ... "Some may remember him from 'American Idol.'" But the reason people come to my shows and buy my album is because I can sing. I don't want the show to define who I am.

Q: Are there regrets?

A: Absolutely not. I have nothing but great memories. It was such an interesting and amazing experience. Kimberly and I sat back and watched videos of it a few weeks back, and we both said how we would go back and do it every day if we could. The people involved in the show, the people who ran it, the producers, the executive producers, made it such a family environment to work and live in. It was an amazing experience.

Q: You're 6-foot-1, are people surprised when they meet you?

A: (He laughs.) All of the time. They are always surprised. I get told that all of the time. I was surprised how tall Jay Leno was - and David Letterman is just as tall. I think people thought I was short because I stood next to Ruben all of the time, and he's 6-4.

Q: Is there a future in theater? I know you did it when you were younger, and it seems like a good fit.

A: I don't pay too much attention to it. I just saw "Wicked," which was so visually appealing and stimulating, that you think about it a little.

Q: How was it performing at PBS' "The Capitol Fourth?"

A: It was really neat. It was very majestic singing in front of the Capitol. Like Miss America, it is such an institution and such a huge event. There were 500,000 people there, which was the biggest live audience I probably will ever play.

Q: What's the biggest misconception about you?

A: That I am this angel. That I am some kind of perfect boy next door. I have a temper. I make rash judgments. I yell at people. I am not perfect.


Clay Aiken's busy summer on the road
Friday, July 30, 2004
The Express-Times

A day in the life of Clay Aiken is -- as this American Idol puts it -- "pretty boring." Despite a first-ever nationwide headlining tour this summer, the 25-year-old multi-platinum RCA artist describes life on the road as "staying in a hotel, catching up on interviews, doing a sound check, doing the show, and getting back on the (tour) bus."

A yawn in the middle of a 10-minute phone interview on Tuesday from Harrington, Del., (where he was playing an evening show at the State Fair) is hard for this Idol from Raleigh, N.C., to hide. But he's forgiven. After all, headlining 42 dates in three-month's time can be pretty grueling -- so grueling that he did not know what city he was calling from for the interview.

"I'm not sure," he answered, then asked one of his traveling staff.

"You sleep two hours a week," he continues, in his southern accent. "It's the adrenaline you get used to the schedule, learning how to sleep less. It becomes part of the routine."

Catching up on sleep is done on the Aiken tour bus as it travels from city to city. He is appearing in Atlantic City tonight and Saturday, before heading to New England and then to Bethlehem for Musikfest Aug. 6.

A routine is something Aiken is cherishing, no doubt, with rave reviews in support of his album, "Measure of a Man," and his first single, "This is the Night," followed by "Invisible" and a trail of sold-out shows at indoor and outdoor venues across the country.

When Aiken rolls into Bethlehem to kick off the 10-day Musikfest, he will be performing a sold-out show at the Straub Chrysler Jeep RiverPlace on Sand Island.

Though Aiken says he is not familiar with Bethlehem, he does know it has a background rich in Moravian heritage. He says he started attending a Moravian church in his community when he was 18.

Aiken says he's been briefed that Musikfest tickets sold out before they ever went on sale to the public. Musikfest marketing director Sharon McCarthy says she can't remember a show in the music festival's last 20 summers that had the "magnitude" Aiken's show is packing.

What makes even moms love Clay Aiken?

"I don't know!" he answers with a laugh. "If I knew that, I'd bottle it! The 'American Idol' show was so successful it was a successful medium with television it showed the boy- and girl-next-door. Unlike celebrities that are unattainable, people are attracted to us because we are what we are. That's why we're so popular."

Popularity doesn't come without a price, though, and makes the simple things in life once taken for granted, "like shopping and going to the bank," more difficult. He's graced nearly every magazine cover on the newsstands, from Rolling Stone -- where he wore a WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet -- to the Christian-based Guideposts for Teens and Exceptional Parent, which addresses children with special needs.

Aiken said he still wears his WWJD bracelet, a gift presented to him in his second or third week on "American Idol" by one of his campers at a YMCA back home.

Charity is also a major component to his tour. Prior to Idol fame, Aiken was a camp counselor/substitute elementary school teacher pursuing his degree in special education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he graduated in December.

As part of an independent study, he formed the Bubel/Aiken Foundation last July to foster inclusion of those with special needs so they can participate in programs and work environments normally designed for persons without disabilities.

The foundation carries the name Bubel in honor of Mike Bubel, who is autistic. While attending college, Aiken worked with Bubel, then 13.

Diane Bubel, Mike's mother, encouraged Aiken to audition for the second season of "American Idol" because she thought he had "an incredible voice."

After plucking Aiken from a pool of 7,000 "Idol" contestants, judge Simon Cowell told Aiken he didn't look much like a pop star but had a great voice and agreed with judge Randy Jackson to advance the singer to Hollywood.

Given a second chance in the show's wild-card round, and following a memorable performance of Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me," Aiken captured the most telephone viewer votes, sending him to the competition's top 12.

The rest is history. After more than 25 million votes cast for the "Idol" finalists, contestant Ruben Studdard edged out Aiken by 130,000 votes.

Since then, one of Aiken's most memorable performances was June 15 when he headed a tribute to America's unsung heroes at the first annual Rosalynn Carter Institute Gala Celebration of Caregivers held at Atlanta Symphony Hall.

"It was a very classy event," he recalls, adding it was "very neat" to meet former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter.

While his life's ambition was to work with individuals living with disabilities, even pursuing his master's degree in administration in the field of education, Aiken, a Baptist, now says he no longer plans his life but follows "provident direction God's plan."

He says that plan is set in his favorite Bible verse, Exodus 14:14: "The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still."

Not Much Chance For Clay Aiken to Slow Down

Friday, July 30, 2004
By Ed Condran
Courier Times

Feat of Clay
American Idol's Aiken isn't stuck on himself

by Ed Condran

Clay Aiken speaks at a rapid rate for a Raleigh, N.C. native.

"Everyone in my family talks fast," Aiken explained.

Speed is certainly necessary in Aiken's fast -paced life. The charming UNC-Charlotte alum, class of 2003, is agruably the most popular "American Idol alum ("definitely arguably", Aiken said with his constant and infectious laugh). As such he's on tour and is very much in demand. A.I.'s season two runners-up interviews are limited to 10 minutes, which is fine since the affable pop singer could give a New Yorker a run for his money in the chat department.

Life for the lanky Aiken, 25, has been a whirlwind lately. That's quite a contrast to what it could have been if he did not participate in round two of "American Idol" in 2003. Before auditioning in Atlanta for A.I., Aiken mentored children with behavioral disorders in Raleigh.

"I always thought I would be a special-ed teacher," Aiken said while calling from Charleston, WV. "I loved it. When I hear my friends tell me stories about what happens in their classroom, well, I long for that."

Don't think that Aiken regrets his changes in vocation, however. "Measure of a Man", the lanky, 25-year-old rag doll of a performer's debut disc, has sold nearly 3 million copies, and his legion of "Claymates" is helping to make his summer tour a success.

"I'm thankful for everything," said Aiken, who is scheduled to perform in Atlantic City this weekend. "I have nothing to complain about. I'm singing in front of great crowds and I'm seeing the world."

Unlike many of his peers, Aiken comes off as an unaffected regular guy. The unpretentious former member of the Raleigh Boys Choir has been hammered by the media. "The Geek shall inherit the Earth," Rolling Stone declared. "Okay. We Admit...We Love Clay Aiken" read the cover of Entertainment Weekly. "Revenge of the Nerd," was the headline of choice on Teen People.

Much of what has been written about Aiken has more to do with his cool quotient than his musical talent. However, that hardly dims the sunny singer's perspective.

"I don't mind all of that," Aiken said. "When I was 14, I wish there was as big a dork as me so I could have a role model. If you believe the media, women should be supermodel skinny and everyone should look cool. I want to change that misconception. You don't have to be cool. It's not easy. I got kicked around in middle school I hardly look at myself as cool."

But there are plethora of young girls who disagree. There's no denying that since Aiken had a A.I. makeover, the glasses scrapped and hair dyed, he appeals to women.

"People have said that, look how I have grown out of what I once was. But it's not as if I've turned into a swan. This ugly duckling has turned into an ugly duck."

Aiken,who was named one of People's Sexiest Men Alive in 2003, is sitting pretty. The affable A-List celebrity is now famous and well compensated, in addition to being a talented vocalist. "I can't deny that I'm in an incredible situation," Aiken said. "It's been fantastic."

After "Idol" contestants Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini starred in the film "From Justin to Kelly", which bombed, there have been rumors of a movie that will feature Aiken and Ruben Studdard, who beat the pride of Raleigh on "American Idol".

"That won't happen," Aiken insisted. "There are other things to do."

One of those things is to work on a new album. "Measure of a Man", which includes tracks penned by such ace tunesmiths as Desmond Child ("Invisible"), Steve Morales ("The Way"), and Rick Nowels ("When You Say You Love Me"), is a disc Aiken is proud of, but he's hoping the next project better captures his essence.

"There was a push for this album to be called "Clay Aiken", but "Measure of a Man" didn't define me," Aiken said. "Some songs are downers, and there is heartbreak that I just never experienced. Next time I would like there to be more 'up' songs. But I can't complain. I'm going to continue to let God point me in His direction. He has bigger dreams for me that I do for myself."




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« Reply #16 on: June 27, 2010, 01:07:22 AM »


Atlantic City just adores Clay Aiken
By Kevin Clapp

Claymania gripped Caesars Atlantic City on Friday night, with no man woman or child immune from its chief symptom – shrieking.

Young and old came, they screamed and they cried some more. All for a guy who two years ago was as well know as the neighborhood grocer.

But Clay Aiken, “American Idol’s” favorite son, has touched a nerve. In a brisk, buoyant performance the first of two sold-out performances this weekend, the singer happily obliged the capacity crowd with a steady diet of ballads that have made his career.

Cheered like conquering hero by the more than 1,000 people packed into the Circus Maximus Theater, Aiken proudly embraced his role as latest in a succession of easy listening heartthrobs.

In a 90-minute performance, featuring three wardrobe changes and several declarations of love from starry-eyed members of the audience, Aiken was a picture of self-assurance. He tore through much of his debut album while sprinkling popular coves throughout the set to show he’s more than a balladeer.

And his adoring fans lapped it up. On their feet from the opening notes of U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Names,” girls, women and men bounced in the aisles, snapping photos for keepsakes and thrusting open cell phones towards the stage the transmit Aiken’s voice to points unknown.

You don’t have to be a diehard fan to appreciate the passion and verve he brought to the performance. His is a powerful voice, put to good use on a liberal dose of the soaring ballads that are his trademark.

Smartly, Aiken broke up his slower material with an assortment of up-tempo covers from the likes of Mr. Mister (Kyrie) and Orleans (Still the One). They played like a concert version of “I Love the 70’s and 80’s,” but they kept the crowd jumping. Not that he needed to worry about an energy deficit.

Working the stage with a veterans ease, Aiken seemed to appreciate all those who let him perform. He’s perfected stage patter, whether pulling girls on stage from the front rows or joking with the five piece band and three singers supporting him. He even took time to thank the back stage crew.

If this life is a dream for Aiken, he had the chance to play dream-weaver Friday by helping the Make-a-Wish foundation make six-year-old John Martin’s dream a reality.

After introducing the Yeadon, Pa boy prior to the medley of James Taylor classics, Aiken welcomed Martin back on stage later to sing his signature hit, “This is the Night”.

And when both ripped their microphones from the stands in unison the crowd, including Martin’s adoptive mother Katy, went wild.

Arguably the hottest thing to emerge from the “American Idol” universe, Aiken showed Friday he is more than the sum of his experiences on the talent showcase.

'Cellcerting’ lets fans enjoy a concert - from home
August 8, 2004

The Circus Maximus Theatre was packed, a raucous crowd of screaming Clay Aiken fans swooning as their idol bounded across the stage July 30.

But the 1,040 in attendance that Friday weren't the only ones enjoying the show at Caesars Atlantic City.

Ruthie in Seattle was there, sort of. So was Mary Lynne in Canton, Ohio, Barb in Springfield, Pa., and Pat in Radcliff, Ky. Thanks to a new concertgoing trend they, and countless others, could enjoy the show even if located thousands of miles away.

It's called cellcerting, a practice in which someone dials a friend from his or her cell phone during a concert. Enjoying the show from afar, the listener has the option of going online to post real-time updates for other fans on the Internet.

"Thank goodness," says cellcerter Debbie Katz of Merrick, Long Island, "for unlimited minutes."

The cellcert is all the rage among Aiken followers who can't get enough of their Clay. But it's not a trend relegated to fans of the "American Idol" alum. Katz, for instance, has cellcerted at Barry Manilow concerts.

Casino entertainment directors say it's more common than ever to see hands gripping phones transmitting music to points unknown.

With the introduction of camera phones, fans have been able to click pics of their favorite performers, too.

In discussions with artists, Trump properties Vice President for Entertainment Steve Gietka says policing cell phone usage hasn't become an issue. Yet.

"As the technology gets better and better, and the image quality gets better and better, it will become an issue," Gietka says. "Some see any occasion where their image is taken without their approval, their music is taken without their approval, as a problem."

Other artists view cellcerts as another way to reach out to fans. During early Aiken shows, the singer would take a phone from the audience and begin talking to the person on the other end.

But at Aiken's July 30 performance, Mays Landing fan Marge Bond was asked by security to put her phone away. She was sitting close to the stage, an area more accessible to security personnel who are instructed to halt cell transmissions, Gietka says.

"We had heard the cellcert police were out in force telling people to turn them off," says Katz, who placed a call to a friend in Kentucky that night. "We didn't have any problem. I just dial the number, lay it on the table and keep it out of sight."

Seated farther away, Sulin Yao Ong, 36, of Linwood had no problems either. She phoned a woman in Burlington County she had first met online earlier in the week.

At, concert updates are posted in red, usually capital, letters. Comments range from the descriptive - "... AUDIENCE IS FAIRLY QUIET ..." - to laudatory. One post from Friday's concert in Bethlehem, Pa., praised Aiken's ability to dance, sing and look at the audience at the same time.

Whenever Aiken performs and she's not there, Bond is online following the action via cellcert (a term, by the way, that Aiken has filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office). On a trip to New York, and without her laptop, Bond ducked into an Internet cafe to check out the action online.

Of the 10 shows she's attended, half have featured a phone call, including a Baltimore concert she attended with Yao Ong.

"When I was in Baltimore calling my sister it was so hard to get reception it drained my battery right out," Bond says. "So I had to finish the cellcert with Su's phone."

"If anything, I think it might enhance the experience," says Bill Borenstein, director of entertainment for Harrah's Atlantic City and Showbo
That's the draw for the Aiken fans who have taken cellcerting to the extreme.

"When you cellcert with people, it makes them feel like they're there if they can't attend," Bond says. "It's the life line of the Claymates."


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« Reply #17 on: June 27, 2010, 12:10:25 PM »
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« Reply #16 on: July 30, 2004, 12:25:18 AM » 


Aiken makes good on 'Idol' chance

For a few select performers, "American Idol" has become a dream vehicle through which to enter the music business. But the fact is, success on "American Idol" doesn't guarantee popular contestants a place in mainstream music once they finish their run on the show.

Consider Justin Guarini, who has faded from the public eye since finishing second to Kelly Clarkson in the inaugural 2002 season of the hit show.

Clay Aiken, who finished second to Ruben Studdard in 2003, went into the making of his debut CD, "Measure of a Man," knowing he needed to bring more to the table musically than he showed on "American Idol."

"I think that with 'American Idol,' you perform a lot of classic standards stuff, and a lot of times people come out of there wondering will this person have the ability to compete in a mainstream market?" Aiken said.

"I think that's what we were really trying to show with the album. Yeah, I sang 'Build Me Up Buttercup' and 'Solitaire' and 'Mack the Knife' on that show, but that's not all I can do."

Whether fans see the songs on Aiken's CD as adding a new dimension to the musical personality he established on "Idol" may be open to debate. But there's no arguing with the popularity Aiken continues to enjoy.

"Measure of a Man" debuted last fall with first-week sales of 613,000, the second highest total ever behind Snoop Dogg's "Doggy Style" CD. The record spent two weeks at No. 1, has topped 2 million in sales and its lead single, "Invisible" became an adult contemporary hit.

Meanwhile, touring, first with a spring round of dates with Clarkson, and now as a headliner, has kept Aiken in the spotlight. It's all an amazing series of events for someone like Aiken, who never saw singing as anything other than a hobby.

"I was going to be a teacher," Aiken said. "That's what was my goal in life, to teach and to do that. I had my life planned out until I was 50 years old. I was going to be a teacher and maybe a principal at some point. . . . And so I would have never auditioned had it not been for someone who convinced me to do it."

That someone was a family friend, Diane Bubel, who had heard Aiken sing and convinced the 25-year-old native of Raleigh, N.C., to try out for "Idol."

Aiken failed in his first audition for the Fox network affiliate in Charlotte. But Bubel convinced him to travel to Atlanta, where national auditions were held. He made the show and emerged alongside Studdard as a leading contender to win.

In the season finale, viewers voted Studdard the winner by a margin of less than 1 percent. But Aiken's showing was easily strong enough to earn him his deal with RCA Records.

Teaching went on hold, and singing became the priority as Aiken went to work on "Measure of a Man" with the help of label president and music industry legend Clive Davis.

Aiken said he retained a good deal of control over the material on the CD. "They played me like 15, 16, 20 songs. I said 'I don't like this one. I don't like this one. I do like this one. This is the kind of sound I like. This is what I'm interested in doing.' "

Aiken enjoys the fact that he has been hard to pin down stylistically.

"I think that's part of the reason we've had so much success with our album and what we've been doing, because we don't necessarily fit into one of the prefabricated niches that record companies have put out," Aiken said.

"What's amazing about the show I was on, and the way that I came around is because I came around by allowing the public to pick from day one," he said.

WHO: Clay Aiken
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday
WHERE: Cumberland County Civic Center
HOW MUCH: $35 and $45; tickets available at the civic center, Ticketmaster locations, by calling 775-3458 or 775-3331 or online at


He's boyish, wholesome and in Portland tonight

By RAY ROUTHIER, Portland Press Herald Writer

Diane Karpowitz says she hasn't had much reason to keep up with pop music. But that was before Clay.

"Now I watch MTV when his videos are on, and I go on his fan boards (online)," said Karpowitz, who lives in Windham and is in her 50s. "And I watched 'American Idol,' but I didn't care half as much this year because Clay wasn't on it."

Karpowitz is pretty typical of the broad fan base that 25-year-old Clay Aiken has amassed since kicking off his pop singing career last year.

The wide-eyed singer from North Carolina gained famed on "American Idol," Fox TV's talent contest, coming in second in 2003.

Though the show seems tailor-made for the teeny bopper set, Aiken's smooth voice, wholesome image and boyish charm earned him a largely female fan base that spans from grammar schoolers to grandmas.

When Aiken plays the Cumberland County Civic Center in Portland tonight, there will be mothers and daughters sitting side by side. There will be high schoolers and people old enough to be Aiken's mom singing along to his pop ballads and up-tempo songs.

So in an age when the audience for contemporary music is more segmented then ever, how does Aiken do it?

"It's his voice that drags you in first, then you look at what it's coming out of," said Karpowitz, who works in the children's room at the Windham Public Library and will be at the concert tonight. "He's a wholesome kid and he loves his fans."

A big part of his success is that Aiken attracts fans who are passionate and devoted. Karpowitz saw Aiken in concert last year in Worcester, Mass. After seeing him in Portland she'll travel to Gilford, N.H., later in the week to see him outdoors at Meadowbrook Farm. Earlier this year she made a "Clay Display" at the Windham library, which featured a timeline of his career.

Aiken's fans communicate constantly via the Internet, they hold pre-concert parties in virtually every city he visits, and they support the causes he champions.

One of the parties will be held before the Portland show, and the guest list is already filled with people who are coming to the show from all over the country. It's being organized by Leanne Timberlake, 43, of Wayne.

Timberlake, who counts Barry Manilow and James Taylor among her favorite singers, has traveled as far as Washington, D.C., to see Aiken. This week, after seeing him in Portland, she'll travel to his shows in Rhode Island and at the Foxwoods casino in Connecticut.

Many pre-concert parities are fund-raisers for the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which the pop singer founded to help children with special needs. Aiken has a degree in special education from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. His foundation helps honor Mike Bubel, a young man with autism he worked with while in college.

For the Portland party tonight, fans have been asked to bring jars of pennies for donation to the foundation.

"He doesn't come across as someone who puts fame first," said Timberlake. "He is all about sharing, about doing what he can to help, and that appeals to a lot of people. That helps people connect to him more."

Sadie McCurry, 16, of Westbrook also is planning to attend the pre-concert party.

She discovered Aiken when her chorus teacher told her that she could see some good young signers by watching "American Idol." When Aiken was in the finals of the competition, McCurry fell asleep with the phone in her hand while she was trying to phone in her vote. Aiken ended up losing to Ruben Studdard, but he's arguably become better known post-Idol than his competitor.

In March, McCurry heard that Portland radio station WJBQ (97.9 FM) was giving away a chance to meet Aiken at a concert in Worcester. To win, people had to call the radio station and sing one of Aiken's songs while in the shower.

"I usually have bad stage fright, but I didn't care that day," McCurry said about singing the song "Invisible" to thousands of people over the air.

When she got to the show, she was able to have her picture taken with Aiken. While his arm was around her, no less.

McCurry will be going to the Portland concert with her mom, who is also a fan, but in a slightly different way.

"I want to marry him, I don't think she does," said McCurry.


Aiken combines goofy humility, showbiz steel
01:00 AM EDT on Wednesday, August 4, 2004
Journal Pop Music Writer
SOUTH KINGSTOWN -- Sure, Clay Aiken can sing. He's got a strong, high voice that can handle several pop styles well and never quite loses its husk even when he's going for the high hard one at the end of a ballad.

But lots of people can sing. Why was Aiken performing to a screaming, sign-waving, packed house (about 90 percent women, a wide range of ages, from as far away as Florida) at the Ryan Center last night when so many of those other folks are waiting tables or washing dishes or, at best, Ruben Studdard?

Two reasons, from where I was sitting.

First is the musical niche he fills. Fifteen or 20 years ago, there were plenty of people doing the kind of pop Aiken does: synthesizer-heavy rock, but with live players rather than programming, and go-for-broke anthemic songwriting. Hip-hop dominates pop, if not in its content then its language -- drum machines and synth programs rule the mainstream.

Aiken started last night's show with a cover of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name," and Mister Mister's "Kyrie" and Toto's "Rosanna" shared the setlist with selections from the American Idol runner-up's debut album, Measure of a Man. And they fit together just fine. With nostalgia for all things '80s running high, the success of someone like Aiken, whose music is new but sounds old, is not as big a surprise as it may first appear.

Then there's his personality: Plenty of goofy humility and humorous self-deprecation (he joked about his dancing ability, his hair and his nose in the course of the night), mixed with just enough showbiz steel. He alternated between commanding the stage and seeming to not quite believe he was there. Sincere tributes to the band, crew and audience were mixed with fake-o stage moves. Not enough to be patently dishonest -- just showbiz.

He was generous with the spotlight as well, giving each backup singer a lead spot in a James Taylor medley (his male backup singer had at least one sign devoted to him as well).

He brought an audience member on stage to dance (during "When You Say You Love Me," which was marred by the emphasis on the dancing). He brought an audience member on stage to sing (Valerie Diaz of Webster, Mass., who did a very good job). Heck, he brought an audience member on stage to pet his dog. (One audience sign read in part "Cuz if you can do it I can too!" And inspiring that feeling is clearly part of the point.)

It's endearing at first, but the show dragged a little near the end, and those would be easy places to trim. Unless he wants to trim the creepy stalker anthem "Invisible" ("If I was invisible/ I could just watch you in your room"), which is completely out of place with his clean-cut, family-friendly persona.


by April Boyle
August 4, 2004

Clay Aiken may have placed second to Ruben Studdard in the 2003 season of the hit Fox reality show "American Idol", but to the horde of fans gathered at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Monday night, he is clearly second to no one.

The past year has been a whirlwind rise to stardom for this 25 year old all- American boy from Raleigh, N.C. Now, he's headlining in his own tour in support of a chart-topping album, Measure of a Man. Still, many critics wonder if he can truly measure up to all the hype.

Aiken's performance Monday proved he does indeed have what it takes to be more than a flash in the pan.

The tour producers went all out to make the show an impressive visual extravaganza, complete with a light show and hidden lifts that allowed Aiken to rise to the second tier of the stage.

The ghostly outlines of a talented eight-piece ensemble could be seen on the dark stage as the opening strains of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" signaled Aiken's arrival. A lighted staircase lifted, revealing Aiken's lanky frame, followed by powerful vocals.

Aiken's choice of music nicely demonstrated his vocal versatility. Covers included such unlikely songs as "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister, Toto's "Rosanna" and a medley of five James Taylor songs that included the hits "Fire and Rain" and "You've Got a Friend." Aiken graciously switched to backing vocalist on much of the medley, showcasing the exceptional vocal talents of back-up vocalists Jacob Lutrell, Angela Fisher and Quiana Parler.

The show also featured 10 of 12 songs on "Measure of a Man". The album, although perfectly rendered, lacks the passion that won over "American Idol" watchers. Aiken more than made up for this in his live performance, delivering heartfelt renditions of all 10 tracks, including "Invisible" "Run to Me" and "I Survived You."

True to his "American Idol" roots, Aiken held a competition prior to the show for a chance to sing with him on stage. The winner, 14 year old Kim Steele from Boston, delivered a duet of Mariah Carey's "Without You" that showed vocal maturity well beyond her years.

Aiken concluded the performance with a soulful rendition of Neil Sedaka's "Solitaire."

Aiken has a knack at charming audiences of all ages, whether he's belting out a ballad or simply chatting up the audience with his subtle southern accent.

French pop singer Cherie warmed the audience with an opening half-hour performance that included songs off her debut album, such as the beautiful "Older Than My Years".
From the Portland Press Herald.


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Despite spectacular success, Aiken still a 'real person'
01:00 AM EDT on Monday, August 2, 2004
Journal Pop Music Writer
Clay Aiken took a strong, expressive voice, added American Idol national-TV exposure and a squeaky-clean appeal and turned it into one of the best-selling albums of 2003. Now he's bringing his first solo tour to the Ryan Center tomorrow night, and, if the rest of his career is any indication, thousands of screaming fans will follow him.

Aiken's female fan base is well known for its devotion -- creating Web sites, throwing underwear at the stage, chasing the tour bus. "They're very enthusiastic," Aiken agrees, but he quickly credits the success of the American Idol show.

"Everybody -- Kelly and Ruben, Kelly especially -- symbolizes a real person making good and having [their] dream come true. And I've told her that many times -- that she's the reason all 70,000 of us lined up for that second season of Idol. . . . And I think that a lot of people who have dreams of making it big, they see the girl next door or the boy next door have success, and they relate to them much more.

"I mean, I can't relate to a lot of celebrities who are out there -- they dress too good for me; they talk too good for me; they're too cool. I don't know how to relate to that."

It wasn't supposed to happen this way. Aiken was studying at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte to teach children with developmental disabilities. His career plan was teaching, maybe becoming a high school principal. And while circumstances have changed, Aiken says, the ultimate goal is still the same.

Despite the two No. 1 singles and the No. 11-selling album of last year (Measure of a Man), Aiken finished his studies and graduated last December. He also set up the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which helps children with disabilities (the foundation is named after himself and the family of an autistic North Carolina boy he was working with).

The creation of the foundation was something of an accident, he says. He started it as part of an independent study for school. His assignment was to create a mock nonprofit foundation, and make a prospectus on how it would work. In an interview in conjunction with last year's American Idol tour, Aiken mentioned the "foundation," and audiences started giving money at shows.

"And we were like, 'Oh, goodness. People don't understand that it's a fake foundation!' " Aiken says. "So we made it real."

The foundation integrates kids with disabilities into YMCA summer camp programs, and gives grants to people with disabilities "who are serving in their own communities rather than being served," Aiken says.

After his singing success, however, Aiken says classroom teaching is probably a thing of the past. "I doubt that I'd be able to go back to Raleigh and teach in a classroom and demand too much respect as a teacher, after all those kids had seen me on TV. But I see this foundation as a way to teach on a larger scale -- in a larger classroom, if you will. . . .

"I went and visited one of the summer camps that the foundation is funding, and got to see the kids playing, and some of my classmates from college, who are now special-education teachers, were working in the camp. . . . Makes me kind of jealous."

Is it real or is it TV?

To some, the TV-driven success of American Idol singers such as Aiken, Ruben Studdard and Kelly Clarkson lacks legitimacy. Where are the years spent scuffling and honing one's craft in smoky bars?

"I think there's a lot of people who think we didn't work so hard for it, didn't come up singing in clubs," Aiken says. "I didn't, but Ruben did, Fantasia [latest Idol winner Fantasia Barros] did. . . . Of the people who were successful on Idol, I think the only people who didn't try that hard [prior to the show] were Kimberley Locke [who finished third behind Studdard and Aiken last year] and myself -- we both had plans otherwise.

"But most everyone else had been trying to sing for years and years, and really paid their dues, and then found this particular door."

He calls Clarkson "one of the best singers that there is on the radio right now, period. As is Ruben. I'd like to think that I'm at least somewhere near that category. So it's great fodder for critics and whatnot -- it's an easy way to discount our legitimacy. Unfortunately, for critics, hopefully, we'll all three be around for quite a while."

Besides, it's pointed out, record companies don't exactly work on a strict merit system. "That's right . . . there's a lot of politics and everything. And this [the TV show] is just a more democratic way of doing it."

Next up for Aiken is a Christmas album, coming out Nov. 4. Then he'll begin picking out songs for his next album, due out the second half of next year.

"It's going to be very traditional," Aiken says of the Christmas album. "We want to do a perennial-type album, that can be sold year after year. . . . It's going to be a lot of classic Christmas songs, classic arrangements, that people can put on year after year when they're making their eggnog or sitting by the fire."

So what is it about Aiken? He's got a strong voice, but so do plenty of people out there who aren't doing as well. What's he got that they haven't got?

"Musically, I'm not sure. . . . [But] there has not been any artist in recent years who is very family-oriented. . . . I'm happy that we're able to put together an album, and even shows on the road, that the entire family can come to."

In a pop universe dominated by R&B, hip-hop, rock and country, the field is wide open for a middle-of-the-road, soft-rock singer like Aiken, and his potential audience is huge. Aiken says his audiences range from "4 to 84. . . . Which is another thing that critics are -- well, critical of. Artistically, it's not the most creative and new idea.

"People call me, all the time, vanilla. Which I don't find insulting at all. It's the most popular flavor -- you can't make half the flavors without vanilla. I think that critics find that to be less credible, but the public seems to be happy with it, and I'm happy to fill that opportunity."

Clay Aiken and special guest Cherie sing at the University of Rhode Island's Ryan Center, in Kingston, tomorrow night at 8. Tickets, at $38 and $32, are available at the box office, by calling 331-2211 or at
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'American Idol' runner-up to perform in Clearfield

By Linda Hudkins

Clay Aiken, last year's "American Idol" runner-up, said his mother told him he started singing and performing at 18 months of age.

By his own recollection, he was no more than 5 years old when his mom would take him to the department store where she worked, and he would hop up on a coffee table and perform. Delighted passersby often left little tips for the now-25-year-old entertainer, whose tour schedule will bring him to the Clearfield County Fair this weekend.

"When little kids are willing to sing and be that outgoing, people want to hear it," Aiken told the Mirror in an interview just before he hopped on a Rhode Island stage.

For details, please see Page D1 in the Aug. 6 Altoona Mirror.
No link available.  Transcribed at the Clackhouse.


Aiken Says He Prefers Small-Town Audience
By Ashley Gurbal, Staff Writer
Aug. 9, 2004

Clay Aiken fans of all ages packed into the grandstand at the Clearfield County Fair Saturday night to see the "American Idol" star perform.
French singer Cherie warmed up the crowd with her single, "Older Than My Years" and other tracks from her new CD, which was released by Lava Records Aug. 3. Cherie had the crowd on its feet.
"Let me see your hands!" Cherie yelled and the crowd obliged, swaying back and forth in time to the music.
However, the crowd was soon cheering for the man of the evening.
"We want Clay! We want Clay!" the crowd chanted.
Mr. Aiken burst onto the stage around 8:30 p.m. For some this was the highlight of the evening.
"I love Clay Aiken," said Nichole Dugan, 15, of Clearfield. "It was most exciting when he first came out. Seeing him in person made me like him even more."
Mr. Aiken's show was not a one-man act. The audience and Mr. Aiken's back-up singers were a key part of the show.
A woman, who identified herself as Claire from Englewood, N.J., was selected earlier in the day to sing "Without You" with Mr. Aiken, a duet he originally performed with fellow "American Idol" star Kimberly Locke.
An audience member was also brought on stage to dance with one of Mr. Aiken's instrumentalists, Jay. Mr. Aiken said Jay is known for his shyness on stage and he wanted an audience member to dance with Jay to bring him out of his shell.
The audience was on its feet for most of the show and went wild when Mr. Aiken sang "Measure of a Man." The James Taylor covers Mr. Aiken performed were also a hit with the crowd.
Still, none of the songs brought about as much reaction as the one Mr. Aiken described "as the song that started it all," "You were There." (NOTE FROM JULIE: OBVIOUSLY THIS IS A MISTAKE. THE SONG HE WAS TALKING ABOUT WAS "THIS IS THE NIGHT.") Mr. Aiken sang the song with video clips of his "American Idol" performances playing on large screens set up on the stage.
Several fans brought signs to the concert, which they waved enthusiastically throughout the show.
"I just really love Clay," said Jenny Taylor of Butler. Ms. Taylor and her niece, Lyric Ackelson, 10, both brought signs that read "I love Clay" and "Achin' for Aiken." "We worked all day on these signs," they said.
After "You Were There," Mr. Aiken reflected on the year that has passed since is "American Idol" days.
"We've spent a whole year on the road," he said. "We've been in to New York City, LA. . . but we have the most fun in small towns. That's where I'm from. As much as I try to tell people differently, you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy. Thank you Pennsylvania!"
Many of Mr. Aiken's fans have been following him since his "American Idol" debut.
"We became fans after the hours and hours of 'Idol' watching," said Rebecca Marko of Roaring Springs. "It's not the same without Clay."
Rachel LeGrand of Philipsburg has also been following Clay since "American Idol."
"I've been following him ever since he started on American Idol," she said. "I cried when he lost."
Security at the event was tight. The individual delivering Mr. Aiken's check was sent away and told the check would be picked up, according to Fair manager, Wade Cowder.
"They turned away a guy with a $100,000 check," Mr. Cowder said.
One of the lucky few to get backstage was Linda Fisher of Bellefonte, whose son and daughter-in-law are friends of Kiana Parlor, one of Mr. Aiken's back-up singers.
"It was nice," Ms. Fisher said. "He's a great guy."
Ms. Fisher often makes fudge for her son and his wife, who have shared it with Ms. Parlor. Ms. Parlor has given Ms. Fisher's fudge to Mr. Aiken, who enjoyed it.
"He said, 'Thanks for the fudge. It's awesome," Ms. Fisher said.
Many of Mr. Aiken's fans were ecstatic as they left their seats after his performance.
"It was the best concert I've ever been to," Ms. LeGrand said.

No link available. Transcribed by Miromom.  Printed in The Progress of Clearfield PA.


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Mr. Congeniality
Even though he came in second on 'Idol,' Clay Aiken is touring like a star

By GREG HAYMES, Staff writer
First published: Thursday, August 5, 2004

Clay Aiken has been so omnipresent in the media that it's nearly impossible to believe that it's been only a year since he emerged as the star of the second season of Fox's "American Idol" talent search.

And he didn't even win.

But Aiken -- whose name is usually followed up with the dubious description " 'American Idol' runner-up" -- has clearly been the biggest winner that the show has produced in its three seasons.

Last year, when he released his debut single, "This Is the Night," it shot straight to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, easily eclipsing "American Idol" winner Ruben Studdard and becoming the fastest selling single since Elton John's tribute to Princess Diana, "Candle in the Wind 1997." It was the only certified platinum single of 2003.

When he released his debut album, "Measure of a Man," in October, it also shot to the top of the charts, selling more copies in the first week than any other debut album since Snoop Dogg's first album back in 1993.

His face graced the covers of magazines from Rolling Stone to TV Guide. He won an American Music Award and a Billboard Music Award. He toured with the second season "Idol" finalists in 2003 and hit the arena circuit again this year, sharing the spotlight with first season "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson.

And now he's back on the road with his own headlining tour that lands at the Pepsi Arena on Sunday evening. We caught up with him for a brief chat from backstage at the Delaware State Fair, and here's what he had to say:

Q: So how is the tour going?

A: It's really been great so far. We've been playing all arenas and stadiums so far on this tour, but we're also going to be playing at about 10 state fairs across the country. The tour goes through mid-September. Then we'll take a little bit of time off and go back out for another short leg in October.

Q: Is the live concert experience the most fun part of the musical experience for you?

A: It's a completely different element. It's different than recording, and it's different than doing "American Idol," even though, of course, we had an audience when we did the TV show.

The live audience on "Idol" was really what drove us to perform better. Having a live audience in front of you definitely adds a whole different level of energy. It adds to the whole experience and makes you enjoy what you're doing more. For me, it is one of the more exciting things to be able to go out and look right into the faces of the people that you're singing to.

Q: With your hectic schedule of touring and recording and all of the other demands on your time, do you think sometimes that perhaps you've bitten off more than you can chew with all of this explosion of show biz?

A: Well, it is pretty hectic, but I don't know about that. I'd like to think that I'm handling it pretty well. It's definitely a lot fuller plate than I ever thought I'd have -- or I ever even hoped to have -- but it's fun. It's a whirlwind ride. We're here in Delaware to play the state fair today, so I think it's safe for me to compare it all to a roller-coaster ride.

Q: I understand that you're also writing a book titled "Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life." What is it about?

A: I'm working on that right now, and I'm hoping to have that out in October. It's not necessarily my memoirs, in the sense that I think I have a life that people want to read about. It's not an autobiography, because I certainly don't think that I've lived long enough to write an autobiography.

It's more of a collection of different stories from my life and the lessons I've learned along the way. The book serves a couple of purposes, and one is that I get a chance to thank some people who have taught me major lessons in my life. Two, I get to share some of those lessons with the public. I feel as though the book is an opportunity not for me to try to teach someone something, but rather to share experiences with people who might have gone through some of the same types of things.

Q: So what's next for you in the recording studio?

A: We're just about done with a Christmas album. In the next week or two, we should be finishing it up, and it should be released sometime in the beginning of November. It's a real traditional holiday album. The goal is to have a real perennial -- an album that people can enjoy year after year after year, so it's not necessarily geared toward any current musical style. It's very traditional, fireside Christmas music.

And then shortly we'll start looking for songs for the next studio album, which will hopefully be out in the first half of 2005.

CLAY AIKEN with Cherie
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: The Pepsi Arena, 51 S. Pearl St., Albany
Info: 487-2000
Tickets: $35.50, $45.50


Clay Aiken gets Pepsi crowd screaming

By DAVE SINGER For The Daily Gazette
Monday, August 9th

ALBANY — For someone working toward a teaching degree two years ago, Clay Aiken stood on the Pepsi Arena stage Sunday night undaunted — in fact, perfectly comfortable — while thousands of hysterical girls screamed his name and waved countless homemade posters that declared their love for him.

Amid all the clamor, Aiken sounded good, worked hard and seemed to be enjoying life on stage. He sang mostly from his only release, "The Measure of a Man," but he mixed it up with several cover songs. Highlights included "Shine," perhaps the strongest song of the first set, "I Will Carry You," "Measure of a Man," "Run to Me," where he stood at the end of the extended stage surrounded by the audience, belting it out full throttle, "Perfect Day" and "I Survived You," maybe the best moment of the night.

His cover songs — mostly polite nods to the older adults in the audience —included a James Taylor medley and the ’70s Orleans hit "Still the One." These all failed to ignite the crowd.

For an American Idol runnerup, Aiken is doing OK, even better than any of the winners, and record and concert sales point to much more Aiken in the future, including an upcoming Christmas album.

Aiken doesn’t dance on stage and when he’s not singing, he hardly knows what to do with himself. These kinds of things, along with plenty of warm, extended banter between songs, make it hard not to like him. The audience — more than 7,000 — included largely mother-daughters, father-daughters, grandmother-granddaughters, and hordes of teenage boys and girls in groups.

For those unfamiliar with "boy-band " audience screams, it sounds like a deafening highpitched airplane in your living room. Aiken triggered these screams every time he started a song, spoke, held a long note, climbed the steps to reach another level of the three-tiered set, and ended a song.

The band — three back-up singers, two keyboardists, a drummer, bassist and guitarist — served primarily as support and stuck strictly to the script.

Aiken has all the required credits to teach special education in North Carolina. But he still needs to student-teach one semester. At this rate it won’t be happening any time soon. For the moment he seems to be making plenty of people happy.

Upcoming 19-year-old French hotshot Cherie (here comes another one-named star) opened the show with an unremarkable set that felt more like a commercial than a concert. Cherie can sing and Cherie can move. But her voice was always revved to full volume, and her three-person band — no bass player but lots of electronics — never cleared any space for her to come through with clarity. But she’s young and has the goods; we may be hearing from her again.
No link available.  Transcribed at the Clackhouse.  From SCHENECTADY GAZETTE (subscription only).

Aiken is polished and forgettable

By STEVE BARNES, Arts editor
Monday, August 9, 2004

Toward the end of Clay Aiken's 2-hour concert Sunday night at the Pepsi Arena, the formerly gawky, now nearly cool and still overly earnest young singer was the subject of the sort of video retrospective screened at awards dinners. There was Aiken on the "Today" and "Tonight" shows, with Jimmy Kimmel and Jay Leno, bussing Barbara Walters and the other gals on the view.
Aiken's handlers used the footage to evoke screams of recognition from the 4,000 or so largely female fans at the Pepsi, but it also suggested a dispiriting, undeniable conclusion: Aiken is a media product, a polished and packaged guy who went from bespectacled dork to wildly adored, platinum-selling artist in just over a year.

Whether he deserves the success is irrelevant. He's gotten it, and the music industry's best have put him front and center for adulation. He can sing, no question, often very, very well. But, really, so what? Any one of thousands of American vocalists, if given the same resources, would sound as good.

Aiken -- should you somehow not know this by now -- came in second in "American Idol 2," and he's been by far the most successful of that pop factory's contestants. It's easy to see why when he's soaring along in one of his power ballads, like "Solitaire" or "I Will Carry You": It's infectious, feel-good stuff, but also ultimately forgettable, a point proven by Aiken's decision to sing covers of better music than his own for almost half of the evening.

U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" is superior to anything on Aiken's 2003 debut, "Measure of a Man," as are the five James Taylor tunes he performed as a medley with his backup singers.

The kid has some personality quirks that, if let loose, could make him into a more interesting artist.

Cherie, a French pop singer who's like a 19-year-old combination of Celine Dion and Shania Twain, opened the concert with a septet of songs from her self-titled new album. By turns grandiose and kittenish, Cherie is perfectly paired with Aiken. Both possess big voices that love to climb along rising key changes. Also like Aiken, it's unclear whether there's anything noteworthy about Cherie besides her pipes.


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Fans adore winning performer
Friday, August 13, 2004
Julia Osborne

For a popular singer such as Clay Aiken, there’s nothing unusual about playing to sold-out houses, being surrounded by beefy security guards and working a tour schedule that finds him in a new city almost every night.

His stop Wednesday night was the Celeste Center at the Ohio State Fair.

The unusual thing is that all of this has come so suddenly to the earnest 25-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., who has almost completed his degree in special education at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

Sixteen months ago, he had appeared on the second season of American Idol and had been voted off. He won a "wild-card" return, finished second — and was off to a world of compact discs, TV appearances and "Claymates," audience members who proudly wear their allegiance on their chests.

This was his third appearance in central Ohio in about a year, but most of the more than 10,000 seats at the center were filled for the roughly 80-minute show.

Some fans are following his tour, from Rhode Island to Colorado, including eight state fairs in 30 days.

The acoustics in the Celeste Center are, to put it politely, poor. Metal isn’t the best conductor of sound and music. The bass boomed enough to make any car-audio addict jealous.

Yet Aiken gave the crowd what it wanted, with smiles and grace.

"I always love coming to Ohio," he said, "because you are some of the best crowds we have — and I don’t say that everywhere."

That statement — and everything else he said — brought cheers, screams and applause from the audience.

From the opening Streets Have No Names, Aiken ran through more than a dozen of his songs, many fans singing along with every number.

A James Taylor medley allowed him to show an easy, melodic range and added appreciated variety. Yet the crowdpleasers were the hits and his latest single, I Will Carry You, along with an encore of Solitaire that was more intense than Neil Sedaka’s original.

His three backup singers and five musicians showed talent and skill and added an extra depth.

Aiken’s stage is a production number in itself, allowing the singer to rise at the back, then walk some illuminated stairs — which disappear and reappear — to the stage.

Costume changes — from a long-sleeved shirt, tie and jeans to all white, then all blue — were incidental, but noteworthy for a state-fair show.

The opening act was a 20-year-old French singer who uses only her first name, Cherie. Her style is a mix of Celine Dion and Gloria Estefan, with plenty of enthusiasm. She made a bouncy beginning to an upbeat evening
.COLUMBUS DISPATCH (subscripton required)


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Reluctant 'Idol' candidate Aiken has done very well
Sunday, August 8, 2004
By Mary Barber
Staff Writer

"They say when you wanna make God laugh, all you gotta do is tell him your plans."

That's a line from "When You Say You Love Me," on Clay Aiken's debut CD, "Measure of a Man."

God must be chortling.

The 25-year-old was studying special education at the University of North Carolina -- Charlotte when the mother of one of his students persuaded him to try out for "American Idol."

He sang at the Charlotte auditions and was sent home.

"I had no desire to be involved at all," Aiken said in a phone interview. "But I saw the people who sang with me, and I said 'I'm not getting cut.' ! It's just stubbornness."

His second audition, in Atlanta, resulted in an invitation to Los Angeles for the show's second season. Then he was cut again -- but was allowed to continue on a "wild card." He ended up taking second, behind Ruben Studdard.

Second place hasn't been so bad.

Aiken's first single, "This Is the Night," hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. He won the Fan's Choice Award at the American Music Awards. His CD hit No. 1 and was one of the top-selling CDs of 2003. He joined the "American Idols Live" tour, then spent several weeks on the road early this year with the show's first winner, Kelly Clarkson.

And he finished his degree, graduating last December.

Now he's headlining a tour, with opening act Cherie, and he said the pressure's up.

"If the show went bad, I could blame it on her (Clarkson) last time," he joked. "But it's fun."

Aiken seems to be able to keep his success in perspective. After all, he's one of the rare few who could have it either way -- with fame, or without.

"In many ways, (teaching) is much more fulfilling than walking on stage," he said. "You don't get the money, for sure, which is a shame. But the benefits you get are much bigger and much more fulfilling. ! You don't walk in and have all the kids stand up and clap for you. You have to find success in small miracles. When the kid you were working with for three months to read one word does read just one word, it's very satisfying."

But fame has its perks, he said.

"The adulation and adoration you get from an audience when you're singing is very visible, very evident," he said. "I enjoy what I'm doing, and I get to see the world, see different things, and pay for vacations for my parents and my friends. I don't see any reason for me to want to stop it right now."

But if it doesn't work out, that's fine, he said.

"I don't have designs on it lasting forever," he said. "That would be a little too presumptuous."

Millions of kids want to be the next Clay Aiken, the next American Idol. But that's not the right path for everyone, he said.

"I think the best advice I could give someone would be to have enough confidence in yourself not to let one loss get you down," he said, "not to let one comment from Simon (Cowell, one of three judges) or the equivalent get you down."

He said he saw lots of very talented singers at "American Idol" who could make a career in music.

"But one nasty comment from Simon, and they were crushed for life," he said. "What's the point in that?"

He said Cowell is critical offstage as well as on, but his comments could be slightly more constructive in private.

"He's a little pompous, but he genuinely does usually care about those who are on the show," Aiken said. "He's not a cold-hearted person at all."

Asked if Cowell's advice helped him, Aiken said, "He'd like to say it did."

Aiken performs at 8 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $29-$32.

Happiest when he's sharing his success

Sunday, August 8, 2004
Special to the Gazette

Just about a year ago he was a 24-year-old senior at the University of North Carolina, only six credit hours away from earning his degree in special education.

Then he heard about an audition.

And that was all it took for Clay Aiken to begin sharing his talent with the world.

He doesn't plan on leaving Michigan out, as he will be making a stop at the Jackson County Fair at 8 p.m. Thursday.

"What I'm trying to do, a goal of mine, is to have a show that everyone can go to -- a family show," said the 2003 second-place winner of "American Idol." "I only have one album to work with, so there will be a lot of old stuff.

"But there will be some new stuff, like covers of songs I grew up with. It's going to be a really good family show. It's going to be about music, no fancy lights."

But if you ask him, he is surprised that he ever got this far.

When he first auditioned for "American Idol," Aiken was sent home. So he auditioned again -- and this time it worked.

"I had to go home once," Aiken said. "After that, each step I expected to get sent home."

By now, everyone knows that Aiken lost the second title of "American Idol" to the smooth-singing Ruben Studdard. But some might say that Aiken is enjoying a little more success than the winner.

"It's just a matter of what type of facts you look at," Aiken said humbly. "Ruben has had a great deal of success. With airplay, I think Ruben gets more. With record sales, maybe I do."

Since it was released last fall, Aiken's "Measure of a Man" has sold more than 3 million copies in the U.S. and spawned the hit singles "Invisible" and "Solitaire."

All of the success is quite a change for Aiken. Singing in church since he was just a boy, Aiken always loved singing as a hobby. And now that he gets paid a little bit to do that, he has developed some other "hobbies" that everyone else does everyday.

"CNN is my hobby," Aiken said laughing. "And I like to read once in a while. Unfortunately, there's not enough time for a hobby."

Another interesting fact about this Raleigh, N.C., native that most people probably don't know is that he can turn his feet around backwards.

"Everyone says it's disgusting," Aiken said with a laugh. "But it's just natural to me."

Aiken is very thankful for his success and is making sure that others benefit from it as much as possible.

Aiken received his degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte last year through a special independent study provision. Besides sharing his talents, Aiken is sharing his time and resources to promote the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which promotes the awareness and acceptance of children with various disabilities.

Aiken created the foundation along with Diane Bubel, the mother of an autistic son, Michael. Aiken was inspired to create the foundation after having his job at the YMCA, where he saw children with disabilities turned away because of the lack of staff trained in dealing with their special needs.

"I had my life planned out. I was going to be a teacher," Aiken told the Associated Press earlier this year. "I get a little jealous of my friends who have their classrooms now. It's a different sort of gratification.

"I once worked for three months to get a child to be able to read a word. You don't get anyone clapping for you when you do that. You work hard. You earn it. I didn't work hard to be able to sing. God gave that to me. It's easy, and people scream and cheer, and who wouldn't like that? It's great. But there's a different feeling associated with it."

For more information in the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, go to


'American Idol' star draws about 5,000 to fair concert

Friday, August 13, 2004
By Monetta L. Harr
Staff Writer

After watching Clay Aiken twice a week for months, it wasn't a total shock to see him emerge from his huge touring bus looking more like a fraternity student after a long night than an "American Idol."

Wearing a gray, hooded Wisconsin sweatshirt, striped cotton pants and flip flops, his reddish-brown hair tousled, Aiken greeted seven select fans before his concert Thursday night at the Jackson County Fair.

Aiken, who has parlayed his second-place finish in the second "American Idol" competition into a pop singing career, wouldn't sign autographs. But he shook everyone's hand and then stood in the center of the group and posed for photos.

Faryn O'Connor, 14, of Rives Junction nearly swooned when the quick photo shoot ended because Aiken put his right arm around her. The left arm went around the shoulders of Gloria Spicer, 76, of Kennesaw, Ga., who played Aiken's rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" at her husband's funeral.

"He is such a good young man. He has the correct attitude for life," said Spicer, who had attended another of Aiken's concerts in Atlanta.

The audience of about 5,000, a mix of all ages, clearly agreed about Aiken's positive, upbeat attitude. Aiken sang for 90 minutes, ending with "Solitaire," which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 Sales chart.

He performed a mix of music, including gospel, James Taylor and even a few rock songs, prompting the mostly-female audience to scream and clap their hands.

Aiken talked to them, challenging them early-on to a dance contest.

"The one who dances the best, I'm bringing up on stage," he said.

Women of all ages and sizes jumped onto chairs and swung their hips and arms, and it was Heather Hensel, 21, of Canton and Susie Moore, 24, of Saline who were chosen.

They danced on stage as Aiken sang another song and when it was over and their feet were back on the ground -- at least near their front-row seats -- all the women could say about their experience was to scream and hug each other.

But even Aiken was surprised by Heather Bouaziz of Ypsilanti who got a shot to come on stage and sing with him, something Aiken does at his concerts.

"What?" he said, stumbling over the city's name.

"Are you in this chunk of Michigan or that chunk," he asked Bouaziz, referring to the Upper and Lower Peninsulas.

"I don't know Clay, I'm too excited to think," she replied.

She wasn't too excited to sing, though, and when she belted out the words, Aiken stepped back and looked at the audience. Together, they went through a couple verses, ending with a roar of the audience.

Aiken initially said he was glad for the cooler weather -- "It was like 105 degrees last night at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus," he said -- but toward the end of the concert he noted the musician's hands were getting a bit cold.

The temperature was about 60 degrees, with the audience dressed more for a football game than an August concert, in jeans and sweatshirts and carrying blankets.

It didn't affect Aiken's voice, though, as he belted out song after song, including "This is the Night."

Between songs, sometimes between verses, various groups of women in the audience shouted, "We love you Clay." Many wore black T-shirts sold outside the concert, Aiken's photo on the front and dates of his first solo national tour on the back.

Aiken's opening act was Cherie, who with her French accent had the crowd doing the wave and standing on their feet, clapping to the music.

As they walked together out of the concert, Margaret and Steve Van Antwerp of Jackson were clearly glad they had come to hear Aiken.

"Clay is awesome, a fantastic voice," said Margaret Van Antwerp. "I loved it."



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Idol Chatter
Clay Aiken on the butter cow and other weighty issues


There’s no real need for a true profile of Clay Aiken.

Not when Fox gave millions of viewers his story weekly last summer on “American Idol.” In that season, he lost in a controversially close call to R&B crooner Ruben Studdard.

But he’s since gone on to Ruben-sized success. His debut album, “Measure of a Man,” sold 2 million copies. His co-headlining tour with first “Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson drew good crowds, and he dropped the “co-” for the tour stopping Friday at the Illinois State Fair.

Spiky-haired, skinnier and smaller than your average pop star, Aiken always has shown a good sense of humor about himself and his, well, nerdy qualities. (His words, not ours.)

So we figured a somewhat random question-and-answer session would be fun.

Here’s what Aiken had to say on butter cows, Brooke Burke, fried pickle chips, turkey basters, “The Music Man,” Snoop Dogg, bad roommate habits and Yahoo Serious.

NR: I was reading the liner notes for “Measure of a Man” and you thanked Rick Nowels for the “amazing airline tip.” What is the “amazing airline tip”? Can you give that up?

CA: I had to fly to London. I had recorded with him first. His was the first song I did, and the next thing I had to do was fly to London and record with Steve Mac. And he suggested, instead of flying on the airline I was on, that I fly Virgin Atlantic. And this is the best airline on the planet when you’re flying overseas because you get a massage on the plane. So it was great.

NR:So you’re rooming with Kimberley Locke (fellow contestant on “American Idol”), right?

CA: Yes.

NR: What’s her worst habit as a roommate?

CA:Oh, goodness. Let’s see. It’s not a bad habit, I guess. She gets up early. She’s an early riser, and I’m not such an early riser. She gets up in the morning and makes breakfast. And it’s not that she’s loud, but it’s that it smells so good and it wakes me up. But she does it in her underwear sometimes, which I guess is probably not the best idea.

NR: What’s your worst habit as a roommate?

CA: Oh, goodness. I’m probably pretty messy. She keeps her room as dirty as possibly can be, but the rest of the house she keeps very clean. Me, on the other hand, my room is not so bad, but the rest of the stuff - like the living room and everything - I just leave stuff lying around all the time.

NR:What is the weirdest thing you’ve seen so far at a state fair?

CA: Well, I’ve only been to one state fair, the Delaware State Fair, and it rained the entire time. So I don’t know that it was weird, but there were some passionate people out there because it was pouring down rain the whole time, and there were about 5 or 6,000 people in the audience. I was like ‘Man, you guys are better than I am.’”

NR: What item of food has not yet been fried that you think could be fried and still taste good?

CA: Everything can be fried and taste good. Listen, I’m from the South. We fry everything. There’s nothing that’s left that hasn’t been fried, except for maybe the curtains. I don’t think there’s anything else. I’ve had a fried banana, had a fried Snickers bar. Fried bologna’s good. Fried pickle chips! Have you ever had fried pickle chips?

NR: Yes, I have. I had some of those at the fair last year.

CA: That’s good stuff, right there. I want some of those.

NR: What is tough about playing a fair venue? Did you do the show in Delaware or did it get rained out?

CA: No, we did it. We did it right through the rain. I don’t think there’s anything tough about it. I think it’s kind of cool to play a state fair because people are there to have fun. The energy is usually higher. The only thing that’s bad is walking through the pig poop. That’s the big problem.

NR: When I say “butter cow,” what’s the first thought that pops into your mind?

CA: Um. Eww, I don’t know. What’s a butter cow? Is that like a, is that like a … at the North Carolina State Fair, I’m not even lying, one year, you can look this up if you don’t believe me, they had a cow made out of butter.

NR: That’s exactly what it is. They have one at the Illinois State Fair, too.

CA: So we’ve had that before. I’ve been there, done that.

NR: Who plays you in “The Clay Aiken Story” and why?

CA:Oh, goodness. Alfred E. Neuman, is he a real person? Let’s see. Yahoo Serious. I don’t know. Someone who’s a little dorky and not ashamed of it. Why be ashamed to be a nerd? Let’s go with Brad Pitt. I think Brad Pitt should play me.

NR: What is the weirdest thing someone’s ever requested you to sign?

CA: Um, I had a lady send me a turkey baster one time and wanted me to sign the turkey baster and send it back. That would probably be the strangest thing.

NR: Which celebrity were you most surprised to hear enjoyed your music?

CA: Celebrities enjoy my music? Brooke Burke, you know who Brooke Burke is?

NR: Yeah.

CA:Yeah, she’s a big fan. That’s good.

NR:When you’re at the bar as you are hypothetically in “When You Say You Love Me,” what’s the drink of choice for you?

CA: Milk.

NR:Milk? OK. What’s the saddest song you’ve ever heard, firstly in emotion and secondly in quality?

CA: I don’t know many songs that are sad. Heather Headley had a song called “If It Wasn’t For Your Love,” that talks about how if you’re in love with someone how that can get you through anything. It’s not a sad song, but it’s so emotional that it makes you cry. I saw her sing it at an event she did on Broadway a few months ago and she cried while she sang it, that’s how moving the song is. In quality, the saddest song I’ve ever heard would probably … um, I get some pretty crappy demos on the road. Besides William Hung, I think that’d be it.

NR: What is the hair product of choice and do you have to use a flattening iron?

CA: I do use a … I don’t use anything. I don’t know how to do my own hair anymore. I forgot. I have to have someone do it for me. I think it’s Bed Head products.

NR: When you were in “The Music Man” in high school, did you have to dance the Shipoopi?

CA: Oh, that’s right. They did have that. How did you know I was in that musical in high school?

NR: It’s in your bio.

CA: Is it? In my bio? Oh, I need to have that changed, have that updated. I’ve done a few things since then. Yeah, I think we did have to dance the Shipoopi.

NR: Who did you play in “The Music Man”?

CA: I was in the quartet, one of the councilmen or something like that.

NR: If you switched over to front a rock band, what band would it be?

CA: I have absolutely … I would not, if I switched over to front a rock band? Give me a name of one. I don’t even know any.

NR: How about a hip-hop crew?

CA: I’d wanna be, like, Snoop Dogg’s sidekick or something like that.

NR: That leads into my next question. Did you get any notice from him when you challenged his first-week sales record from a debut artist?

CA: Oh no, I did not. I did not. No, thank God. He still won, so it’s all good. He still beat me.

Publicist Eavesdropping the Entire Time: Hey you guys, finish it up. We have time for one more question.

NR: OK. Let me see here. Describe yourself in 20 words to someone who might not be hip enough to know your story.

CA: Oh, goodness. Um, I’m supposed to be counting these words here. Let me see, in 20 words … lucky guy … um, God, I can’t do that! Lucky guy who got his break on a reality TV show, and, uh, I’m not gonna count. Lucky guy who got his break on a reality TV show and was fortunate enough to have some success following it and is still just the same nerd he was when he auditioned in the first place.


Clay Aiken delivers formidable performance at Grandstand


 If a man is measured by his generosity, Clay Aiken is one of the heftiest guys around.
Aiken is no vocal slouch; his trademark is a formidable vocal tone that belies his skinny stature. But he was more of a singing straight man Friday night, as Aiken created powerhouse four-part harmonies with his backup singers throughout his concert at the Illinois State Fair Grandstand.

A crowd of 5,171 watched Aiken and company roll through an 85-minute set of material from his "Measure of a Man" album and as eclectic a collection of covers as a pop singer can churn out.

The evening began on a wobbly note, with the pre-recorded shill for Disney (the tour sponsor and the studio for whom Aiken recorded "Proud of Your Boy" for an upcoming "Aladdin" DVD) and the unveiling of the same sort of set every pop concert has these days - two tiers of stage separated by a shiny metal staircase.

But instead of him running out and down the staircase, it lifted up to reveal Aiken, whose Bono bombast was credible on the show-opening cover of "Where the Streets Have No Name." Though some of Aiken's biggest fans weren't even born when that song was released, those screaming for him ate up the song, which came complete with a copy of the cascading light scheme U2 uses.

"We can smell the funnel cakes, the hot dogs," Aiken said of the state-fair venues he's played frequently on this tour. "But tonight we're smelling something a little different down here on the horse track. Maybe they left a little welcome gift for me."

Aiken conversed with the crowd many times during the night, pacing the stage with his hand in a pocket and putting forth a chummy Southern-buddy vibe. But a couple of interactive crowd-pleasing ideas backfired a bit.

He sought someone with "innovative dancing talent" to come on stage during "When You Say You Love Me." But the woman from Cape Girardeau, Mo., he brought up apparently didn't feel comfortable doing the eye-catching dance on stage that inspired him to lure her up there.

And the shyness of a 5-year-old girl whose prayer every night was to sing with Clay Aiken (and got her wish) made for prolonged silences, during which Aiken was patient and joking with her. When she started singing "Invisible," it was a cute moment - but that song, with its sanitized stalker lyrics underneath a sunny beat, is creepy enough when sung by an adult, let alone a small child.

Those were only slightly shaky moments, though, in a concert that was otherwise hugely enjoyable.

For starters, Aiken earned kudos for pulling some rarely heard '80s chestnuts out of the cover box.

He and backup singer Angela Fisher tore up the Aretha Franklin-George Michael duet "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me," which is a rarity even for 1980s flashback radio programs. And Aiken allowed his band mates to turn a spirited rendition of Toto's "Rosanna" into a remarkable jam session.

Plus, Aiken sort of resembles the singer for Mr. Mister, so why would he not do "Kyrie," let alone lend an admirably nerdy opening dance to it?

Aiken had tremendous backing power from Angela Fisher, Jacob Luttrell and Quiana Parler, with whom he created unshakable walls of sound all night. Watching the quartet perform was like a professional, wholly on-key version of a group-sing on "American Idol" - with no one preening to the camera in a plea for votes.

Along with the tribal-sounding "Kyrie," Aiken showcased Fisher, Luttrell and Parler on a medley of James Taylor covers - "Sweet Baby James," "How Sweet It Is," "Fire and Rain," "Your Smiling Face" and "You've Got a Friend."

Of Aiken's own material, standouts included "I Will Carry You," with an uplifting chorus that showed off Aiken's vocal power; "Invisible," which, despite the spooky lyrics, still has an undeniably catchy melody and vocal line; and "Solitaire," his encore number.

All in all, this was the rare show where the onstage dancing and interaction between singers and musicians felt like a genuine extension of the fun they were having. And it translated well enough to the crowd that everyone there became a "Claymate," if only for about 90 minutes.

Opening the show was French singer Cherie, whose wardrobe of a bandanna and oversized football jersey didn't seem to match her measured, precisely sung pop tunes.

Cherie's voice is good enough, without being overpowering, that only rarely did she reach for syllable-extending histrionics or warbling high pitches. The highlight of her set was "Older Than My Years," a tender ballad with coos and breathy pauses a la Celine Dion, without any of that singer's ridiculous theatrics.


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Cult of Clay

August 12, 2004

There have been three winners of Fox's hit reality-TV contest, "American Idol." None of them has been Clay Aiken.

But take stock of the gawky, freckle-faced singer's career since he lost to Ruben Studdard in May 2003 and you begin to wonder if maybe he planned it this way. Underdog status only seems to enhance his aw-shucks appeal.

This do-gooder from North Carolina with a squeaky-clean image - and a tinge of ambiguous sexuality - has been embraced by scores of adult women ("Claymates") who seem to have been waiting for an antidote to Eminem. For a tamer heartthrob than Justin Timberlake to sweep their daughters off their feet. For a young, fresh talent like Josh Groban but who sings pop songs instead of fancy-pants opera.

Enter Clay Holmes Aiken astride the proverbial white horse, in shining armor. He's 24, stands 6-feet 5-inches and weighs in at a wispy 145 pounds - spiky hair and all. He's no dummy: He was trained as a special-education teacher at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte. He puts his money where his heart is: His Bubel Aiken Foundation is a charity for children with developmental disabilities.

In an interview with Datebook (read on) Aiken only confirmed his likability and spotless image. He treats his mother well. Mr. Rogers is one of his heroes. His notion of a harsh swear word is "crap."

That sound you hear is the collective sigh of thousands of Claymates across Iowa.

Aiken makes his Iowa debut Sunday at the Iowa State Fair, and dozens of fans from around the nation have already signed up to attend a pre-party in West Des Moines organized by Laura Quittem-Stein.

Aiken's fans gather online at sites such as Quittem-Stein's

She has flown from Los Angeles to North Carolina and traveled thousands of miles to attend 26 Aiken concerts. This 36-year-old financial planner says that she's like many fans: Prior to her late-blooming "Idol" worship, there was no comparable pop star who inspired such devotion from her.

"His spirit, his genuineness. He reminds me a lot of my husband, but my husband can't sing," Quittem-Stein said. She estimates that as many as 80 percent of Aiken's fan base is female.

Deb Sloss of Perry, mother of five children, is ready to marry off her 20-year-old daughter to Aiken. Watching him perform throughout the second season of "American Idol," Sloss said, was "like watching your own child grow up." (Sloss has been mailing this writer for several months about Aiken and contributed some questions for the interview.)

Take it from "the Beckster," who in an online post at credited Aiken with improving her social skills:

"I'm a little shy myself . . . but for some reason when Clay's involved, I seem to come out of my shell."

Aiken seems to have more in common with Oprah than any pop star. He's not just a singer, he's a one-man, self-help franchise in the making.

Answers from Clay
While sitting in his hotel room last month at a casino in Connecticut, Clay Aiken answered several questions for us:

Q. Will you ever break the "Idol" mold and write your own songs?
A. I don't really know. . . . You should only write songs for two reasons: (1) If you have a great talent for songwriting; and (2) if you have something to say. There are so many talented songwriters out there, I might as well use their stuff.

Q. Since you're perhaps the ultimate momma's boy among today's pop stars, have you bought your mom anything in the wake of selling something like 3 million copies of your debut album, "Measure of a Man"?
A. I paid her house off for Christmas. She has a car now that she's driving around, courtesy of myself and Ford.

Q. What about college? Did you pay your own way, or does mom deserve a kickback for that, too?
A. I worked and got a scholarship to pay my way through college - crap, I think I owe them back for that. It was a fellowship program, and I was supposed to work in the field for a certain amount of time.

Q. Still performing Prince's "When Doves Cry" in concert?
A. We've retired that for now.

Q. You said in a TV interview that you wanted to grow up to be Mr. Rogers. Can we expect you to slip into a cardigan sweater and a pair of comfy sneakers on stage at the Iowa State Fair?
A. I was going to be a teacher and that's what my whole life was going to be geared toward. Now I have an opportunity to look at this (music career) as a larger classroom. When I say I wanted to be Mr. Rogers, it's a metaphor for wanting to make sure that my music is something that parents can let their kids watch and feel safe and comfortable with.

Q. Well, there's nothing more family-friendly than a State Fair. This will be your first chance to visit Iowa's. Ever been to a state fair at all?
A. The North Carolina State Fair. Every October that's a big Raleigh tradition - the food, the rides and everything. I wasn't too big on the cows and the pigs and whatnot. I had a teacher in high school who was from Iowa and always talked about the Iowa State Fair. . . . Seems to be a big Iowan thing.



Aiken's powerful voice needs bigger challenges

August 16, 2004

Whether nice guys finish last is a moot point.

Clay Aiken lost "American Idol" last year, but the scrawny pop heartthrob took the stage Sunday night at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand to the sound of shrill screams that shot from the mouths of pubescent MTV viewers - and their moms in equal measure.

The audience of 5,585 was a sea of custom T-shirts scrawled with love for Aiken, and placards were held aloft proclaiming such slogans as "I have ears like Clay."

Aiken kept these fans hypnotized for nearly 90 minutes by shuffling around the stage and belting out soaring ballads from his multi-platinum debut album, "Measure of a Man."

There was also an '80s nostalgia trip twist to the concert, which started strong with U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." But then Aiken relied on such inglorious fare as Mr. Mister's "Kyrie," the Aretha Franklin-George Michael duet "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)" and Toto's "Rosanna" to goose the pace of the show.

Aiken can out-sing most stars sharing space with him on the pop charts, but more's the pity. Sunday night suggested that he's wasting his Broadway voice on too many B-grade songs. The less that Aiken reminds us that "American Idol" is glorified karaoke for couch potatoes, the better.

A mini-set of James Taylor songs was a better showcase for Aiken's subtler talents, and it emphasized the warm interplay he has developed with his three worthy backup singers.

Aiken's five-piece band was stilted and heavy on keyboards - to be expected when there's a full plate of ballads to digest.

Part of Aiken's nonchalance about his own fame is to cast the spotlight on his fans. He invited a woman from Waukee on stage to dance. A guy named Gus from St. Paul, Minn., was even chosen to warble his own version of "The Way," with custom lyrics in praise of Aiken.

There was a retrospective of his TV highlights as Aiken sang "This Is the Night." Is this what the instant fame of TV has done to concert culture? One year is assumed to be a reasonable lifespan for our pop stars. Aiken should feel lucky, with not even his first headlining summer tour under his belt?

At least in that short time Aiken has made powerful friends in Washington, D.C. None other than Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin was in the audience. Harkin, a Democrat, has forged a friendship with Aiken over their mutual passion for assisting the disabled. The singer even singled out the senator for applause in the middle of his concert. Aiken wasn't excited about the Iowa State Fair's 150th anniversary, but rather the 14th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act that Harkin championed.

"He's really just a great young man," Harkin said shortly before the concert.

Hard to disagree with the senator, based on Aiken's low-key demeanor Sunday.

And the one-song encore of "Solitaire" proved that Aiken has powerful pipes.

He has already won the hearts of TV nation.

The next step is for Aiken to transition from "American Idol" aftermath into lasting fame. And the best way to do that is with more dynamic, challenging songs.


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« Reply #25 on: June 27, 2010, 12:54:54 PM »
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« Reply #25 on: August 13, 2004, 07:43:23 AM » 


Feats of Clay
Clay Aiken talks about his Indiana State Fair show, 'American Idol' and having fanatical fans.

By David Lindquist
August 13, 2004
Clay Aiken has been singing U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" as the opening number on his current concert tour.

It's a fitting nod to the Irish rock group, as Aiken's debut music video, "Invisible," followed the documentary format of U2's 1987 clip for "Where the Streets Have No Name": With no advance fanfare, musicians perform a song in public and a crowd gathers around.

U2's video paid tribute to the Beatles, who famously played atop their Apple headquarters in 1969.

Will 25-year-old Aiken make a mark on the musical landscape to rival the Beatles or U2?

That's probably a stretch.

However, the North Carolina singer, who placed second during the second season of "American Idol," has a career as successful or far better than those of fellow "Idol" alumni Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarino, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino.

During a recent phone interview, Aiken -- who's scheduled to perform Monday at the Indiana State Fair -- shared his thoughts on hot dogs, fans who sing poorly and the secret to a successful season of "American Idol":

When you were in Indianapolis last December, I talked to people who flew from Singapore, Hawaii, Kansas City and Cleveland to see you perform.

That's right. I remember there was a girl from Singapore who lied and told her parents she was coming to visit her aunt in Canada (laughs). That's bad.

Is there a point where fan adoration is excessive?

It all baffles me, honestly. It confuses me quite a bit. But I don't know if flying somewhere to see someone is excessive. I guess there are plenty of people who would do that for other celebrities.

When they come into my mom's office and try to talk to her, that's a little excessive, if you ask me. When people come to your house and knock on your door, that's a bit much. I wouldn't say that coming to see a show is too bad.

You're doing a string of state fairs, including ours. Do you have any favorite foods or attractions at a fair?

I'm allergic to all the good stuff. I can't have chocolate. Hot dogs -- even though they're readily available at the gas station -- they're always better at a fair. A lot more grease and fat involved, I think, and that makes them better.

I wanted to ask you about the videos for "Invisible" and "The Way." Each features a lot of screen time for "regular people." Does that say anything about your outlook toward celebrity?

The video for "Invisible" did include a lot of regular people, and I didn't even really realize it. I met a girl in Atlanta who pointed that out to me and she said she appreciated that. So we made a very concerted effort to do the same thing (with actors) in "The Way."

I grew up watching videos and celebrities that I couldn't relate to. They were people who were far cooler than I would ever be. Better looking and better dressed. Because of reality TV, people say they're excited that finally there are people on TV they can relate to. I'm excited that I can be a part of that whole thing.

The third "American Idol" tour is out on the road. Like a lot of tours this summer, it's not a commercial blockbuster. Do you have any thoughts on the shelf life of that enterprise? What can invigorate or extend its popularity?

"American Idol," as a television program, is great. It definitely has the potential, because of what it is, to be a phenomenon every year. But I think that's contingent -- and this is going to sound like I'm tooting my horn and Ruben's more so -- on the dynamic of the people you have.

It was big the first year because it was a great show. But that finale, there was no question who was going to win. There was no suspense. You'd ask people, "Who do you want to win, Justin or Kelly?" Everybody said "Kelly."

This year was the same way. Once LaToya London left, the dynamic was gone. The finale was pretty much, "I'm going to watch it so I can see it." Everybody was pretty sure Fantasia was going to win.

I think the second season was so much bigger because I don't think everybody knew who was going to win. Maybe everybody did, and I'm just in a hole. But I'd like to think it was much closer. I think we saw that with the vote. It was a suspenseful thing, and it carried through the whole season. It was tough in the top five to pick who was going to go home.

When there's just one standout during a season, there's no suspense or "picking your pony." Everybody's picked the same person and you're just tuning in to see what they sing every night, not whether they're going to go home.

Coping with sudden stardom
Aiken up in air but with feet on the ground

Tribune Staff Writer
Clay Aiken has no idea what it feels like to be a pop star.

Never mind his appearances on the morning shows, the late shows and other performances in between.

Never mind his face gracing the cover of Rolling Stone and the awards for his debut pop album "Measure of a Man."

Never mind a book deal, the Christmas album and the tour.

"I don't see myself as a celebrity to be honest with you. I kind of see myself as a normal nerd from North Carolina," a modest Aiken said last week.

Stardom has been a blessing and a curse for the personable "American Idol" runner-up, who brings his show to the Indiana State Fair on Monday night.

Aiken basks in the spotlight but misses the anonymity. He likes the attention but craves time when he can be alone. He enjoys traveling but envies his friends at home who teach and have normal workdays.

"Most of my friends from home who I'm really close to, to some extent, really don't know what's going on," Aiken said of his chaotic schedule on a day he was running an hour behind schedule. "There are a lot of things people just can't relate to."

Yet Aiken seems to take the fame and its price in stride. In a 10-minute media interview with The Tribune last week, he shared -- between yawns and laughs -- what life is like on the road.

Q: You said in a recent interview that some days you're not that thrilled with the immediate fame. Why is that?

Aiken: Well, for example, yesterday. I went to the mall for the first time in a number of months. I wanted to hang out, so I put my hat on and tried to walk around the mall as discreetly as possible.

We were only there about an hour before we started getting noticed and chased and followed around and stopped. And that's kind of difficult, you know. I didn't nearly get to do anything. I bought a pillow from Sears. I would have loved to have gone into the record store and seen what was for sale and what was out, but I can't go into those anymore because my picture is up everywhere.

To what do you attribute the success of your concerts?

To some extent, the success we've had has been in a market that hasn't been catered to in a long time. There have been a lot of people who have had success in catering to a market that likes not necessarily risqué but edgy entertainment. ... But there really hasn't been an opportunity -- there wasn't one before "American Idol" -- for people to really sit down and enjoy it as a family.

What do you see onstage when you're looking out at the crowd?

What makes us proud is the fact that we get to see a good amalgamation of people. We've got grandparents, we've got my mother's generation, we've got Generation-Xers, we have teenagers, we have kids -- so it's a big stretch, and in the show we have songs from every decade since the '60s. So there's something in the show that everyone can enjoy, hopefully.

What do you think the crowd sees when it looks up onstage at you?

I have no idea. (Laughs) I'm just amazed at the fact that enough people actually like the show. I'm still baffled by it. Two years ago, no one would have ... cared who I was. So it still kind of amazes me.

You look a lot more confident onstage today than you did a year ago. Are you more confident or comfortable?

That's interesting to have you say that because I don't see myself growing as much as other people might. I kind of see myself doing the same old thing. I think it's more comfortable. I know the industry a little bit better now, and I know what to expect. It makes it a little easier to go onstage every night and not be so nervous and worried about what's going to happen.

How much is singing still fun now that it's your job?

It's fun, but sometimes it gets tedious when you're singing the same songs over and over. But we always have something in the show to look forward to, something we didn't do the night before.

The songs like "This Is the Night," "Invisible" and "Measure of a Man" -- those are songs that define the year for me, those don't get old. (Yawn) "This is the Night" I sing every night, and I mean it every night. It's a song that has a lot of meaning to me.

What has been your biggest splurge?

I paid my mom's house off at Christmas.

What was the last book you read?

The last book I read was actually "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time" by Mark Haddon.

What is a gift from a fan that has touched you most?

It's usually the things that people say that are the most meaningful -- when someone tells me that a song or a video meant a lot to them at a hard time.

If it all went away tomorrow, what would you miss?

There are parts about it that are nice, to be honest with you. I guess in order to miss something I would have to not be able to fill it somewhere else.

If it all went away tomorrow, I'd go back to being a teacher probably. I'd go back and have my career (yawn) in the same place I thought I was going to have it two years ago.

The paycheck would be different, that's for sure. (Laugh) Being able to travel around the country wouldn't be as easy. But you know the fame and having people recognize you and having people want to be around you all the time, I mean it's nice, but it's not something that I need.

In concert
Clay Aiken will perform at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Indiana State Fair, Marsh Grandstand, 1202 E. 38th Street, Indianapolis. Tickets are $30 and $35, including fair admission. For more information, go to


Idol star shows flair at the fair
Clay Aiken pleases the crowd with songs from his own album and popular covers.
By David Lindquist
August 17, 2004
A Clay Aiken concert represents the essence of the Indiana State Fair -- pleasant, no-pressure, family fun.

While Monday night's show didn't pander to any particular age group, youth was served when a sixth-grader from Chicago came up from the audience to startle Aiken with her vocal skills.

He in turn gave a priceless endorsement for her upcoming year in school choir: "You tell your teacher I said that you get the solos."

Aiken, the famed former "American Idol" runner-up, is perfectly at ease with crowds. This one numbered 6,500.

If this is his only shot at a tour of this scale, he didn't scrimp on the production budget. Stairs and platforms were integrated smartly in the stage design.

And two video screens built within the furniture made the audience look at the real Clay as well as his video likeness.

Lights from camera flashbulbs continuously cascaded down the Grandstand, capturing Aiken in a tie and untucked shirt.

Coincidence or not, his first costume change arrived as he drove the show toward a home-stretch crescendo.

He wore a white suit when singing powerful praise anthem "You Were There," a tune popularized by Avalon.

The spiritual theme trickled into the next song, "This Is the Night." As an accompanying video reel of Aiken highlights showed his Rolling Stone magazine cover, the frame zoomed to a subtle, subversive accessory found in the corner: His "What Would Jesus Do?" bracelet.

Big radio hit "Invisible" then led to the encore, and it made a much better impression than the show's opening number -- Aiken's rendition of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name."

His clinical vocal delivery and a puny guitar tone (a part of Aiken's band that lacked muscle throughout the show) signaled early trouble.

But Aiken surprised by salvaging Mr. Mister's "Kyrie" from the 1980s scrap heap and actually improving it.

The song resembled a tropical dance party, thanks to a big beat and a soaring chorus.

The concert's other cover of note, Orleans' timeless "Still the One," allowed Aiken to lead a full-throated sing-along.

It's something he's good at, good enough to suggest his inclusion in an Osmond-Manilow-Aiken continuum of nice-guy entertainers.

The show's momentum snagged on a five-song tribute to James Taylor. Aside from presenting backing vocalist Jacob Luttrell as a Taylor sound-alike, the segment lacked purpose.


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« Reply #26 on: June 27, 2010, 01:01:18 PM »
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« Reply #26 on: August 13, 2004, 07:43:52 AM » 


Southern charmer
Despite singing success, illustrious 'Idol' says he's just 'everyday people'

August 13, 2004

There's probably nothing an "American Idol" fan would like more than to hear Clay Aiken pelt Simon Cowell with nasty remarks. But even 14-plus months after graduating from TV's hottest talent competition, the Southern-bred singer refuses to take the low road.

"I don't always have to be diplomatic about him now," the Raleigh, N.C., native says of "AI's" dyspeptic British judge. "Sometimes I am. ... Depends on how mad he's made me. He hasn't made me mad in a while."

And it can't hurt that advance orders for Aiken's inspirational memoir, "Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life," due in October, already have far eclipsed Cowell's bid for literary greatness, "I Don't Mean to Be Rude, But ..."

"I haven't even paid attention to it," Aiken says with typical modesty.

At 25, "American Idol" Season 2's No. 2 finisher is already a master at finding the bright side of life. And why not? Aiken, whose first solo tour will bring him to Knoxville's Thompson-Boling Arena Tuesday night, has watched his debut album, "Measure of a Man," go multiplatinum even while Season 1's runner-up, Justin Guarini, has all but disappeared from sight.

Aiken set the record for sales of a single by an "Idol" contestant by selling 393,000 copies of "Bridge Over Troubled Water"/"This Is the Night" last summer. That's 107,000 more units than Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard's debut sold, 157,000 more than Season 1's Kelly Clarkson's and 251,000 more than latest "Idol" winner Fantasia Barrino's.

Even though Aiken has opened the hearts -- and wallets -- of thousands of "Claymates," he's still more likely to get slings and arrows from the press. Entertainment Weekly is quick to acknowledge his accomplishments but seems to greet the same with backhanded compliments. Aiken, who gained performing experience by touring last year with his "AI" Season 2 peers and earlier this year with Clarkson, has his own theory about that.

"Being a star is about being something that's unattainable," he says by phone from Ledyard, Conn., hours before a show at the Foxwoods Resort Casino. "The movie idols of the '30s, '40s and '50s were all the most beautiful, the best-dressed, the classiest and the most poised. ...

"Now you've got ... a lot of celebrities or people who are famous now who are really just the person next door who just lucked out and got on a TV show. Kelly Clarkson, Ruben and myself all kind of are normal, everyday people, and I think that that's what's really difficult for EW and whoever else to grasp, to wrap their minds around. The whole reality-TV craze has brought about a change in what a celebrity is nowadays."

Although he started his celebrity career as a somewhat gawky college student (the special-education major earned his degree from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte last December), Aiken insists that he hasn't had that much of a makeover.

"My glasses are gone, and my hair is cut differently and styled differently, and that's it," he says. As his "Idol" weeks went on, the clothes remade the man.

"The clothes were different, obviously, because I had a little more money to spend," he says. "You don't buy Dolce & Gabbana in Raleigh, N.C., at all. There's a little bit of difference in what I was wearing, but outside of that, everything was the same."

Aiken says he never was much of clotheshorse.

"Oh, good Lord, no," he protests. "Not at all. Wal-Mart, Kmart, Target, Sears. My mother and father both worked at Sears (when I was) growing up, so they got that 10 percent discount at Sears, and we spent a lot of time there."

Aiken isn't surprised that Southerners -- Clarkson from Texas, Studdard from Alabama, Barrino and himself from North Carolina and Diana DeGarmo from Georgia -- have made such strong showings on "American Idol."

"I have to say I'm biased, obviously, since I am from the South," he says (although his rapid-fire speech pattern suggests he's spent some time with Yankee friends). "A lot of the most famous musicians have come from Southern states. There's a long history -- jazz kind of started in the South, gospel music in the South.

"And at the same time, I think that it has a lot to do with personality. ... I've found in our experiences on the show (that) the people who are from the South are willing to be more open about their personalities.

"I've learned that people in L.A. and people in New York and people in other parts of the country are not usually as open with their personalities with people they don't know. From the South, I just kind of run my mouth to whoever I see. So I think that kind of comes across on camera, too."

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« Reply #27 on: June 27, 2010, 01:03:29 PM »

'Idol' favorite Aiken mixes old, new with mixed results

August 18, 2004

Clay Aiken is a brave man.

Not because he faced hundreds of screaming fans Tuesday night at Thompson-Boling Arena - anyone who has survived a season on "American Idol" can do that. No, Aiken is brave because he started his show with U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name." That takes guts, setting yourself up for comparisons with one of rock's most passionate singers.

Then again, it's likely most in the crowd of about 3,000 would have said, "Bono who?" There may be some overlap between Claymates and U2 admirers, but not much.

To his credit, Aiken gave the song a tougher veneer than his usual adult-contemporary sheen. And the Knoxville crowd, which seemed to be mostly females from age 4 to about 74, responded with wild applause after being properly primed by French pop newcomer Cherie, a lithe brunette who sounds like a cross between Celine Dion and Kelly Clarkson.

Aiken performed several other covers as well as most of his album, "Measure of a Man," showing off his talents and those of his backing singers and musicians in a 22-song set. The "AI" Season 2 runner-up has his stage show down to a science, complete with audience participation and far-from-slick patter that makes this best-selling musical artist still seem like just a homeboy from Raleigh, N.C.

The covers were a mixed bag. While Aiken's voice is a good fit with Mr. Mister's "Kyrie," Toto's "Rosanna" and Orleans' "Still the One," there's no compelling reason for a singer with his abilities to keep alive hackneyed '80s and '70s radio hits.

As the "AI" judges are fond of saying, it's all about song selection. Aiken and his backup singers fared better on five songs by James Taylor, who coincidentally spent part of his childhood in North Carolina. Aiken's pure tones were just right on "Sweet Baby James." He generously shared lead duties on "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)," "Fire and Rain," "Your Smiling Face" and "You've Got a Friend."

Aiken seemed totally relaxed on songs such as "I Will Carry You," "Run to Me," "Perfect Day" and "I Survived You." But though he charmed the crowd with his patter, he showed he has some stage presence to learn. His head-tilted-back, eyes-closed style may have seemed like the approach of a singer immersed in a song, but it put a wall between him and the audience, even though fans swallowed the conceit whole.

One lesson he's mastered is how to sell a song. He's probably sick to death of "Solitaire," but he used a full deck of emotion as he capped off the night with it.
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« Reply #28 on: June 27, 2010, 01:04:29 PM »
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« Reply #28 on: August 14, 2004, 08:39:36 AM » 


Aiken meets challenge of stardom
Road-weary `Idol' favorite endures grind

Friday, August 20, 2004
By Doug Pullen • 810.766.6140

As a child growing up in North Carolina, Clay Aiken dreamed of becoming a pop star. Now he dreams about getting some sleep.

"You kind of get used to it," says Aiken, who headlines nearly sold-out shows tonight and Saturday at the Clay-O ... er, Clio Area Amphitheater. "It's not that bad. Five hours (of sleep) a night isn't too horrible."

Aiken's been on the pop stardom treadmill ever since his audition for the second season of Fox TV's "American Idol" aired last year. He finished second in fan voting to R&B singer Ruben Studdard, but the show launched the 25-year-old Raleigh native with the extreme makeover into a much higher orbit.

His debut album, "Measure of a Man," was rushed into release early this year, selling 3 million copies and counting. He's had three smash hit singles, including "Invisible" and "Solitaire," and was the main attraction of last summer's "American Idols Live" tour and a co-headlining trek last spring with first-year winner Kelly Clarkson.

His fans, who call themselves Claymates, have launched dozens of sites on the Internet devoted to the details of his life. One site - - even has its own dictionary of Clay-rooted terms, called the "Claybonic Dictionary."

"I think he really is an Everyman," said Dianne Thies of Ortonville, co-president of the 150-member, Michigan-based MiClayNational fan club. "He's very normal, but at the same time there's something very special about him. He doesn't act like he was deserving (of this). ... He doesn't have that attitude. He's very humble and genuine about everything that's happened to him."

It's been quite a ride. Aiken, a self-described "nerd," clearly is enjoying it. But he admits that it's taken "a lot of adrenaline" to get through all the performances, interviews and public appearances that have dominated his schedule.

If he can just avoid caffeine.

"I never get to sleep when I drink caffeine. I will, when I finally do get a minute to sleep. But last night we had a day off and I really wanted to sleep and we didn't have caffeine-free stuff, just regular Mountain Dew," Aiken laughed, speaking by phone from a recent tour stop.

With females from 8 to 80 so willing to mob him wherever he goes, the guy with the boyish charm and the booming voice has been forced into hiding more than he'd like.

"I'm almost hermetic. When I get to a hotel, I stay where I am. I don't wake up and start going out shopping and sightseeing. I stay in my room," he said.

That's the price of instant, TV-fueled fame. Aiken, who is as pragmatic as he is talented, understands that.

How does he keep his head on straight?

"It's pretty tough. It's almost impossible," he admitted. "I have my best friend on the road with me. He makes sure I stay sane, and ordinarily if I do go out, it's usually not so bad. If I do get stopped, it's hard to get away when people are chasing you down the street. I take my security guy with me. At 6-foot-6, he's easy to spot, so it's harder to stay inconspicuous."

If there's one drawback, he said, it's losing the ability to lead a normal life, like the one he knew as a college student when he auditioned for "American Idol" in the summer of 2002.

"Just being able to walk down the street and not have people recognize me, you take that type of thing for granted - being able to be anonymous," he said. "It's really surprising how much I miss that."

Aiken isn't complaining, just responding thoughtfully to questions about how he's adjusted to life after "AI." "I'm looking forward to finding my peace with it," he said.

His old life would have taken him into the field of special education, which Aiken studied at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. He received his degree last year, but had to put his dream of becoming a special ed teacher on indefinite hold.

Aiken said he "gets jealous" when he talked to old classmates about their teaching careers, but he knows he can't go back now.

"I think it would be a little difficult to have me as a teacher," he said. "I don't know if I'll ever go back to the classroom, as much as I'd love to."

The Bubel/Aiken Foundation (named for an autistic boy he tutored for a year), created last year to help people with disabilities, has filled some of the void.

"I want to make sure the foundation is successful," he said, noting that its creation allows him to be "teaching in a different way."

But he's the one who's learning lessons right now. Even playing small venues is an adjustment. Aiken's first two concert tours played to large arenas.

"I'm big on interaction with the audience and that kind of small setting," he said, recalling his early days singing in church and talent shows. "I just sang in Atlantic City, and for the first time in two years I've sung to an audience of less than 4,000 people, and I had the hardest time being successful with that. (It) was so tough to take that huge show and make it small again."

Aiken doesn't want his live show, or his real life, to lose any of their guy-next-door quality, which is why he makes fun of himself, invites fans on stage and ventures into the crowd to share his microphone or pose for pictures.

"I try to make it as casual as possible," he said. "If I try to look at myself as some kind of Britney Spears or Jessica Simpson or Justin Timberlake type superstar, I wouldn't believe if I tried to come across that way. It's not convincing. I've been successful with just being myself."

Claymates pumped for Aiken show

Saturday, August 21, 2004
By Sally York • 810.766.6322

VIENNA TWP. - Clay Aiken's legions of fans pledge an undying devotion they can't quite explain.

It's not just the American Idol singer's strong, pure voice. Or his commitment to children with disabilities. Or his easy smile and haywire hair.

"He touches something inside us that has never been touched before," said Flo Baerren, 59, co-president of MiClayNation, Aiken's Michigan fan club. "Something that we probably didn't realize was there until he touched it."

The Lansing labor relations representative, who has crossed states to see Aiken live 16 times, and about 80 other fans gathered at the Clio VFW Hall on Friday for a pre-concert party featuring balloons, food and raffles to benefit the fan club and Bubel/Aiken Foundation, which assists children with disabilities.

Aiken, who has two top-selling CDs, was set to perform Friday and tonight at the Clio Area Amphitheater for about 6,000 people. A sign outside the venue read, "Hey, Claymates! Welcome to Clay-O!"

Inside the hall, excitement was building among the mostly female fans, who came from as far away as Ohio, Iowa, California and Canada. But no one was more excited than Heather Bouaziz, 27, of Ypsilanti, a college student studying special education, Aiken's major.

On Aug. 13, Bouaziz was plucked from the audience to sing a duet with Aiken at his concert in Jackson, and impressed the singer. She told him she was recording a demo CD and he told her he wanted to hear it.

"My leg was shaking violently," said Bouaziz. "He held my hand during the song. I thought, 'This is my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to sing with the person who has changed my life forever.' "

Delphi worker David Conn, 55, of Westland, said wife Judy, 56, a school paraprofessional, got hooked on Aiken first. He quickly followed suit.

"The first thing that impressed me was his character and value system," David Conn said. "It's good to see a young guy with the heart he has. And I love his voice - he has a great set of pipes."

The Conns recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary with what Judy Conn called "our Clay vacation," going to concerts in Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina.

Dorothy Kester, 28, of Vienna Township and sister Angie Anderson, 30, of Mt. Morris Township waited 96 hours in a tent to buy Aiken tickets back in April.

Disappointed they only got third-row seats, Kester entered a radio station contest last week, warbling part of Aiken's hit, "Invisible," on the air. She snagged two front-row seats.

"We're going to scream like banshees," Kester said.


Aiken's ClayMates have reason to cheer
Sunday, August 22, 2004
By Doug Pullen*810.766.6140
CLIO - Clio, or Clayo as some called it, was the ground zero of the Clay Nation this weekend.

Clay Aiken, the "American Idol" star-turned-pop music phenomenon, rolled into town for two sold-out concerts before nearly 6,300 fans - who call themselves ClayMates - Friday and Saturday at the Clio Area Amphitheater, the first time an artist has sold out consecutive shows there.

Teenaged girls, middle-aged moms and grandmas (with a few reluctant and some not-so-reluctant males in tow) streamed in from all over, wearing their souvenir T-shirts and waving their devotional signs. There were so many women on hand that amphitheater staff had to convert the men's bathroom in the Clio Arts Center into a women's potty and haul in portable johns for the, ahem, overflow.

Extra merchandise stands also were set up to accommodate the adoring hordes, who snapped up everything from tour shirts to thongs (yes, you read that right).

Some made the trek from as far north as Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada, as far east as New York state and as far west as California. They're like some wholesome version of the Deadheads, those neo-hippies who followed the Grateful Dead around the country like nomads, only ClayMates' high is natural.

Now that's devotion, and completely understandable. Every generation needs its lovable geek. Aiken is one who crosses generational lines, a spikey-haired heir apparent to the throne once occupied by the Neil Diamonds, Barry Manilows and Celine Dions of the pop music world. In a pop culture landscape where stars act like spoiled brats and worse, the 25-year-old Aiken is a breath of fresh air, and a refreshing upgrade from the plasticene product-as-music of the boy bands who preceded him. All he needs now is some better material to challenge that soaring voice.

Aiken backs up his TV-fueled fame with the goods with an approachable nature and warm, clear tenor perfectly suited for the big, soaring ballads he does so well. Particularly impressive Friday were his feisty (for him) reading of the kiss-off song "I Survived You," which featured a rare but welcome touch of anger, a rousing encore of Neil Sedaka's lonely "Solitaire" and stirring, inspirational songs like "I Will Carry You" and "You Were There" that allow him to hit those tall, sustained notes (fans call them glory notes) and inject his spirituality ever so subtly.

Friday's energetic performance - which was preceded by an upbeat but perfunctory half-hour set from 19-year-old French newcomer Cherie - was a little less surprising, but more well-rounded than the one he gave last March at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena with first-year "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson.

Aiken is an even more assured performer now, shedding a trifle of the aw-shucks humility for a more polished presentation that included video screens, a multi-tiered stage, a five-piece band, three backup singers, a sign language interpreter and an infomercial for the forthcoming "Aladdin" DVD, which is the tour's sponsor.

Aiken's show was divided into two 45-minute sets and was built around both his engaging personality, a powerful voice (that is only going to grow in character as he gets older) and his abundantly generous spirit. The set list drew heavily from last year's triple platinum debut album, "Measure of a Man," and a handful of covers ranging from U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" (the show opener was not well suited to Aiken's music theater stylings), a tasteful James Taylor medley that showcased his impressive trio of backup singers and a version of Toto's "Rosanna" that gave his unobtrusive band a chance to get its funk groove on.

He also shined the spotlight on his audience, pulling one woman out of the crowd to dance with him on the forgettable "When You Say You Love Me" (turns out he unwittingly plucked the same woman out at his previous show near Syracuse), then sharing the spotlight with 10-year-old Fenton resident Connor Foley, who sang his signature hit "This Is the Night"(see related story), much to the delight of the crowd, which grew more boisterous as the show progressed.

With fewer gimmicks and a more focused performance, the second half was much stronger, bringing the enthusiastic but relatively restrained crowd on its feet. The intimacy of the venue, where there isn't a bad seat, fit perfectly with the personal touch Aiken bring to his audiences. He must have welcomed the chance to sing to 3,140 people who were almost in his lap.

His biggest weakness is some of the material he's been given to sing. About half the songs, from "Measure of a Man," like "Run to Me" and "Perfect Day," are fluffy, assembly-line pop that are beneath his abilities. Though his voice has held up well after all the touring he's done, it did sound a bit flat and tired on the rare occasion, notably a version of show closer "Invisible" on which he sounded a bit flat (not to worry, he rebounded impressively on an encore of "Solitaire").

It may not be cool to like Clay Aiken. Neither Aiken nor his adoring fans care. Clay Aiken is living a dream and it's easy for his fans to live that dream through him.

After all, he was a college student studying special ed just a couple of years ago. A Clay Aiken concert is a celebration of the inner geek in everyone. There's nothing wrong with that.

It was Clay's concert, but Connor's night

Sunday, August 22, 2004
By Doug Pullen

Friday was the night for Connor Foley.

The 10-year-old Fenton Township resident auditioned in advance, so he knew Clay Aiken was going to pick him out of the crowd of 3,140 people to sing his hit "This Is the Night" onstage Friday at the Clio Area Amphitheater. That explains why he wore a tie to the concert.

But he didn't know how it would feel to be onstage with his American idol.

"It felt pretty good," the Linden Central Elementary student said after the show, fresh from signing his first autograph.

Young Foley did have butterflies shortly before one of Aiken's security guards escorted him to the stage, but he handled his moment in the spotlight like a seasoned pro, receiving a huge ovation from the crowd and a ringing endorsement from his hero, who knelt beside him and sang harmony.

"In 15 years I'm gonna come here and see you on this stage," Aiken predicted.

"It felt like I was dreaming," said the young star-in-the-making, who said he sings mostly at Fenton Church of the Nazarene.

Aiken makes a practice of singling out a young singer at each of his shows. A member of his entourage conducts auditions the afternoon of the concert.

Foley found out about it from an aunt, who'd seen information posted on Aiken's Web site. He practiced the song just in case. Foley's mom, Jill Ridenour, had a feeling he'd get picked.

"He prayed the night before," she said.

When he wasn't singing, Foley enjoyed the concert with his mom, stepfather Jeff Ridenour, sister Hannah Foley, 14, and friend Sam Henderson, 14.


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Achin' for Clay
Rockford fans can't wait to see idol perform here

ROCKFORD -- They're known as Claymates and Clay maniacs, the scads of devotees who dote on all things Aiken.

They scour the Internet for the latest kernel of information on the TV contestant-turned-pop music phenomenon. They flock to as many of his concerts as their budgets and schedules allow.

They range in age from prepubescent to post-retirement. Mostly, they're women. Guys dig him, too, but they're a rare breed and generally more subdued. The founder of -- a "male haven" for Aiken addicts -- reportedly lives in Roscoe, but attempts to contact him through female fans were unsuccessful.

Whatever their stripe, Aiken aficionados will be out in full force Monday when the skinny North Carolina teacher and second-place "American Idol" competitor takes the stage at the MetroCentre.

More than 100 fans -- some coming from as far as California -- are expected to descend on the Capri restaurant for a private, preconcert party and fund-raiser.

Fans began the Penny Lane charity drive with the start of Aiken's first solo tour in July. Concert-goers are encouraged to bring change to the parties; the money goes to the Bubel/Aiken Foundation to assist children with disabilities.

The effort depends on a volunteer organizer stepping forward in communities on Aiken's tour schedule. Beth Riffle, a 32-year-old stay-at-home mother of four, accepted the challenge here.

"Clay is living out my dream," said Riffle, a former wedding singer, reflecting one of the keys to Aiken's appeal.

Local fans told us they're also drawn to Aiken because he's clean-cut, self-deprecating, earnest and unaffected. But as much as anything, they're bowled over by his raw talent.

"I have the tape of him singing 'Bridge Over Troubled Waters,' which was his last song on 'American Idol.' It sends chills up my arms when I listen to his version of that song," said Linda Galbraith, a 55-year-old office worker at a Rockford manufacturing firm.

Galbraith saw Aiken perform at the United Center in Chicago with 2002 "Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson in March. Before that, she hadn't bought a concert ticket since her senior year at Guilford High School in 1966, when she saw The Doors in Las Vegas.

That's another common thread among Aiken fans. Few ever have been infatuated with a music star before.

"Not since Elvis," said Carole Dolan, a development officer for SwedishAmerican Medical Foundation.

"But Elvis didn't have the personality Clay has. Clay's the whole package. He's got the voice, the brains and the personality."

As Aiken fans go, Riffle, who's in charge of the Capri party, considers herself low-key, more mainstream. But she's met the kind who "jump over chairs to get to the stage. The ones who find out what hotel he's staying at and camp out in the lobby just to get a glimpse of him, that's extreme."


Music review: Aiken delivers 'polished' performance for 4,700

Rockford Register Star

A lady wearing a reddish sweater jacket and black pants shook her tush so well in the audience Monday night that "American Idol" star Clay Aiken invited her to strut her moves on stage.

A 22-year-old woman from Cary, Ill., sang a duet -- "Without You" -- so richly with Aiken after being auditioned right before the show that he hugged her and hugged her and hugged her again. Aiken is 25 years old.

Other women and young girls in the crowd of 4,700 people at the MetroCentre in Rockford also tried to get the attention of the skinny, spiky-haired crooner as he sang wholesome pop songs. One woman in the third row wore a T-shirt with the words "Wink at me, Clay" printed in bold letters on the front.

The shenanigans didn't overshadow Aiken's polished delivery during his two hour show of middle-of-the-road songs with lyrics that are easy to understand, such as "I Will Carry You" and "Run To Me" off his debut and only album, "Measure of a Man." And his big heart showed as his work on behalf of disabled children played on big video screens on both sides of the stage.

It was a comfortable feel for the fans and Aiken, who became a big celebrity a year ago when he was runner-up on Fox's popular "American Idol" singer elimination show. But the really crowd lit up when Aiken sang his angst-ridden "I Survived You."

"Why is it everybody gets excited when I get ticked off?" the big-voiced North Carolina Christian who wears a "W.W.J.D." (What Would Jesus Do) bracelet asked as he smiled slyly.

Another harder-edged moment came when Aiken's lead guitarist showcased his grinding for just about seven seconds or so.

Largely, though, Aiken's likable, boyish self, was was everybody went to see. And they got what they paid $38 for -- a genuine, geeky looking guy who sings at full throttle.

Aiken wore jeans and button-down Oxford shirts or a geeky, striped jacket during many songs. But he and his three back-up singers donned all-white clothing for the gospel song, "You Were There."

Aiken covered several recognizable songs, including Toto's "Rosanna" and Mr. Mister's "Kyrie." Those paled in comparison, though, to his encore performance of Neil Sedaka's "Solitaire."

Girls in the audience screamed his name as he was lowered down a hatch in a two-story staircase.

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