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July-August 2007

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Information moved to the Meadowbrook thread in the Summer Tour 2007 Section -- ldyj
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The Houston Chronicle

Clay Aiken — despite the stylishly shaggy 'do — still isn't hip.

"I'm never going to be, and I'm fine with that. We all must embrace our inner dork," he says with a laugh.

Aiken has still managed a successful post-American Idol career as the soundtrack of choice for enthusiastic grandmothers. He performs Friday with the Houston Symphony, and he doesn't expect to see a lot of people his age in the crowd.

"People always come up to me and say, 'My grandmother's your biggest fan,' " Aiken, 28, says. "There's a misconception among these ladies that I'm cool and hip and now. And they think that by liking me, it makes them cool and hip and now.

"But shhh. We aren't going to tell them that I'm not cool and hip at all."

An affable Aiken took time to talk about his future as a talk-show host (maybe), turkey basters (keep reading) and how Claymates saved Jericho from TV extinction (seriously).

Q: Fans still get worked up over you. What's with the enduring Claymania?

A: I don't get it. I don't know why. They don't see me right now in my pajamas, with my hair all messed up, one contact out. There's nothing to be excited about, honestly.

Q: What's the most unique gift you've received from a fan?

A: You mean turkey-baster unique? Like that? Because I've gotten one of those. Let's just let you sit on that for a minute. (Brief pause.) And there it is.

The show Jericho . . . I loved it. I started blogging about it on my fan site. It got canceled, and I blogged about how upset I was. I said, "The Claymates can do anything. How do we get this show back on the air?"

Honestly, within a week they had organized a campaign amongst Jericho fans to send nuts to CBS. It kind of started in that place. And it's back on the air! It just blows my mind.

Q: Do you feel that Aiken love in Texas?

A: Texas is really a tough market for pop. I think sometimes the fans don't understand, and they think I hate Texas. I love Texas. It's just people there don't love me that much. You want me to come, you've got to come to the show!

Q: Any songs that didn't make the cut on A Thousand Different Ways?

A: Things other than covers. Sorry, I'm being way too honest today. How do I say this politically correctly? I was strongly encouraged by other sources to do an album of covers. There was the feeling that it might be successful because there'd been success with Rod Stewart and Barry Manilow doing covers. I guess the argument against that would be I don't have the reputation that Rod Stewart has. I really don't have the credibility that he has, so there's no reason for me to do them.

Q: Do you like the disc at all?

A: It did turn out to be something I was really proud of. My mom's always told me, 'Take lemons . . .' I think we really did that.

Q: Are you itching to do new material?

A: The goal for the next album is to go with one producer. The person we picked is very credible, has won Grammys and has really done an eclectic mix of stuff. The hope is that we'll be able to find really great songs that suit me and produce them in a way that . . . makes me hip without trying too hard. I'm sorry I'm teasing you, but you're getting more than anybody else.

Q: Do you hear anything on Top 40 radio that you can relate to?

A: This Rihanna girl — she's got a great voice. I really think she deserves to be where she is. . . . (But) what happened to Whitney Houston on the radio? Not literally — let's not go there — but what happened to that kind of stuff on Top 40? I think nowadays radio doesn't care how good someone sings. They just care whether or not people can fake having sex while standing up dancing to it. That's all they want.

Q: What was the first record you purchased?

A: I got in big trouble when I was 6 or 7. They had that Columbia House, seven albums for a penny or something like that. I was young enough to not really know what I was doing, and I stuck the little penny on. You want to talk about being completely not cool and hip? One of the ones that I remember was Crystal Gayle. God help me. It's somewhere around the house.

I don't know if that's my first album, but it's the one that I remember — and it's got a better story.

Q: What one record would people be surprised to find in your collection?

My brother's a Marine, and he's into this group called Breaking Benjamin. I don't know much about them, but I own that. I wanted to kind of see what he was listening to. There's a song called Diary of Jane that I think is pretty good. . . . Breaking Benjamin is going to kill themselves because they got mentioned in the same article (as) Clay Aiken. There goes the rep.

Q: You've got a great sense of humor. Ever consider hosting a talk show?

A: I'd be great. There are probably 15, 17 different shows I could pitch. One of the basic ones would just be going around and letting America tell their story. Everybody has a story, if you let them tell it. I'd love to do Charles Kuralt's On the Road again, somehow. I loved that.

But (by) the same token, I'd love to have a variety show. Like Andy Williams or Carol Burnett or Donny and Marie. I remember my mom watched the Mandrell sisters' show like it was some sort of religion.

Q: If you're the anti-cool singing star, who's the ultimate pop hipster?

A: I think that Justin Timberlake's going to have that market cornered for a while. And I honestly believe that he's extremely talented. He can believably pull out an album like (FutureSex/LoveSounds). I'm not a huge fan of that one, but I'm a fan of his.

Q: Will we ever see you bring SexyBack?

A: I'm actually going to do — God help me for saying this — with the Houston Symphony, a little bit of SexyBack. We're going to do a little medley of songs that people wouldn't expect to hear with an orchestra. I know that it's not going to be cool. I have no problem making fun of myself.

I could never pull songs like that off without knowing where my place is, and it's not as Justin Timberlake. Thank God we have him. I'm happy to be the person who gets the old ladies covered.

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Tulsa World

Ideal Idol: For his fans, platinum-selling Clay Aiken is still the one

A message to the ladies from Clay Aiken: He's glad you've stopped pelting him with your undies.

"They've calmed down on those," Aiken said in a phone interview from his North Carolina home. "I think they threw so many the first time, they ran out. During the 'Idol' tour when we came through Oklahoma City, they were throwing undies all the time."

These days the platinum-selling singer has been eschewing Top 40 radio and trying not to lose his brand new iPhone.

"I haven't lost it but I anticipate that I will at some point very soon," he said, acknowledging that he has lost other cell phones. "I'm probably going to have to tape it to myself."

The singer will be performing Saturday at the Brady Theater with a locally recruited orchestra. This tour is the first time he's worked with an orchestra outside of special Christmas tours. Aiken admits to being unsure as to whether or not it will work.

"I don't know what to expect. But it'll be interesting one way or the other. It's either going to be a wonderful, wonderful show or a colossal flop."

In interviews, Aiken has dodged questions about his personal life and lashed out at interviewers who attempt to invade his privacy.

Through his brief pop career he has kept a sense of humor about himself and the various controversies that have followed in his wake. He's endured everything from his well-publicized spat with Kelly Ripa to frequently invasive questions about his sexuality.

He's also been the whipping boy of cowardly Internet blogs, laughed at for his baby-faced looks and self-professed dorkiness.

But that doesn't seem to keep him from having a good time.

"You have to have an ability to laugh at yourself, no matter what," Aiken said. "We're doing 'Sexy Back,' (by) Justin Timberlake ... And seriously, there is no way on earth that I will ever be Justin Timberlake ... I'm never going to be that cool ever. So you have to kind of do things like that with a little tongue-in-cheek action."

But when asked to compare the qualities of older and younger women, Aiken laughed in that distinctive Carolina accent, and answered with characteristic Southern charm.

"I think that there are definitely benefits to either one," he said, wisely. "Younger ladies have things to offer that older ladies can't and definitely vice versa. So, I'm gonna stay well behaved and not get myself in trouble by answering that too specifically."

The former "American Idol" runner-up's most recent album, last year's "A Thousand Different Ways," peaked at No. 2 on Billboard's Hot 200. His first disc, 2003's "Measure of a Man," went to No. 1 on the same chart.

These days, he operates under the mantra that busier is better.

"People assume that since I haven't been on every TV show in the last month that I'm obviously washed up and I'm finished or I'm retired," he said. "I think it's just the general expectations game in that you can never take a break in this industry."

On Saturday, he'll perform songs from "A Thousand Different Ways" as well as medleys of pop songs and TV show theme songs from the last 20-30 years.

"We're doing a medley of songs that absolutely should not be performed with an orchestra ever. And we're going to do kind of a little tongue-in-cheek interpretation of some of them."

Included in that sampling of pop culture will be Billy Ray Cyrus's "Achy, Breaky Heart," as well as Timberlake's "Sexy Back."

On Aiken's next album, he'd like to branch out a bit with, toy around with the production and work with a producer who's less likely to try to change him, he said.

Aiken has a particularly rabid fan base in Tulsa, comprised largely of women from the area who collect trinkets from his career and meet regularly to discuss Aiken-related trivia.

The group of fans has made nearly 300 reservations for a pre-party set at the Crowne Plaza Hotel downtown. Among the pre-party events scheduled are silent auctions and raffles that'll benefit the singer's nonprofit Bubel Aiken Foundation, a group supports the integration of children with disabilities into the life environment of their non-disabled peers.

The woman who went with Aiken to his prom lives in Bixby, and the singer named his English bulldog after the town, he said.

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For posterity's sake, since Clay issued a statement:

Clay talks to ET about Airline Drama

July 9, 2007

The singer talks exclusively to ET about his bumpy ride to Tulsa over the weekend!

Singer CLAY AIKEN was involved in a minor dispute with a woman on a plane Saturday.

Now, in an exclusive statement to ET, the singer tells his side of the story, saying, "While sleeping on a plane over the weekend, my foot evidently found a home on the arm rest of the passenger seated directly in front of me. I didn't realize I was causing the woman any distress until she woke me up with a quick hit to the chest.

"Unfortunately, being that this happened on a plane, the FBI was called in to investigate and eventually we were all sent on our way. I'd like to thank everyone for their concern; I am fine and have taken steps to prevent any foot wandering in the future."

Clay cleverly implies that there are far greater sources of distress in the world. "Now that I have your attention," he continues, "if you'd like to learn more about how you can help the world's children, please visit www.unicefusa.org."

The 2003 "American Idol" runner-up was on a Continental Airlines flight heading to Tulsa when he and a female passenger got into a minor disagreement that led to her shoving the 28-year-old pop star.

FBI Special Agent GARY JOHNSON reportedly told the Tulsa World newspaper that the argument was between a male and female passenger, but did not give their names, saying only that the man was a former "American Idol" contestant.

Johnson added that the dispute was over the male passenger's foot resting on the woman's armrest.

The situation, however, did not disrupt the flight, and while both parties were questioned by the FBI, no charges were filed.

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The Syracuse Post-Standard

Clay Aiken, of "Idol," to Perform with SSO

Monday, July 16, 2007

By BoNhia Lee

Staff writer

Clay Aiken just spent a week relaxing at home in Raleigh, N.C., between shows in his summer tour.

There was a thunderstorm while he was home, and it rained so much that the yard flooded, Aiken, 29, says during a phone interview from Raleigh.

Then his cellular phone rings, and he excuses himself to answer it. He tells the caller that he can't talk and will call back later.

"That was my family," Aiken says. "I even got rid of them to talk to you."

After some much-needed rest and a dispute on an airplane that made news headlines earlier this month, Aiken is getting ready for the rest of his 23-city tour, "An Evening With Clay Aiken."

The 2003 "American Idol" runner-up will perform at the Civic Center with the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra on Wednesday night.

He previously played in Central New York in July 2004 and December 2006.

This is Aiken's third tour singing alongside a symphony. He's done it before on his first two Christmas tours.

"I just really fell in love with it and had such a great time with the orchestra and decided this time we wanted to do it without the Christmas music," Aiken says. "The sound is so much better, and the musicians are so amazingly talented."

His debut single, "This Is the Night," sold more than 392,000 copies during its first week. His debut album, "Measure of a Man," hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart and went triple platinum.

Aiken answered some questions about the show and Central New York.

Q. What is like to work with orchestras from all over?

A. With this concept, we go in, and the orchestra is new every day. We meet the orchestra for the first time, and they rehearse 2 1/2 hours, and they're done. They're all set to go. We're talking amazing musicians. I like it more. I think it keeps it new every day. I think it keeps it fresh, and so I like that.

Q. What can the "Claymates" or other fans expect from this show?

A. This time we decided to something a little different ... I decided, well, let's go with some songs that would be completely wrong for an orchestra. So, we do a medley of songs you wouldn't expect to hear with an orchestra. It has songs like "Like a Virgin," "Sexy Back" and "Beat It," "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy." ... not your typical symphony show songs. That's been a lot of fun for us.

Q. You've been to Central New York a couple times; what do you like about the area?

A. You don't realize that Central New York is American. Does it make any sense at all? It's very, very middle-American in a way. It's clean. It's so green up there ... I kind of think it's a breath of fresh air to go through an area like that. It's misunderstood so often, and people assume that it's gritty like the city is, but it's so green and beautiful. It's so America. That's my main memory of the first few times I've been to CNY."

Q. So, what really happened on the airplane?

A. Read my comment, my statement, and that's what you can have. It's online. It's everywhere. I think "Entertainment Tonight" has it.

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The Syracuse Post-Standard

Decent Set with SSO Thrills 'Claymates"

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Chuck Klaus

Contributing writer

The appearance of "American Idol" 2003 second-place winner Clay Aiken before 1,600 screaming "Claymates" - well, about 600 or so were screaming - has given your obedient servant new insight into the reviews of earlier days.

I can now imagine myself trying to review the hysteria of the bobby socks and saddle shoes set when young Frank Sinatra first came on the scene, or writing a critique of the hordes when Elvis first appeared, or the shrieks that arose when The Beatles were just getting started.

And much like those fabled critics of yore, I simply don't get it. All of this large-scale Clayemotion confounds me, I fear.

Not to unduly knock Mr. Aiken. His has an interesting voice, fairly well-used within his chosen field of pop ballad singing. There's an interesting combination of elements making up his style: a touch of blue-eyed soul, a bit of modern country, some strains of soft rock and, perhaps the most dominant influence of all, contemporary Broadway. His voice is on-pitch, he treats most of his material in a fairly spacious manner, and his work is pleasant and fairly polished, in an extremely informal way.

This ease on stage, as well as a constant barrage of self-deprecating humor, may be one of the secrets of his success. Aiken, forever putting himself down, can hardly be seen as a threat to his female audience, and they evidently love him for that. He is the beloved singing teddy bear placed near a young girl's flouncy canopied bed.

Aiken, appearing with fellow American Idolers Quiana Parler and Angela Fisher, sang a wide range of music, from covers of Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again" to his early hit "Measure of a Man" and material from his most recent release, "A Thousand Different Ways." He generously gave his "backup singers" - really more like co-singers - solo spots and lots of room for comic byplay, and gave a really nice pep talk on behalf of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, encouraging the enthusiastic audience to become season subscribers of the SSO.

Aiken also was generous in his praise of conductor-pianist - and evidently gifted arranger - Jesse Vargas, who coordinated well and with a minimum of fuss while providing solid piano support.

Aiken had the chance to perform a ballad for which he served as lyricist, which offered the SSO's cellist, Lindsay Groves, the chance to contribute a sonorous solo. Here was one instance where the Clayemotion of the audience paused long enough to allow Aiken to truly be heard, which turned out to be a source of further Clayelation.

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The Columbus Dispatch

Aiken's Appearance Thrills Female Crowd

Sunday, July 22, 2007 3:59 AM

By Lynn Green


"You don't even care what you're screaming at, do you?" Clay Aiken teasingly asked the squealing women scattered across the lawn of Chemical Abstracts Service last night.

"I could say anything." He paused. "Carburetor." Women whistled and cheered.

Aiken, the American Idol runner-up turned adult-pop star, headlined the Columbus Symphony Orchestra's Picnic with the Pops program last night.

His audience is mostly women; his singing is polished, and his attitude is upbeat. He exudes sincerity and earnestness, but, like so many pop singers, he lacks compelling originality.

Aiken specializes in adult-contemporary ballads as well as covers of hit soft-rock songs from the 1980s.

His current tour also features medleys of 1970s and '80s television themes and of "fast songs you can do with an orchestra," the latter of which included such silly gems as Sir Mix-A-Lot's Baby Got Back, Usher's Yeah, and Kenny Chesney's She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy.

He also led a singalong of Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel, asking for help with the words (which were handed out in advance).

One of Aiken's endearing traits is his gently self-depreciating humor.

"We have more gentlemen in the audience than we usually have," he observed. "Either the women in Columbus are strong-willed, or the alcohol tab is very high for the men here."

Backup singers Angela Fisher and Quiana Parler, both accomplished musicians in their own right, made strong impressions with solo numbers. Fisher got a huge cheer for Listen from the movie Dreamgirls, while Parler ended the first half of the program with a stirring performance of Faith Hill's When the Lights Go Down.

The Columbus Symphony Orchestra, unfortunately, seemed to be a minor player. The orchestral arrangements might or might not have been good, but they were drowned out in the front section of seating.

Aiken's strongest moment was his performance of Lover All Alone, for which he wrote the lyrics.

The article was revised on July 23, with the change of title ("Singer's Fans Ready to Cheer"), and the addition of a paragraph at the end....

Aiken’s strongest moment was his performance of Lover All Alone, for which he wrote the lyrics. In spite of jarring intonation problems from his guitarist, he loosened his grip on the polished, practiced stage manner and truly connected with his own soul.

And for those few minutes, the squealing fans, the strong-willed women, the devoted husbands and the rest of the audience fell absolutely silent in appreciation.

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Caregiving: Clay Aiken to expand camps

ALBANY, N.Y., July 31 Long before appearing on Fox's "American Idol" in 2003, Clay Aiken had a dream that did not involve being a pop star.

As a YMCA camp counselor, it saddened him that children with developmental disabilities had to be turned away from not only the fun of camp, but from the experience of being with other children, and he promised himself that this was something he would try to change.

"American Idol," several hit tours and 4.3 million album sales later, the pop star announced earlier this month that his dream is becoming a reality with the goal of raising $1 million to expand the Bubel/Aiken Foundation's "Let ALL Play" initiative so that 100 camps in 2008 would become inclusive to children with special needs.

It's simple concept really, but all too often, special needs children are excluded from everyday activities like swimming, arts and crafts, games, community service and physical fitness programs.

"It's an ambitious goal and it will be a challenge -- 100 camps and $1 million dollars in less than one year -- but we are about 20 percent of the way to that goal," Jerry Aiken, executive director of the Bubel/Aiken Foundation, told UPI's Caregiving. "But we also have a fan base with a tremendous amount of experience and strong passion for this issue -- we have close to 1,000 volunteers -- working with the foundation and we have been listening to them and they have some great ideas."

Jerry Aiken, Clay Aiken's uncle on his mother's side, held senior level positions at Nortel Networks, TRW and Fujitsu Network Communications, before coming to the foundation in May.

"I was told of a parent with a child with special needs and on the first day of camp the parent is coaxing the child to get out of the car and give camp a try, but a couple of days later the child can't wait to get to camp and is running inside -- when you hear these stories you see the value -- the self-worth element -- of inclusion," said Jerry Aiken.

"There was a 8-year-old child with autism, who was diagnosed at age 2 and he attended a YMCA camp this summer -- his vocabulary before the camp was about two words and after attending camp it jumped to 11 words -- that's huge."

There are several things currently in the works to raise funds, including working with a number of companies to gain sponsorship and there will be a celebrity version of the TV show on Fox's "Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader" that may offer us some opportunities as well, according to Jerry Aiken.

In addition, Jerry Aiken, a golfer, is working toward a golf tournament tentatively scheduled in Florida this year or in early 2008.

"I play golf and I have encouraged Clay to take it up, but golf takes a commitment and at the moment he doesn't have the time for golf, but he would be at the golf tournament," Jerry Aiken said.

The foundation is working with established camp programs such as the YMCA or other qualified American Camp Association members by providing financial support plus a detailed camp manual, training and ongoing assistance -- most of the funds that we raise cover training, additional counselors, equipment/supplies as well as a camp scholarships if required, according to Jerry Aiken.

"We stress to the camps they should not significantly change their program; the 'Let's ALL Play' manual and the training is about developing the camp team to provide a typical camp experience."

There is tug of war in pedagogy and psychological circles on how to best challenge the special needs child and the typical child so both experience optional challenges, according to Dr. Larry Lachman, a licensed clinical psychologist at Chapman University in Monterey, Calif.

"If either the special needs child, or the typical child does not get enough stimulation, it won't work," Lachman told UPI's Caregiving.

"Assuming the staff/counselors are trained in special needs, that the design of the program is appropriate and the typical children have the emotional maturity so they do not tease, this can be a highly beneficial experience and broaden the skill sets of both sets of children -- it sets the bar higher for all the children and opens everyone's eye to seeing something from a different point of view."

I saw things from a different point of view after I heard Clay Aiken in an interview several years ago with Diane Sawyer of ABC News. He said what made him passionate about being a special education teacher was the challenge -- the puzzle -- and how to figure out ways to help unlock the world so that a special needs child could connect and function better.

At the time, I was experiencing the "distancing" of friends of mine and friends of my father who treated the news of my father's Alzheimer's disease as if it was leprosy. I never heard from them again.

But thinking about dementia as a challenge, as a puzzle that can be solved, bit by bit, instead of giving up, made a big difference for me. It's certainly not the message I got from traditional healthcare.

So I understand why Clay Aiken's fan base is more than just the usual pop star fan base of teens -- many of his fans are caregivers -- who appreciate the message of inclusion.

In an era when many men in their 20s are only passionate about video games or have nothing else on their minds than perfecting their backhand, Clay Aiken talking about inclusion of those with special needs is enormously attractive to women of all ages, so I can understand why his fans are so devoted and why the foundation has such ambitious plans.


Alex Cukan is an award-winning journalist, but she has also been a caregiver since she was a teenager. UPI welcomes comments and questions about this column.)

(e-mail: parentcaregiving@gmail.com)

ALBANY, N.Y., July 31 --

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The Nashua Telegraph

Symphony and "Idol" Make Unlikely Team

Published: Thursday, August 2, 2007

Symphony and ‘Idol’ make unlikely team

By STACY MILBOUER, Telegraph Staff

Let’s be honest. The majority of teens, star-struck women and reluctant husbands who packed the Meadowbrook U.S. Cellular Pavilion on July 25 were there to see Clay Aiken and not the Nashua Symphony Orchestra. But by the end of a hot, mosquito-infested, skunk-infused concert, the orchestra, who was hired by the double-platinum pop star for his New Hampshire performance, received a standing “O” from the audience full of Claymates, as well as Aiken and his people.

It wasn’t only because the musicians did a really good job accompanying Aiken and his backup singers. It did so under some tough circumstances, which Aiken pointed out to the crowd again and again.

On his 2007 summer tour, Aiken has hired symphony orchestras from each state in which he has performed. Meadowbrook, which collaborated with the Nashua Symphony Orchestra in 2002 when the symphony performed with the Irish Tenors, arranged this collaboration, as well.

The orchestra showed up at 2 p.m. as scheduled to rehearse for the 8 p.m. performance. It was the only opportunity the musicians had to go over the music for Aiken’s 1½ -hour show. But, as Aiken explained to the crowd, neither the music nor the stools he and his two backup singers use arrived from Los Angeles.

It took four hours for the music – 30 pages for each musician – to be faxed, copied and collated at Meadowbrook.

“We ended up having about an hour and a half to rehearse for the show with Clay’s music director, Jesse Vargas,” said Nashua Symphony Association Executive Director Eric Valliere. And out of that hour and a half, Aiken did about a half-hour of sound checks and other preparations.

So, what did the orchestra do during this down time? “It was very hot,” Valliere said. “You gotta love the country. Everyone just hung out, chit chatted, got to know each other a little better. A lot of the musicians used their down time to read a book, warm up, practice for other performances. The conditions were not bad, and they gave us a really nice dinner before the concert.”

While it may have been a long afternoon for the musicians, no one in the audience could tell when it came to the evening’s performance. It looked as if the pop star and Nashua’s hometown orchestra had rehearsed for weeks.

“These guys (the Aiken people) are pros,” said Valliere. “They were very apologetic for the problems. These things happens. Something unexpected always takes place at a gig. And our people are pros, too. With only an hour and a half rehearsal it means that you’re sight-reading for the most part throughout the whole performance. But this wasn’t really complicated music. It wasn’t Glinka or anything. Our people have been performing their whole lives, so they’re good at sight-reading. So, the moment rehearsal started, even though it was late, it sounded like music.” Even though some of that music was far from what you would expect a symphony to play.

The majority of the concert was classic Aiken, including “When I See You Smile,” “Every Time You Go Away” and “Open Arms.” But some of the music the Nashua Symphony Orchestra performed with Aiken was as far from classical as you can get. He did a medley of 1970s and ’80s television theme songs, including those from “Gimme a Break,” The Jeffersons” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” which Aiken said was an homage to his lifelong passion for television watching. He joked time and again that his passion was responsible for his gaining a few extra pounds over the years.

The symphony also played with Aiken on another medley, one the former “American Idol” runner-up said was in an effort to eradicate his “nerd” image. The symphony accompanied him in some odd song-and-dance renditions of “Like a Virgin,” “Beat It” and “Baby Got Back,” just to name a few.

If the members of the orchestra were uncomfortable with this material, they didn’t show it. Nor did they show how uncomfortable it was when the stage temperature was in the high 80s, mosquitoes swarmed the stage and, as Aiken put it, “some fowl stench” in the form of several skunk sprays, wafted under the Meadowbrook pavilion.

But the hard work didn’t go unnoticed. Not only did the symphony receive a standing ovation from the crowd and two rounds of applause prompted by Aiken, but the audience was also encouraged by the singer to go see the orchestra perform around the state and for everyone to support the arts in their community.

“It’s amazing how much talent is in our hometowns,” he said.

But those of us in the audience from Nashua already knew that.

The Nashua Telegraph

Fans Protective of Star

I’m a Clay Aiken fan. But I know now, I’m by far not the biggest Clay Aiken fan.

My sister, three friends and I bought our tickets for the Clay Aiken concert in Meadowbrook months before we learned the Nashua Symphony Orchestra was playing with him. But when I found out the NSO was playing, I thought it would be a great idea to tell our readers about our hometown symphony playing with a world-famous pop star. OK, that’s half the truth. I was hoping that doing the story would also lead me to meet Clay. Yes, Clay face time. That’s what I was hoping for, and I was so close.

Alas! It was not to be. For a series of reasons that are way too pedestrian to list, I not only didn’t get to meet Clay, I didn’t even get to see the orchestra rehearse. What I did get was permission to take photographs at the foot of the stage for the first two songs of the concerts.

It wasn’t face time, but I would get to take a few photos for the newspaper, as well as have six minutes to get an upfront and underneath view of Clay’s remarkably long and remarkably blond eyelashes.

I, along with real photographers with real cameras, positioned ourselves in front of the stage and readied ourselves for Clay’s and, of course, the Nashua Symphony Orchestra’s appearance.

Meadowbrook’s videographer warned me that when the music started, the fans in the front row would do their best to get us to sit down. I was prepared for some snaky remarks. But I was not prepared for the army of gray-haired women who found it their duty to tell me and the others with cameras not once, not twice, but perhaps 20 times that “the flash hurts Clay’s eyes.”

For a second, I thought of asking them how they know this. I’ve been on Claymate sites. I have been to four Clay Aiken concerts. I didn’t know his eyes hurt. But these women who looked like maniacal grandmothers (I swear one of them had a rolling pin in her hand) fancied themselves Clay’s personal protectors.

Far be it from me to hurt Clayton’s baby blues. I turned off my flash but somehow that didn’t assuage these women, who admonished, “That’s quite enough” after we took three photographs.

The concert was great. The orchestra was great. But I was so freaked out by the Fake Clay Mommies that I didn’t even get time to admire Clay’s eyelashes.

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The Desert Sun

Aiken Keeps His Options Open

Judith Salkin

The Desert Sun

Whatever happened to Justin Guarini? When was the last time you heard what Ruben Studdard was up to?

But mention Clay Aiken and most people have at least some idea of who you're talking about.

The most popular of the "American Idol" runners-up is on his way to the Coachella Valley for a concert Sunday in the Special Events Center at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino.

With the exception of a drummer and pianist, on this tour Aiken's picking up bands in each city that he plays.

The Coachella Valley outfit is headed up by local big band leader Ted Herman, who brought together local musicians for the gig.

Going back to "American Idol," it wasn't even Aiken's idea to try out for the show. As a high school student, Aiken started working with developmentally challenged kids and Diane Bubel, the mother of an autistic boy Aiken worked with, encouraged him to try out.

The Raleigh, N.C., native made it through the audition process to the 32nd round before he was eliminated. But the producers snatched him up as a wild-card performer and in the end, it was a close call between Aiken and Studdard.

Since then he's released four CDs and guest-starred in television shows such as "Ed," "Scrubs," "All My Children" and "Days Of Our Lives." And then there was that little dust-up with Kelly Ripa last November while he was filling in as co-host of "Live With Regis and Kelly."

Aiken's schedule has been really tight on this tour. He rolls into a town and has to rehearse with each pick-up band, leaving little time for live interviews.

We did take advantage of his offer to do an e-mail interview, however, and here are the results:

THE DESERT SUN: Rather than use your own band, you're using a local orchestra in each city. What are the advantages/disadvantages of this kind of set for you as a performer? Do you think it keeps you more on top of your game to have to adjust to each band rather than becoming settled with your own band?

CLAY AIKEN: We carry our own pianist and drummer with us. We are playing with local symphony orchestras. These are amazingly talented people. It's great to be able to work with new people because it does keep the show fresh. And, it's great to see how much talent there is throughout America.

TDS: How has your outlook on performing changed in the past five years?

AIKEN: I think I appreciate the opportunity to do it now. It's so much fun to put a new show together. Still, it's more exciting for me to sort of present that to fans. I imagine I have gotten far more comfortable over the years too.

TDS: If Paula, Randy or Simon dropped out as an "A.I." judge and you were asked to fill the vacancy, would you? What about being a coach for another "Idol" hopeful?

AIKEN: Oh, I'd love to be a judge. I think they should consider adding a former contestant - someone who knows what it is like to be on that very stage.

TDS: What's next for you? A new CD? Are you interested in doing stage or film work? More guest co-hosting on "Live With Regis and Kelly?"

AIKEN: I like to remain open to any opportunities. Pretty much everything positive that has come my way has happened when I "let go and let God." So I don't predict too much. I know we will begin to work on the next CD in the next several months. And anything else that presents itself I hope that I am able to approach it with an open and willing mind.

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Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Clay Aiken on Love Songs, Hair Dye and Lenox

Clay Aiken on love songs, hair dye and Lenox


The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 08/03/2007

Clay Aiken is a riot. There's something genuinely comedic about the singer, care-free and, well, likable.

The Season 2 "American Idol" runner-up to the Velvet Teddy Bear Ruben Studdard has sold more records than any other "American Idol" alum besides Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. And this guy's tours sell out around the country.

So, yeah, consider him likable.

Now, the crooner's latest tour brings Aiken back to the ATL, where he first auditioned for "Idol" back in 2003. He'll be backed by the ASO at Chastain and will include cuts off his CD releases "Measure of a Man" and his latest, "A Thousand Different Ways."

We caught up with Aiken recently during a tour stop in San Diego.

You dyed you hair. What's up with that?

It started on "American Idol" and they wanted to change my image. I don't even know what color it is now. We just try everything — it could be beach blond next!

What can we expect from the tour?

We've had so much fun with this tour. It's mostly cuts from my new album. We sing past love songs over the past 20 years, and we also bring sexy back with "1999," "Baby Got Back" ... all with a full orchestra. It'll be fun and the audience should get a kick out of it.

Since you've found fame and fortune, what did you do with your first big check?

My first major purchase was a Volvo [laughter]. I'm such a dork! I didn't want to be too ostentatious, and I wanted something safe and reliable ... I also paid off my mom's car.

Where do you plan to hang out when you get to Atlanta.

People around me love Lenox. I love Fogo de Chao ... I always have to get back to the corner on Spring Street where I spent the night for my ["American Idol"] auditions at Merchandise Mart. So I'll try to get back over there.

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Billboard Blog -- Mobile Beat

Clay Aiken, The GreekTheater in Los Angeles, August 4, 2007

August 05, 2007

Clay Aiken, The Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, August 4th, 2007

Part concert, part comedy show, Clay Aiken and a live orchestra performed in front of a few thousand of his most dedicated fans on Saturday night. Before the show, I had spoken with fans of the American Idol runner up, or Claymaniacs, who told me that an Aiken concert is as much about his interaction with the audience as it is about his trademark big vocals. I was a little skeptical about how this would turn out because I appreciate rapid fire performances in live concerts. However, many an Aiken concert veteran assured me that I was in for a great night on this stop of The Soft Rock & A Hard Place Tour. Thankfully, Aiken delivered. In an entertaining two hour set, Aiken and his background vocalists Angela Fisher and Quiana Parler put together an upbeat night (somehow, in a set filled with ballads) that was just as filled with laughter (legitimate “LOL,” “LMAO,” “ROFL” laughter) from the audience as it was with strong performances coming from the performers on stage.

As is inevitably the case with many a stop on the Mobile Beat tour (big ups to the Mobile Beat bloggers who have encountered some unexpected surprises in this past week), not everything went according to plan pre-show. By the time I made it to the venue, I was convinced that there was no way that I was going to pay $15 to park in the general stack parking area (which took 2 hours for me to break free after The Fray concert earlier this summer). Last time, the marketing director of the company who put on The Fray concert helped me out tremendously, literally dragging me from “the pit” and into the photo area so that I could get clear shots of the stage. Before the show, she told me that I should have parked in the press area. Already facing past due payments on my car and student loans because of this summer’s concert tickets (who cares about my FICO score… other than my future wife, who I hope is reading this), I took a calculated risk and passed on the regular parking area and headed straight towards the non-stack parked VIP lot to work my munchkin-like charms.

I’ll admit that I name dropped. It was shameless.

“Hi, I’m Dave Chung and I was supposed to be on the parking list for tonight (I am lying at this point). Could you double check on that for me?”

“Sure… Sorry, it’s not on here. Are you sure that you have a photo credential?”

“Yeah, it’s waiting for me at Will Call (it wasn’t). I was told that I should be able to park in this lot last time I was here.” (And of course, I was fully aware of the fact that many on the Mobile Beat team have arrived at venues with tickets and passes going missing. But I sounded confident.)

“Who are you here with?”

“I’m with Billboard.”

The parking attendant thought about it for a second, then handed me a parking pass and told me to make my way into the parking area designated for performers, literally saving me two hours.

With absolutely nothing that said I should actually be there, I was in. Hollerrrr.

After claiming my seat ticket at Will Call, I discovered that my photo pass was missing and that I wasn’t on the list. Determined to get this photo pass, I scoured the grounds like a raccoon looking for a tasty looking garbage buffet. Amazingly, I spotted Vanessa (who resembled an angel sent from above by this point, or Waldo in a frustrating game of “Where’s Waldo?”), who had provided me with my photo pass previously, and I ran after her like a crazed paparazzi. After a brief explanation of the missing pass situation and reminder that we had met previously, Vanessa hooked me up with a photo pass. Now, I was really in.

The second I walked into the venue, I knew this was going to be a concert unlike any other. After hanging out with teenage girls (again, holler!) last week at Carrie Underwood’s show, I expected a similar crowd for another American Idol alumnus. Instead, it was a much older crowd than I expected (median age 45?), skewed about 90% female. The stage was set up for a full orchestra, something I wasn’t expecting, but was pleasantly surprised to find. As one of the few non-balding males in attendance (not that there’s anything wrong with balding), I was an anomaly at the show. I found two girls with a “Clay took our concert virginity” poster, which was more of what I was expecting from the night’s audience. Seeing them and their sign made me feel more at ease because I was a Clay concert-virgin that night and they seemed pretty happy with their first experience. I suppose it says something when people come back for more after that first intimate experience…instead of not returning your text messages… nor calling back… perhaps blocking on IM…maybe even Google chat… Wait, what are we talking about?

I’m positive that the beer vendors didn’t have to check one ID the whole night and there would be zero smell of illicit drugs filling the air (there was a skunk smell, which briefly fooled me). In front of me, a group of women discussed how Michael Buble was sold out at the venue for three consecutive nights, but that “he’s just not Clay.” Claymaniacs who had seen him numerous times in concert, like Wisconsin-native and Claymaniac Sarah Logghe, who is travel and attending Aiken concerts throughout the summer, were in attendance tonight and this would become more obvious as the night went on. (Yes, I am that short)

The full set list for the night was as follows:

- Here You Come Again

- Everything I Have

- I Want to Know What Love Is

- When I See You Smile

- Every Time You Go Away

- TV Show Theme Song Medley

- Open Arms

- When the Lights Go Down (originally by Faith Hill, performed by Quiana)

- Right Here Waiting

- Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word

- Measure of a Man

- Without You

- The Way You Make Me Feel

- “Cool Song” Medley

- Listen (originally by Beyonce’, performed by Angela)

- Lover All Alone

- Because You Loved Me

Opening up the show with “Here You Come Again,” Aiken brought everyone seated in the pit to their collective feet (after they told me that they were going to stay seated as I kneeled in front of them to snap pictures). Despite the fact that this pit was no where near the pushing and fighting for position that I’ve become accustomed to, the energy and enthusiasm in the pit was impressive. Immediately, I noticed how respectful the Clay fans were and how they attend concerts for the purpose of listening, not to sing along loudly like at a rock concert (see me at The Fray), nor hurl expletives at the stage like a hip-hop concert (see me at any hip hop concert). On a side note, that would really hurt my feelings if I was a rapper, which is clearly the only reason why I haven’t yet been signed by G-Unit, as my lyrical skills is no doubt “fly” and “on point,” naw mean? No? Me neither…).

Next up was “Everything I have,” which is my favorite Clay song off his second CD. If you’re a ballad lover who enjoys curling up on your couch with some hot chocolate, a self-heating face mask, a towel wrapped around your head while you use a deep conditioning treatment, while you get emo to whatever music is playing as you watch a simulated fireplace on your screensaver (because real fire is SO 90’s. Ew.) like I do (this is half true…which makes me self-conscious), this might be one of the better ballads that many have never heard. After the two ballads, Clay performed “I Want To Know What Love Is,” which heavily featured Angela Fisher’s vocals as well. At the end of the song, Aiken and Fisher had an on-stage battle performing runs, which was a lot of fun for both everyone in attendance as the runs were overdone to the point that they were as hilarious as they were impressive.

Clay asked the audience if it was hot outside because he was overheating on stage. Immediately, women started exclaiming, “TAKE IT OFF, CLAY!!!” With the reflexes of a paranoid schizophrenic cat supped up on adderal, I ran into the aisle ready to snap pictures (in the name of the Mobile Beat, of course), only to return blushing and disappointed to my seat. What makes Clay’s show so entertaining is that he, Angela, and Quiana are such engaging personalities who are so comfortable on stage that you can’t help but get drawn in as they joke around with each other and the audience. Clay’s humor is self-deprecating and honestly, much funnier than I would have ever expected. He joked that the few men in the audience there with their wives were probably getting drunk before the show, thinking “This is the only way I’m going to get through this… this, and Barry Manilow…” I can’t make some of this stuff up.

“When I See You Smile” was truly heightened by the live orchestra that paired perfectly with Clay’s clear, powerful, and almost effortless sounding vocals. “Every Time You Go Away” featured Angela and Quiana on some great harmonies during the chorus that would have been a welcome addition to Aiken’s studio version of the song, which the crowd appeared to agree with as it jumped to its feet to applaud the pitch perfect performance.

A first for me, but apparently a mainstay of this year’s Aiken tour, was the TV Show Theme Songs Medley. Clay revealed that he sang the theme to “Perfect Strangers” (big ups to Balki and Cousin Larry) for his American Idol audition before the judges asked him to sing another song. Singing songs from TV shows that spanned about three decades, Aiken and his backup vocalists performed theme songs from not only Perfect Strangers, but Full House, Laverne and Shirley, Diff’rent Strokes, Charles in Charge (which Quiana performed so well like it was ready to be released as a radio single), The Jeffersons, and other well-known TV shows. The unusual and pretty wild medley that saw Aiken take off his jacket and dance around the stage for brief stints, got a rousing standing ovation from the appreciative crowd that enjoyed the trip back in time.

Bringing the audience back to their seats, “Open Arms” brought the audience back to their seats to take in Aiken’s vocals as he and Angela put together some pretty incredible harmonies. It was an interesting experience to be part of such an engaged audience, to the point where a woman sitting next to me took a cell phone call during a song and received some of the dirtiest looks I have ever seen in my whole life (my look being the most fierce, “Blue Steel,” baby) from what was probably one of the nicest audiences I’ve ever been a part of. Next, Aiken gave the stage over to backup singer Quiana Parler. She performed Faith Hill’s “When The Lights Go Down,” which featured some powerful runs and some Whitney-like flashes of vocal brilliance. It was refreshing to see an artist give his background vocalists so much credit, as Clay did at numerous points in the night. It was well deserved because as Clay put it, Quiana “blew the crap out of that song.” If my body could produce such sounds every time I blew the crap out of something, let’s just say that I would never make it off the can in the morning.

After a brief intermission and orchestra tune up (what a trip to see this at a non-classical concert!), Clay and Co. returned to the stage to thunderous applause to perform “Right Here Waiting.” Even as large moths and large airborne bugs attacked Aiken, Fisher, and Parler during the performance like crazed women ripping at my clothes every time I walk into a room (I’m completely joking), the trio pulled off an impressive vocal performance that featured some of the longest notes I have ever heard in my whole life by Aiken. “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word” was one of my favorite performances, as it featured more of Aiken’s vulnerability in his voice, instead of his trademark huge vocals. Following these two ballads, Clay performed “Measure of a Man,” the title track off his first album to huge applause. Even if you’re a Clay-hater (and I know they’re out there), the piano, orchestra, and Clay’s huge vocals on the chorus made this a performance that would be difficult for anyone not to smile at. It was one of the most electric performances on the night and it made me wish that Aiken performed more songs off his first CD like “Solitaire,” “Invisible,” and “This is the Night,” but it wasn’t meant to be.

Before performing “Without You,” Clay joked with the audience about topics ranging from laxatives to the fact the he performs a ton of slow songs and how he didn’t want to bore the audience with ballad-palooza (I made that up, not Clay. He’s wittier). The harmonies on the song’s huge chorus were spot on and I think the superb performance of the track brought many in the audience back to the version by Harry Nilsson that brought the song to legendary status in the 1970’s. For me, it brought me back to the version by Mariah Carey, but there were numerous generations in attendance that were could appreciate the song in different ways. Afterwards, Clay sympathized with the males in the audience, apologizing for all the slow songs, but guaranteeing that “Your wife will be very happy when she gets home,” before performing Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” as he weaved in and out of the audience.

After confessing to the audience that he was not cool and fumbling over using phrases like “Fo’ shizzle,” Clay, Quiana, and Angela let loose in what I call the “Cool Song” medley, which included radio hits from the past two decades. Kicking off the medley with an orchestra accompanied version of Sir Mixalot’s classic “Baby Got Back,” the medley included “Like a Virgin,” “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “1999,” “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” “Oops, I Did It Again” (which was accompanied by some hilarious Clay Aiken faces), “Yeah!”, “Sexyback,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” “Opposites Attract,” and “Beat It.” It goes without saying that this was a big crowd pleaser, more about the medley itself than the vocals. If you took a step back, it was hilarious to realize that all these songs were performed with a full orchestra of people in white button down shirts. It reminded me a bit of the 50 Cent Vitamin Water commercial where the orchestra plays the theme to “In Da Club.”

Nearly stealing the show, singer Angela Fisher performed “Listen,” made famous by Beyonce’s performance in the movie Dreamgirls (yes, I saw it, girlfriend). I was really excited for this performance after hearing about it from some Clay veterans earlier in the night. Angela tackled every note with all the passions of a Beyonce’ and Jamie Foxx argument on the big screen and worked the crowd into as much of a frenzy as you can possibly do with a ballad. People cheered audibly during each of the choruses and Angela’s stage presence was an absolute joy to behold. She received what could have been the most well-deserved standing ovation of the night.

Next up, Clay did by performed “Lover All Alone,” a song he co-wrote with David Foster. The result is a really passionate ballad that featured an incredible cello solo to go along with Clay’s vocals and a simple piano melody. Clay finished out the show to a crowd waving glow sticks side to side during his performance of “Because You Loved Me.” Before performing the song for an audience that wanted more, Aiken joked that half the crowd would be at the next show anyways, which resulted in a lot of laughter. After meeting so many Aiken followers that night, I am positive that Clay was being completely truthful in that statement because his fan base really is that dedicated.

In what was probably the most relaxing concert I’ve ever attended with the most respectful crowd I’ve ever been a part of (I am positive not a single expletive was spoken all night), Clay Aiken put on a great show vocally and in terms of entertainment for the audience in attendance. Not only is Aiken a powerful vocalist who has developed his own identity and following that has gone well past him being a “guy from American Idol,” but he puts on a hilarious show that is filled with more laughs that you’d ever expect from a ballad-filled evening. While I wish that Aiken performed some more songs from his first CD, few Aiken fans would ever leave his show unsatisfied, as the singer manages to make everyone feel like they’re just hanging out with Clay and his band for the night. With strong vocals throughout the night and random banter that surprisingly did not annoy me between songs (almost an impossible task), Aiken became more than just a singer to me tonight, but lived up to his reputation as a strong entertainer as well.

Dave Chung

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The Desert Local News

Clay Aiken and His Orchestra: an Exciting Evening at Fantasy Springs

Clay Aiken And His Orchestra: An Exciting Evening At Fantasy Springs

Leslie Andrews 07.AUG.07

Clay Aiken, best known from his American Idol fame, performed a knock-out show with his orchestra behind him at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino Sunday evening.

Aiken wowed crowds with mostly covers, but of recognizable tunes, like Paul Young’s “Every Time You Go Away”, Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel”, Badfinger’s “Without You”, Foreigner’s “I Want To Know How Love Is”, and other well-known ballads. Between acts, Aiken told a few jokes that made the audience laugh. He and his backup singers even paid tribute to the Golden Age of Television with a medley of television theme songs.

Fans from all over California and all over the world came to see Aiken perform. Thirteen women from Japan flew out here just to see him, and then follow him all across the United States. “We love Clay,” said Mariko, one of the lucky 13. “He is very popular in Japan. We’re going to see him in North Carolina next.”

“He is hilarious, he is entertaining,” said Carrie Salensner from Los Angeles. “If people would come to one of his concerts, they will instantly love him.” Barbara White of San Diego agreed. “He is amazing, and a wonderful singer,” she says.

Originally from Raleigh, North Carolina, Aiken began singing with the Raleigh Boychoir in his early teens. He studied at University of North Carolina in Charlotte, and while working part-time as a tutor for a boy with autism, he was encouraged to audition for American Idol.

Although he came in second place during the second season of Idol in 2003, Aiken was signed to RCA records and then released three albums, including “Measure of a Man”, “Merry Christmas With Love” and “A Thousand Different Ways”. Although most of his songs include covers, he has had a few original tunes that he had lyrically written.

Aiken was appointed to the Presidential Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities in September, 2006. He also is an ambassador of the Ronald McDonald House, and is also a dedicated advocate for education and for children's causes.

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The Asheville Mountain Xpress

Forming Clay into Rock

Forming Clay into rock

by Alli Marshall in Vol. 14 / Iss. 02 on 08/08/2007

After 2003 American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken performed in Syracuse, N.Y. (backed by the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra, no less), the Web site Syracuse.com dubbed the pop singer “the beloved singing teddy bear placed near a young girl’s flouncy canopied bed.”

From Idol to icon: Although American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken may lack the artistic credibility that comes with a long career of paying dues, his devoted fans — the “Claymates”— don’t seem to mind.

Aiken, as his devoted fans (known as “Claymates") can attest, is often given short shrift, celebrity-wise: Benign-geek status was not exactly the reputation favored by rock gods like Jim Morrison or Robert Plant. But the N.C. native (whose pre-Idol aspiration was to become a school principal and someday raise a family) is probably better suited to tender ballads and sports jackets than primal screams and leather chaps.

Following in the footsteps of good-guy crooners like Wayne Newton, Mel Tormé, Burt Bacharach and Engelbert Humperdinck, Aiken has carved out his own corner. That is, if playing widely accessible “concert the whole family will enjoy”—as one fan dubbed them—can be considered a niche market.

The entertainer’s most unique quality, ironically, may be his bid for across-the-board acceptability. Sneer if you must, but when the Top-40 charts are clogged with angsty Avril Lavigne and Amy Lee numbers, a reprise of the feel-good Laverne & Shirley theme song kind of hits the spot.

Getting Clay

Part of what differentiates Aiken from his fellow touring Idols is that, at each stop, he teams up with the symphony of that particular city.

“It’s rare and exciting for us to be able to do something like this,” enthuses Asheville Symphony Artistic Administrator Sally Keeney.

Whereas a typical symphony concert involves 85 to 90 musicians on stage, the group backing Aiken’s Biltmore Estate Summer Evening Concert Series appearance numbers 42. “It’s a more pops-y size,” Keeney explains. “It will give a nice, rich sound with all those strings.”

What will Aiken be performing to the orchestral wall of sound? Don’t expect an aria from The Marriage of Figaro. The pop star’s fans are treated to a program of Aiken’s hits along with medleys of easily recognizable tunes from radio and television. At the Syracuse show, Aiken and his musicians ran through such unlikely selections as “Like a Virgin,” “(Party Like It’s) 1999” and “Beat It.” At another concert, he led a singalong to “The Way You Make Me Feel.” (Lyric sheets were circulated through the audience beforehand.)

But fans are quick to argue that sound bites of the Welcome Back, Kotter intro don’t equate to Clay-lite.

“He sings ["Baby Got Back” and “Sexy Back"] to make fun of how commercialized and soulless most of the songs that get radio play today are,” fan “Natalie” commented on the Xpress blogsite, responding to an open call to defend Aiken’s talents.

In fact, symphony Executive Director Steve Hageman feels that Aiken’s appearance “increases our credibility.”

Apparently, a Michael Jackson cover doesn’t spell flippancy as much as tasteful and talented sardonicism.

“Clay Aiken and his managers are very good musicians,” Hageman continues. “They have to be, at that level.”

In this case, the Biltmore Estate contracted with the local symphony as support for Aiken’s performance, a reversal of a more common arrangement where the orchestras hire the vocalists. (The Asheville Symphony was working with a group of orchestras to book The Moody Blues on a yearlong tour, an effort that eventually fell flat.)

“There were a heck of a lot of symphony people having their socks knocked off after watching Clay’s performances,” blogger “Kayla,” who’s attended four out of nine shows on the Aiken tour, told Xpress.

“It is [RCA chairman] Clive Davis who put him in the ‘Manilow’ box,” she charges. “But believe me, Clay Aiken is so much more than that.”

It could be argued that Barry Manilow himself, with his countless hit singles, multiplatinum albums and worldwide record sales numbering more than 75 million, is something more than a tawdry troubadour. Aiken actually might be lucky to follow in the footsteps of the man who wrote, you know, the songs.

But Aiken, seemingly uncomfortable with accepting overnight stardom outright, is going beyond introducing Claymates to civic orchestras. Pre-Idol, the Raleigh native was a special-ed teacher, and he continues that particular line of work through the Bubel/Aiken Foundation charity he co-founded.

He’s also a celebrity ambassador for UNICEF and has traveled in that capacity to Uganda, Indonesia and Afghanistan. The latter trip earned him more press for the beard he grew out of respect for local customs than for his charity work.

Celebrity—even that gained from an oft-panned reality series—is a bumpy road. Aiken himself admitted to Ability Magazine, “Somebody once said, ‘You asked for it.’ And I thought, ‘Did I really ask for it?’ When I auditioned for [idol], I never for a second believed that I was going ... to be in the top 15, much less the top two.”

Three albums on, Aiken’s tenuous stardom is finally looking less like a fluke and more like the real thing.

“He is the best all-around entertainer I have ever seen,” blogger “CarylAnn” (who’s seen Elton John, Billy Joel and Journey) told Xpress. “Clay has it all. The voice, the comedic timing and the way he interacts with his fans and makes fun of himself is hilarious.”

Or, as Claymate “Carol” puts it, “People are finally starting to ‘get’ Clay.”

Clay Aiken and the Asheville Symphony Orchestra play the Biltmore Estate’s Summer Evening Concert Series on Saturday, Aug. 11. 8 p.m. At press time, tickets for the show were sold out. (800) 624-1575.

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The Cary News

Image No Problem for Aiken

Image no problem for Aiken

By Wendy Lemus, staff writer

The Claymates - and their idol - have always had a bit of an image problem.

They're just not that cool.

I mean, have you ever been to a Clay Aiken concert? With three generations in one family often showing up, you're as likely to see someone helping Grandma out of the car as you are housewives from the last tour stop.

Thing is, Aiken gets that. And on Friday night at his concert with the Raleigh Symphony Orchestra at Cary's Booth Amphitheatre, he took full responsibility for the uncool reputation that has followed him since appearing on "American Idol."

He even had some fun with it.

"This is a Clay Aiken show; we don't do cool things," he bantered between a series of love songs.

Try convincing his audience, some of whom have seen him dozens of times, literally following his tours around the country. Friday's show brought a group of women all the way from Japan.

This was not Aiken's best concert ever. The song selection from the Jukebox tour two years ago, with its Elvis medley among other things, was better. But his voice was in usual fine form on a steamy night with record-setting temperatures, and big enough to match a live orchestra.

Aiken has learned what the crowd wants, and the ballads - "I Want to Know What Love Is," "When I See You Smile," and probably his best of the night, "I Can't Live (If Living is Without You)" - showcased what everyone came for - that Broadway voice, which, at 28, seems to be maturing. Several songs were from his 2006 CD of '70s and '80s love ballads, "A Thousand Different Ways."

No, singing a medley of TV theme songs isn't all that cool. But it was fun to listen to - and no doubt brought back memories for his fans, many of whom are old enough to have watched "All in the Family" and "Laverne & Shirley" in prime time.

That set brought up an interesting question, which Aiken himself posed: "Does singing cool songs make you cool?"

He and his equally powerful backup singers proceeded with an entertaining medley that included Madonna, Michael Jackson, Justin Timberlake and Usher. (Doing the "Vogue" dance to "Like a Virgin" was intended, right?)

What makes Usher cool? What made Jackson cool? And can any of it rub off on Clay? Ask Barry Manilow.

Really, Aiken could care less. And that's the point. He knows who he is, who his fans are, and most importantly, he can have a little laugh and not take himself too seriously.

And that's pretty cool, don't you think?

Besides, Madonna fans have never been spoofed off-Broadway.

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The Knoxville News Sentinel

With Personality and Charm, Aiken Holds His Own at Tennessee

Review: With personality and charm, Aiken holds own at Tennessee

By Betsy Pickle (Contact)

Monday, August 13, 2007

Singer Clay Aiken opened his Sunday night concert at the Tennessee Theatre by tackling a local legend, and he held his own admirably.

Aiken displayed nerves of steel as he launched with Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” in front of about 1,330 enthusiastic Aiken fans. It would have seemed as though he were catering to the home crowd but for the fact that the tune is one of the highlights of his most recent album and that at least half the crowd — as revealed by an Aiken poll — wasn’t from around here, as the natives say.

Aiken spent two hours onstage with his longtime backup vocalists, Angela Fisher and Quiana Parler, pianist/musical director Jesse Vargas, drummer Sean McDaniel and the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. Well, two hours minus the five or so minutes he danced in the aisle among his fans during “The Way You Make Me Feel,” as security guards jumped into alert mode.

Attendance was less than half what the “American Idol” Season 2 runner-up drew at his first Knoxville gig in August 2004, but that was at the cavernous Thompson-Boling Arena. This time, Aiken tried for a more intimate connection, and he succeeded.

It helped that many of those present are avid, not to say rabid, Aiken fans and have attended his concerts multiple times. Some of them have his patter down, as a young woman who’d seen his show last week in Raleigh, N.C., proved.

Aiken’s voice was mostly rich, warm and powerful, though he strained on some high and quiet notes. Parler soloed on “When the Lights Go Down” and Fisher on “Listen,” both beautifully.

They say that love is blind — it’s certainly deaf as regards Aiken’s supporters. The set list was heavy on songs from “A Thousand Different Ways,” which is basically a tribute album to the cheesiest power ballads of the past three decades.

The crowd swallowed the cheese and the corn whole as Aiken, Fisher and Parler poured passion into such fare as “I Want To Know What Love Is,” “When I See You Smile,” “Right Here Waiting” and “Sorry Seems To Be the Hardest Word.”

All three of the vocalists are first-rate, so it seemed a pity that their repertoire was so deeply steeped in adult-contemporary elevator music. They and the fans deserve better.

But Aiken brings something to his shows that few acts bother with: his personality and charm. His banter with Fisher and Parler and self-deprecating wit (who says he isn’t cool?) made up for the gazillionth interpretation of “Because You Loved Me.”

Betsy Pickle may be reached at 865-342-6442.

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Multi-platinum Recording Artist Clay Aiken Slated for Celebrity Edition of Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Multi-platinum recording artist

Clay Aiken will be testing his mental mettle against a group of brainy

fifth graders. Mr. Aiken, co-founder of The Bubel/Aiken Foundation (TBAF),

is slated to appear on the upcoming celebrity version of Fox's hit game

show, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

Aiken will be playing to raise money for TBAF which will receive a

minimum $25,000 for Clay's appearance. But Aiken plans on earning much more

for his foundation. The Foundation earns money for each question Clay

answers correctly. Should he correctly answer all 11 questions, the

Foundation will earn one million dollars.

"We're excited about Clay's appearance on the show to fundraise for the

Foundation. Fox has given us a great opportunity to move closer to our goal

of 100 Let's ALL Play camps in 2008. Clay's appearance will also gain

exposure for our goals of full inclusion. Of course we're hoping to win the

million, but Clay's being part of their hit show will be great for the

Foundation either way," said Jerry Aiken, executive director, TBAF.

The Bubel/Aiken Foundation's Let's ALL Play initiative brings an

inclusive recreational and learning experience to all children by giving

children with developmental disabilities the same summer camp experience.

Children of all abilities come together to participate in recreational

activities including swimming, baseball, archery, arts and crafts, physical

fitness, and community service. Let's ALL Play encourages children's

organizations nationwide to move toward full inclusion by offering as a

resource a tested, successful, comprehensive model supported through

specialized training.

Let's ALL Play has become a viable option for YMCAs and other

children's organizations nationwide which seek the ideal of becoming fully

inclusive. The goal is to implement inclusive recreational programs

nationwide to reach thousands of children with 100 camps by 2008.

Hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?

airs on Fox's Thursday night lineup. Aiken will be taping his appearance

August 28th with the Celebrity Edition airing to be announced later. The

season's premiere is slated for September 6, 8pm Eastern and 9pm Central.

About The Bubel/Aiken Foundation: The Bubel/Aiken Foundation serves to

bridge the gap that exists between young people with special needs and the

world around them. The Foundation supports communities with inclusive

programs and works to create awareness about the possibilities that

inclusion can bring. For more information visit the Foundation on line at


SOURCE The Bubel/Aiken Foundation

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Neil Sedaka Celebrates 50 Years in Show Business

Neil Sedaka Celebrates 50 Years in Show Business

Wednesday August 15, 1:29 pm ET

Bountiful Program Honoring Legend to be held at Lincoln Center's Avery Fisher Hall on October 26th, 2007.

Performances by Natalie Cole, Clay Aiken, Captain & Tenille, David Foster, Renee Olstead, Raul Midion, The Bad Plus and NEIL SEDAKA. More special performances to be announced.

Proceeds to benefit Elton John's AIDS Foundation

NEW YORK, Aug. 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Legendary singer songwriter Neil Sedaka will be honored at Avery Fisher Hall, Lincoln Center in New York on Friday, October 26th in celebration of his 50 years in show business. At press time, performances scheduled are Natalie Cole, Clay Aiken, Captain & Tennille, who reached #1 on the Billboard charts with Sedaka's "Love Will Keep Us Together," Raul Midion, Renee Olstead and The Bad Plus. More special performances to be announced. Grammy winning producer David Foster will also be performing. Foster played piano for Sedaka back when Sedaka & Elton John had their smash duet "Bad Blood" back in 1975. Proceeds from the evening will benefit Elton John's AIDS Foundation. Producer of the event is Michael Dorf.

Recently Sedaka returned to the Billboard top 20 album chart for the first time in 30 years with the compilation of his greatest hits titled, "Sedaka, The Definitive Collection." Brooklyn-native Sedaka began his prolific career as one of the original creators of the "Brill Building" sound in the late 1950s and early 1960s when he and songwriting partner Howard Greenfield signed with Don Kirshner and Al Nevins at Aldon Music. Sedaka was catapulted into stardom after Connie Francis recorded his "Stupid Cupid." She then sang the theme song Sedaka and Greenfield had written for the 1960 MGM spring break classic, Where the Boys Are, which would be her biggest hit. As a result of these hits, Sedaka signed a contract with RCA as a writer and performer of his own material. He soon recorded chart toppers "The Diary," "Oh! Carol," "Stairway to Heaven," "Calendar Girl," "Little Devil," "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen," "Next Door To An Angel," and "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do".

In the late 1960s, Sedaka had tremendous success writing for artists such as Tom Jones, The Monkees and The Fifth Dimension ("Workin' On A Groovy Thing", "Puppet Man") and Karen Carpenter's marvelous version of "Solitaire." In the early 1970s, Elton John signed Sedaka to his label, Rocket Records. The result was two tremendous albums (SEDAKA'S BACK in 1974 and THE HUNGRY YEARS in 1975) that produced two of his hugest worldwide hits - "Bad Blood" and "Laughter In The Rain", both of which went to #1 on the music charts. Rolling Stone Magazine hailed Sedaka as "the new phenomenon."

"Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" was re-released as a ballad in 1975, and made music history when it reached #1 on the charts, becoming the first song recorded two different ways by the same artist to reach #1. During this time, the Captain and Tennille had a worldwide #1 hit with their version of Neil's "Love Will Keep Us Together". The song won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year.

Neil Sedaka has been inducted into the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, has had a street named after him in his hometown of Brooklyn, and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In June, 2004, he received the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Academy of Popular Music / Songwriters Hall of Fame at the organization's 35th annual induction and awards ceremony in New York. Named for the former President of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, this award is given to individuals in recognition of their outstanding achievements in furthering the successes of songwriters.

Sedaka recently appeared on FOX's hit TV show "American Idol", as a guest judge. Clay Aiken performed and released a cover of Neil's classic "Solitaire," which reached #4 on the Hot 100 Singles chart, and was one of the Top Selling Singles of 2004. Most recently, Neil concluded a 10 city tour of the United Kingdom, where he filmed a live concert for PBS that resulted in the DVD "Neil Sedaka The Show Goes On - Live At The Royal Albert Hall". During this historical evening, Neil was presented with The Guinness Award for his song "(Is This the Way to) Amarillo", as the best selling single of the 21st century in the UK, a song that was originally performed by Tony Christie over thirty-five years ago. Neil Sedaka continues to tour regularly and sell out concert halls all over the world.

Tickets are on sale now for this once in a lifetime event and can be purchased through www.sedaka50.com.


Neil Sedaka proudly supports the Elton John AIDS Foundation. For more information, visit http://www.ejaf.org/

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Playful Aiken Sizzles for Fans

Playful Aiken sizzles for fans

By Rodney Ho

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 08/17/07

Clay Aiken is well aware of his image: the dorky balladeer, a new-generation Barry Manilow with hordes of obsessive Claymate fans still buzzing around him four years after he came in second on "American Idol."

And he worked hard to both play up and mock that image Wednesday night at a half-full Chastain Park Amphitheatre. Here are a few of the odder moments:

1. This is not Mozart. Feeding Clay's admitted obsession with TV, he and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra ran through a medley of theme songs from sitcoms ranging from "WKRP in Cincinnati" to "What's Happening!!' "

2. Almost as good as the real thing. A woman wearing a shirt emblazoned with "Georgia Claymate" was seen kissing a life-size cardboard cutout of Clay, which got its own seat.

3. Gonna make Clay sweat. He made jokes about the sticky-warm Georgia weather. When a fan handed him a freeze pop, he stuck it to his forehead, then looked at the wrapper. "Sugar free?" he noted in the middle of the song "When I See You Smile." "You think I'm getting fat?"

4. Closet? What closet? Alluding to rumors of his sexual orientation, he made a mock announcement: "I want to talk to you for just a minute about something serious. I know you've read this in the papers, probably seen stories in the tabloids or whatnot. Some radio shock jocks talk about it. Some of you have even thought this about me. ... Atlanta, I am ... not cool."

5. Yeah? Yeah! To supposedly amp up his "cool" quotient, he sang a medley of un-Claylike songs including Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back," Usher's "Yeah" and Justin Timberlake's "SexyBack" with gobs of campy goodness.

6. Who needs a car? Clay noticed a teen who held up a sign that read, "I gave up a car to see Clay Aiken for my birthday." She said her mom gave her a choice: a car or Clay. Clay laughed and said, "Your mom gypped you! Gypped you!"

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Palm Beach Post

Aiken More than Singer He's a Showman

Aiken more than singer he's a showman


Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Sunday, August 19, 2007

WEST PALM BEACH — Clay Aiken, whether or not you are a fan of his, is pretty much considered a good singer by most people who have ears.

You also may be aware that he has a gigantic following of fans, mostly female, who might best be described as enthusiastic. But until you have seen Clay Aiken, who has described himself as Opie-like, shake his slack-clad hips and belt out Naughty By Nature's extracurricular cheating classic OPP ... well, you just don't know anything about Clay Aiken.

Admittedly most of the crowd at the Kravis Center on Saturday already knew more about him, as many of them are Claymates, the American Idol runner-up's devoted fan base and staunch defenders against criticism of his aforementioned Opieness. But even the uninitiated would have to be blind not to see that Aiken - who has an amazing range and was vocally flawless - is that rare celebrity who is both a singer and a performer, equally, even though, as he pointed out, "I am not cool."

But here are three things that Clay Aiken is:

• Clay Aiken is a funny guy. Whether leading the crowd through a medley of television theme songs, including Diff'rent Strokes and Growing Pains, or mocking his uncoolness with OPP or SexyBack (yeah, you read that right), the boy's got a comedian's timing and deft touch with a zinger.

• Clay Aiken is really talented. He is not just a whiz at the questionably sappy original songs like Into These Arms. Aiken breathed new life into I Wanna Know What Love Is, a song that hasn't been fresh since 1984, and made the theme to Perfect Strangers, which was never really all that fresh, revelatory.

• Clay Aiken is kinda sorta sexy. I'll let you chew on that.

This is not to say that the show, which featured a Michael Jackson cover and a symphony of Claymate-wielded glowsticks during Because You Loved Me, did not have its cheesy moments. Our man was sometimes basically doing the backstroke in a fondue ocean breathing through a cheese straw.

But because Aiken revels in that, he transcends even the goofy moments into genuine entertainment, like with his cover of Bad English's When I See You Smile. He is so uncool that he sort of is. And that's a talent.

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The Orlando Sentinel

Aiken Packs Surprises in a Goofy Night of Fun

Clay Aiken packs surprises into a goofy night of fun

Matthew J. Palm | Sentinel Staff Writer

August 20, 2007

Clay Aiken performed "Baby's Got Back," accompanied by an orchestra Sunday night at Orlando's Hard Rock Live. Oh, he performed a spirited rendition of the theme to Welcome Back Kotter, too.

Got your attention?

The show, the final stop of Aiken's current tour, was full of surprises -- most of them surreal. I really never thought I would see hip-hoppy "O.P.P" mixed with Kenny Chesney's "She Thinks my Tractor's Sexy" in a medley backed by violins and cellos. Strangely enough, the more goofy things got, the more the show clicked.

Aiken, who came to fame as first runner-up on Season 2 of Fox's American Idol, has an aw-shucks, goofball persona. With a couple of tours under his belt now, he seems much more relaxed and easygoing on stage than a few years ago.

His nonsensical banter with powerhouse backing singers Angela Fisher and Quiana Parlor -- as well as a steady flow of conversation with audience members -- can make it seem to newbies that they've crashed a private party.

"There aren't many faces in the front row I don't recognize," Aiken teased, "because they're the crazy ones."

And indeed he did know many of the audience members by name, giving them shoutouts or just calling into the crowd to find out where some of the regulars were sitting. Bob and Linda got special recognition for seeing 121 concerts in four years. These fans, called Claymates, mean business.

Despite tight security, which caused the show to be delayed as lines backed up at the metal detectors and the camera checkpoint, many of the faithful managed to smuggle in light-up smiley faces to wave during Aiken's cover of Bad English's "When I See You Smile."

At times such as that, the audience, which included men and women of all ages, was part of the show. There wasn't too much spectacle -- just run-of-the-mill lighting -- though the more than two dozen orchestra members filled the Hard Rock's stage.

The night was well-stocked with cover songs, which make up the bulk of Aiken's latest album, A Thousand Different Ways. Some suited him better than others -- the soaring "Without You" (most recently a hit for Mariah Carey) showcased his tremendous upper range. But he owes Dolly Parton an apology for his slowed-down "Here You Come Again" that sucked the bouncy life out of the song. "Measure of a Man" and "These Open Arms" were other strong numbers that let his vocal ability shine.

Surprisingly, so was the theme to Perfect Strangers.

Which brings us to those odd yet captivating medleys. In the first hourlong set, Aiken and the backup singers vamped their way through themes from Laverne & Shirley, The Golden Girls and Who's the Boss? among others. For a barnstorming version of The Jeffersons' "Movin' On Up," Aiken tore off the blazer he had been wearing and busted a move.

In the second-hour set, a pop medley featured "Like a Virgin," Destiny's Child's "Bills, Bills, Bills" (with Aiken doing convincing backup) and Prince's "1999." The campy highlight was Aiken bringing "SexyBack."

What with the TV songs, the singalongs, the teasing chitchat, the overall effect was of a middle-school sleepover -- a really big sleepover where the class clown got to be the star.

Matthew J. Palm can be reached at 407-420-5038 or mpalm@orlandosentinel.com.

Copyright © 2007, Orlando Sentinel

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