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People.com:

Clay Aiken to Appear on Days of Our Lives

FRIDAY OCTOBER 27, 2006 08:40AM EST

Claymates will get a special Christmas present this year: Clay Aiken will be appearing on the NBC daytime drama Days of our Lives as himself, PEOPLE has learned exclusively.

On the show, the American Idol phenomenon will perform "Everything I Have," a song from his new album, as part of a private concert for Steve (Stephen Nichols) and Kayla (Mary Beth Evans) in the local Salem club called Dune.

Aiken, whose album A Thousand Different Ways was released last month, will also have his version of "O, Holy Night" from his 2004 album Merry Christmas with Love featured in the episode, which will tape Nov. 14 and air on Dec. 22.

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EOnline.com:

Clay Aiken Soaps Up

by Natalie Finn

Fri, 27 Oct 2006 07:14:51 PM PDT

If Clay Aiken was invisible…well then he couldn't be on Days of Our Lives, now could he?

The American Idol-endorsed pop star is set to guest-star as himself on the long-running NBC soap opera, the network confirmed Friday to E! News.

He'll sing the song "Everything I Have" off his new album, A Thousand Different Ways, as part of a "private concert" for Days' Steve and Kayla (Stephen Nichols and Mary Beth Evans).

Aiken's 2004 version of "O, Holy Night" will also be featured in the episode, which airs Dec. 22, giving Claymates their fix just in time for Christmas. Raleigh's favorite son also recently announced a 16-date holiday concert tour for the final month of the year, during which he'll be accompanied by live orchestras.

This won't be Aiken's first time delving into daytime drama, though. He appeared last year as a guest on the talk-show-within-a-show "New Beginnings," hosted by Susan Lucci's Erica Kane, on the ABC soap All My Children.

A Thousand Different Ways, Aiken's cover-heavy third album, dropped in September and peaked at number two on the Billboard charts. The disc features four original songs as well as 10 tunes made famous by Foreigner, Bryan Adams, Dolly Parton, Celine Dion, Elton Jon and others.

And obviously there are plenty of ladies out there aching to hear Clay cover "I Want to Know What Love Is," "Because You Love Me" and "Everything I Do (I Do It For You)." The 27-year-old heartthrob was voted "Sexiest Male Singer" by InStyle readers for the third time in a row this year.

"We realized as we were picking new songs that they just don't make songs like they used to," Aiken told Voice of America last month. "Then, eventually [RCA Music Group chairman] Clive Davis said, 'you know what - let's just do an album full of the greatest love songs ever.'"

Also during that interview, the Measure of a Man purveyor addressed one of the more pressing rumors that have been tailing him since finishing second on American Idol in 2003.

"What I do in my private life is nobody's business anymore, period," Aiken said in response to yet another question about how he deals with rumors that he's gay.

"You know, it's one thing to try to be open and talk to people and try to share as much as I can. And, of course, I want to do that. But, at some point, it just becomes really rude. You know what, I'm not spending my time with this anymore. This is a waste of my time."

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reality blurred.com:

Kelly Clarkson is Idol’s all-time record sales leader, but Clay Aiken leads with single sales

Among American Idol finalists who’ve released music to the public, Kelly Clarkson is the most successful in terms of album sales, while Clay Aiken has a commanding lead in the single sales category.

USA TODAY’s Idol Chatter reports on the Nielsen SoundScan numbers, which show that Kelly Clarkson has sold far more albums (8.1 million copies over two albums) than any other Idol star. With his three albums, Clay Aiken is a close second, having sold 4.3 million copies. But Carrie Underwood’s numbers are impressive, as she sold 3.65 million copies of just one album. The biggest loser: Corey Clark, who sold only 2,500 copies of his crappy record.

In the singles category, the numbers are very different, as both of season two’s finalist two easily defeated season one’s Kelly Clarkson. Clay Aiken leads single sales with 1.3 million singles sold, while season two winner Ruben Studdard is second with 751,000 copies. Kelly Clarkson is third with 636,000 copies, followed by Taylor Hicks with 449,000 copies. At the bottom of the list is John Stevens, who has sold 2,700 singles, 200 more copies than Corey Clark’s album sold.

Finally, in the downloaded tracks category, Kelly Clarkson leads again, having sold an impressive 5.9 million songs. Carrie Underwood is number two with 1.5 million, and surprisingly, Josh Gracin is third with 442,000. Bo Bice (377,000) and Clay Aiken (328,000) come in at fourth and fifth. At the bottom of the list is Kimberly Caldwell, who has only had 200 tracks downloaded.

Idol Chatter Blog with sales details:

Idol sales standings: A fairly exhaustive list

Perhaps trying to forestall my incessant questions about Idol sales, my esteemed primary Nielsen SoundScan contact sent me a big pile of statistics relating to that very topic. Basically, the document has total sales in the album, downloaded tracks and single categories for each Idol finalist over the show's history.

It's not quite the complete statistical collection you might be envisioning, mainly because it doesn't break out stats on individual albums or tracks -- it's totals only in each category. But it does provide a nifty ranking device that may amuse or edify you, or start arguments, or something equally constructive.

So I'm going to make an attempt to organize this mass of data into easily digestible rankings. I'll also try to note any discrepancies or omissions that might crop up, although it looks pretty complete on first glance. The ranking breakdowns follow.

> Album standings (for one album unless otherwise noted):

1. Kelly Clarkson: 8.1 million (2 albums)

2. Clay Aiken: 4.3 million (3 albums)

3. Carrie Underwood: 3.65 million

4. Ruben Studdard: 2.3 million (3 albums)

5. Fantasia: 2.1 million

6. Josh Gracin: 677,000

7. Bo Bice: 654,000

8. Kimberley Locke: 211,000

9. Diana DeGarmo: 165,000

10. Justin Guarini: 143,000

11. Tamyra Gray: 123,000

12. Kellie Pickler: 79,000

13. LaToya London: 55,000

14. George Huff: 44,000

15. RJ Helton: 21,000

16. John Stevens: 20,000

17. Jasmine Trias: 14,000

18. Jim Verraros: 3,700 (He may have 2 albums out, not sure. If so, this would be a composite total)

19. Corey Clark: 2,500

Idol compilations have sold 2.8 million, which would put them at No. 4, but that's not really fair. Any finalist not listed does not have an album registered with SoundScan or has sales too "negligible" to report.

> Singles:

(does not count downloads, which are listed separately below)

1. Clay Aiken: 1.3 million

2. Ruben Studdard: 751,000

3. Kelly Clarkson: 636,000

4. Carrie Underwood: 457,000

5. Taylor Hicks: 449,000

6. Fantasia: 409,000

7. Bo Bice: 347,000

8. Diana DeGarmo: 301,000

9. Katharine McPhee: 144,000

10. Kimberley Locke: 85,000

11. La Toya London: 8,500

12. John Stevens: 2,700

Idol group-sing singles have sold 508,000 copies.

> Downloaded tracks:

1. Kelly Clarkson: 5.9 million

2. Carrie Underwood: 1.5 million

3. Josh Gracin: 442,000

4. Bo Bice: 377,000

5. Clay Aiken: 328,000

6. Fantasia: 277,000

7. Taylor Hicks: 201,000

8. Katharine McPhee: 156,000

9. Ruben Studdard: 143,000

10. Chris Daughtry: 103,000

11. Diana DeGarmo: 73,000

12. Kimberley Locke: 44,000

13. Elliott Yamin: 25,000

14. Kellie Pickler: 18,000

15. Ace Young: 15,000

16. Vonzell Solomon: 14,000

17. La Toya London: 12,000

17. (tie) Jessica Sierra: 12,000

19. Paris Bennett: 9,900

20. Mandisa: 8,300

21. Scott Savol: 8,000

22. George Huff: 7,800

23. Melissa McGhee: 7,000

24. Constantine Maroulis: 6,000

25. Nadia Turner: 5,800

26. Nikko Smith: 5,300

27. Lindsey Cardinale: 4,500

28. Bucky Covington: 4,400

29. Lisa Tucker: 4,200

30. John Stevens: 4,000

31. Anwar Robinson: 3,500

32. Kevin Covais: 2,900

33. Carmen Rasmusen: 2,300

34. Camile Velasco: 2,100

35. Mikalah Gordon: 1,500

36. Corey Clark: 1,000

37. Kimberly Caldwell: 200

Not in the system, because they hit the spotlight before SoundScan started tracking downloads, didn't have tracks available for download or had "negligible" numbers: all the first-season Idols except Kelly, Vanessa Olivarez, Charles Grigsby, Julia DeMato, Rickey Smith, Trenyce, Matthew Rogers, Leah LaBelle, Jon Peter Lewis, Jennifer Hudson (that'll change when Dreamgirls comes out), Amy Adams and Anthony Fedorov. (I have a hunch that Anthony might not be in there because his name may have been misspelled when his numbers were being tracked.)

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Great new Clay article - LiveDaily

Clay Reflects On ATDW

Clay Aiken reflects on 'A Thousand Different Ways'

November 10, 2006 03:47 PM

by Christina Fuoco

LiveDaily Contributor

Though Clay Aiken's upcoming December concerts will have a holiday

theme, the singer plans to get back on the road next year to support

his third album, "A Thousand Different Ways," which debuted at No. 2

on The Billboard 200 album chart after selling 205,000 copies during

its first week in stores.

It was Aiken's third consecutive debut inside the Top 5: his

debut, "Measure of a Man," entered at No. 1 and "Merry Christmas

With Love" debuted at No. 4.

"A Thousand Different Ways" combines 10 cover versions of songs from

the '70s, '80s and '90s with four new songs--though that wasn't the

original plan, Aiken said in an e-mail interview.

"It wasn't our intention to do it this way," he explained. "But we

started noticing that so many of the greatest songs we were finding

were cover songs. Clive [Davis] made the suggestion and thought it

would be a great idea to remake the greatest love songs of all time.

When Clive Davis has an idea, you have to assume it's going to be

great. So we listened to him and gave it a shot."

The album includes covers of Richard Marx's "Right Here Waiting,"

Paul Young's "Every Time You Go Away" and Mr. Mister's "Broken

Wings." Choosing the songs was a collaborative effort between him,

Davis and executive producer Jaymes Foster.

"Clive chose songs; I chose songs; Jaymes chose songs," Aiken

said. "Then, from our three lists, we collaborated on the best

picks. We really found that we had a great deal of matches on all

three lists. Not only did we want to pick songs that were excellent

copyrights and stellar songs, we also made sure that each song

really matched me vocally and stylistically. I mean, 'I'm Too Sexy'

was a big hit ... but seriously ... me singing it wouldn't really

fit!"

As it turns out, the original artists and songwriters seem

complimentary of Aiken's renditions of their songs.

"A number of the song writers have been pleased with what we came up

with," he said. "Diane Warren is usually quite picky about the way

her songs are performed and she had only great things to say

about 'Because You Loved Me' and 'When I See You Smile.' Richard

Page [of Mr. Mister] was very complimentary of 'Broken Wings.' He

actually said that he never really thought he would be able to

appreciate a cover of one of his songs, but that he was impressed

with what we did. Bryan Adams was complimentary as well."

For "Broken Wings," Aiken includes an original poem spoken by Erin

Taylor. He said he did so because he wanted "to do something

ethereal with one of the songs."

"'Broken Wings' lent itself to that type of production more than

anything else. I was going to simply have a friend of mine read the

lyrics to the song in the background. But she was in the studio with

us while we were recording and came up with this amazing poem that

really related the message of the song in a whole new way, so we

decided to use it."

Aiken launches his latest holiday tour Dec. 1 in Waukegan, IL. This

year, local orchestras will begin the festivities, with Aiken

joining them for a set of holiday songs, some of which are found on

his CD "Merry Christmas With Love."

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Suburban Chicago News:

Clay Aiken to give holiday concert at Genesee Theatre

November 30, 2006

By DAN MORAN DMORAN@SCN1.COM

WAUKEGAN -- A little more than three years ago, Clay Aiken was just another kid with a voice going up against Simon Cowell. Today, having achieved his professional dreams, he is yet another star being stalked by a media helicopter.

On the phone Wednesday morning from his home base in North Carolina, Aiken said he had just conducted a media tour of the house he built nine months ago -- a tour he arranged as a bit of revenge against a local flying news crew.

"It started during this whole Kelly Ripa scandal," he said, referring to the tempest sparked earlier this month when he silenced and then outraged Ripa by placing his hand on her mouth while co-hosting "Live With Regis & Kelly."

"There was a news crew that was kind of rude about it -- they came up and rang my bell (and) flew their helicopter over my house," he said. "I thought, 'How rude is that?' So I called up their competition and invited them to come over to my house for a tour."

Though he laughed as he told the tale, Aiken was asked if he could do without the downside of his quick rise to fame. "Yeah," he said, "but I'm learning how to deal with it."

The "American Idol" star, who celebrates his 28th birthday today, is also learning to pace himself through life on the road. Friday night's appearance at the Genesee Theatre will be the first of 18 shows in 22 days, culminating Dec. 23 in Greensboro, N.C.

How will he pull off singing at the top of his register that often over that period of time? "Don't ask me how, because I've never done it before," he said. "When I did the first 'Idol' tour, we did, I think, 50 shows in about 60 days, so typically you do about five shows a week. This is six shows a week or more."

Adding to the challenge, Aiken said, will be performing at each stop with a local symphony. At the Genesee, he will be working with the FullScore Chamber Orchestra.

"Oh, my gosh, I'm going to tell on myself here, but we won't be doing any rehearsing ahead of time," he said. "We do have the same conductor who travels with us, but we're going to fly by the seat of our pants. (We'll) cross our fingers and hope it goes well."

Aiken then joked that "people will hear that and be like, 'Oh, I can't wait to see that train wreck.'" But he added that he will have the advantage of working with familiar material, having spent the last three Christmas seasons conducting some type of holiday tour.

"The first year, December of '03, I spent quite a bit of time leading into Christmas doing 'jingle jams' and (promotions) for radio stations. That did not feel like Christmas at all," he said. "But the last two years (with the Joyful Noise tours) and with a tour like this, people are in the Christmas spirit and we're doing all Christmas music, so it's kind of exciting.

"What I'm really excited about is that usually you just tour with a band; this is a full orchestra, and we're really going to focus on just the music," he said, adding that he has a tough time nailing down a favorite holiday song. "It's tough because every year it becomes something different. This year, I like 'Merry Christmas With Love' and 'Don't Save It All for Christmas,' which I close the show with. And then 'Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel' is probably my favorite standard."

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Arlington Heights Daily Herald

This ‘Idol’ not achin’ for work

Clay Aiken takes time to talk with Beep about being a continuing success

Lauren Heist

Beep Staff Writer

Posted Saturday, December 09, 2006

It’s not bad to be second best, especially when you’re Clay Aiken.

He may not have won the grand title of winner of the second season of “American Idol,” but that’s not stopping Aiken from commanding huge audiences around the country a full three years after his reign on the show.

This former dorky-looking bean pole from North Carolina proved he can sell a lot of records by using his big voice and putting lots of emotion into his songs. His first single, “This Is the Night,” shot to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, selling more than 392,000 copies in its first week. He’s since come out with three albums: “Measure of a Man,” “Merry Christmas With Love” and his most recent, “A Thousand Different Ways,” which came out in September.

But Aiken’s voice isn’t the only thing getting him noticed these days. He became the subject of a celebrity ruckus recently when he put his hand over Kelly Ripa’s mouth when he was filling in as co-host of “Live with Regis and Kelly.” Ripa exclaimed that she didn’t “know where that hand has been,” prompting Rosie O’Donnell to label Ripa’s comments homophobic, even though Aiken has never said he is gay.

Aiken was in town last week when he performed a Christmas show at the Genesee Theater in Waukegan on Dec. 2 and at the Star Plaza Theatre in Merrillville, Ind., a day later, we had a chance to chat with the singer about the incident, his post-“Idol” success and what he wants for Christmas.

Beep: So, I wanted to ask you about the whole Kelly Ripa thing.

Aiken: Why do you have to ask it? Do people actually think that that matters?

Beep: How did it make you feel? Were you surprised by it?

Aiken: Oh gosh, yeah. I was very surprised. I had no idea I was such a big celebrity. Who knew it would, that would, cause such a controversy?

Beep: Have a lot of people been asking you about it?

Aiken: When I was flying back home from L.A. last week I had about five people stop and ask me if I would take a picture with them with my hand over their mouth.

Beep: So tell me a little bit about your latest album.

Aiken: It was really Clive Davis’ idea to do an album. He wanted to do an album that was a collection of love songs from the past 30 years or so … my favorite love songs. So he and myself … (we) worked together to select the songs that we felt were the best ones that fit me the best.

Beep: Your most recent album is covers of other people’s songs. Who would you want to cover your songs?

Aiken: Let’s see. It would have to be someone who I think is good but not so good that they’d do it better than me. That’s a tough question. I don’t know. I know a lot of people who I think are good. But you know I don’t really … know a lot of people who are true artists who can create something new, who are really artists who can really create something rather than just reinterpret … maybe someone like John Mayer or Alicia Keys.

Beep: Where do you see your career going in the future? What kind of stuff would you like to do?

Aiken: You know, I’ve always tried to be open to things. I didn’t expect to be where I am now, much less if I could guess where I would be tomorrow. It’s kind of like let go and let God. … There are a lot of things I’d like to do. I do like the TV aspect of what I do and that side of the job, so if more opportunities came my way that way (that would be good). I’ve always wanted to be a talk show host, so if that opportunity came along I’d jump and grab it. But, you know, I try to be open to different possibilities. I don’t know, maybe tomorrow somebody will ask me to do a movie. I don’t know. But who knows? If they do, I want to be open to it.

Beep: Have you ever considered going on Broadway?

Aiken: You know I’ve always enjoyed that type of thing. I always think it’s a compliment when people say I should be on Broadway because those people are singers who can just shell out a great performance eight times a week and I only do four shows a week. So I take it as a compliment because I think they’re great singers, but you know, if something comes my way, the right opportunity at the right time, I’d be up to it.

Beep: What’s the biggest change you’ve experienced since you became famous and since “American Idol”?

Aiken: I don’t think I could come up with just one thing that’s changed. I mean, literally, with the exception of — I was going to say my eyes, but I got contacts, so that’s not even the same — I can’t think of much that’s the same! I got the same feet. My feet are still big. I mean, my whole life has changed. I think obviously the biggest change is there’s no such thing as anonymity any more. I mean, I put my hand over Kelly Ripa’s mouth and it becomes a national story for three days. I mean that, to me, is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard of in my life, that anybody would care about that kind of thing.

Beep: Are there any people from your high school or your hometown that used to think you were a big dork and now want to be your best friend?

Aiken: I don’t think so. The people who used to pick on me in high school and middle school used to pick on me so much that they couldn’t show their face to me now. It wasn’t mild. I’ve only stayed in touch with two or three people from high school, that’s it. The people I’ve stayed in touch with have pretty much always been friends of mine. So it’s interesting, I’ve never really had that problem.

Beep: Are you friends with any of the people who’ve been on “American Idol,” your season or other seasons?

Aiken: It’s not really a fraternity so much. But if we have a chance to cross paths and meet each other, we all have that synergy. We all have that camaraderie because we do have similar experiences. I don’t really stay in touch with many with the exception of Kim Locke, who was my roommate for a year … and Ruben (Studdard), of course, I stay in touch with. And I do stay in touch with Kelly because we went on tour together. The other ones, you know, if you cross somebody’s path, you know, we always have something to talk about. I mean, think about it — there have been four seasons, so 12 each, there are really only not even 48 people in the world who have the same experiences that we have.

Beep: Do you watch “American Idol” now that you’re not on it?

Aiken: I catch it every once in a while.

Beep: Do you have any favorite TV shows that you watch?

Aiken: I’m a huge “Jericho” fan on CBS. That show is awesome. The finale’s coming on tonight and I’m so excited.

Beep: What do you want for Christmas? Do you have anything on your list?

Aiken: Well, my (28th) birthday’s tomorrow…

Beep: Oh, happy birthday!

Aiken: … and a lot of people have said they went shopping for me and they just were amazed that I am the hardest person to shop for. Being creative and trying to think of a fun event to do is probably the best.

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Morning Call Online

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.

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AM New York

Talking up the hands of Clay

BY RAFER GUZMÁN

Newsday Staff Writer

December 14, 2006

It happened nearly a month ago. No one died, no one was injured. It didn't change the political landscape or the war in Iraq. But after all this time, the famous "battle" between Clay Aiken and Kelly Ripa remains fresh in the public's mind.

"I had no idea I was that famous," says a still-baffled Aiken, speaking by phone from the bunk of his tour bus somewhere in Connecticut early Tuesday morning. "We're talking the first story on 'Entertainment Tonight' three nights in a row. I'm like, 'Damn! I've made it now.'"

Certainly there are other things going on with Aiken these days. He's on his third Christmas-themed tour, performing with local orchestras. He recently released a new album, "A Thousand Different Ways" (RCA). The iTunes version features his first attempt at songwriting -- with the composer David Foster, no less -- called "Lover All Alone." But of course it's Ripa that this interviewer wants to talk about.

"Don't they all," Aiken says with a good-natured sigh.

For the proverbial cave-dwellers out there, the story began when the "American Idol" alum jokingly put his hand over Ripa's mouth during an epidose of "Live! With Regis & Kelly" that aired Friday, Nov. 17. Ripa took offense, snapping, "I don't know where that hand's been, honey!" On Monday, Ripa blasted Aiken as "disrespectful" and called his hand "cold and clammy."

The incident made headlines, and Rosie O'Donnell fanned the flames on "The View," suggesting that the speculation surrounding Aiken's sexuality played a part in what she called Ripa's "homophobic" remark. Never mind that Aiken doesn't publicly comment on his romantic life -- now Ripa was phoning O'Donnell's show to protest, "I respect all people, regardless."

Aiken says the entire issue caught him off-guard. He left Ripa's show and heard nothing about it all weekend, he says. "Then Monday it turned into this huge thing," he recalls. "She called me Wednesday afternoon to kind of apologize for all the drama, and that it blew up so much. I think it surprised both of us, really."

As for O'Donnell, Aiken describes her as a friend. "She's always been protective," he says. "I guess you have to be thankful that someone's trying to take your back and be friends." He adds carefully: "I don't know that I agreed with what she said, necessarily, but you know -- everybody's got their own opinions and sees things their own way."

From the start, Aiken has treated the affair with self-deprecating humor. As a co-presenter at the recent American Music Awards, he allowed Tori Spelling to muzzle him with the remark, "I'll tell you where that hand's been later." And one day at Los Angeles International Airport, he says, "No less than five people came up and wanted to take their picture with me.

Which isn't too rare -- but all of them wanted me to put my hand over their mouth."

When Aiken comes to Tilles Center Thursday night with the Chelsea Symphony Orchestra, expect a few more hand-to-mouth jokes -- some, perhaps, aimed at Ripa. At his show in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Sunday, Aiken suggested that any noisemakers in the crowd cover their own yaps. "It is very effective," he noted, "at shutting up people who talk too much."

"Do I give poor Kelly a shot in the ribs?" Aiken muses coyly. "I think it's all in good fun."

WHERE&WHEN Clay Aiken plays at 8 Thursday night at Tilles Center, C.W. Post Campus of Long Island University, 720 Northern Blvd., Brookville. Tickets are $45-$150. Call 516-299-3100 or go to tillescenter.org.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.

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Times Herald-Record recordonline.com

Clay bells ring, are you listening?

Clay Aiken's Christmas show comes to West Point

By Mary Esparra for the Times Herald-Record

December 15, 2006

OK, his favorite Christmas songs are "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day," "Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel," and "Merry Christmas With Love," a song dating back to his ninth-grade choir days. He's not sure what tinsel is, prefers a fake Christmas tree to a real one and turkey to ham for Christmas dinner.

Now that Clay Aiken's "Claymates" know some new juicy tidbits on their (American) idol, why would the rest of the music-loving public want to see his Christmas concert at Eisenhower Hall today?

Those that don't know every detail of his life, as his fans the Claymates do, might be surprised to know he's not just a second-place winner of a national TV talent show. Or maybe that guy who made headlines recently for an on-air encounter with chatty "Live With Regis and Kelly" host Kelly Ripa. How much has that "incident" affected him?

"Oh, Lord, none whatsoever," Aiken says. "I've laughed at it, are you kidding me? None whatsoever. I didn't know I was that big a star."

When told about the Record's message board filling up in response to it, he replies, laughing, "Oh my gosh, people need to worry about bigger things."

The bigger things Aiken cares about come through in his charity work. This pop star uses his celebrity to help others. When his career as a special education teacher was halted after his success on "American Idol," he co-founded the Bubel/Aiken Foundation. The foundation helps open doors for developmentally disabled children, encouraging their interaction with all children. He was also recently appointed to the President's Committee for People With Intellectual Disabilities, was ambassador for UNICEF and spokesperson for Toys for Tots.

Though "Idol" diehards may remember the slings he deflected from Simon Cowell while performing on "Idol" all those years ago, his popularity with the public has never faltered. They continue to swoon at his mesmerizing and unpretentious voice.

His album, "Measure of a Man," went multiplatinum. Concerts sell out fast. Google Clay Aiken and a million and a half sites pop up with untold numbers of messages boards devoted to him.

In appreciation of their deep devotion, Aiken gave his fans a present for his recent birthday — a video tour of his home.

As his bio states, "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."

There are few singers in the world today earning such praise. His fans have said his voice fills something inside them, there's just something about the tone and quality. It's raw yet inviting, addictive yet healing.

Aiken will bring that "something" to West Point tonight when he performs with the 50-piece Chelsea Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ankush Bahl. He'll sing songs from his 2004 album, "Merry Christmas With Love," the top-selling holiday album of that year. He'll also sing songs from his limited-edition release "All Is Well," which came out Nov. 28.

"And maybe one or two more that aren't anywhere else," Aiken says. "I think the neat thing about this tour is, I'm going to try to change up the set each night. I'm not exactly sure. We're going to fly by the seat of our pants. We've got much less overhead on this show, so we can be a little bit freer to say, 'Oh, I don't like this, let's take it out,' or 'Let's throw this back in.'"

Hopefully that won't affect fans' chance to hear "that note" in "Don't Save It All for Christmas Day." On the CD, he holds a note perfectly for what seems like minutes. In actuality, it's precisely 22 seconds.

"You've been timing me?" he asks, laughing. "Twenty-two seconds. Now I'm going to have pressure to see if I can do 23."

The challenge is on, Clay.

"I don't know. If I don't make it, if I don't hit it, I might be embarrassed."

Embarrassment would only make him more endearing (to his fawning Claymates).

"I think the same message holds true throughout the year: I'm just amazed by the amount of support, and I'm very thankful that they allow me to continue what I do," he says.

Mary Esparra is a freelance writer living in Orange County.

If you Go! ...

What: Clay Aiken performs Christmas classics

Where: Eisenhower Hall at West Point

When: 8 p.m. Dec. 15

Tickets: $35 and $50

Call: Eisenhower Hall Telecharge, 800-233-3123; or box office, 938-4159

Q&A with Clay

Q: Colored or white Christmas lights?

A: White

Q: Cute or classy ornaments?

A: Classy

Q: Eggnog or cider?

A: (pause)

Q: You don’t like either?

A:

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The Grand Rapids Press

Energetic Aiken has right touch for holiday show

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

By Jeffrey Kaczmarczyk

The Grand Rapids Press

Claymates everywhere slept easy Tuesday night.

Diehard fans of Clay Aiken go online each night their "American Idol" favorite has a concert to listen to that evening's pirated, cell-phone recording. They need to know if their guy hit the high note of his encore, "All Is Well."

He did.

Those, of course, are only the midlevel fans.

The most serious of West Michigan's Claymates, of course, didn't have to check the Internet about their boy's debut in DeVos Performance Hall. They were there, taking in his show with the Grand Rapids Symphony.

A sellout audience -- mostly female, plenty taking improper flash photos and/or making illegal cell-phone recordings -- filled the 2,446-seat hall for "A Clay Aiken Christmas."

Aiken was a hoot and a holler, full of Southern charm, telling stories, cracking jokes, bantering with the audience.

He also sings rather well.

But beyond the songs, it's the whole package -- the easy grin, the down-home demeanor, the good ol' boy charm -- that made the former special-education teacher from North Carolina the kind of celebrity who makes headlines just by clapping his hand over Kelly Ripa's mouth.

The 28-year-old singer, who referred to himself as the "Scandal King," did not disavow that action.

"It needed to be done," he told the cheering audience. "And I'd do it again. Hopefully with less publicity."

Dressed in black suit and shirt with a chocolate brown tie and cowboy boots, Aiken sang 13 songs in 81 minutes on stage with the Grand Rapids Symphony, led by his pianist and musical director, Jesse Vargas.

Soft and soulful versions of Christmas hymns such as "The First Noel," "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" and "O Come, All Ye Faithful" fell easily from his tenor voice.

His buoyant delivery also worked well with such breezy tunes as "Winter Wonderland" and "Sleigh Ride."

But Aiken was at his best with intimate melodies such as "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song," singing the latter with a Nat "King" Cole flair.

One of his finest of the night was "Mary, Did You Know?" which Aiken sang with an earnest appeal.

What was especially touching about "My Grown Up Christmas List" was that Aiken said he was singing it for his younger brother, who turned 21 on Tuesday and is a Marine serving in Iraq.

The Grand Rapids Symphony opened the concert, part of its SymphonicBoom Series, with 30 minutes' worth of holiday music, a couple of medleys as well as variations on "Little Drummer Boy."

Some were recycled from the Holiday Pops earlier this month and played better.

Associate conductor John Varineau shrewdly picked several medleys and arrangements -- a cinematic version of "Sing We Now of Christmas" and a whimsical variation of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" -- all with a bit of glitter, a little snap and plenty of solos all around to show off the orchestra. It's always smart to dress up when you have company over.

Aiken, in turn, was the gracious guest, full of praise for the orchestra. His several plugs of the evening included a couple of mentions of the Grand Rapids Symphony's recent Grammy Award nomination for its recording "Invention & Alchemy," with harpist Deborah Henson-Conant.

"Cause I've never had one of those nominations," he said with a pretend pout. "I feel really bad."

Nor did he win "American Idol," but that hasn't stopped Aiken from becoming a star in the world of entertainment.

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