REFLECTIONS -- Clay Aiken fans this week commemorate the night they first heard "the voice" during the Jan. 28, 2003 telecast of American Idol Season 2 Atlanta Auditions. Animated graphic by cindilu2.
'Always and Forever' Audition
Fans Celebrate 6th Anniversary
For Clay Aiken fans, January 28 -- a date that represents the founding of the Carnegie Institute (1902), the shocking destruction of the space shuttle Challenger (the "Teacher in Space" mission) 73 seconds after liftoff (1986), and the unveiling of producer Clive Davis's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (1997) -- marks the sixth anniversary since the singer's Atlanta audition was aired on American Idol 2.
For countless fans, now known the world over as Claymates or the Clay Nation, the beautiful strains of "Always and Forever" were just the beginning. Many have been on board the Clay Train ever since.
Who could have predicted the musical journey we on the Clay Train have taken with this amazing man as he belted out those first few notes for the AI judges, the difference his positive role model would make in the lives of people around the globe, the close Internet friendships that would form all because of a skinny be-speckled red-headed guy with big feet, floppy ears, and a magnificent set of pipes?
Commemorations of the Atlanta anniversary -- long ago tagged "He Had Me at Take" -- are in full swing with the donning of CA tee/sweat shirts for the day, watching AI2 clack, sharing initial memories of "the vox" six years ago as well as thoughts about how lives have changed since Clay Aiken appeared on the nation's radar.
Pixieglitter's video of the 1/28/03 telecast of the Atlanta audition includes special clips compiled by Hosaa, can be viewed here and at YouTube.
The Atlanta Audition - Montage by Pixieglitter
Fans Recall Jan. 28, 2003
I missed the audition we commemorate this week. A friend asked me what I thought of the skinny kid from North Carolina, so I promptly located a video clip online and tuned into AI from then on to cheer for this amazing singer from my home state. I'm sure I would have had the same initial reaction as the fans quoted below.
Where were you and what were your thoughts upon hearing Clay for the first time? Special thanks to these Clayversity members for allowing me to share their experiences in this blog:
TEXWRITER: I was folding clothes in the bedroom, watching on the bedroom TV, and DH [Dear Husband] was watching in the living room. I didn't even glance at the TV until Clay started singing, but once I did, I was completely mesmerized. Like Randy, I couldn't believe that voice was coming out of that body. The minute his clip was done, I started down the hallway to find DH. Funny thing is he had gotten up to come and find me, so we met each other halfway. We were both completely blown away by his talent and rooted for him from then on.
WILDABOUTCLAY: I still remember the moment vividly. I didn't plan to watch AI2, but it was a slow TV night, and I was channel surfing. By some stroke of fate, I turned AI on as Clay was being introduced. Because I love voices and am naturally curious, I kept it on as he began to sing. WOW! I still remember yelling to my husband in the other room that "this guy has a good voice." I was hooked after that because I wanted to see how he did. When it came to Open Arms night, I was convinced he had the best voice there.
ONEMOREFAN: I can remember watching Clay walk into the room. When he put his arms out and said, "I am the next American Idol," I thought he was cute but sort of expected him to not have a good voice. Then he started singing, and I was actually shocked that someone with that good a voice wasn't already a recording star.
VJM: I wasn't really watching AI. It was on the television by chance, just as background noise. I was doing some serious cleaning in my bedroom, moving books, cleaning the glass of picture frames, rearranging closets. I wasn't even facing the television. I didn't see Clay walk into the audition and didn't tune in to his talk about being the next American Idol. I didn't see what he looked like. But then he sang that first phrase, I was immediately captivated, turned around, and sat on the edge of the bed to watch the rest. That's all it took. He's had my attention ever since.
NETTE: The night of the Atlanta audition I had been sleeping on the couch, woke up, picked up the remote and started channel surfing. When I came to Fox, I recognized the show as the one my son had liked the year before. I watched it for a while, but was disgusted at the bad auditions. I picked up the remote to change the channel just as Clay walked in.
He caught my attention before he even started to sing. There was the brightest aura around him even on TV. When he sang, I just froze. This was the best voice I had ever heard, and I could not understand why they were haggling about his looks. He looked beautiful, and with his voice why did they care. He took the darkness out of my life that night, and I knew I would beat cancer because there was just no way I was going to leave Clay.
ROSEVIOLET: Like a lot of other people, I only saw the last couple of episodes of AI1 and found it intriguing. When AI2 started, I was determined to watch it from the beginning. When Clay first stepped up for his audition, I thought, "Oh dear, he's going to be one of the bad ones" and then was totally blown away by his voice. I felt that connection with him from that point on. It has only been further cemented in place over the years. I don't know why. I have never felt this way about any singer before, not even when I really was 12.
PHOTO INTERMISSION: This clickable interlude features graphics highlighting the past six years. Visual artists represented include Amazing_CA, photos by Tasapio, 1; cindilu2, photos by Tasapio, 2; ABeautifulMind, 3; Amazing_CA, photos by toni7babe, 4; and CLAYPERFECT, 5.
Season 2 Memories Still Vivid
DYLAN: When he returned for the Wildcard Show and sang DLTSGDOM, that's when I noticed the singing voice for the first time. I was thinking, "Who is this guy who swallows the last note in each phrase?" I had never heard anyone sing like that before. From that time on, I was and still am a complete goner.
RCKNRLLMOM: I believe I was where I needed to be six years ago. Just coming out of a life altering situation being diagnosed with cancer and going through all the emotions and treatments. I had faith, for sure; I had to. But life was just starting to go on. We were all watching the night Clay sang for the judges for the first time. I think my mouth dropped open at the voice that came out. I was amazed; I was hooked. My heart opened that night, too. The joy was back. It started with a simple word -- "Take" -- and has grown a thousand-fold since.
CLAYLEE: The beginning of my love affair with Clay began with DLTSGDOM in the Wildcard Show but really blossomed when, during an interview, he was talking about Simon's remarks to him about not looking like a pop star. Clay said he would always have these (flipping his ears out) and that he was okay with that. There was no vanity, no embarrassment, just pure honesty. He got me with that, and the rest is history.
SALTWATERDOG: I remember Clay well. I remember his confidence. I remember thinking how beautiful his skin and cheekbones were. And the voice! Mr. Salt and I just looked at each other and went, "WOW!" We laughed at the comments, agreeing that Clay did not look like a pop star, and cheered when Clay went on to the next step. We still tease the neighbors about how they got us started watching AI, blaming them for how we travel cross-country to see Clay in concert.
IRISHBOOKGAL: During the Atlanta audition show I was listening while I was in the kitchen baking chocolate chip cookies. I was just about to take a batch out of the oven when Clay began to sing. His voice just did something to me; and I jerked, burning my hand on the oven as I ran to see just who that was. My cookies burned to a crisp, and I still have a little "Clay scar" on my my hand. He had me hook, line, and sinker from "take"!
Bumpy Road to Final 12
As longtime CA fans know, Clay lost to Quiana Parler, now one of his backup singers, in the finals of his Charlotte audition. Thankfully, he was determined enough to drive to Atlanta and try again. That stubbornness served him well as he was eventually bumped again in Hollywood, returning for the Wildcard Show and blowing everyone away with his rendition of "Don't Let the Sun Go Down." The American public responded by voting the North Carolinian into the final field of 12.
Though Clay finished second to winner Ruben Studdard in the spring finale, he has attracted countless fans from multiple generations with his golden voice, entertaining shows, and a profound dedication to use his celebrity to make a difference. Co-founder of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation with a mission of inclusion for all children, Clay serves as a special ambassador for UNICEF and has traveled throughout the world promoting these causes.
Aspiegirl's montage of "If You Don't Know Me By Now," a bonus cut from the A Thousand Different Ways album, provides an overview of Clay's career as an entertainer, as well as his philanthropic endeavors:
If You Don't Know Me By Now - Montage by Aspiegirl
From Atlanta to Broadway
Fountaindawg's collage "Happy Sixth Anniversary" is another special commemoration of January events 2003 - 2009, replete with photos and quotations signifying the initial introduction, as well as Clay's successful leap onto the Broadway stage as Sir Robin in "Spamalot" last year.
During the Jan. 28, 2003, telecast, AI judge Simon Cowell began the now famous litany that he continued off and on throughout the competition: "You don't look like a pop star."
In media promos prior to Clay's Broadway run as Sir Robin, Spamalot director Mike Nichols frequently spoke of Clay's talent in this manner:
"Clay Aiken is amazing beyond that glorious voice. Turns out he is an excellent comic actor and a master of character. People will be surprised by his wide ranging talent, since the first impression is of great country charm and a singer to remember. This guy is not only a star, he is a lot more.
We are lucky to get him for Spamalot. ... The guy is not only a star; he is a lot more."
Idol Found, Game Over!
Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!
CaroOther Clay Blogs commemorating the "Always and Forever" audition include Clay Aiken News Network, Clayigraphy, There Was a Man, and Hosaa's Blog.
RELATED TAGS: Clay Aiken, A Thousand Different Ways, American Idol 2, Always and Forever, Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me, If You Don't Know Me By Now, The Bubel Aiken Foundation, UNICEF Ambassador, Spamalot, Broadway, Mike Nichols, Simon Cowell, Official Fan Club, Clay Nation