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Archive for August, 2007

It finally happened.

I was lucky for 15 years.

I knew I couldn’t avoid it forever.

So far, I’m doing OK but it’s been rough going.

No, this has NOTHING to do with Clay, but I have lost some of him in the process.

Having a tough time following this? Well, let me put it simply…

MY LAPTOP’S HARD DRIVE CRASHED!!!

Considering I’ve only had the thing for 11 months and the motherboard crashed in January, I had a sick feeling that something else might go wrong – and it did – 2 days before the start of my 1st vacation in 2 years. That’s been my luck of late but I’m thankful we have a desktop as well as my PDA to keep me “hooked up” to the world. Just call me the “Gadget Queen!” 😉

Anyway, all this drama is to let you know that my online time will be limited this coming week due to this minor glitch and the aforementioned vacation. Those of you who have been with me this past year have some idea of the difficulties I have faced both in my work and at home. I thank God – and my meds – for getting me through it but I am starting to feel physically spent so this coming week should help me recharge a bit. I think the hour ride to and from work is sapping most of my energy or at the very least robbing me of some down time and the older I get, the more I need to balance work and play. However, I don’t think anyone has ever accused me of being a dull girl… 😉

So, if things get a little quiet around here, fear not! Once I’m up and running again I’ll be back to my old ways of stirring up trouble and giving everyone my opinions – whether they want them or not! Stay tuned!

Carry on!
J

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If I could only find the words then I would write it all down,

If I could only find a voice I would speak.

Oh, it’s there in my eyes, oh, can’t you see me tonight —

Come on and look at me and read ’em and weep

 

Ok, so I have to use Barry Manilow to frame my final remarks in this three part tome. Sue me. But this is the part where I get to give my $1.98 on what Clay might consider doing to “turn the Titanic around” (yet another song reference) and get on better footing with his career. Others share their opinions, sometimes liberally, so why not join them?

 

Before I go any further, let me say this: I have been called out as being too judgmental and negative in my comments about Clay. While this is typical treatment for anyone in the fandom who dares to criticize Clay in any way, those of you who have known me since the beginning of all this know that I love Clay’s voice and think that he has a promising future as a performer.

 

He intrigued me with “Always and Forever;”

blew me away with “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me”

and made be believe he had a real chance at stardom with “This is the Night.”

 

I always try to be affirming in my comments but also honest because I believe that there are too many people around Clay who say “yes” all the time – fans included. I’ll admit openly that it is really uncomfortable for me to do this in such an open forum. You see, if Mr. Aiken and I were real friends, I would take him out to dinner and discuss this in a non-threatening way over some great meal and wine. I prefer to talk of such things in private because I never want to embarrass anyone or make them feel badly in front of others.

 

Problem is – I don’t know the man and have no way of communicating with him in private so I am left to toss these ideas out into cyberspace and with any luck, he may just hear about them and give them a read. I will understand if it upsets him but I will try to be as gentle and constructive as possible – it’s the way I would like to be treated if in the same position. My objective is to share some of my insight being an older and wiser musician myself. While I cannot claim to fully understand the celebrity end of it, it’s the human side I’m more interested in.

 

To put this into some kind of frame work, I’d like to use the article I alluded to in the last installment, the one written by the son of a Claymate, that compared Clay to Barry and was looked upon by more than a few fans as a slam to Clay, which it really wasn’t. If you are wearing Claymate glasses, please take them off now because you need to see this through realistic eyes and know that what I say next is meant to be constructive criticism, the kind that helps a person grow.

 

Note: my comments will be in red

 

Presumably Clay has much more control over his live output than he currently does with recordings, and still he has presented himself as an old-fashioned entertainer, the sort who might regularly put out discs like “A Thousand Different Ways” and then embark on a slow-songs-with-orchestra outing like this one. Only during “Measure of a Man” (which got me to clap when his covers didn’t) and his co-written but shakily executed song “Lover All Alone” did Clay seize the opportunity to veer into something different – something to suggest he really wants to be contemporary. I don’t think Clay himself is certain as to which musical path to wander down but he can sing both classics and contemporary genres well – WHEN his voice is in top form. He was spot on the night I saw him live at Meadowbrook but some of the other clips I have seen and heard have shown a more fragile and tentative performance on more than a one occasion. I have posted my concerns over his voice over the years and so far, what I have predicted is playing itself out – and that pains me to no end.

 

Otherwise, he behaves like Barry Manilow, the soft-pop icon who has undertaken similar tours in the past – and whose routine now plays best in Vegas. There are MANY similarities between Barry and Clay – so much that it warrants its own separate subject heading. It’s a topic I’ve been meaning to write about and if you look below you’ll see that the writer picked up on some of the same ones I was thinking about. Maybe I’ll expand on these in a future blog.

 

Clay invoked Manilow’s name twice Saturday to top off self-effacing quips: “Only me and Barry,” that’s who gives you nights like this. I agree here – both performers know their audience (both are comprised of mostly women) and try to give them what they want. Difference is, Barry has a much tighter show than Clay but that’s because Mr. Manilow is a major control freak who needs to have everything as perfect as possible because he believes he owes that to his fans. Clay is still in the experimental stages of performing and he’s trying out things constantly to see what works for both him and his fans.

 

At times, though, it seemed as if he’d been studying Manilow’s playbook, incorporating some old tricks into his shtick. His talented, naturally engaging supporting vocalists, for instance – Quiana Parler and Angela Fisher – are not unlike Ladyflash, Manilow’s toned-down version of Bette Midler’s Harlettes. I noticed that from the beginning and when he had Jacob with him it was reminiscent of when Barry had Billy Kidd with him when he only had two women in back up (one being the very talented Idol singing coach Debra Byrd).

 

Just as 30 years ago Manilow would detour into his “Very Strange Medley” (a hodgepodge of jingles you’d never have guessed he wrote), so does Clay indulge his TV tribute and “uncool” roundup. I think that’s what’s bothered me about the medleys – difference is that Barry wrote about half of the jingles and sang the rest for the TV spots so he really OWNED these pieces. Then there is the GONZO medley of Barry’s that is a romp through his greatest hits – Clay’s no where near that yet.

 

He even repeats the master’s stock lines, placating husbands who got dragged to his show by reminding them they might get lucky later that night. That’s straight out of Manilow 101 – as is decrying radio with these-kids-today disdain, which Clay did more than once to hearty applause from a largely older and female crowd (a devoted fan base that nonetheless fell far short of filling the Greek). I’m finding out more and more that there are a bigger number of younger Clay fans around that no one accounts for. If he was on more radio playlists this segment would grow by leaps and bounds.

 

But, see, Manilow can get away with bagging on the new because he once dominated – and still co-rules his domain. He remains a soft-pop maestro, a gifted pianist of considerable variety, and a strong, distinctive vocalist. Clay is just Clay – a nice charmer with an undeniably powerful (albeit hardly to all tastes) voice that is already showing signs of strain and aimlessness when he goes for glory notes these days. Barry IS the superior musician, hands down, yet even he admits that Clay has the better voice. The one thing Barry can do with his voice is use it as an interpretive tool better than anyone I have experienced in all my years as a singer. He is my musical Idol for this reason and I have spent years trying to emulate and perfect that ability in myself. Do I think Clay has the same talent in him? Yes, I do but he has yet to fully develop it. When he finally does and if he can develop a more solid musical foundation, then he will rival Barry as the “greatest showman of his generation.”

 

Clay will never be but a fraction as talented as Manilow, something he surely realizes, – Don’t be so sure and don’t count him out yetbut you can’t deny he’s on the right track. He’s got a witty way about himself, and banters off-the-cuff exceptionally well. Mind you, he almost talked here as much as he sang – not entirely a bad thing – and his habit of tumbling into and out of songs while chuckling isn’t cute so much as unprofessional. This is where his lack of musicianship shows the most. I was taught never to let the music suffer – to always know both my notes and my words and never cheat the audience out of the best I could offer. But I found his asides more appealing than his songs, just as I enjoy his interviews with Jimmy Kimmel more than his performances whenever he’s on. Clay needs to pay attention to such critique, unless he wants out of singing and wants more of a non-musical career.

 

If he’d just settle into this as a career path – and maybe he is – he still has a very promising future as a new sort of Wayne Newton. Only Clay knows the answer here and, then again, maybe this is what he is struggling with. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with a Vegas career unless he really wants to concentrate on television. At some point he will have to choose or he could end up with neither.

 

So, if I were to advice Clay on what he should do next, this is what I would tell him:

***get out of the public eye for at least a year or more to give all this hoopla a rest – reinventing oneself has worked for many people, Barry included

***while on hiatus, work on a new sound and hone your craft with professionals – Barry took acting lessons to help his stage performance and Clay could use some formal music training to help him feel more comfortable contributing to his overall “sound” instead of relying on someone else’s vision

 

***learn that “no comment” says more than you’d like it to say because it leaves others to fill in the blanks – defending one’s “honor” is still a good thing to do in measured doses

 

***surround yourself with people who are HONEST with you about everything – you need to “keep it real” and while stroking is nice, it only leads to a distorted view of life (and you don’t need to be a celebrity to learn that lesson)

 

I don’t have all the answers. I’m not perfect myself. I have no hidden agenda whatsoever. However, I have and always will believe in Clay and his talent and only want to see it reach it’s full potential. That’s all.

 

It’s there in my eyes and coming straight from my heart,

It’s running silent and angry and deep!

It’s there in my eyes, and it’s all I can say,

Come on look at me and read ’em . . . and weep!

(READ’EM AND WEEP – Music and lyrics by Jim Steinman – Sung by Barry Manilow)

 

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    It would appear that this cartoon is a perfect illustration of how Clay’s life has been unfolding over the last 18 months. Seems that no matter what he does or doesn’t do, no matter what choices he makes or doesn’t make and no matter how the public at large hears it, he always seems to make the WRONG decision for his life or career. When those times occur there is an ever-ready posse of folks poised to help make the situation worse – some are “fans” and others are “foes.”

     

    Can’t this poor soul catch a break? Is this what reality TV has done to the average Joe?

     

    Since Clay burst on to the scene in American Idol 2, he has been one of those performers who seems to polarize individuals – in other words, one their loves him or hates him with no in between. As with all things, zealots live at the extremes of these feelings towards him, using their version of the “facts” to support their positions. Just what ARE the facts about Clay Aiken that get folks all shook up?

     

    Here are some “facts” as we know them –

     

    Name: Clayton Holmes Aiken

    Age: 28

    Hometown: Raleigh, NC

    Education: Graduate of UNC-Charlotte w/degree in Special Education

    Claim to fame:

    Runner-up American Idol 2

    Recording Credits:

    This is the Night/Bridge Over Troubled Waters

    Measure of a Man

    Solitaire/The Way

    Merry Christmas with Love

    All is Well: Holiday Extras

    A Thousand Different Ways

     

    Solo Tours:

    Independent (w/Kelly Clarkson)

    Not-a Tour

    Joyful Noise 1

    Jukebox

    Joyful Noise 2

    Holiday w/Orchestra

    Soft Rock/Hard Place

    Philanthropic Endeavors:

    The Buble/Aiken Foundations – co-founder and Chairman of the Board

    UNICEF Ambassador for Education

    Presidential Committee for Disabilities

     

    All of the above are documented and indisputable (there are more facts but these are enough to make a point). What frosts my cupcakes, however, is when other things that are passed off as facts really aren’t — yet folks believe them as if they were gospel.

     

    Things like:

    Clay initiates fight with woman on airplane

    Clay is gay and we have a washcloth to prove it

    Clay’s charity is mismanaged

    Clay has a love child he is not supporting

    Clay never shows up for meetings of the presidential commission of which he is a member

     

    My Google alerts are filled with such drivel and after awhile I start to get angry and wonder when all this foolishness will stop. I want to know just what Clay represent or embodies that brings out such polar emotions in people. I haven’t got a clue.

     

    While I continue to ponder the above conundrum, let’s take a look at the two extremes that are a constant source of concern for Our Man Clay:

    The Clay Haters

    This group is made up of both former fans who no longer “drink the Kool-aid” (their favorite expression) that keeps them delusional towards him or those who were never fans in the first place or fans of other idols. The basic bottom line is that they have some kind of “beef” with Clay that they just can’t or won’t let go of. They seem to have taken up residence on a number of message boards and have developed a Community of Hate, communicating to anyone who reads them their gospel that Clay is “fake,” that he is not who he appears to be, and that all who believe he is or defend him in any way are they themselves targets for the same type of ridicule and slander.

     

    My question is:

    Who died and left them to play God?

     

    No one has the right to make themselves judge and jury over someone else’s existence. If you “fall out of like” with a celebrity, or anyone for that matter, you are free to walk away and let them go their merry way. Continuing to churn up the waters until they get total satisfaction that they are in the right or just plain old revenge is morally wrong. Period. However, our society today is so devoid of moral standards and simple social graces that this type of behavior is not only condoned but encouraged by wrapping itself in the flag of “free speech.” Gimme a break. I get it that you don’t like Clay – just let it go and move on. You must have other things in your life to obsess on. He’s just not worth it and, frankly, doesn’t deserve it no matter what he’s allegedly done.

     

    The Rabid Claymates

    This group is comprised of the most zealous and, sometimes, overly lustful group of Clay fans in the Clay Nation whose sole purpose in life, it seems, is to promote, protect and endlessly photograph Mr. Aiken. They will join any website to vote for Clay, trash any writer who makes Clay look bad in the press or online and record every nanosecond of his life on and off stage. They probably mean well but their actions are stalker-ish and their devotion is off the charts. The way they attack others, even those who ARE fans, is mean and selfish. Clay appears to “egg them on” and that only makes matters worse. If they were in the Star Trek universe they would be known as the BORG.

     

    My question is:

    Who appointed them Clay’s collective Mommy?

     

    May I be frank here? These women are NUTS! I can’t wrap my mind around the way these women think and I have been a devoted fan of one Mister Barry Manilow for thirty two years and have NEVER behaved the way these gals do. Most of them are old enough to be Clay’s mother (eeewww) and the others don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting any real time with him. To help prove my point, check out this article that came across my path recently:

     

    Published: Thursday, August 2, 2007 Nashua Telegraph (NH)

    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.

     

    I happened to be at this concert and I know who these women are, too — they are the same ones I spy sitting in the front rows of EVERY concert I have attended for the last 4 years (and that would be NINE total). Not wanting to get into how much money they are wasting spending on attending multiple concerts of the same tour ( I recently counted that one women had video taped 10 of his last 13 shows on this tour alone) or how much “clack” they view on a daily basis, I am ashamed for them that they could treat others they way they treated this fan in the above article. Just today it was brought to my attention that they are now going after a “negative” reviewer whose mother is an active Claymate because he didn’t say what they wanted to hear. I’ll use that article in my final installment but I can tell you that what he wrote had a lot of truth in it (I read the article) and in my experience, Claymates “can’t handle the truth.”

     

    If Clay is who he says he is (and I have no reason yet to believe anything different) then he would not approve or condone this type of treatment, especially when done in his name. But then he’ll make comments about having his Claymates beat up people and I want to shake him because some of these gals actually BELIEVE him and feel justified to go out and “obey” the master. This type of fan is NOT , repeat – NOT helping Clay, except to get him more negative press than he needs. They are terrorizing other fans, causing legitimate writers to either pander to them or use Clay as a whipping boy to get hits and making people in the music business look down on Clay even more. They, as the “haters” they detest, need to be muzzled and their power taken away. In my next installment I will give my opinion on how that could be achieved.

     

    Now, I fully expect to have a target on my back with these two extremes and I guess I’m ready for the fallout. But, remember, it’s MY OPINION and MY BLOG and if you don’t like it, then don’t read it and spread it around. It’s that simple.

     

    Carry on…but be nice about it…

    J

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By Andy Dehnart (Reality Blurred)

 

Simon Cowell plans to make a film based upon American Idol, which he says will use real people in the leads and be “the musical version of ‘Rocky’ — an underdog story, a feel-good film.”

Star Struck “is set behind the scenes of a TV singing competition in the vein of ‘Idol’ and the Cowell-produced British show ‘X-Factor’ and follows 10 contestants trying to make it to the top,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. The movie will be written by “Jonathan Harvey, who followed [Cowell] around for the past two years,” but it does not yet have a studio attached.  Still, Simon wants to release the film next summer, probably timed to debut right after the conclusion of American

Idol 7.

 

The filmmakers want “authenticity,” so “the leads in the film — playing participants in a TV singing competition — will be cast through nationwide open call auditions similar to those used on the reality shows,” the paper reports. And “Cowell will be at the auditions for the movie. And just like a singing reality show, ‘Struck’ will open with clips from the auditions.”

 

That seems beyond ridiculous; why not just make a documentary about the show instead of faking everything that’s already happening? With impossible-to-follow logic, Simon argues, “To enjoy the film, you’ve got to watch the actors and believe that they are contestants on a reality show.” Yes, except we’ll know that they’re fake, you twit.

 

Cowell nor the paper mention American Dreamz, a fictional film that was essentially a quasi-satire of the show. However, despite starring real actors, it did horribly, opening in ninth place and ultimately earning just $16.5 million worldwide, and only $7 million in the U.S.

 

Pasted from <http://www.realityblurred.com/realitytv/archives/american_idol_7/2007_Aug_02_simon_cowell_star_struck>

 

I think I’m in agreement with Andy on this one.  Why not just do a documentary on Season 7?  I think folks would more than likely want to plunk down their $$ to get a behind-the-scenes look at IDOL because we all know that the truth is stranger than fiction.

 

Maybe they have something to hide?

 

What say YOU America?  Which would you rather see – fiction or reality?

 

Let’s carry on a conversation…

J

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