Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Spring Mailbag: Readers Complete Narrative

ON THE ROAD AGAIN -- A Beautiful Mind's handsome graphic recalls past Clay Aiken tours, as preparations are completed for the singer's cross-country concerts with symphony orchestras. Photo by Karen Eh.

April-May Mailbag

Readers Complete Narrative

Some days are diamonds, some days are stones -- from the John Denver song

During the past two months, this blog has featured a mixture of "diamonds and stones" in segments about Clay Aiken -- the upcoming Summer Tour and the obligatory ticket-buying tangos by his fans to various appearances, charity work with The Bubel Aiken Foundation and UNICEF, as well as many media mentions about this successful singer from North Carolina.

Interspersed with the journal's main focus on CA activities have been an assortment of personal pieces, among them remembrances of Mama Mac on Mother's Day, my students' recent dress rehearsal and spring recital, computer repair woes and tough lessons learned losing months of unsaved files, a "misplaced" cordless phone delivery, my infamous reputation in radiology for stress test mishaps, and a grand-nephew's unique take on soccer.

Augmenting these entries are handsome graphics, photos, and montages by the CA fandom's very talented visual artists, to whom readers and I are most grateful.

The other component of each narrative, one that many rarely see in its entirety, is expressed in the assembled comments readers write on a variety of subjects. From time to time, I like to highlight the stories, opinions, and remarks of readers with a mailbag blog. I hope you enjoy this spring rewind.

Clickable by Amazing_CA

Prior to the Season 6 finale of American Idol, this corner recalled Clay's surprise appearance at the AI5 Finale and the overwhelming media blitz that followed what could conceivably be termed his delayed "confetti moment" for Season 2:

Radclaylvr (New Jersey): I was not part of the Clay Nation for AI5 (always liked Clay, just wasn't obsessed like now). I had no clue he might be on the show, and I about fell over when I saw him! And as for your blog below and the CNN mention about there is only one Clay Aiken -- so true! No one else could ever compare!!!

Rima23 (Seoul, Korea): Those pictures remind me of the AI5 moment, and he was just beyond my imagination. I know some Korean fans who went crazy about him after the AI5 moment.

Caliclayfan (California): It was one year ago tonight (AI calendar, that is) that Clay came back into my life. I was clueless of message boards until that memorable night. And all the secrecy and rumors, I had no clue! So it was a very pleasant surprise to see him walk out on to that stage with such confidence. I was floored when I realized how much I had been missing!

Claygachic (Georgia): Thanks for the great recap of the AI5 finale. That is a moment that I will never forget. I remember that when Clay walked out on that stage, I literally flew off my couch in mid-air.

Cindilu2 (Ontario, Canada): I find the AI memories much easier to take these days. My big fear that night was that we would lose him. But then the next day I decided to search his name on the Internet (something I'd rarely, if ever done) and just see if anybody else was as scared as me. The very first link that came up was to (AKA The Clayboard); and the rest, as they say, is history!

Clay has triumphed, not just by virtue of one of the greatest voices of our time, but through his hard work and tenacity. So yeah, I can watch the finale now. I even watch it with a smile. Thanks, Clay!

Clickable by Clayquebec1

Many thnx for all the comments in the spring recital and rehearsal recaps of May 21, May 18, and April 28.

My students are amazed that people throughout the US and Canada were interested in their recent performance. They appreciate your applause and the many "bravo" cheers. There is no "Caro-ack," as one reader dubbed possible recital clack.

Galadriel (Ohio): I am on pins and needles! I can't wait to hear how the recital went. I was in ONE piano recital in my life and I assure you, it was one too many. I am much better vocally, LOL!

I am delighted to hear that you instruct your students so well and include such aspects of a proper performance as the proper bows including the "hippopotamus" technique. Vocalists use "watermelon" when they forget the lyrics while singing in chorus.

I am glad that your camper got back in time, and props to the prom attendee! I also have to say that I loved hearing about the musical selections, as well the different states of origin of the audience members. What an event!

Puggmom (Florida): Glad your concert turned out cool! Our bows never worked out. Nowadays we just kinda stand around smiling onstage.

Aspiegirl (Ohio): So glad your violist made it to the recital. It seemed that it went really well except for a few Bobbsey bows, but I know my teacher and am not surprised you made them do it again. The kids sound super, and I am sure you taught them well and made Mama Mac proud. Thanks for the recap, and I will be waiting for my clack.

Nance (Georgia): We have worked with the middle and the high band programs for years, too. Hubby still does the high school band program now, even though we haven't had a child in school since 2001. I miss going to the concerts and watching their faces when they do it right.

1H20uandme (Missouri): So where is the Caro-ack? Is it on your other blog? Don't forget to give us a link if you put it up. Thanks for the recap!

Clickable by Amazing_CA

In a comment on April 13, Smz80219 expounded about the blanket she was knitting for the organization Afghans for Afghans. I featured the story in subsequent blogs on April 16 and May 15. Here are her story and a few of the many remarks left by readers:

I thought one of my new knitting projects was very timely, to say the least. Afghans for Afghans is one of the organizations for which I knit. Their turn came up in my rotation, and on the 28th of March I started a wool baby blanket for them.

I will always have a soft spot for that blanket since it was being done while Clay was actually in the country. I can honestly say that since starting this blanket I have felt the need to pray -- deep inside -- a lot more than usual. That happens sometimes.

Much prayer has happened while sitting and knitting on this blanket. I hope those blessings are in each stitch and wrap around that baby who eventually uses this offering from a US knitter who has a heart for that country and its people.

Sally888 (Georgia): I especially enjoyed reading about "Knitting Towards a More Peaceful Afghanistan," and somehow think that smz's prayers and the caring thoughts of all the knitters will be as warming and comforting as the finished items.

Shadowgnome (Massachusetts): Afghans for Afghans sounds like a really great cause, and it's reassuring to hear that there are so many people that care.

Kimmstarraiken (California): I used this particular blog to impress upon my co-workers that it is not only Clay's voice and/or looks that he's as adored as he is. Of course, my co-workers were duly impressed by Clay's efforts in Afghanistan and his work with UNICEF and actually asked for links to the website.

Cindilu2: Things like the tragedy in Virginia today help to emphasize how blessed we are to have a shining light like Clay Aiken in our lives, and out in the world making his difference. His reports from the field, his beautiful face in those photographs, his wonderful voice speaking out to me over the airwaves -- those are my soft, warm blankets in this world.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Clay Aiken's upcoming tour, dubbed by many fans the "Summer of Love" due to the many concert selections from his latest CD, A Thousand Different Ways, is highlighted in this clickable interlude. Visual artists include Amazing_CA, photo by Karen Eh, 1; Ambassador of Love, 2 and 4; A Beautiful Mind, 3; and Katt45, photo by Karen Eh, 5.

Clay + Jimmy = Climmel Time

When Clay was scheduled for the May 10 Jimmy Kimmel Live Show, reviews of past JKL appearances immediately headlined several blogs followed closely by celebrations of the latest surprise cooked up by the Kimmel staff and these two very good friends.

The fact that the singer would arrive onstage on horseback easily penetrated Clay Cyber radar because of the many fans attending the afternoon taping.

Clickable by Claysmelody

Hosaa (Maryland): Can't wait for tonight's "glimpse"! I don't think it could surpass last year's buzz-inducing appearance, but it should be a lot of fun.

Radclaylvr: It is so fun to see so much Clay and Jimmy -- wow what a team! I know Clay loves doing skits and making people laugh because I think he is at least 50% ham! The rest of course is that amazing singing voice and 2,456 different hair styles. Enjoy tonight!

Galadriel: I love how Jimmy always introduces Clay as "my best friend in the whole world"! Clay on a horse is just priceless.

Ashes2 (Alberta, Canada): I ran the JKL videos for a friend who usually can't sit still long enough to watch anything; but this one actually caught her attention. Her eyes were near popping out and lots of laughs. Her comment: "This was on TV last night? You mean this is what I'm missing by going to bed so early? She crashes by 9 p.m. Maybe one of these days I'll actually get her interested in watching a concert video!

Geni (Missouri): What a hoot! I fell asleep about nine, but some inner alarm clock must have awakened me. I arose with a clatter and ran to the remote just in time to see the green-vested Robin Hood arrive on his horse. Ya jes nevah know about that guy, do ya?

Clickable by Cindilu2

In the May 7 blog, TBAF Gala and UNICEF fundraising totals were celebrated, along with the Yahoo Music interview ("An Idol Who Really Gives Back") and several very moving Not.Just.Us stories.

Originally posted at Clayversity, CLAYPERFECT's report about her niece was met with heartfelt response.

I have never been happier than I am right now. My niece Jessie called me tonight from Virginia. She was wounded in Iraq the last week of April. She told me that when she was in Germany and about to go into surgery, she was thinking of me and requested they play "Measure of a Man" -- and they did! They HAD IT!

A nurse told her they play it a lot and that most surgeons operating request it because it brings them peace and relaxes them. The prognosis for Jessie is that she will not suffer any lasting effects from her injuries once she is healed and completes rehab. She is due to complete her service around June 1.

Grams4242 (Ontario, Canada): Great Not.Just.Us stories. The one about the girl who was injured in Iraq and underwent surgery was special as I thought about the CD's that had been donated to the troops and, possibly, this was one of them.

Lisa1068 (Connecticut): My last NJU story happened when I was driving to a Nickelback concert. I had someone standing out of her sunroof taking pictures of my car (Clay's head and a Claymate sign are on the back window and bumper). It was really funny when I realized we both drove into the same lot and parked for the concert. I really thought I was the only "Claymate" who would be at that show, LOL!

MNmeesh (Minnesota): That Clay Cube is pretty awesome -- kudos to Cindilu! I absolutely loved reading all the Not Just Us stories! Clayperfect's words of Jessie and MOAM really touched my heart.

Aspiegirl: I love reading about how much everyone has done to support inclusion. They really did a wonderful job at the Gala and I cannot believe the fans raised so much for UNICEF. What a great group of people. I am awed at how caring everyone is.

Wildaboutclay (California): I love that Rubik's cube! Bravo to Cindilu! Very cool!

Cindilu2: Smart, articulate, wise-beyond-his-years. And all that wrapped up in a gorgeous package to boot! I am, as always, so very proud to be his fan. On a personal note, thank you to all who commented on the Clay Cube. There's a puzzle I could happily spend the rest of my life trying to solve!

Clickable by Cindilu2

The May 4 blog centered around Clay's love for his hometown, Raleigh, NC, and contained links to an interview in in Go Air Tran, an airways magazine, and Grey Blackwell's animated Web cartoon NC Gives Back to AI, published online by the News&Observer.

Since spiraling into the American Idol spotlight four years ago, Clay has talked about his love for Raleigh in concerts and interviews throughout the country. There's no hiding his excitement when the tour bus is heading toward his hometown for a concert. This week Clay's love for Raleigh spilled over in a feature story in "Go Air Tran," an airways magazine.

Marlyne (New Jersey): I thought I was going to come back with some news no one knew about. We were flying home yesterday from Orlando on AirTran, I opened up their onboard magazine, and what do I see ... a feature story on Clay Aiken!

Grams4242: Clay should definitely be on North Carolina’s payroll for being the number one ambassador who always promotes his home state at whatever chance he gets. The “NC Gives Back to American Idol” cartoon was hilarious, and the attention to detail was awesome. I have watched it so many times and each time I pick up some other detail I missed. A big kudos to the creators of that one!

Ashes2: The video cartoon is hilarious; I had to send the link on to a number of folks.

ClayNation (Massachusetts): What a stunning graphic to open up to in your blog. Great job, A Beautiful Mind! And yay for Faye (who won Raleigh's "Dancing Like the Stars" competition)!

Amazing_CA (Ontario, Canada): Thanks so much also for featuring the visuals from our PSP artists. Aspiegirl's montage, "Listen to the Rain," is another masterpiece. I just love her montages.

Amazing_CA/Ztilb Clickable

After reporting various aspects of TBAF's Champions of Change Gala, the April 4 blog ended with Family Cheers Soccer Novice, in which I relayed my grand-nephew Sam's newfound success on the soccer field:

By the first game, my grand-nephew had made a name for himself. The ball came to him, he was told to run, and that he did -- past his field of play and through two other soccer games to boot. About a week ago, he scored his first goal ... for the other team, not once but twice!

A very special aside in these comments were similar incidents shared by readers from the time their children were beginning to play a sport.

Galadriel: One of my favorite memories is my son playing goalie for the first time. He was lying on his stomach with his feet up in the air and his chin on his hands. Then he got up, picked a few clover flowers, and proceeded to climb the net for fun. He was 5. He later become a varsity fullback. Just ask the kids if they had fun and not whether they won or lost.

Nance: I remember those days of watching the young playing ball. My son played baseball. When he was 5 years old and just learning to play, he hit the ball. They told him to run to first base. He ran to third.

Most of the outfield players were sitting or drawing in the dirt. The second baseman usually had his legs crossed because he had to go to the bathroom, and the third baseman always had the glove on the wrong hand. Whenever a ball was hit, the whole team ran after it.

Elizabethgerencser (Ohio): The story about your grand-nephew's soccer exploits was awesome! I can just see it. Thanks for making me laugh. It's wonderful to see families who love and support each other so much.

Madaelynn (Texas): Your little Wrong-Way-Corrigan grand-nephew is so funny, in a cute way.

Below is a clickable of A Beautiful Mind's opening graphic:

Thank you all for completing the circle with the many wonderful comments you leave on a wide variety of topics. I learn something from you with each new entry.

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Sunday, May 27, 2007

Post Idol Buzz Continues for Clay

EVERYTHING I HAVE -- This Clay Aiken graphic and song seem an appropriate choice for Memorial Day as Americans honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Design by A Beautiful Mind, photo by Scrpkym.

Clay Mentions Everywhere

Post Idol Buzz Continues

Several mentions of Clay Aiken plus some excellent tips for fledgling songwriters by Desmond Child in The Creator's Tool Box put ASCAP's spring issue of Playback at the top of many reading lists this week.

Desmond Child is a hit machine. He's written or co-written successfully with a diverse array of artists, including Kiss, Ricky Martin, Joan Jett, Aerosmith, Hall and Oates, Iggy Pop, the Baha Men, Clay Aiken and many others. According to the Miami native, making it to the writing elite is as much about industry as it is inspiration.

Anyone planning to give songwriting a whirl will also pick up some helpful information in Child's discussion under such headings as "Start with a title," "Let the lyrics tell the story," "Speak in rhythm," "Learn the studio," "Keep a business attitude," and "Write every day."

Clay and "Invisible" are highlighted in the section on marketing:


A good song is useless if it doesn't find its way to the right artist. Child's knowledge of the people in the music business helps him match his material with marquee talent. He cites Clay Aiken's "Invisible" as an example: "You see somebody like Clay on TV and imagine 'Invisible' would be perfect for him, because his image is of the unassuming person. The song lyric goes 'If I were invisible — wait, I already am.'

That says it all for Clay Aiken — even though it's ironic that he's one of the most famous people in America. It works perfectly because it captures the imagination of the audience."

The article by Danny Miles ends with this paragraph:

Songwriting is among the most competitive fields in the world, and therefore, Child says, a writer will only make it to the top by being completely committed to every aspect of the job. "It's not enough to wish for things with the front of your mind," he concludes. You have to wish for them with your whole body and soul."

Clickable 'People' Scan

Striped Shirt Leads 'Idol' Bids

Clay's striped button-down shirt designed by Paul Smith currently leads all bidding in the Kimberly Locke & Idol Friends Charity Auction with a high offer of $2,500. The above clickable scan is from the 5/25 issue of People magazine.

Clothing and accessories worn by favorite American Idol celebrities will continue through June 15, with additional items being added throughout the auction.Proceeds from the auction will benefit Camp Heartland for children infected and affected by HIV/AIDS and Clothes Off Our Back charities including the Children's Defense Fund, Autism Speaks' research division and the emergency relief efforts in Darfur (specifically Friends of the World Food Program, Save the Children, and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF).

Double Clickable 'EW' Scan

'Entertainment Weekly': Ultimate Evolution

A page in the current issue of Entertainment Weekly traces Clay's transformation from "totally geek" in 2003 to recent labels of "totally chic":

Idol hopefuls can only dream of a transformation like this one. Originally awkward and meek, Clay has morphed into a slick singer who favors longer locks, fitted suits, grooming products, contact lenses, and covers of classic love ballads. To quote from the 1987 classic Can't Buy Me Love: He's gone from "totally geek to totally chic."

PHOTO INTERLUDE -- This clickable collection features a variety of creations by six visual artists, including Aikenfan6, 1; A Beautiful Mind, photo by Karen Eh, 2; Amazing_CA, photos by Scrpkym, 3 and 4; and MNmeesh, 5.

NJU Clayversions Shared

Two of these Not.Just.Us stories were shared on CA message boards, while the third is a blog entry from a young man in the Philippines.

YChrome of Clayversity: When I was at a medical station, one of the RN's asked about my bracelet (Bead for Life). I gave the short story, and she asked how I found out about them so she got the long story that included a plug for Clay and TBAF.

Turns out while she isn't on any of the boards, she said she really enjoys Clay. I gave her a quick rundown on what he has been up to, and she said she had no idea into his depth. All from a set of beads!

Corabeth at the Clackhouse: I just talked to the colleague that I "Clayverted" at the trade show. I had sent her AIW, ATDW and a JBT DVD. She said to me "You've created a monster, I am addicted to his music. His voice is incredible, I just love his voice." She said that she is so stressed and that his voice just makes everything better.

She also said that she thought the JBT looked like great fun. She lives in eastern Massachusetts, so I have been trying to get her to go to Meadowbrook. She asked that I find her tickets!

This Clay discovery appeared in the May 25 entry for the blog Drakes Ragbag:

I'd been puzzled by who sang the revival of Without You (a.k.a. I Can't Live (If living is without you) on the radio. Hearing it lately, I was always set aback by the vocal fluency of the male singer. Until I got a copy of it in my laptop, then was the only time I discovered that the man behind the voice was Clay Aiken.

Clay Aiken? I did not know him. So, the ever dependable Google helped me check him out. Then I found out he was a runner-up in the hit show American Idol Season 2 (Just a runner-up for that voice is a diminution for such skill).

His voice is so great. It's so high yet so chesty. His voice captivates so much that I'm compelled to like his whole persona. Not to mention his altruism for being a UNICEF ambassador of goodwill, he is such an admiration.

Below is a clickable of A Beautiful Mind's handsome opening graphic:

On Memorial Day, we not only commemorate the men and women who gave their lives in military service for this country, but we also honor family members who have died.

Have a very special Memorial Day Weekend, Clay Nation!


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Friday, May 25, 2007

American Idol 6 Finale a Hodgepodge

RUNNER-UP BUZZ -- Clay Aiken is among three American Idol finalists who have bested the winners of their season. Graphic by Amazing_CA, photo by Scrpkym.

Media Covers Many Angles

Idol Finale a Hodgepodge

The hodgepodge of Top 10 contestants, former winners, a somewhat random roster of entertainers, literally everything but the kitchen sink, ensured a circus-like atmosphere for Wednesday's American Idol Finale, sadly moving the key purpose of the results show to the back burner.

Following two hours of mishmash, the youngest AI winner in six seasons -- Jordin Sparks, 17, of Glendale, AZ -- was finally announced three minutes into the next program's allotted hour. The new Idol began singing her coronation song, "This Is My Now," at 10:06 p.m. By then, many viewers had already switched to other season finales; and recording devices reportedly missed the crowning moments.

I have long been a card-carrying member of the "Idol Found, Game Over" Club, grateful that AI opened the door for Clay Aiken's amazing career in 2003. Since then, my viewing of succeeding seasons has been haphazard at best.

The media noted the night's mixed bag presentation. Assembled below are links for a few of the many articles appearing throughout print/online news services. In random order, sort of like Wednesday night's show, here is a small sampling.

Jordin Sparks Wins Idol -- Fox Photo

IF Gives 'Idol' a C- Grade

Peter Brown of IF Magazine rated the 124-minute show a C- with this lead:

Do they really need to make the finale two hours (plus they ran over!) long? Jordin Sparks deserved to win from the previous night. and she indeed took home the prize of AMERICAN IDOL.

Why we could have gotten through it in a half hour, but to make matters worse they actually gave us a pseudo award’s show to boot? How terrible was that Wednesday night? Because we don’t have enough awards given out through the course of the year, not to mention the fake awards from MTV and so on.

Oh yeah, Ruben Studdard, what happened to that guy? He looks good at least, but didn't Clay Aiken win that year?

Thumbs up to this online comment with the article:

Clay should have been there last night, but he was on the "Dancing With The Stars" finale instead. Too bad we couldn't clone him.

Is It Better To Lose?

Prior to the show, Paul de Barros, Seattle Times arts writer, made these points in Could Blake win bigger by losing tonight?

Pop singer Clay Aiken has sold more than 4 million albums in the U.S.

Soul singer Jennifer Hudson won a best supporting actress Oscar for "Dreamgirls."

Rock singer/guitarist Chris Daughtry's debut album hit No. 1 and went double platinum (2 million sales).

What do these stars all have in common? They racked up these wins after they were losers on the hit TV show "American Idol."

Ratings Down for AI6 Finale

MSNBC's headline was Ratings down 19 percent for 'Idol' finale:

LOS ANGELES - An estimated 30.7 million Americans tuned in for the season’s final “American Idol" with Jordin Sparks winning the prize — a sharp drop from last year’s finale, according to preliminary ratings from Nielsen Media Research.

Last year, 36.4 million people watched Taylor Hicks win. And even though Hicks was featured singing during Wednesday’s two hour-plus episode, that represents a 19 percent decrease.

AI2 Tops in Viewership

Thanks to the excellent records maintained at Clayversity by EmeraldEyes, this chart of the six AI finales reveals Season 2's last show still holds the viewership record:

AI1 22.5 M

AI2 38 M*

AI3 28.8 M

A14 30.3 M

AI5 36.4 M

AI6 30.7 M

*rounded to the next million

PHOTO INTERLUDE: In this clickable collection, graphic artists have incorporated photos from Clay Aiken's stint on AI2, tours, as well as this week's "Dancing With the Stars" finale skit with Jimmy Kimmel & Co. Visual artists include A Beautiful Mind, photo by Scrpkym, 1; A Beautiful Mind, 2; Ambassador of Love, 3; Ztilb, 4; and Claystruck, 5.

Finale's Four Categories

Maureen Ryan's blog in the Chicago Tribune is titled "American Idol crowns Jordin Sparks, but takes two looong hours to do so."

This finale, she writes, can be divided into four categories: Pimp My Single, Sweating to the Oldies, Golden Idols (the "funny" awards"), and Things Designed to Make Your Head Explode.

No one except his rabid fans will accuse Blake of having the vocal chops of, say, Clay Aiken, but even this old-school rap fanatic had to admit that Blake held his own during their raucous cover of Fresh’s classic hip-hop track “The Show.”

The comments are just as interesting, like this one from Tom:

This was the first season where I tuned in during the last 5 minutes of the results shows. I couldn't suffer those long and incredibly boring showcases. Next season I'd like to see the results show trimmed to a lean half hour. I'd say 10 minutes but everyone knows FOX would never consider such an idea.

Clay Aiken Bigger Than the Winner -- Getty Image

The Detroit Free Press proclaims 'American Idol' shows signs of becoming flat . Clay's GMA photo accompanied the story.

Another long-standing argument among "Idol" fans and critics is whether the show's lackluster roster reflects the state of pop music these days, or encourages it. On the plus side, among the show's alumni are platinum-selling recording artists, Broadway stars, Grammy-winning singers and an Oscar winner.

But only two of the series' five previous winners have maintained "Idol"-level performing careers (Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood), with other high achievers such as Clay Aiken, Chris Daughtry, and Jennifer Hudson outperforming those who beat them in their competitions.

Vinay Menon of The Toronto Star provides a humorous, minute by minute replay of the evening, from 8 p.m. - 10:06 p.m., in the article: Anticlimactic Idol. Here is an excerpt:

9:18 – Sanjaya takes the stage with Joe Perry. In the morning, billions of Aerosmith CDs will be burned.

9:19 – First appearance by The Crying Girl. I'm no child psychologist, but this kid should probably talk to somebody.

9:21 – Wow, Idol landed Green Day? Sadly, they're not singing "American Idiot," which would've been pretty awesome.

Favorite paragraph of the Orlando Sentinel's article for CA fans has to be this one:

The Idol title offers no guarantees of greatness. Taylor Hicks, last year's winner, hasn't captured the same attention as fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry. Second-season winner Ruben Studdard hasn't generated the buzz of runner-up Clay Aiken. Victor Fantasia appeared in a weepy TV movie of her life, while also-ran Jennifer Hudson jumped to the big screen and won an Oscar for Dreamgirls.

Davis: Album Sales About 'New Hit Songs'

Emphasizing the importance of "new hit songs" in his speech at the finale, RCA producer Clive Davis definitely grabbed the attention of the Clay Nation:

Now contrary to popular belief, that's really what album sales are all about -- new hit songs. Yes, Simon and Randy and Paula have done an absolutely amazing job, really unprecedented. We in our industry know the job of discovering talent that eventually rises to the top of this phenomenal competition, like Academy Award winner Jennifer Hudson.

So I'm here to thank them and to toast them, but then in turn everyone in American Idol must toast that much too often under appreciated professional songwriters. Those that have greatly enhanced the American Idol album franchise. Right from the very beginning, by writing number one hit songs for Clay Aiken, through "Since U Been Gone" and "Breakaway" for Kelly Clarkson's huge Breakaway album.

Second Place Tops Charts

Runner-ups received top billing in an article at this week: Second Place Finishers -- Where Are They Now?

Clay's section begins like this:

The transformation from nerd to chic will go down as the ultimate American Idol makeover. That, in addition to his voice, continues to drive many a Claymate crazy even four years later.

On June 10, 2003, Clay released the single "Bridge Over Troubled Water". The B-side was “This Is the Night". This was RIAA certified platinum on July 15, 2003. It debuted at #1 on both the "Billboard Hot 100" and the Hot 100 Single Sales Chart, and was the fastest-selling single since Elton John's "Candle in the Wind 1997" and the best-selling single of 2003. It was also the first CD single to go platinum since 2002.

This is a clickable of Amazing_CA's handsome opening graphic:

Have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend, Clay Nation!


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Monday, May 21, 2007

AI5 Finale: Clay Aiken's Confetti Moment

DREAMS -- Cindilu2 highlighted Clay Aiken's AI5 Finale appearance with this quotation: "The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams."

Student Recital Ends on High Note

Clay Aiken's Confetti Moment

For Clay Aiken fans, American Idol Finale Week brings to the forefront memories both hurtful and triumphant. When Clay lost what was surely his title in Season 2, fans were distraught, confused, and angry.

To this day, many supporters cannot bear to watch replays of the night -- May 21, 2003 -- Clay lost to Ruben Studdard by the slimmest of margins. Most, however, realize this singer has gone far beyond the so-called Idol title.

In her comment in the 5/18 entry, ClayNation wrote, "His dreams have come true, and his horizons just keep on expanding to allow for more dreams to dream and come true -- not just for himself, but for so many others who have been touched and inspired by him."

Fast forward from the AI2 Finale to the AI5 show when Clay made a "surprise" appearance on the Kodak Theatre stage. For days, the media buzz about his rumored participation proved he is one of the show's most successful and popular alums.

AI5 Finale Buzz Centers on Clay

Throughout most of AI5 Finale Week, television, radio, and print media focused not on the last two contestants but the ever-emerging rumors and debates about whether Clay would perform, comparisons of previous Idol contestants, and what happens to AI runners-up following the show.

The performance on May 24, 2006, served notice to the world and the AI family of a new, "hipper" Clay Aiken. Just as exciting was the fact that he received rave reviews from a younger crowd of fans.

Despite the crowning of new Idol Taylor Hicks, the postscript media blitz centered around Clay's victorious return to the AI stage. This is a portion of the AP story appearing on MSNBC, CNN, and countless other news sites:

Second-season runner-up Clay Aiken, with a slick new look, performed a “duet” on “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” with his alter ego, a wannabe “American Idol” contestant who evoked the originally geeky Aiken.

While in general the comedy skits on American Idol 5 lacked in comparison to American Idol 4’s roast of Corey Clark, there was one shining moment that will likely go down as one of the funniest moments in American Idol history. In a re-occurring segment called the Golden Idol Awards, Ryan Seacrest presented candidates for “Best Impersonation.” The nominees were Kenneth Maccarone as Cher, Seth Strickland as Michael Jackson, and Michael Sandecki as Clay Aiken.

As Michael warbled through “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me,” the stage doors opened up to reveal Clay Aiken. Surprised by the sudden loud cheering, Michael turned to see Aiken and appeared to nearly go into shock on the stage. As Clay joined his impersonator in song, Michael excitedly jumped around the stage. Seacrest eventually re-appeared and sat Michael down, while asking him if he was OK.

Montages Celebrate Clay's AI Return

A montage by BKFORCLAYANDMK features audio from the ACE & TJ Show on Charlotte's WNKS-FM radio station the morning after the AI5 Finale. DJ's and listeners alike discussed "the greatest moment of the night." The video was posted at YouTube by Garden333.

Charlotte DJ's Discuss Clay on AI5 Finale

One of my favorite montages -- What a Feeling by Aspiegirl -- chronicles Clay's exciting return to the Kodak, as well as the journey that began with his successful audition in Atlanta.

'What a Feeling' montage by Aspiegirl

Lythgoe Reveals Secrecy Plan

In a local interview on KTLA-TV's Morning News Show one year ago Thursday, Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe revealed that details of Clay's appearance and performance were kept secret from almost everyone, the judges and Ryan included. Clay arrived at an obscure entrance in an SUV with tinted windows.

Sporting a new look and attracting no attention whatsoever, he walked in unnoticed with wardrobe personnel and the garments they were transporting and secretly watched the show in a nearby building before being escorted to the stage just in time for his grand entrance.

To say these few minutes headlined conversation in Clay Cyberspace would be putting it mildly. Over and over, various points about Clay's brief appearance were relived in message board opines: his confident attitude, the stylish new "do," the indomitable smile, the endearing gesture for Michael to continue singing their "duet," the classy handshake near the beginning of the song and again at the end, the humble acknowledgment of the audience, and on and on.

In one fell swoop, Clay Aiken was the conquering hero returning to accept the accolades that should have been his -- but, thankfully, were not -- in the second season. In doing so, he finally received his confetti moment.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: This clickable interlude features Clay in previous concerts and appearances as fans anticipate this summer's cross-country summer symphony lineup. Graphic artists and photographers include Amazing_CA, photo by Snix, 1; Clayquebec1, photo by Karen Eh, 2; A Beautiful Mind, photo by ILClaymate, 3; Amazing_CA, photos by Snix, 4; and Ambassador of Love, 5.

Recital Caps Successful Season

One might say the sure sign that my students' spring recital would go well came when my sixth grade violist returned from his weekend camping trip to the Virginia mountains early enough to make the 2:30 p.m. tuning call 15 minutes ahead of time.

The traditional recital months of May and December are both calendar-challenged, and this weekend was loaded with examples. Besides the scout camping compromise, our freshman oboist-flautist, was a bit bleary-eyed from her high school prom the night before. However, she played beautifully with her parents -- and her prom date -- in attendance.

On Saturday, the parents of a freshman violinist hosted a hometown wedding reception for their older daughter and her new husband, married just two weeks ago in Salt Lake City, UT.

Because of that event, our audience boasted friends and relatives from this state, as well as guests from Tennessee, Maryland, Florida, Utah, and California. The recital room was packed, and the new bride and groom had a front row seat.

Our pre-recital routine clicked along on schedule as each student, looking quite spiffy in spring finery, double-checked tuning and asked dozens of last-minute questions. Unofficial stage managers, my sister and her husband, the minister of music at the Jamestown church, quietly relocated the piano, moved out a row of chairs, and brought in the required stands for our ensemble. Props for our crew!

'Hippopotamus' Bow Works Sometimes

The previous entry -- "Teacher, I May Have To Miss the Recital!" -- detailed our dress rehearsal in which the group learned to bow together. The violist relayed that, on a given cue, saying the word "hippopotamus" would ensure a unifed bow by our ensembles. And it did ... at Thursday's rehearsal.

Sunday, after the opening number, Handel's "Chorus from Judas Maccabaeaus," the magical word temporarily flew the coop; and the string quartet looked like the Bobbsey Twins times two. From the piano bench, I turned to our very friendly audience and informed them we were going to rerun that much-rehearsed bow. Execution worked like a charm on the replay.

From the youngest soloists -- a violinist playing folk songs pizzicato and a normally nonchalant pianist who surprised his teacher with a very purposeful demeanor in concert -- through the middle/high school performers, students displayed poise and a control of nervousness beyond their years. They even "made music" with dynamic, tempo, stylistic nuances, and vibrato. I think Bach, Handel, Brahms, Schumann, and Bizet would have been pleased.

As I have told my students, eons ago in my very first piano recital, I got off track performing a composition by Grieg, couldn't find my way back, and eventually ran off the stage in tears. There was none of that Sunday.

Fiddle Tunes a Crowd Pleaser

Our closing number -- an Irish fiddle tune medley for three violins, viola, flute, and piano accompaniment -- had toes tapping. Each of the five students took a solo ride before being joined by the ensemble in various combinations of instruments.

Following the last tune, 4/5 of the quintet was right on target with our "hippopotamus" bow as one violinist casually gathered her music from the stand. The audience was very receptive and applauded long enough for me to ask my violist to give the signal again. This time the quintet looked like professionals.

Photos were snapped, the teacher received a bouquet of flowers, and all seemed pleased with the recital, which, surprisingly, only lasted 30 minutes. A very pleasant way to cap a semester of music lessons!

At home, I kicked off my concert attire, put the flowers in water, and called friends in Georgia and Ohio with a report. One asked how soon the recap would be up, and the other wanted to know if there would be CLACK. I seem to remember some cameras rolling.

Selections from "Pirates of the Caribbean" and other light tunes are on this week's agenda. A tour of local retirement homes is also in the offing.

Thank you for your good wishes and interest in a performance totally unrelated to Clay -- unless there really is some CLACK skipping around!

Below is a clickable of Cindilu2's opening graphic:

Although the AI6 Finale will be Clay-less this year, Tuesday night's Dancing with the Stars was not. As indicated in the clickable below, the CA segment during Jimmy Kimmel's skit on the ABC results show was hilarious.

You can view the skit on You Tube and download the segment here .

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


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Friday, May 18, 2007

There's Only One Clay Aiken

SUMMER TOUR -- Clay Aiken fans are counting the days until his Summer Symphony Tour, which opens in Frisco, TX, on July 4. Graphic design by Amazing_CA, photo by Snix.

Recital Rehearsal Yields Surprises

There's Only One Clay Aiken

The final week of this year's American Idol indubitably summons memories of the inordinately close Season 2 competition between Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard.

With the shocking departure of talented Nashville songster Melinda Doolittle on Wednesday's Top 3 Results Show, news and entertainment pundits have not stopped talking and writing about the topic yet.

'Anderson Cooper 360' Video -- Gerwhisp

There's Only One Clay

On CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, the newsman and Erica Hill discussed Melinda's unexpected departure from American Idol and the fact that she, like past finalists who didn't win, will still do well.

The subject turned to the Season 5 winner, and Erica remarked that Taylor Hicks hasn't shone as well as others. The exchange ended like this:

He's no Clay Aiken ... Well, who is? ... There's only one Clay ... That's true!

Here is a Sendspace download of the 360 spot.

Then there's this interesting paragraph from the American Idol blog:

For those of you shocked about Melinda’s departure, I’ll say this theory may have something to do with it. Or maybe not. Who really can explain how Ruben Studdard beat Clay Aiken. Seriously, there’s not an “Idol” winner or contestant out there with more fans than Clay Aiken. Have you heard of the “CarrieMates”? Didn’t think so. But Claymates are all over the world.

'Showbiz Tonight' Video -- Gerwhisp

America Thinks Clay Won

Showbiz Tonight also featured a brief piece dealing with the fact that it is not necessary to win Idol to be successful.

The discussion went like this: Does winning American Idol really matter? ... Winning Idol does not guarantee huge success ... A lot of people thought Clay Aiken won the second season. He's had massive pop success.

Suggestions towards similar success for other finalists: Stay visible, be loyal to your fans, don't switch genres, provide the music they want, appeal to the public, radio play.

This is a Sendspace download of the Showbiz spot.

An Evening with Clay Aiken

Continuing our blog's jaunts to the 20 websites for Clay Aiken's summer tour yields breathtaking concert venues and some impressive advertising this time out. All aboard for Asheville, NC, and Atlanta, GA!

Biltmore Estate's Summer Venue

AUGUST 11 -- Enjoy An Evening Under the Stars with Clay Aiken. Scroll to the bottom of the page for Clay's segment.

Backed by the Asheville Symphony, Clay will perform from his debut album Measure of a Man and selections from his 2006 CD A Thousand Different Ways.

Chastain Park Ampitheater

Atlanta Symphony Features Clay Aiken

AUGUST 15 -- Although the future of Clay Aiken, the American Idol runner-up on Season 2, was extremely unpredictable, he surprised skeptics and burst onto the music scene with a transcendently powerful voice.

An unlikely pop star, Aiken has remained steadfast in his desire to remain true to the simple values he learned as a child in Raleigh, North Carolina. His authenticity matched by an unconventional sincerity has earned Aiken millions of fans.

With a rigorous 20-city tour on the books for this summer, get ready, Claymates. Aiken's show at Classic Chastain with the award-winning Atlanta Symphony Orchestra is going to be a big one!

Most Searched Man on Lycos

For the past two weeks, Clay has landed in the #9 and #10 slots of the Lycos 50. Clay, who has appeared on the Lycos 50 listing for 202 weeks, holds the "most-searched man" honors for 2006.

Image links to Lycos

Clay's current ranking looks like this:

10 Clay Aiken
Raised over $180,000 for children 9 202

In the same week, American Idol's location is #24 with a subheading of "Almost the end."

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Spring and the "Summer of Love" Tour are themes of this clickable interlude. Featured are graphics by A Beautiful Mind, 1; Amazing_CA, photo by ncgurrl, 2; A Beautiful Mind, photos by Invisible926 and Karen Eh, 3; Clayquebec1, 4; and MNmeesh, 5.

Teacher, I May Have To Miss the Recital!

Dress rehearsal has come and gone, and my young musicians and I are on a countdown to that springtime enigma -- the recital -- Sunday afternoon. Probably the best way to impart the flavor of Thursday's final ensemble practice is to put the tape on replay ...

The session begins with the teacher checking violin and viola tuning, while students put their music in rehearsal order.

VIOLIST: "Ms. Caro, I may not be there Sunday; I have a boy scout camping trip in the mountains three hours away."

TEACHER: [Picking self off the floor and thinking, "YIKES! Every note this sixth grader is supposed to play Sunday is important to the harmony, not to mention he has the solo on "St. Patrick's Day in the Morning!"] "Perhaps your parents can work something out. We will talk with your mother when she returns."

That little problem immediately moves to the back burner, as we start the concert opener, Handel's "Chorus from Judas Maccabaeaus." A second violin consistently misses a C#, so we stop to check the measure two bars past the mezzo forte.

Only one violinist seems to know the place the teacher is pinpointing, so everyone who doesn't have a mezzo piano and a mezzo forte in the middle section is instructed to bring his/her music to the piano.

Sure enough, three out of five had failed to write in these two dynamic changes. ["Don't ASSUME, especially with kids!" I remind myself.] Once we have that straightened out, the piece sounds like an oratorio chorus instead of "Chopsticks" -- and Handel resumes the resting in peace position.

Toe Tapping Fiddle Tunes

The first run-through of our Irish medley is not too bad. The arrangements are varied, but well-marked; and we glide from "Staten Island" to "The Devil's Dream" to "Fisher's Hornpipe" to "St. Patrick's" to "Irish Washerwoman" with various combinations of instruments. Hopefully, we will set some toes to tapping in the Methodist Church on Sunday.

YOUNGEST VIOLINIST: "Will we have more time between songs?"

Nope, this is a medley; and there are two-measure intros between each. Mom, who is sitting on the sofa, solves this problem. She will redo her son's sheets so he can move them over one at a time. A copy machine occupies a hallowed place in their home.

I remind the group that Gracie, a freshman flautist playing on the fiddle tune medley, will be with us Sunday, but her Monday-Thursday driver's ed classes are keeping her from the afternoon's rehearsal. Her lessons are on Fridays this month.

Just before we start the medley again, this time standing in true recital mode, the same violinist wonders aloud, "Is Gracie going to be there Sunday?"

Next come the solos. Each student has a rough draft of the program, so the order is clear. I remind them of the periods of music represented with Bach and Handel (Baroque) and Schumann, Bizet, and Brahms (Romantic). The recital will also feature a variety of instruments -- piano, flute, oboe, violin, and viola.

Later, when two students tell me they would prefer the formal spelling of their name on the program, I am once again grateful to be living in a technological age. Tori and Zach will seamlessly become Victoria and Zachary in the recital file on my computer.

We have just enough time to run the medley once more, and the gig is up. We have practiced bows after each solo, but getting five young instrumentalists to hold their fiddles the same, bend over and come back up in a somewhat synchronized fashion can be a challenge.

Boy Scout Saves the Day

Boy scout camper to the rescue! My violist explains that in his former group, members said the word "hippopotamus" as they bowed. He tenders the cue, and we give the plan a whirl. Sure enough, all five bow, down and up, as a "professional" unit.

Only trouble is you can tell they are mouthing, "hippopotamus." We try again, saying the word to ourselves. Hopefully, that plan will remain in the memory banks through Sunday.

Viola Mom drives up with her two younger children, so I send the camper out to make a deal while everyone packs up and asks an assortment of last-minute questions.

All is ready, I think. In Sunday's recital, these young musicians will learn more about controlling nerves, playing what we have rehearsed, taking a bow together, etc., than in a month of lessons. Maybe even more.

As for our violist, the plan is for Mom to bring his instrument to be tuned at 2:30, while Dad will arrive with the musician by 3. Here's hoping anyway!

Below is a clickable of Amazing_CA 's opening graphic:

Have a wonderful weekend, Clay Nation!


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