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'American Idol' Clay Aiken Looks For the Next Idol in Philadelphia

'American Idol' Clay Aiken Looks For the Next Idol in Philadelphia

By Michele Amabile Angermiller | August 02, 2015 1:00 PM EDT


Clay Aiken photographed in Raleigh, N.C., on Feb. 4, 2014. Corey Lowenstein/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT via Getty Images

"I am looking forward to finding that 15th Idol at my table this year," he said.

When thousands of aspiring vocalists lined up for their last chance at becoming the 15th and final American Idol in Philadelphia, they got encouragement from one of the franchise's biggest stars: Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken.

Aiken was on hand to work at one of the judges' table and lend his ears to the process of discovering the last ever Idol winner. Singers selected at the Saturday, Aug. 1, auditions will get the opportunity to advance and perform in front of Idoljudges Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban at a later round.

"It is very full in here," Aiken told Billboard. "I'm a little nervous. This is a big deal in the life of everybody in this room."

Aiken tried to put everyone at ease, but gave them a good pep talk. "You have to be yourself," he told the crowd.

He said the more successful people off the show did not come in "pretending they knew what a pop star was."

"None of them came in fabricating a personae," he said. "I certainly didn't. Ruben Studdard didn't. Kelly Clarkson didn't. Carrie Underwood didn't. They all came in and were themselves. A lot of people walk up to these tables dressed up and think they know what a pop star is, and that's the death knell in some ways."

Surveying the faces in the room at Philadelphia's Liacouras Center brought back memories of his audition 13 years ago, he said.

"I didn't know then how big of a deal it would be for me," he said. "I didn't know 13 years ago on the streets of Atlanta how life changing it would be. The people in this room have seen this show for 15 years. They know how big of a deal it is, and I think that's a big difference."

Aiken -- who recently ran for Congress in North Carolina and chronicled the whole process in the Esquire series, The Runner-Up -- said that hopefuls having seen Clarkson, Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino and Underwood come off the show and having something "really big happen to them on the back of this show" heightens anxiety.

"I was nervous myself, but these folks are going to be even more nervous because they know what at stake," Aiken said.

He added that the stakes are high for the producers on the floor, too.

"One producer every year can claim that they are the one that is the first person who puts the winner through," the 36-year old alum said. "The person who put me through still works on the show. The person who put Fantasia through still works on the show. And they get to have bragging rights."

That said: Aiken said he wants to be the one to have that honor, and is in a friendly competition with Season 2 winner Studdard, who was on hand putting talent through on the floor at the auditions in Savannah, Georgia.

"As if we hadn't competed enough already," he laughed. "He and I are competing with each other. We are both insistent that we are going to be the ones that find the next American Idol. I am looking forward to finding that 15th Idol at my table this year."

And what would it take to catch Aiken's ear?

"I like all different kinds of voices," he said. "There is a little bit of a spark in people who have great talent and don't realize it. They have a little bit of quiet confidence within them, but aren't trying. That is what is attractive to me. I personally gravitate and audiences gravitate towards people who are slightly more humble with their talent. I am hoping for someone who is great and doesn't really know it."

When asked if the ending of American Idol is bittersweet, the Broadway star couldn't help quoting the show Pippen, saying "everything has its season."

"In 15 years they have discovered people who are going to be around far longer than the show will, and no other show on television can say that," he said. "I don't believe that The Voice can say that. I don't believe America's Got Talent can say that. I don't believe The Last Comic Standing can't say that. But you certainly have Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood who are going to carry the mantle ofAmerican Idol for decades. The fact that the show is going off the air will not diminish its power in American history."

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Another article from Billboard:

Clay Aiken on Donald Trump's Run for President: 'Anybody Who Discounts Him Is Shortsighted'

Clay Aiken on Donald Trump's Run for President: 'Anybody Who Discounts Him Is Shortsighted'

By Michele Amabile Angermiller | August 02, 2015 4:55 PM EDT

clay-aiken-650-430.jpgGetty Images

Donald Trump’s run for President has been making headlines, but former political candidate and Apprentice star Clay Aiken says don’t count him out yet.

“Anybody who discounts him is shortsighted,” said Aiken, who ran for a North Carolina congressional seat in 2014. “I don’t think anybody should discount him. Nobody thought that we would see him in the position he is in right now. He is certainly the front-runner with no signs of that fading.” Aiken said that Trump’s entry into the Presidential race will give the real estate mogul a chance to shake things up politically.

“I think he has a really great opportunity even if he doesn’t win the Republican nomination to do something I think the country has needed for a long time, which is to try to break this stranglehold of the two-party system,” he said. “I kind of hope he decides to stick with it and maybe give people another option outside of the Republicans and Democrats.”

Back in March when Aiken was promoting his Esquire docu-series, The Runner Up, Aiken said Trump would be “another colorful cast member” in the Republican race for President.

“He tends to not like to do anything he is not going to be successful at -- sticking his neck out,” Aiken added. “I like him as a person. He has been nice to me and supported me, but I think he's got maybe less of a chance than I did.”

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Sorry I'm not bringing over the tweets with the pictures -- there's just too many! (And I've got a class session in less than an hour...). But I had to do that with this one. You'll see why in a minute:

jessica_renee13Best moment of the day? Seeing Clay Aiken, it was like my inner 7 year old was coming out. ����.


SammyFucknFenny tweeted about Clay's comments on Trump:

@billboard @clayaiken @realDonaldTrump no one gives a fuck what you think Clay Aiken!

Clay's reply:

@SammyFucknFenty @billboard @realDonaldTrump and yet here you are spending your time reading the article and tweeting. Thanks!!

And then, Clay replied to the girl with the picture above:

@JessWilliams130 hope you had a great time today.

Clay also retweeted Michael Orland's tweet, picture posted upstream.

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Clay corrected a tweet that was in error.

@clayaiken: @Jezebel I never said he had good ideas. I said he shouldn't be discounted. Two VERY different statements. VERY.

@Jezebel: Clay Aiken thinks we should give Donald Trump a shot http://t.co/UDc6KZH6N4

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To add to merrieeee's post...

Great day in Philly today joining my sister for her ‪#‎AmericanIdol‬ auditions. I myself auditioned in support of her (and failed horribly). But the highlight of the day came when Jackie was invited to audition in front of one of her personal heroes, Clay Aiken. Being a major supporter of autism awareness, Clay was so proud and happy to see Jackie give it her all at the auditions, and even got up from his judging chair to have a one-on-one chat with her! Thanks to everyone who signed her ‪#‎AutismSings‬ poster! As Clay himself said to Jackie, she's truly an inspiration to us all! Jackie Vukovich Cathy Breidenbach


American Idol also posted a video on their Facebook page:


ETA: I can't get the FB one to work now. However, they also tweeted it:

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I actually follow John Fuglesang's sidekick on Facebook! His name is Frank Conniff -- he used to be part of Mystery Science Theater 3000!!!!

Frank posted on FB:

Clay Aiken joined us on John Fugelsang's Sirius XM show today. Nice guy.


What I could hear of that interview was fantastic! I love a smart brainy guy!

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Arsenio Hall tweeted this:

My family says YOU are in Cleveland @clayaiken! True?

Speculation on other boards is that Clay might be in town for the Republican debates tomorrow night...

AND --

On that note --

I'M OFFICIALLY DONE WITH MY CERTIFICATE OF ADVANCED STUDIES! I turned in my last blog post this evening. It's been a long two years, but I think it was so worth it!

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Ok we need Clay to actually do something! Tweet, periscope, stand on his head......something!

Jon Stewart mentioned Clay

@HuffPostLive: "I am the Clay Aiken of late-night television." --Jon Stewart. We'll miss you, Jon! #tbt #JonVoyage


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