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The new album cycle has started hope we can fill this up fast.

remember this is just for articles and news...discussions should be in the main thread.

from the CH:

Found this Personnel Announcement from President Bush posted at the OFC. Since it's a public document, I think it's OK to post it here. Our guy is truly a winner. Hope he talks about this in an interview or print article, along with an in depth discussion of his music.

See press release.



The President intends to appoint the following individuals to be Members of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities:

Dallas Rob Sweezy, of Virginia, and upon appointment designate Chair, for an additional two year term expiring May 11, 2008.

Clayton Aiken, of North Carolina

Stephen Bird, of Virginia

Valerie Billmire, of Utah

James Boles, of New York

Stephanie Brown, of Florida

William J. Edwards, of California

Brian J. Kelly, of California

Mary Margaret Pucci, of Illinois

Linda Hampton Starnes, of Florida

Stephen Henry Suroveic, of Pennsylvania

William E. Tienken, of Illinois

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The CD Release Party press release (by Corabeth of the Clackhouse) has hit the wires:

Clay Aiken may have titled his new album A Thousand Different Ways for artistic reasons, but his fans want to propel him ONE way...and that's straight to the top of the charts.

The eagerly awaited CD goes on sale Tuesday, September 19th and will feature the hit single, "Without You." Participating stores will stay open late on the night of Monday, September 18th, allowing fans to buy Clay's CD at the stroke of midnight. Party activities will vary by store but will include music and raffles. Retailers nationwide include WalMart, Virgin Megastores, Barnes & Noble, Tower Records, Wherehouse Music and Borders, among others. To find a party by region, visit www.clayaikencdparties.com.

Clay's first CD, 2003's Measure of a Man achieved the highest first week sales for a debut solo artist in 10 years. The following year his second CD, Merry Christmas with Love smashed the Billboard record for highest first week sales for a holiday album. Last month, A Thousand Different Ways shot to #1 on Amazon.com just hours after pre-ordering began. The Clay Nation is eager to hear the CD as quickly as possible and will be holding CD release parties in 81 cities in North America.

The CD Release parties are a 100% fan based initiative and are not affiliated with Sony/BMG.

The release then goes on to list the cities holding parties.

Edited by bottlecap
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The Raleigh News & Observer:

Fans in high places

President Bush apparently is a Clay Aiken fan.

Bush this week named Aiken, an "American Idol" runner-up and North Carolina native son, to the President's Committee on People With Intellectual Disabilities.

Word from the White House came with little fanfare, part of a release that included nominees for assistant attorney general and transportation secretary.

The release listed Aiken as "Clayton Aiken, of North Carolina," with no further explanation.

Aiken's fan club immediately posted the news to its Web site.

Aiken was traveling and could not be reached for comment.

But in Washington, the committee's executive director's 16-year-old daughter was thrilled.

"Usually she's not interested in public policy. She wants to come to the meetings. She wants his autograph," said Sally Atwater, chief staffer for the committee.

Atwater figures Aiken will lend some youthful perspective to the group. Also, she said, "We hope he'll sing."

Aiken has some work experience he can bring to the president's committee.

A special education major at UNC-Charlotte, Aiken worked with autistic children as a counselor in Raleigh. He also runs the Bubel-Aiken Foundation, dedicated to research for children with developmental disabilities.

He will join a committee that advises the president and the Department of Health and Human Services on programs and services for the intellectually disabled.

The group's next meeting is this month, just as Aiken has a new album coming out.

He won't be at the meeting, Atwater said.

"He's going to be on Jay Leno, I'm told," she said. "So we hope he'll plug the committee."

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President Bush intends to appointment Clay Aiken to the White House disability committee.

The White House has announced that "American Idol" season two runner-up Clay Aiken is in line to be named to the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.

A White House press release said President Bush intends to make the appointment. Officials did not say when. The organization is a federal advisory committee that has been established to advise the President and Secretary of The Department of Health and Human Services on issues concerning citizens with intellectual disabilities.

Clay has been an outspoken supporter of people with disabilities since stepping into the spotlight on "Idol." Before finding fame as a singer, the Raleigh, North Carolina native once worked as a counselor at YMCA camps for kids with special needs. He also studied special education in college and co-founded the Bubel/Aiken Foundation (TBAF), a charity for children with developmental disabilities.

Clay's highly anticipated new album, A Thousand Different Ways, hits music stores September 19.

The accompanying picture (from the hockey playoffs) is captioned "Clay has been involved with helping disabled youth even before "Idol" fame."

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The Insider Online:

"I can't live, if living is without you," sings CLAY AIKEN on the first single off his highly-anticipated album A Thousand Different Ways. For millions of Clay-mates, the sentiment is most definitely mutual -- and one that will be safely satisfied when the new disc hits stores on September 19.

Featuring 10 cover songs from the "Idol" runner-up, plus four new tunes, Clay's latest collection has one driving theme behind it. L'amour!

Some of the hit singles the cute crooner has re-recorded are BRYAN ADAMS' "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)," ELTON JOHN's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word," CELINE DION's "Because You Loved Me," BAD ENGLISH's "When I See You Smile" and the aforementioned "Without You," made famous by HARRY NILSSON, which Clay performed exclusively for us during a recent visit to the "Insider" studio.

"We're excited about it," Clays tells our LARA SPENCER about A Thousand Different Ways. "It's been a year in the making and it's something kind of different. It's songs that I really love, songs that I've loved for years and years, and most people love, so it should be really good."

And while Clay says he would like to take credit for the idea of laying down these popular tracks, he admits that it was the brainchild of legendary music producer CLIVE DAVIS, the president of Clay's label, RCA Records.

"He wanted to do songs that everybody knew, that people recognized and things that, hopefully, I can do well," says Clay.

As for the funky new hairdo that he first showed off during last seaon's "American Idol" finale, "We just wanted to change things up a bit," says Clay. "It's been three years since we had a studio album and the spiky thing is hard to do with the flat iron, so we decided to try something a little bit different."


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Clay Aiken's myspace page:

Who can explain why a singer becomes a pop star? Sure, talent and ambition contribute to the rise of many singing sensations, but skill and drive alone do not guarantee a berth at the top of the charts. Ultimately, it is an almost inexplicable reaction between a singer and his or her audience that creates a superstar career, sparking the kind of fanatic devotion that propels a performer into the pop stratosphere.

Such was the explosive reaction when Clay Aiken burst onto the music scene. 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. “I still live in the town where I grew up,” he says. “I like surrounding myself with people I know and love.” It is this authenticity that his millions of fans have responded to, an almost supernatural earnestness that feels unconventional in the cynical world of today.

No slave to fickle trends or fashion fads, the singer has once again listened to his heart and has come up with an album that extols the value of love in all of its myriad forms. The singer’s third CD, A THOUSAND DIFFERENT WAYS, offers fans 10 cover versions of love songs spanning the last three decades, as well as four brand-new songs that are destined to become Aiken classics in their own right.“This album is very different than my first, MEASURE OF A MAN, in that I had a lot more say in how I wanted things to be,” says the singer. “For the first album, they just gave us the songs, and I sang them. This time, Clive Davis, Jaymes Foster [the album’s executive producer] and I came up with the songs together. I also felt more confident in the studio while we were recording. Before, it was all just a bunch of knobs and controls. Now, I’m comfortable offering my opinion on how the arrangements and mixes should sound.”

Though his fans have come to expect him to knock each song into the heavens with his transcendently powerful voice—which he does here quite masterfully, particularly on Harry Nillson’s “Without You,” the Bad English hit “When I See You Smile” (written by Diane Warren), and the Foreigner classic “I Want to Know What Love Is”—the new album also shows off a more mature Aiken, one who is able to add beautiful vocal nuances to such unexpected choices as Bryan Adams’s “Everything I Do (I Do It For You),” Paul Young’s “Everytime You Go Away” (written by Daryl Hall), and Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” (written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil).

“Fans like to hear big songs,” says Aiken, “That’s what people have come to expect from us. I like big songs as well, but on this album, we also wanted to choose songs that expressed different parts of my voice.”

To be sure, Parton’s peppy” Here You Come Again,” done on A THOUSAND DIFFERENT WAYS as a ballad, shows off a softer, more vulnerable Aiken. “I have always liked that song,” he says, “but I had never sung it before.” Foster promised to come up with an arrangement that would suit Aiken’s voice—and she did. “It’s truly my favorite song on the album,” says the singer.

With classics like Celine Dion’s “Because You Love Me,” Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word,” and Richard Marx’s “Right Here Waiting” also rounding out the list of covers, one has to wonder if Aiken felt at all intimidated by competing with the original versions.

“’I did feel a bit anxious about 'Because You Loved Me,'" the singer offers, "not only because of Celine, but also because the original was produced by David Foster, one of the greatest producers of all time.David has heard our version, and so has Diane Warren, who wrote the song. They both approve of what we’ve done, and that makes me happy.” (Aiken’s version of “Because You Loved Me” was produced by Eman. Other producers on the album include John Fields, Andreas Carlsson & Samuel Waermo, Adam Anders, and Russ Irwin & Charles Pettus.)

If any song made Aiken nervous, it was Adams’s “Everything I Do (I Do It For You).” “That gravelly voice is so well-known,” says Aiken about Adams’s iconic rasp, “I didn’t know if I could do the song justice.” With a lovely, restrained vocal—and an arrangement with a lilting Celtic feel—Aiken’s version is an undeniable highpoint of the new disc; it’s one of the most romantic songs the singer has ever sung.

The new songs also give Aiken the opportunity to show off his emotional growth, with each track highlighting a different facet of his personality. “Everything I Have” (written by Jeremy Bose) brings to mind the poignancy of an Art Garfunkel performance. The song’s subtle piano and string arrangement allows Aiken’s naked voice to express the delicious ache of love. “Every woman I have played that for absolutely loves it,” says the singer. “I have people telling me they want to play it at their wedding.” “A Thousand Days” (written by Christian Leuzzi, Aldo Nova & Emanual Olsson) and “These Open Arms” (written by Jon Bon Jovi & Desmond Childs) are both classic Aiken, with big dramatic vocals and rousing, take-no-prisoners choruses. The fourth new track “Lonely No More” has a lighter, more playful pop sensibility—and the song also represents Aiken’s first songwriting credit (along with writers Andreas Carlson, Samuel Waermo, and Mimmi Waermo.)

Perhaps the most astonishing artistic departure for Aiken was the decision to cover the Mr. Mister hit “Broken Wings” as an “ethereal, New Age-like track.” With an otherworldly spoken word vocal by poet Erin Taylor, the song is a spectacular tour-de-force. “We didn’t know if it would work. We took a chance, and I’m so happy with how it came out.”

Covering such a varied emotional spectrum, but always staying true to the essence of who Clay Aiken is, A THOUSAND DIFFERENT WAYS is bound to please the millions of fans who loved 2003’s MEASURE OF MAN (triple platinum and counting) and 2004’s platinum MERRY CHRISTMAS WITH LOVE, the best-selling holiday album of that year. (2004 also saw the release of his inspirational biography, LEARNING TO SING: HEARING THE MUSIC IN YOUR LIFE, which reached #2 on The New York Times Bestsellers List.)

While the accolades that followed his stunningly close second-place finish on the second season of American Idol have validated him in ways that he never could have dreamed of when he was a teacher working with autistic children back in his home state of North Carolina, it is the charitable work that his musical career has enabled him to do that means more to him than anything else these days.

The singer created the Bubel/Aiken Foundation in 2003, an organization that promotes and funds educational and recreational programs for children with special needs. “I worked with Mike Bubel, who has autism, when I was going to school at UNCC,” says Aiken. “His mother was very instrumental in encouraging me to get into this business.” The Foundation remains close to the singer’s heart at all times. “My music career has allowed me to do the same thing I was doing before—work with kids with disabilities,” he says. “It has given me a big stage to talk about the same things I always cared about. I don’t get to be as hands-on with the kids anymore, but I do get to work toward enacting change on a much larger scale.”

Also important to Aiken’s life as a humanitarian is his work as a goodwill ambassador for UNICEF. Since 2005, the singer has been passionately committed to supporting the organization’s education programs. Not only has Aiken testified before Congress urging the government to allocate more funds for UNICEF’s global work for children, he has also traveled to Indonesia and Uganda to see the devastating conditions affecting millions of the world’s children first-hand—disease, malnutrition, kidnapping, and war, chief among them. “You just cannot believe how some of these kids are forced to live,” says Aiken. “It’s truly heartbreaking, yet many people don’t even know these conditions exist. I am hoping to shed light on some of these problems and so that more resources can be allocated to help make things better.”

Aiken meant for the title A THOUSAND DIFFERENT WAYS to express the many different kinds of love in the world. Surely, his charitable work expresses a deep and abiding love for his fellow man, particularly the littlest ones among us. Where did such a driving need to help others come from, one can’t help but ask? Typical for Aiken, his answer is devoid of any egotism. “Where did the desire to help come from? The need for help!” he answers matter-of-factly. “You know, my mother has always been someone who urged me to help people in need. Maybe that’s it. I don’t think it’s something you can learn. It’s just something you do.”

Edited by bottlecap
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Billboard.com Review of "Without You"

Why Clay Aiken chose to draw direct comparison between himself and Mariah Carey is confounding. After all, her 1994 top three cover of Harry Nilsson's "Without You" was flawless in execution (not to discount the original, also definitive for its day). On its own, however, Aiken does indeed draw upon his greatest strengths: a flair for the theatrical, backed with a bombastic vocal that packs a wallop. He showcases his own personality with novel phrasing here and there, while production swells and flutters with classic power ballad fanfare. Still, Aiken's return in itself raises questions: It's been quite a while, he has endured a good amount of negative press and—for AC radio—will his re-emergence be embraced or viewed as just another release from the increasingly less distinctive "American Idol" brigade? Should be intriguing to see the outcome, though not as fascinating as how Aiken will handle his cover of Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again" on upcoming "A Thousand Different Ways." Sounds like a trip. —Chuck Taylor
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Business Wire:

Clay Aiken's Back in ``A Thousand Different Ways''

--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Clear Channel (NYSE:CCU)

-- Clear Channel Radio's Online Unit Offers Sneak Peek of Artist's Latest Project

WHAT: Clay Aiken is back on the music scene with a new look and

brand new CD, "A Thousand Different Ways." He's offering his

fans an exclusive Sneak Peek of the CD before its September 19

release through Clear Channel Radio's Online unit. "A Thousand

Different Ways," featuring 10 cover versions of well-known

songs from the '70s, '80s and '90s plus four brand-new songs,

will be available for on-demand on over 80 Clear Channel Radio

station Web sites.

WHEN: Exclusively available on-demand September 12 - 15

WHERE: Log onto www.clearchannelmusic.com for more information.

WHY: If you've heard Clay's single, "Without You," you know you're

in store for a great CD - you don't want to miss this one!

WHO: Clear Channel Radio's Online Music & Radio unit

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From USA Today's Idol Chatter Blog

Shaping Clay's debut

The release of Clay Aiken's new album, A Thousand Different Ways, will not be a quiet one, I have the feeling. Here's a couple of promotional devices recently announced for the Sept. 19 release.

> Many Clay fans have already heard chunks of the album, judging from the comments here, but you can get what Clear Channel Radio calls a "Sneak Peek" at the album's tracks from Sept. 12-15 at CCR's site. (Info on the Clay peek isn't up there yet, but check back there for info.)

> A whole raft of major CD retailers are hosting midnight release parties, allowing fans to buy the album just as Monday turns to Tuesday, according to fan group Clay Nation Chicago. Find info on specific parties here. Let the festivities begin.

EW handicaps the Idol album crush

The new (Sept. 15) issue of Entertainment Weekly features brief rundowns of the seven Idol-affiliated album releases this fall (not counting Mario Vazquez) and guesses at their prospects. The article doesn't seem to be online at the moment, so you might have to check out the mag itself (how old-school is that?). But as a public service, here's the essence of what they said about each:

Clay: "It appears those Claymates follow their leader no matter where his hair takes them." (Translation: They think it'll be a smash.)

Ruben: "The disc is still pretty standard R&B ... we're not counting out Celebrity Fit Club just yet." (Translation: dubious prospects.)

Kellie: "Simple but sweet." (Translation: They haven't heard any of it yet and have no real idea how it will do in the country market.)

Fantasia: "Sounds promising, but plese, no more Lifetime flicks." (No translation needed.)

Taylor: They quote Taylor as saying, "There's gonna be horns. I like to say brass with ass." (Translation: Since it hasn't been recorded yet, they're a bit concerned.)

Katharine: They quote KIIS-FM/Los Angeles program director John Ivey: "Katharine is a complete wild card," then the magisterial EW editorial voice adds, "Cough) Diana DeGarmo (cough)." (No translation required.)

Chris: Quoting PD Ivey again: "You can't come of American Idol and be this rock god." (Translation: Chris may have a tough time attracting airplay from credibility-obsessed rock radio stations.)

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Monsters and Critics.com

Note: This is the Billboard.com review, taken to a UK website, as far as I can tell.

"Without You" - CLAY AIKEN

Why Clay Aiken chose to draw direct comparison between himself and Mariah Carey is confounding. After all, her 1994 top three cover of Harry Nilsson`s 'Without You' was flawless in execution (not to discount the original, also definitive for its day).

On its own, however, Aiken does indeed draw upon his greatest strengths: a flair for the theatrical, backed with a bombastic vocal that packs a wallop. He showcases his own personality with novel phrasing here and there, while production swells and flutters with classic power ballad fanfare.

Still, Aiken`s return in itself raises questions: It`s been quite a while, he has endured a good amount of negative press and - for AC radio - will his re-emergence be embraced or viewed as just another release from the increasingly less distinctive 'American Idol' brigade? Should be intriguing to see the outcome, though not as fascinating as how Aiken will handle his cover of Dolly Parton`s "Here You Come Again" on upcoming 'A Thousand Different Ways.' Sounds like a trip.

Edited by bottlecap
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USA Today:

Who will duke it out this season? USA TODAY's Ken Barnes, Elysa Gardner, Edna Gundersen, Steve Jones and Brian Mansfield assess some of fall's key matchups.


Past and present American Idol showdown

The weigh-in: Clay gets the release jump, with A Thousand Different Ways emerging Tuesday. But the cover-heavy tune stack raises questions about why he would want to follow the late-period Rod Stewart/Barry Manilow career path so early in his. Ruben (The Return, Oct. 17) and Fantasia (untitled, Nov. 14) may battle solely for R&B honors. Kellie (Small Town Girl, Oct. 31) is setting her sights on the country world, while Chris (untitled, Nov. 21) is aiming at the rock realm. And Taylor and Katharine (both untitled, Nov. 14) battle for this year's post-Idol pop championship.

Artistic champ: Tough to guess, but if Taylor stays true to his soul-man roots, he has a good shot.

Sales champ: Could be Clay — the Claymates are a sizable and dedicated cult, the others are limited by genre, and current Idol Taylor (who should beat Katharine) is an unknown quantity as a record seller.

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Aiken Holding Off On Tour Until Next Year

September 18, 2006, 10:15 AM ET

Gary Graff, Detroit

Clay Aiken's third album, the covers-heavy "A Thousand Different Ways," comes out tomorrow (Sept. 19), but the second season "American Idol" runner-up plans to take his time before he hits the road.

"I probably won't start touring until early next year," says Aiken, who will play some "spot dates that are solely Christmas stuff" in November and December. "I've done a lot of the big outdoor fairs and arenas, but all my favorite stuff has been the Christmas tours, where I've been in a theater. So I'd like to try that this time with this album.

"It's a very intimate album in terms of the concept and what's on it, so I'd like to try to do something a little more intimate this time," he continues. "We're looking at starting that hopefully around February or March."

"A Thousand Different Ways," which features 10 covers and four original songs, is actually an outgrowth of Aiken's 2004 summer show, which focused on his personal favorites from the '50s through the present day.

"Initially the whole album was going to be full of original songs," Aiken notes, "but as we were doing that tour we realized it's very hard to come by songs with such great melodies anymore. So I started saying, 'Let's cover this one on the album. Let's cover that one,' and finally [RCA Music Group chairman/CEO] Clive Davis said, 'Y'know, it isn't a bad idea. Why don't you just do an album full of covers and let's try and wrap a concept around it and make it the greatest love songs of all time.'"

The first single from "A Thousand Different Ways" is Harry Nilsson's "Without You." Aiken co-wrote one of the originals, "Lonely No More," while Jon Bon Jovi and Desmond Child penned "These Open Arms." Aiken also co-wrote another original, "Lover All Alone," that will be available exclusively on iTunes.

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More things to EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE for...I wonder if I beat Bottlecap this time... :D

From CH

Soundcheck Walmart.com

These are the performances coming soon:


Here You Come Again (Original Performance Series)

Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word (Original Performance Series)

A Thousand Days (Original Performance Series)

Everything I Do (I Do It For You) (Original Performance Series)

http://downloads.walmart.com/swap/ and type "Clay Aiken" in the search textbox.

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Raleigh News & Observer:

Seize the Clay

Quit carping and come into the Aiken domain

Matt Ehlers, Staff Writer

You live in North Carolina. So suck it up. Even if Clay Aiken's voice has given you brain spasms, the guy was born and raised in Raleigh. His most raucous fans live here, and since he built a new house, so does he.

It might be time to embrace Clay Nation.

To help you along, and to celebrate today's release of his new album, "A Thousand Different Ways," we've come up with a four-step Clay-immersion program. Follow along, and soon you'll have embraced your inner Aiken.

The look

Clay's spiked hair is gone, replaced by dark locks and a more grown-up style. It's a "more relaxed, rugged and masculine type of look," said Durham image consultant Bev Dwane. The overall look is darker, and there's a sensualness to it, she said.

To replicate the image, choose darker colors. Mix the textures of your fabrics, and make them the sort that people want to touch.

The flavor

This one comes from Susan Goetcheus, owner of Poole's Diner in Raleigh and a celebrated mixologist. She graciously invented a Clay-inspired cocktail and e-mailed us the recipe, writing that she designed the drink to be "refreshing, not too feminine but not macho, alcoholic but retaining a sense of innocence, sort of sweet, very Southern, very American, but with a little kick and a little sparkle of celebrity."

The "Clay Aiken": Jack Daniels, a dash of Sour Apple Pucker, apple juice and sweet tea, shaken with a pinch of cracked black pepper and cinnamon. Serve on the rocks in a pint glass. Garnish with fresh, thinly sliced Granny Smith apples on a sparkly fruit pick.

Under 21? Delete the alcohol and substitute cranberry juice. Top with club soda.

The scent

For an odiferous ode to Clay, we stopped by Dancing Moon & Gifts, a new age bookshop in Raleigh. That's where we met Cherie Lassiter, who helpfully aided us in our quest to match a smell to Aiken.

She suggested wearing an amber fragrance oil, a "gentle, yet fiery" substance that can be worn like you would perfume. The oil is also sweet, she said, like Clay. And conveniently enough, amber can be reddish-brown, the color of -- you guessed it -- clay.

The voice

Pour yourself a "Clay Aiken." Gently shake the bangs out of your eyes.

Dab your wrists with amber fragrance oil. And pop "A Thousand Different Ways" into the CD player.

The brain spasms will float away.

(Results not guaranteed).

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Sept. 19, 2006 — He was the North Carolina boy who made it big on "American Idol." But for Clay Aiken, fame came with a price.

"And when I was in the room, or when I am in the room, the walls are closing in on me and my heart races and I don't understand it," Aiken told ABC's Diane Sawyer.

Aiken has suffered from panic attacks for years, a secret few people knew, until now.

Watch "Good Morning America" Wednesday and Thursday for Diane Sawyer's interview with Clay Aiken.

"I would look back and say, 'Why is your heart racing. … Why are your palms sweaty? What is the problem?,'" Aiken said.

"And I guess I just got to a point where I thought, 'OK, listen, you're not going crazy. I'm not going, I'm not going crazy.' And so I talked to my doctor and I said, 'Listen, here's the thing. I don't understand why I feel like I'm gonna have a heart attack when I go into these rooms. I don't get it.'"

Aiken admitted that he takes Paxil, an antidepressant, to control his attacks. But they don't occur onstage when he's performing, as some might assume.

"No. I don't get nervous up there," Aiken told Sawyer. "I don't. I don't have any stage fright."

Hear more of Clay Aiken's revelations Wednesday and Thursday on "Good Morning America."

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Clay Aiken Speaks Out About Rumors


Clay Aiken is no longer the charmingly awkward, self-confessed "dork" who came in second on 2003's second season of American Idol. He has a new look, a new album – A Thousand Different Ways, which hit stores Tuesday – and some new, hard-won wisdom.

"I learned this year that you can't make people like you or care about you or love you," the 27-year-old, Southern Baptist-bred singer, whose 2003 debut album Measure of a Man sold 2.6 million copies, tells PEOPLE in an exclusive interview.

"I'm becoming a man, not just with my hair," he says, laughing about his darker, longer 'do, "but with my life. This year's been an education: the education of Clay."

He's also aware of what people have been saying about him this year, and in the new issue of PEOPLE (on newsstands Friday), he addresses rumors about his sexuality and more. Here's a preview:

On whether he's gay: "What do you say (to that question)? … It's like when I was 8. I remember something would get broken in the house, and Mom and Dad would call me in and say, 'Did you do this?' Well, it didn't matter what I said. The only thing they would believe was yes. … People are going to believe what they want."

On the panic attacks he suffered after Idol: "I'd walk into a room and say to myself, 'I am not going to have a problem when these people stare at me.' … But then (in) that situation, my heart would start pumping, and I'd start sweating and looking around nervously and shaking. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack."

On taking the anti-anxiety drug Paxil: "I said (to my doctor), 'Listen, I don't want to go to a therapist. I have nothing against therapists. I want to think I can do this on my own.' And she recommended that I try a medication. … Now I can sit here; I can go into a store; I can handle a photo shoot. I'm able to get rid of all that stuff in the periphery. It makes everything easier."

On the future: "I want to be a father so badly. I want (kids) one day. Not now. … I would love to adopt. There's an orphanage not too far from my house, and I've been up before with church. I always thought, 'What happens to those kids who have the potential to go to college but just can't afford it?' I've been thinking a lot lately about finding a way to pay for one of those kids to go to college."

For more on this story, pick up PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.

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Insider Online - be sure to watch the video clip, too.

Clay's the Man!

CLAY AIKEN may be getting a lot of coverage in the tabloids, but he's always happy for the chance to sing, and grateful to his devoted fans who call themselves Clay-mates!

"It was hard to deal with at first because I was like, 'What? Clay-mates?'" he reveals to our LARA SPENCER. "But, you know, you gotta love 'em. They're very loyal and supportive, so I'm very grateful."

The once-gawky Raleigh kid who debuted three years ago on "American Idol" has a legion of fans, better known as the "Clay Nation." But he modestly says he has "no idea" why they adore him. Could it be the new hair?

"I don't recognize myself right now," he says about his new bangs. "I still haven't gotten used to this whole thing. It's a process. The whole transformation from ugly to not-as-ugly happened very slowly," he jokes.

But Clay gets serious when talking about his journey since "Idol."

"It's hard to do this business without maturing a little. I'm much more savvy now. I'm much more aware of my surroundings, of business. I was showing vacation pictures, and there comes a point where I've realized, you know, give them an inch, they'll take a mile!"

Part of that is the public fascination with his sexuality, which he addresses in the new issue of People, on stands tomorrow.

"What do you say [to that question]?" he tells the magazine. "It's like when I was eight. I remember something would get broken in the house, and Mom and Dad would call me in and say, 'Did you do this?' Well, it didn't matter what I said. The only thing they would believe was yes. ... People are going to believe what they want."

To Lara, he says, "I understand 'Clay Aiken leads a really boring life' is not a good headline and you have to sell a paper. I'm trying to get to that point where I just don't care anymore. You can't change people's minds, and I want to sing. That's what I like doing and I enjoy my job. I guess I hate to say it, but you gotta take the good with the bad, because sometimes it's baaaad."

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'Idol' runner-up also tackles Bryan Adams, Bad English songs on Tuesday's A Thousand Different Ways.

After the smash success of Measure of a Man and Merry Christmas With Love, Clay Aiken could do whatever he wanted.

He busted the "American Idol" runner-up curse (i.e. Justin Guarini, Diana DeGarmo) and was poised for his own Breakaway — Kelly Clarkson's aptly titled sophomore album that proved she was a legitimate star.

So how would he choose to entertain his loyal Claymates next? With a covers album.

"It's something that a lot of people went, 'Huh? Why would you do that?' " Aiken acknowledged. "But what's interesting, what we found while we were doing them, is not only do they not write songs like they used to anymore, [ones with] really good melodies, but these are all songs that are right for me."

And although A Thousand Different Ways, which drops Tuesday, lacks the personal accounts of an original album, it's still very close to Aiken's heart.

"If anything, this is the first time that I've been able to do something that I think sounds like me," he explained. "And I've been able to put my thumbprint on it, because I was involved in it from minute one, from the beginning to the end."

It was actually BMG Chairman and CEO Clive Davis' idea for Aiken to make a covers record, but the singer and executive producer Jaymes Foster worked with the mogul on the choice of songs.

"[We each] made a list of songs that we thought were the greatest love songs of the past 30 years ... and we found that there were a number of songs that we all shared in common," Aiken said. "So we went out and did those first, and then we each picked from each other's lists to just try to make sure that we were [covered]. ... And regardless of how different they might be, we tried to make sure that we brought them all together and did something consistent."

Aiken was hands-on through the entire process, even deciding to cut a few of the songs.

"We attempted 'Midnight Blue,' the Melissa Manchester song," Aiken recalled, reciting a line from the song. "I went in and I sang a verse and a chorus of it and I was like, 'Ehh, I don't think this is gonna work.' Same with 'Baby Come Back' by Player."

On the songs that did work, which range from Bryan Adams' "Everything I Do (I Do It for You)" to Bad English's "When I See You Smile," Aiken tweaked the arrangements and sometimes the melodies to make them his own. With Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings," he added a spoken-word part.

"I can't even remember which song gave me the idea, you know that Evanescence-type sound, but I thought, 'I'd love to do something like that with one of these songs,' " Aiken said. "We didn't know if it would work, so we just went in the studio and we hired a singer to just sing the demo of the high part and we would later maybe hire someone else to do it. ... And it sounded so great that we didn't change anything."

While A Thousand Different Ways certainly has its fair share of big songs — like Celine Dion's "Because You Love Me" and his first single, Air Supply's "Without You" (also covered by Mariah Carey) — the album also shows a different side of Aiken.

"Most of what people expect from me is 'Ahhhh' [singing operatically], you know, big stuff," Aiken said. "Which I like to do, but people haven't heard me sing just a soft, laid-back, chill type of sound. So certain songs like 'Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word' and 'Here You Come Again' [show that]. We wanted to make sure that it had a kind of rise and fall to it, at least vocally."

Aiken plans to support the album with a tour of theaters timed near Valentine's Day "when it's cold and people wanna warm up," he said.

Until then, he has a host of publicity appearances, where he will most likely be grilled about his personal life, as he was by Diane Sawyer this week. (Aiken made headlines for calling her questions about his sexuality "rude.")

While he calls his personal life no one's business, Aiken did come out this week about taking Paxil to deal with panic attacks.

"I think it's something that can benefit somebody else," Aiken said. "[Knowing] who I'm dating and what kind of cereal I eat ain't gonna benefit anybody else. That kind of thing is not important. I think there's a distinction."

— Corey Moss, with reporting by James Cantiello

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The Insider Online - includes links to video clips

Clay's New Announcement

With the release last week of his highly-anticipated new album, A Thousand Different Ways, CLAY AIKEN is opening up, personally and professionally, with our very own LARA SPENCER.

So, is the 27-year-old singing sensation planning on leaving the music world behind?

"There have been days where I've been, 'Okay, this is more than I asked for. I wanted to be a teacher,'" reveals Clay, who has learned very quickly about the constant pressure of living in the spotlight.

"I never really expected to have this job," he adds. "I expected to be on a TV show, and I thought, 'That's cool, I get to be on a TV show.' Well, as soon as the TV show ended, I got whisked away to this whole thing here."

But not to worry, Claymates! Your fearless leader has no intention of hanging up his mic any time soon. He's busy traveling the country to promote his new disc, which features cover versions of such classic hits as "Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word" by ELTON JOHN and DOLLY PARTON's "Here You Come Again."

"Did you talk to Dolly?" asks Lara.

"No, I haven't," replies Clay. "I'm a little nervous. I don't know if she's heard it yet. I mean, these are huge names and huge songs, so I was really apprehensive."

The once-gawky Raleigh kid who debuted three years ago on "American Idol" now has a legion of fans, better known as the "Clay Nation." But he modestly says he has "no idea" why they adore him. Could it be the new hair?

"I don't recognize myself right now," he says about his new bangs. "I still haven't gotten used to this whole thing. It's a process. The whole transformation from ugly to not-as-ugly happened very slowly," he jokes.

But Clay gets serious when talking about his journey since "Idol."

"It's hard to do this business without maturing a little. I'm much more savvy now. I'm much more aware of my surroundings."

For more of our exclusive interview with Clay, watch tonight's "Insider."

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PR Newswire via Yahoo

Clay Aiken Album 'A Thousand Different Ways' Debuts at Number 2 on Billboard Album Chart With Sales Over 205,000

Wednesday September 27, 5:15 pm ET

'A Thousand Different Ways' Is Aiken's Third Top 5 Debut

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Clay Aiken's third album, A Thousand Different Ways, sold over 205,000 copies in its first week of release, securing a No. 2 debut on the Billboard album chart. It is Clay's third consecutive debut inside the top five. Measure of a Man entered at No. 1 and Merry Christmas With Love bowed at No. 4. Clay is the 4th artist ever to have his first 3 albums debut Top 5 and scan over 200,000 in the first week.

Fan support for Aiken is stronger than ever. His fans organized CD release parties in over 80 cities in the United States alone, with some parties attracting hundreds of fans.

Hundreds of fans turned up at the Virgin Megastore in Hollywood yesterday (Sept. 26) for an in-store signing by Clay. The signing began at 1pm and did not end until after 4pm.

Clay is making multiple television appearances to support A Thousand Different Ways, including "Tonight Show With Jay Leno", 3 Days on "Good Morning America", "The View", "Jimmy Kimmel Live", and upcoming "Larry King Live", "The Martha Stewart Show", and "The Tyra Banks Show".

A Thousand Different Ways combines 10 cover versions of classic songs from the '70s, '80s and '90s with four brand-new songs. Aiken has put his own spin on some of the well-known songs he has recorded for his new album. "These are songs I heard growing up. I loved them then and I still love them today, but I sing them a little differently. They have new arrangements and I put my own singing style on some of them."


Source: RCA Records

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Billboard Chartbeat

September 28, 2006,

Fred Bronson

A THOUSAND = 99: One question I'm asked all the time is if I think the contestants on "American Idol" have staying power. In the past, I've had to say that time will tell… but time keeps passing and, three years after he was named runner-up to Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken debuts at No. 2 on The Billboard 200 with his third CD, "A Thousand Different Ways" (RCA). All three of Aiken's albums have entered the chart in the top five. "Measure of a Man" debuted at No. 1 the week of Nov. 1, 2003. The holiday-themed "Merry Christmas With Love" bowed at No. 4 the week of Dec. 4, 2004. And now "A Thousand Different Ways" has opened at No. 2.

A lot of Aiken's fans purchase his product online, so they have helped fuel a No. 1 debut on the Top Internet Albums tally. Counting all domestic charts compiled by the Billboard Information Group, this is the 99th No. 1 for the "American Idol" franchise. That means the next Idol to top a Billboard chart will help the TV series collect its 100th No. 1.

With Carrie Underwood rising to No. 11 on the Hot Country Songs chart with "Before He Cheats" (Arista) and new albums coming this year from Studdard as well as Taylor Hicks, Katharine McPhee, Josh Gracin, Kellie Pickler and Chris Daughtry, that 100th No. 1 could be by anybody -- including Aiken, should "A Thousand Different Ways" reach No. 1 on another chart, or if the single "Without You" reaches pole position.

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Reuters via Yahoo.com

Sat Sep 30, 1:03 AM ET

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Amid debuts by several major new releases this week, ustin Timberlake held on to the top spot on the U.S. pop album charts, according to final sales data issued by Nielsen SoundScan Friday.

The company's data, originally released Wednesday, contained what it termed "anomalies," because an unidentified retailer was unable to report sales for the week ended September 24. Therefore the figures were based on guesswork.

Nielsen SoundScan said it subsequently received the missing data, and has reprocessed the charts. The top six albums on The Billboard 200 remain the same as the order of the chart's original version, but many of the sales figures changed.

Timberlake's second solo release, "FutureSex/LoveSounds," sold 228,000 units last week, up from the 217,000 originally reported. After two weeks atop the Billboard 200, the Jive Records release has now sold 914,000 copies.

Former "American Idol" finalist Clay Aiken's covers set, "A Thousand Different Ways" (RCA), rolled in at No. 2 with 211,000 units, up from 205,000. His debut, "Measure of a Man," debuted at No. 1 with 613,000 copies in 2003. His last collection, 2004's "Merry Christmas With Love," entered at No. 4 with 270,000.

Black Eyed Peas vocalist Fergie's solo debut, "The Dutchess" (A&M), opened at No. 3 with 158,000, an improvement of 16,000. Sales were powered by the single "London Bridge," which spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Kenny Chesney's "LIVE: Live Those Songs Again" (BNA) bowed at No. 4 and crowned the Top Country Albums chart with 146,000 (originally 137,000). It is Chesney's sixth No. 1 on that tally. The artist's last studio album, "The Road and the Radio," debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 in 2005 with 469,000.

Slipping three to No. 5, John Mayer's "Continuum" (Columbia) moved 134,000 (originally 133,000) units in its second week. Beyonce's former chart-topper "B'Day" (Columbia) fell three to No. 6 in its third week with 93,000 (originally 91,000).

Diana Krall's "From This Moment On" (Verve) entered at No. 7 with 85,000. It's also her seventh No. 1 on the Top Jazz Albums chart.

Lupe Fiasco's "Food & Liquor" debuted at No. 8 -- an improvement of four places -- with 81,000 copies

Chingy's "Hoodstar" (Slot-A-Lot) debuted at No. 9 (previously No. 8) on The Billboard 200, his second-best charting set. The rapper's debut, "Jackpot" peaked at No. 2 in 2004.

In its 34th week on the chart, Oklahoma hard rock act Hinder's "Extreme Behavior" (Universal Republic) slipped three to No. 10 (originally No. 9) with 69,000.

Other big debuts this week included Jesse McCartney's "Right Where You Want Me," No. 15; Elton John's "The Captain & The Kid," No. 18; New Found Glory's "Coming Home," No. 19; Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "Thug Stories," No. 25; Paulina Rubio's "Ananda," No. 31; Jonny Lang's Christian-themed "Turn Around," No. 35; Aaron Neville's "Bring It on Home," No. 37; Julio Iglesias' "Romantic Classics," No. 43; Indigo Girls' "Despite Our Differences," No. 47; and Mushroomhead's "Savior Sorrow" at No. 50.

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Q & A with Clay from Bordersstores.com

Reinterpreting classic songs of yesteryear is always an interesting adventure. Did you find yourself infusing the song with your own personality to give it a fresh take, taking on the character of that song from its classic sense, or doing a combination of both in the final product?

Clay Aiken: I think that reinterpretation was a really big goal of this project. It was kind of tough for me to assume that I could really do some of these songs that are so recognizable in a way that would hold up to the original. So, we made a strong effort to try to bring a new fresh take to each song. Like, trying a Celtic turn on "Everything I Do" or bringing the ethereal vibe to "Broken Wings."

You mention "Here You Come Again" as a favorite of yours from the new album, originally done by Dolly Parton. Is this your only exploration of pop-country, and how did it feel to give yourself a little country in your music with your roots in the South?

CA: I grew up on country. My mom has always listened to it. I never have found myself gravitating toward one song or the other because of the genre though. I really have always liked this song because of the melody and the great lyric. That's how I tend to pick songs. Our version of this song is quite different from Dolly's version. Hers being so peppy and upbeat; ours being so laid back and chill. I think that is really more of the reason that I love this song so much on A Thousand Different Ways. Because it is a great example of us taking a song that is so recognizable one way and breathing a whole fresh new life into it.

With your four new songs on A Thousand Different Ways are you gravitating to a particular song to showcase where you find you are headed musically beyond this album?

CA: The new songs on the album are so varied and different. They each are types of songs that I gravitate to for one reason or the other. I have really enjoyed doing this project for that reason. It has allowed us to try to create an album that has varied sounds on it, yet still has a continuity and a theme, per se. I hope that I never have to feel pigeonholed into one type of sound, and that I can always feel free to produce music that I love to sing regardless of the so-called "musical direction."

As a finalist on American Idol you represent a certain American dream to everyone reading this interview. Everyone hears about the challenges after the curtain is drawn on the season finale but never about the true triumphs. How has the challenge of simply living your life been helped and made better by this evolving sense of fame from a phenomenon such as the show?

CA: I think, as with anything you do, you become better at your "job" over time. With experience you learn how to navigate the various aspects of what you do daily. Sure, things in this "job" are much different than they would have been had I remained in the classroom teaching. But, I think I am in a place now where I have grown comfortable with my new role.

The new album represents a benchmark for you in terms of songs that you found an affinity to growing up and becoming the singer you are today. Which songs in your mind show the earliest and most recent touchstones of music that show you off to your fans as an artist? Key favorites that you remember falling in love with as a child and more recently that hit you growing up?

CA: I guess the ones that I have the closest connection to would be songs like "Everything I Do (I Do It for You)" or "Right Here Waiting." Not necessarily because I remember a particular event that is tied to them, but probably because they were first popular during a period of my life that I remember as being tougher. I think we all relate to music that helps us through rougher times in our own personal histories.

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" target="_blank">USA Today

'Idol' alumni feeling the sting of idling sales

By Edna Gundersen, USA TODAY

Stars of the hottest show on TV may have a cooling point.

As frenzy builds for the January kickoff of American Idol's sixth run, enthusiasm for alumni seems to be waning.

Second-season winner Ruben Studdard's The Return sold 71,000 copies last week to enter Billboard at No. 8. That's a big slide from the No. 1 opening for 2003 debut Soulful, which moved 417,000 copies.

Runner-up Clay Aiken's A Thousand Different Ways opened at No. 2 in late September after selling 211,000 copies, roughly a third of his take for 2003 chart-topping debut Measure of a Man and 24% less than a 2004 Christmas set.

"The Clay number wasn't bad," says Geoff Mayfield, Billboard director of charts. "I'm not so jaded to think a 200,000-plus week is a failure. That's just the way the market is this year. He still has a substantial fan base."

Fantasia, 2004's champ, returns Dec. 5. Also in the pipeline are releases by 2006 Idols: winner Taylor Hicks (Dec. 5), runner-up Katharine McPhee (Nov. 28) and finalists Kellie Pickler (Tuesday) and Chris Daughtry (Nov. 21).

Fantasia's hopes for a sizable start rest on generating airplay in coming weeks, Mayfield says. As for new Idols, "put your chips behind Taylor Hicks. I expect him to have a strong number. I watch him in that truck commercial and scratch my head, but I don't bet against the Idol franchise."

His cohorts? "We'll see," he says. "The only non-winner to have stellar numbers has been Clay."

Idol congestion — seven releases in 11 weeks — isn't hampering anyone's prospects, says Tom Corson, executive vice president and general manager of J/Arista, home to Hicks, Studdard and Fantasia. "If they were all mainstream pop artists, that premise would be valid. They all stand on their own. They're individual artists with very robust, dedicated campaigns, their own fan bases and repertoire in different genres and formats."

Corson says he's unfazed by Aiken's and Studdard's slower starts. After all, Idol queen Kelly Clarkson's Thankful opened at No. 1 with 297,000 in 2003, better than 2004's Breakaway, which opened at No. 3 with 250,000 but went on to sell 5.6 million copies, more than double her debut.

An Idol debut "capitalizes on the momentum of the show," Corson says. "The second or third is more of an artist's album, a big challenge and a different task. You have to create momentum."

If radio snubs an Idol, eager TV bookers more than compensate, he says.

The Idols "are all going to get their shot and then some," he says, deeming the fall glut of music as good news for fans and the industry. "The fourth quarter is the Indy 500, always hyper-competitive. I say bring it on. Let's keep the market invigorated and give consumers music they're excited about. It's a grind out there. We need sizzle."

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