Sunday, December 31, 2006

Year End--2006 In Review

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~Collage by FountainDawg~

2006 is finally at an end. It's probably not a bad thing in the Clay fandom. We started out the year with such hope and anticipation for the great things that were in store for Clay. In 2005, we were highly anticipating news of a new album, had a great summer Jukebox Tour which seemed like a gift to the fans, and a two-month Joyful Noise Tour that featured vignettes that Clay wrote himself. The fandom had been divided on the JNT for a variety of reasons, but the main reason was that there was just not enough interaction of Clay with his audience. Clay's personality is a big draw in his shows, and the play aspect of the show did not allow that to shine through. Though I was proud of him for spreading his wings (he did play an angel *g*) artistically.

The Ugly
If we only knew how good we had it in 2005. Starting the year was rough because we weren't sure when we would hear from Clay again. We had been waiting on news of an album for almost a year. We knew that he had been recording, so we were still in wait mode. We actually didn't have to wait to long to hear from Clay because on Jan 17th he blogged with a quote from the bible -- Isaiah 51:7. "Do not fear the reproach of others, and do not be dismayed when they revile you." At that time we didn't really know what he meant, but we didn't have to wait long before the crap hit the fan. Clay had become a target of a nefarious character looking to capitalize on Clay's fame by spreading vile rumors and lies about him. Vile because Clay was made to look like some desperate loser when we all know he is anything but. The one really positive that came out of this MESS was that the fandom and Clay grew stronger. Our bond is deeper than ever. Clay has proven to be a man of strength and character, a man worthy of admiration and devotion. If the plan was to divide and conquer the fandom, it was a dismal failure. You had only to look at the "Circle the Wagon" thread at the Official Fan Club to see hundreds and hundreds of messages of support for Clay. We weren't going anywhere.

The Let Down
All the while, we were still waiting for some positive news. I don't think I'm wrong in saying the vast majority of the fandom was looking forward to an album of original mid-tempo pop/rock songs with perhaps a couple of ballads. In February we finally had some concrete information in regards to the album when Entertainment Weekly printed that Clay's album would be "both original tunes and "lots of covers"" released sometime in May. Not.Good.News. If fact, the news hit the fandom like a ton of bricks. It was a "you gotta be kidding me" kind of moment. We didn't wait this long for "lots of covers", did we? Upset would be too mild a word about the emotions that were running rampant in the fandom after this news. Finally most people starting accepting the inevitable, but still hoping for some kick-ass rockin'songs. (Well, not all people were accepting, as there were conspiracy theories to derail Clay's career aplenty.) As we got closer and closer to May with no album announcement, we should have known something was up especially as Clay was blogging for us to "expect something different" and hinting at love songs.

The Different
Dates were coming and going. Mother's Day came and went, a date of June 11th went up on the RCA site (for about a day), then there were opening for the GMA Summer Concert series in August and we were sure that Clay would be performing. At one time Clay had blogged that we would hear new "quite soon". Those words along with Clay's sense of time became a bit of a fandom joke. By July, Clay was having fun making us guess acronyms for his new album, so we knew it was close. The winner would get a phone call from him. Middle of July we had the title of A Thousand Different Ways. On August 3rd came the press release with the track list. HELLO!!!- Where are the rockin' songs? Nope, we were getting an album of schmaltzy love songs--ballads.

The Songwriter
When we got the cover art and photos from the photo shoot we got Ooh-la-la, one hot, sexy man. Dang, he grow-ed up real nice. When the song list was released, I admit I was not thrilled with some of the song selections, but when I heard the album, I was instantly sold. Clay did something different to the songs plus his vox was intoxicating as ever. I loved the ethereal quality to "Broken Wings". We learned later that the arrangement was his vision. He also had a writing credit on "Lonely No More" my second favorite song on the album, but the very best did not make the album. For some strange reason it was part of a iTunes exclusive. "Lover All Alone" was a beautiful, haunting song written by Clay with music by David Foster. We have David Foster to thank for giving Clay the music, and David's sister Jaymes who executive produced the album for nagging Clay to write the lyrics. The song talked of someone having a lot of love to give someone, but not finding that right person to give it to. Something to which many can relate. Why wasn't it on the album? Another mystery. It wasn't like the album was only songs of happy love. There were also songs of heartache like "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" and “Without You”. “Lover All Alone” should have been on this album. At least now we know that Clay Aiken can write, and write beautifully. Clay has a talent for songwriting, now he needs to be able to open up and share his inner feelings. I hope he is ready to do that soon. With all the people and causes he is passionate about, I think he has a lot to say.

The Look

At the the AI Finale in May, Clay unveiled a new look. No more spikes, instead there was a head of dark long hair with bangs hanging into the eyes very reminiscent of a young Paul McCartney. It was a bit of a shock at first, but many grew to love it. One thing is for sure, the man got a lot of buzz from that 3-minute appearance where he sang "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me". Every media outlook and watercooler were buzzing about him the next day. Taylor who? The look changed somewhat throughout the rest of the year, the hair lightened and grew longer. The bangs were eventually discarded for a side part, but it suited Clay's more mature look. His body and face had filled out. Gone was the boy next door. Welcome to the hawt sexy man.

The Bonus
One nice little surprise was receiving a four-song Christmas EP entitle All Is Well. The songs included "My Grown Up Christmas List", "O Come O Come Emmanuel", "Christmas Waltz", and the title track "All is Well". Unfortunately, the EP was a Walmart exclusive with limited availability. Why? Again it's a mystery, but there are some theories that RCA wanted the CD to lure customers into Walmart to buy other Idol CD's because as we know, Idols are pretty much interchangeable. *snerk* Clay did perform all four songs on the Christmas Tour. "All I Well" is an especially difficult song as it spans Clay's whole range of almost two octaves. Clay performed it as the encore. His voice was not quite ready for it at the first show because after all the singing and bantering, he totally missed the last glory note. Not that it took away from an otherwise vocally stellar show. The haters of the world tried to make a big deal out of it, gleefully putting it up on YouTube. His voice was declared shot by them, but too bad Clay didn't oblige them because his voice grew better and better with each show.

The Humanitarian
As always, charitable endeavors were a big part of Clay's year. I'm sure we don't know everything that goes on behind the scenes, but what we do know is pretty impressive. Clay continued his work with UNICEF raising money for children in the war-torn Middle East, and even lighting the UNICEF star in New York. The biggest honor this year had to be being named to serve a two-year term in the U.S. President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The committee acts in an advisory capacity to the U.S. President and the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on matters relating to programs and services for persons with intellectual disabilities. Clay also took part in the "David Foster and Friends Charity Gala" which raised money for children of organ transplants. Clay and David Foster raised $1 million for two performances in the auction. Teacher Clay was in full evidence at Nazareth Elementary where the authors of "My Friend Mikayla" were honored by a reading by Clay, and then the young authors were treated to a limo ride back to school.

The Comedian
The man loves his Christmas music without a doubt, so while there was no actual Joyful Noise Tour complete with band and back-up singers, there were spot dates with symphony orchestras for the month of December--eighteen dates in all. Due to the short timeframe, these concerts were concentrated on the East Coast and Midwest to the dismay of the West Coast (and Texas) fans. The image of a guest singer with a symphony conjures up images up beautiful, reverent singing done in tails or at least a tux. Leave it to Clay to never do what you think he will do. Yes he sang, yes he looked good in a suit, but who knew he would be so funny. His banter sections were almost as long as the singing sections. He engaged and played off his audience poking fun at them and himself. The audience loved it, laughing uproariously throughout the show. He even introduced some rather bawdy humor. I think he converted a male fan or two with this show. This was a whole other side of Clay Aiken.

The Trooper
The show must go on. That is a credo by which Clay Aiken lives. Whether he has to perform after an allergic reaction, or just getting over an illness, if he can remain upright, he performs. Sometimes even if he can't remain upright, he performs, as was the case in Long Island where Clay performed with vertigo. He had been suffering from an inner infection which caused bouts of dizziness, but in Long Island it was so bad, he got out to the stool, and sat clutching it and the mike stand the rest of the performance. He gave what was arguably his best vocal performance of the tour, and was uproariously funny to perhaps compensate for sitting the whole concert. He even came back out helped by his cousin Jamie, and performed 'All Is Well". He had to wait for Jamie to come get him to help him off the stage because he couldn't on his own. The fans could not have loved him more.

The Future
Here are waiting again once again to see what the future holds. The end of the year seems to have shades of much beginning 2006, this time with a bratty kid who feels a sense of entitlement bashing Clay in the media with the usual scum and bottom-feeders in on the frenzy. Clay as always holds himself above the fray with dignity. Perhaps we have come full circle, and good things are in store for 2007. Our resident astrologers hint that it should be good year. Clay left a year-end audio message at the Official Fan Club where he said he hopes we all are ready for a "fresh start in 2007". Yeah, I am.

dudley at Clayversity had a wonderful quote, which pretty much sums it up:

Dang, Clay has had a busy 2006! Consorting with all forms of people he has never met and with whom he has never communicated, canceling phantom concert performances by local acts who were never properly booked in the first place AND breaking up Regis & Kelly! Forget superstar, the man is some force of nature! One can only imagine how he'll surpass himself in 2007.

and from divayenta at the Clack House:
You said it! And here come the headlines ad absurdum: Homo Dead Beat Dad and Childhater is Homewrecker to America's Sweetheart Talk Show Hosts While Singlehandedly Bringing Down Western Civilization!!!

Yup--that Clay Aiken is one busy guy.

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Please don't miss the fantastic montage by Smarty PantsSuz that summarizes some of the wonderful memories of 2006 (set to My Favorite Things)

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Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Eighteen Concerts, Eighteen Nights of Magic

A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

And just because I love this photo, here is a bonus (from the Norfolk concert)
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Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Paint by Numbers

It's been a few weeks since I've updated the Idol franchise CD sales numbers. Since today, both Taylor Hicks and Fantasia hit the billboard charts with their albums, it's a good time to revisit how people are doing.

Artist/chart placement/this week/total sales
Taylor Hicks: #2 298,199 (299,153) 1 week
Carrie Underwood #6 199,114 (4,294,504)57 weeks
Fantasia: #19 132,964 (133,161) 1 week
DAUGHTRY: #7 180,903 (795,234) 4 weeks
Kellie Picker #56 45,357 (273,582)7 weeks
Clay Aiken #124 19,145(460,184) 13 weeks
Ruben Studdard #197...9,708 (166,478) 9 weeks

First Week Sales for Debut Albums:
Clay Aiken: 612,859
Ruben Studdard: 416,500
Carrie Underwood: 314,549
DAUGHTRY 303,677
Taylor Hicks 298,199
Kelly Clarkson: 297,000
Fantasia: 239,389
Bo Bice: 226,976
Kellie Pickler 79,133
Justin Guarini 58,749
Josh Gracin 57,257
Kimberley Locke 56,894
Diana DeGarmo: 47,000
Tamyra Gray 39,091

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Monday, December 11, 2006

A Teacher At Heart

From The Morning Call

Clay Aiken reads students’ book, treats young authors like American Idols

Like they did before a school assembly in May, the 19 Lower Nazareth Elementary student authors sat excitedly waiting for the program to start.

Some of the 5th graders knew what they were there for, of course, the VIP seating in Nazareth Area High School's auditorium and blown-up drawings of book pages giving away that the gathering was related to their special project.

Yes, they were going to be honored for "Our Friend Mikayla," the story they wrote and illustrated about their classmate who has brain damage and cerebral palsy.

The authors were right, but what they and the rest of the elementary school learned at just after 9 o'clock this morning is that the honoring would be done by American Idol finalist Clay Aiken.

Busloads of children -- the entire elementary school in fact -- filled the auditorium, and they listened attentively as Aiken read the book that tells the story of Mikayla Resh, a girl who loves lollipops and cheerleading and American Idol.

Aiken is founder of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, a nonprofit he started with the goal of having children with disabilities fully included in everyday activities and events. His foundation paid for the cost of printing the books.

"This is a prime example of what we want to do … spreading the word of inclusion" said Aiken.

The fifth graders, he said, were perfect messengers.

After the assembly, Aiken hosted a private question-and-answer session with the authors that concluded with yet another treat: The singer had arranged for the children to return to the elementary school in limousines.
-- reporting by Arlene Martínez, The Morning Call

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

Clay Aiken Christmas Shows--The Beat Goes On

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~~photo by princessjodita~~

When we started these Christmas with the Symphony concert dates, I thought we would get Clay in a formal longcoat singing reverent Christmas songs. I never that we would get "The Singing Comedian" or "The Comedic Singer". He really is a throwback to an old-time entertainer except he sings much better. *g* Here are a few comedic moments from Merriville, IN.

~Video By Scarlett~

Here is a sampling of thoughts from posters at Clayversity and The Clack House:

"Clay makes singing three-dimensional. He really does. There is a depth and perspective to his singing live that just fills the space in a truly miraculous way. The song goes around and through you and just fills your soul with joy."~~Barnett at CH/CV

"Roll me in flour, sprinkle me with water, and put me in the oven. I'm done. And I'm walking bowlegged. He was that good."~~washgirl at CV

"this voice deserves to be heard in the greatest halls in America, with the best acoustics. He should get the exposure Grobin gets and then some. I think Foster will know how to package his freakish gift and performance genius. Yes, genius, folks. Clay Aiken is a prodigy. Everything GBB said, but after hearing that orchestra of quality behind him tonite, I have to emphasize the VOX and musicality here. I have NEVER heard him sing with such assurance, dynamics, control- I will never get to sleep tonite. I am haunted by the sheer beauty of his voice now. I'm lost, I"m gone."~~Divayenta at CH

"I'm struck by how very very adept Clay is in his ability to maintain that delicate balance between keeping his show interesting for the "seasoned" concert-goers as well as the newbies. He engages the men in conversation. Plays word games. Addresses the tabloids. Calls himself "Controversy Boy" (tm Verona). Talks to the people in the back, middle, front, everywhere in between."~~snarkystripes at CV

"The most rewarding thing was hearing my young male co-worker say he now understood all this (sweeping his hand toward the most enthusiastic section of the audience down front). We're NOT nuts to love Clay. We're lucky!"~~hosaa at CV

"Clay Aiken is a force of nature, and he will prevail. He is coming of age right before our eyes on these JNaT stages, and I am blown away! What a gift, in every sense of the word."~~cindilu at CH

"this man is a born entertainer the likes of which comes around pretty rarely"~~clayamour at CH

"Not only is he comfortable with 'us', I believe it goes a bit deeper. I think he now trusts 'us'. I think Clay finally knows that 'we're' not going anywhere, that 'we' finally know him, not performer Clay, but the man that he truly is, with all his foibles and goofiness and kindness and dorkiness and baggage, and we like him just as he is. No subterfuge, no artifice, just Clay."~~shadylil at CH

"it hit me tonight as I was listening to yet another cellcert where he had the audience alternately splitting their sides with laughter and holding their breath at the sheer power and beauty of his voice. And I was thinking about how he's getting funnier every night and talking more, and finding ways to engage the audience and always finding a comeback and somehow still managing to sound stronger-voiced every night... he's honing his craft. This is who he is as an artist. Singing, chatting, joke-telling, audience-teasing.... he's finding himself as an entertainer. This is who he is. It has zero to do with genres or radio play. And it's what's going to propel him from big star to legend one day."~~GBB at CH

Excellent performance of "All is Well" at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY

~Video by MarlovesClay~

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Monday, December 04, 2006

All Is Well

Clay Aiken messed up the last glory note of his encore song in Waukegan the night before Merriville. It happens to all singers (who don't lip sync) because no one is perfect all of the time. A gasp was heard over the fandom when it happened when Clay missed a note causing panic and worry about the Vox. Of course, the haters crawled at of the wood work declaring Clay's career over. It's amusing that they are following his career as closely as any diehard fan even downloading clack in the wee hours of the morning along with the ClayNation.

It would have been easy for Clay to readjust his setlist, or at least modify the song, so that the note would not be a problem for him. No one can accuse Clay Aiken of being a wuss (unlike his anonymous haters who sit behind their keyboards immersed in their dark, petty lives).During his encore in Merriville, he modulated and fought to get those notes perfect. You can see the sheer will and determination etched in his face as he plants his feet and let it rip for the glory note. Clay Aiken never takes the easy way out.

~~Going For the Gold~~

Here is recap of the moment from a couple of attendees:

This is going to be one of those moments. One of those moments those of us who were lucky to be here will never forget.

The moment when a huge number of us who had been in Waukegan watched and then cheered endlessly as Clay "No Guts No Glory!" Aiken pulled off his moment of triumph when he nailed the end of "All Is Well".

He couldn't suppress the huge grin that you see in dc4clay's gorgeous photo.

And then he took a bow.

And then he ran his hand through his hair.

And then as we all kept screaming, he raised his arm and celebrated that moment of triumph with us.

Our moment. ~~PermaSwooned at CH/CV

Clay came out with his fingers crossed behind his back and he glanced back at Jesse, then brought his crossed fingers in front of him and looked at us as if to say...well, it was a cross between "Wish me luck!" and "Pleaseohpleaseohplease God, let me nail this!" Everyone all around me was leaning forward, afraid to breathe, almost willing him through it, and you could tell that he knew it. And when the time came, he grabbed the mic stand, planted his feet, squeezed his eyes shut and it just...came out. Wow. It was so gorgeous and so powerful. I heard a lot of gasps, and then everyone simultaneously jumped to their feet, screaming and applauding and jumping up and down (in high heels, no less!). He looked so overjoyed and relieved -- I guess you've probably seen the pictures by now. And we were so happy for him. I don't think I'll ever, ever forget it. Over an hour later, I still have chills.
~~PinkArmchair at CH

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Singing "All I Well" in Merriville

Thoughts on the tour from a fan:

Maybe this tour should be the CCB tour--the Christmas, comedy, and bonding tour. Clay seems to be bonding and solidifying bonds with his fans. He not only seems to have truly accepted that we love him and think he is amazing (and sexy), but he really seems to love us back, to be proud that we are so supportive of him, and to enjoy just chatting and cutting up with his "family" of fans.

There has always been a flow of energy and love from the fans to Clay, and at the best moments of the best concerts, he seems to return that love and energy. Now, that occasional connection seems to be strong and steady, in place, acknowledged, and appreciated. And, from such a powerful connection, comes real magic.~~Brightstar at CV

For a couple of great blogs on the same subject visit: The ConCLAYve: The Power of a Nation and WebWeaver's World:Clay's Christmas glory note in Merrillville

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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Not Quite a Tour, But Still Making a Joyful Noise

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Last night in Waukegan, Illinois was opening night of Clay's Christmas Symphony Tour. He is the guest vocalist for various symphonies this holiday season. He sung, he bantered, he messed up a few words, he missed a couple of notes as vocalists that don't lipsync are wont to do. It was a glorious experience for all that attended.

Here are a few comments made by some attendees:

"The "light" that he brings to us all is just phenomenal. I was thinking we wouldn't get to hear him speak much on this tour....but boy was I wrong. He is so funny and smart and those belly laughs!!!! I felt like my face was stuck in either the "gah mode" or the "smiley mode". And again when he left the stage, it is like a big bulb goes off. And I want more, more, more."~~claysrainbow from CV

" Wow What a great night last night was! My first ever FIRST Concert!! He was so amazing! Boy have I missed seeing that man live!! I am still on cloud 9!!!!"~~toni7babe from CV

" Oh what joy to hear and see Clay again, He looked so happy to be back on stage with us. He sure did a lot of talking, I think he missed us. His funny charm one moment and serious beautiful song the next. What a magical moment."~~momof3boys at CV

"I've never been close to Clay before and actually had more than one time of direct eye contact. Wow. I can not even begin to describe it. He really almost looks into you and doesn't let go, I had to look away. His eyes were sparkling last night and he just had such an aura about him."~~demeter at CV

" I was so impressed with the crowd turn out and the number of people that made it traveling from afar. I really did not expect such a huge crowd. I thought we'd be stuck with about a half-full show due to the weather. Wrong."~~demeter at CV

" He sang beautifully, changed up a couple of the songs slightly (I think some of it may have had to do with trying to preserve his voice for future concerts), and he was hysterical in between. When he talked to the couple who had been married for 41 years, he sat on the stool singing one song and then said, "This is the cuddle section," before the next one. He worked the front of the stage most of the night, occasionally sitting on the stool for a song or two. I can remember a lot, but I can't describe it too well. It almost felt unreal. I guess you would say I was in the Aiken fog."~~PoisonIvy at CV

"He is back, he is gorgeous, he is awesome. They lined up a single file toward the bus and he shook everyone's hand. They were laying a "salt" trail in front of him as he walked and Jerome held onto the back of his coat to keep him from falling. It was too cute and funny. He had on an overcoat when he came out, was smiling from ear to ear as the door opened and he came through."~~TOTLAK at CV

"His voice was wonderful tonight. That man was so excited to be back on stage, he was glowing."~~clem at CV

"The banter was hilarious, really worked well in person. He fed off the crowd and the crowd loved it. I've really missed the banter since the JBT. Last Christmas we did nit get much because of the play and I missed it. He got big laughs for his bit about putting his hand over people's mouths, but it as all just adorable and funny."~~DolcePienza at CH

"This was my first time attending an opening night of a Clay Aiken concert. I thoroughly enjoyed the fact that, for once, I didn't know what was going to happen next. First, he is a beautiful man. I love the long hair from his left profile, for sure, but mostly from the back. Sounds weird, I know, but I just love the back of that healthy and glowing head of hair. Secondly, his personality and whit are so enjoyable to witness. His snark is great. My favorite line of the night was when he said he'd be "sucking it in all night". BWAH! Third, his voice was beautiful and pure. I had been in the worry car for a few weeks about the voice but I've crawled out of it after last night. Yes, he missed the glory notes in DSIAFCD and AIW but I chalk that up to the fact that he hasn't toured in a year and he probably needs to get that part of his voice back in shape."~~Browneyes50 at CH

Set List:
Christmas Waltz
The First Noel
Merry Christmas With Love
Winter Wonderland
The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Sleigh Ride (thru page 24)
Mary, Did You Know?
Hark, the Herald Angels Sing/O Come All Ye Faithful
My Grown-Up Christmas List
O Come O Come Emmanuel
Don't Save It All For Christmas Day
All Is Well

Tour Map
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Link to Tour Schedule and Venue Web Sites and Seating Charts

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