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American Idol: Clay Aiken and The Mystery of Credible Pop Radio

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photo by RCA Records

Monday night found me sitting in a tropical downpour at the fabled Wolf-Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Vienna, Virginia.

The occasion? One Mr. Clay Aiken and his Jukebox Tour.

Having only been able to score lawn tix the traditional way, the day of the show I rang up the friendly dude at the box office and inquired, in a friendly way, about the possibility of upgrading.

His heinous laugh was deafening.

He was like, dude, you’re on the phone and peeps have been camped out here since at least 9:00 this morning, which, he informed me, was when he arrived at work.

Besides intimating that I was thoroughly insane, he further informed me that I should feel exceedingly lucky to have gotten tickets at all and that, please, the in-house tix sold out in—quote—“like, thirty seconds, I’m not kidding you.”

How he found time to provide me with this exceedingly detailed oral history—what with all the apparently clamoring, desperate throngs of Claymates at his window—I know not. But there you have it.

So, the lawn it was. Which, from a professional blogger point of view, actually has advantages because it allows one to conduct research on several conversations and fan groups simultaneously.

Such as the lady who turned to her friend and asked, quite sincerely, “Why is everyone screaming?”

True, since the concert hadn’t even started, one might legitimately wonder.

Except that, people, this is CLAY AIKEN, after all. The man whom I once described [here] as turning even the Fox people into blubbering wierdos every time he appeared.

Then there was the girl who turned to her BF and said, “It’s intermission and he hasn’t sung one Clay Aiken song yet.”

(Not true if she was talking about songs Mr. Aiken had recorded: though literally interrupted by a bolt of lightening, he had sung “Solitaire,” which most definitely is a Clay Aiken song. Even Neil Sedaka said so.)

But my point is: Lady, it’s called the “Jukebox Tour,” and that means . . .? Hmmm . . . ??

Of course, she was the one who was lamenting that they’d not brought any dinner (a Wolf-Trap tradition) because she’d gotten confused and thought the concert was tomorrow night, but then she heard the concert advertised on the radio and, lo and behold—SCREECH BRAKES AND MAKE U-TURN—it actually was tonight, and well, it was all very tumultuous.

Golly. Somehow it reminded me of last year when I was at one of Mr. Aiken’s Christmas concerts, part of his tour to support his Christmas album, which was called Merry Christmas with Love.

And, oh yeah, it was Christmas.

I heard a young woman say to another young woman at intermission, “I can’t believe he’s only sung Christmas songs.”

Whoa, dude, and I can’t believe that the last time Elizabeth appeared in public they played “God Save the Queen” rather than, say, “Stacey’s Mom.”

Anyway.

What I ended up thinking about as Mr. Aiken sang the stuffing out of everything he touched was how not one song—not one of the several dozen songs he covered over the course of the night—was stronger, deeper, more profound, more rich, more charming, or—yes, better!—than any track on Aiken’s debut disc, Measure of a Man.

Yet, unlike the tracks on Measure of a Man, each one of the several dozen hits Aiken sang had received—often in several different versions over the years—extensive radio play.

So extensive that most everyone in the crowd, ranging from giggly gaggles of pre-teen girls to highly seasoned citizens, could sing along to a substantial portion of the setlist.

That’s not to say the Jukebox Tour setlist isn’t full of great songs. Of course it is. And what’s not to love about anything by Elvis or Motown.

What would life be if we did not have songs such as “Love Me Tender” and “Midnight Train to Georgia”? Or “Jailhouse Rock,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and even “Workin’ at the Car Wash”?

But are these songs actually stronger, deeper, more profound, more rich, more charming, and—yes, better!—than Clay Aiken’s “Run to Me,” “When You Say You Love Me,” “I Will Carry You,” “This Is The Night,” “Invisible” or “Touch”?

Can someone actually demonstrate how these songs differ so greatly that the one group “belongs” on radio and the other—i.e., the group consisting of songs recorded by Clay Aiken on Measure of a Man—does not?

Recently, I wrote about Bo Bice and The Mystery of Credible Rock Radio, a piece discussing the sheer dumbness—not to mention short-sightedness—oozing from radio’s snarlitude (oh! a word I coined in the context of AI4 contestant Scott Savol [here] and I want credit for it!) toward artists who emerged through our lovable American Idol discovery machine.

In regard to Bo, I wrote:

This is the only way judging a singer’s “credibility” as a “rocker” can make sense: if rock is indeed a club with a Big Rule Book by which The Establishment (a/k/a Credible Rock Radio) judges just who is and who is not a club member in good standing.

And, may I remind that, in this scene the actual music is the least consequential factor in determining whether a person is “in” (i.e., “credible”) or “out” (i.e., not “credible”).

If this were not true, Bo Bice’s version of “Vehicle”—a wondrous, rollicking, head-thumping rendition of a “credible” rock hit by a “credible” rock band sung by a great rock singer backed by a great and “credible” rock guitarist loaded with “credible” hard rock riffs—would be all over Credible Rock Radio.

But it’s not.

Put Clay Aiken in the subject line and WHAT I SAID!

Fact. As multitudes of Claymates can attest, thousands and thousands and thousands of phone calls, emails, and personal visits failed to budge radio off its prehistoric boulder, to wit, “Sorry. We don’t do American Idol.”

Not: “Sorry. We think Clay Aiken’s music stinks.” Not: “Sorry. Clay Aiken’s music isn’t radio-friendly.” Not: “Sorry. Clay Aiken’s songs are 13 minutes long [they’re not] and that doesn’t fit our format.”

No,—as with the DJ Stryker’s comment that the hilariously self-described “Credible Rock Radio won’t go near” the music of any artist found through our lovable American Idol discovery machine—-universally the retort to Clay fans was simply some version of “We don’t do American Idol.”

Sneer.

Well, backatcha, buddy.

Puh-leeze. To repeat myself for the purpose of emphasis: besides the mesmerizing Clay vocals, what struck me most about Mr. Aiken’s tromp through pop music history was exactly how worthy HIS pop music is compared to every radio hit he sang.

And it’s not just pop history that makes this point. We live in a world, as I wrote previously here, where Gwen Stefani has a radio hit with “Rich Girl,” a song she lifted from—

a beloved musical about a family fleeing Jewish pograms in pre-Revolutionary Russia and then turned it into a dumber, and more spoilt, version of Madonna’s “Material Girl.” Yet, apparently, the music industry is still bowing before her, intoning “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!”

Today I listened to radio for all of 30 minutes and twice heard this new song by Bon Jovi: “Have A Nice Day.”

I kid you not: Bon Jovi, rock royalty, has a new release called “Have A Nice Day” and IT’S GETTING SPINS.

And this is not some joke title, a clever entendre, an ironic caption on a deeply philosophical, poignant and important thought.

It’s truly a song about having a nice day.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I do think there are songs that take that idea and present it in a way that, despite the “Living on a Prayer” guitars and gnarly Bon Jovi vocals, is more than a cartoon.

For example, the Clay Aiken tracks “Perfect Day” and “Shine.”

They are equally about the optimism and attitude that Bon Jovi is expressing in “Have a Nice Day,” but with the important difference that—lyrically, musically and vocally—the Aiken songs actually provide some insight, depth and real substance into how and why one gets from a rotten place to a better place in love and life.

Sure, “Perfect Day” and “Shine” are still pop songs, not Socratic tomes or Robert Browning poems.

But, tell me, how is it that “Have A Nice Day” “belongs” on radio and the Clay Aiken tracks get thrown on radio’s self-appointed toxic waste dump?

Look, here’s your idolhabit homework:

Check out Fred Bronson’s book, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits. Pick 10 Number One hits at random (excluding “This Is The Night,” the poignant love potion song by Clay Aiken that hit number one based on sales, not airplay) and look up the lyrics.

Then pick 10 tracks between Measure of a Man and the Bo Bice disc, “Inside Your Heaven” and “Vehicle.”

See if you can discern an audible distinction, such that you—light bulb!—understand why radio chose to play those number one hits and chooses not to play Clay Aiken and Bo Bice.

Then compare the lyrics of the songs on your two lists and tell me if you can discern a poetic distinction such that songs such as “Rockin’ Robin” were worthy of radio’s good graces, but songs such as “Run to Me,” “I Will Carry You,” “The Way,” “Invisible” and Bo’s “Inside Your Heaven” and “Vehicle” were not worthy of ample airplay.

The funny thing is that radio has yet to catch on to the fact that, if it doesn’t watch out and start playing what people actually want to hear (be it artists discovered through American Idol or wherever), people have options. Duh.

But, then again, radio is an industry that still compiles its ratings by having people take a pencil and write down on a piece of paper what they listened to that day, and then put the paper in an envelope, seal it, put a stamp on it and turn it in to the snail mail folks to haul it in big sacks to huge radio ratings office where, probably, Dilbert and friends use their hands to open the envelopes and then use pencils to mark down each ballot before sending the resultant mountains of paper off to the paper counting department where this 20th century process is repeated.

That’s why I’m writing next time about radio and the stubby pencil.

True, the industry is changing. Shazamm, it’s the 21st century, Grandma has an iPod, and Arbitron is just about to roll out a—WHOA!—computerized ratings system for radio.

Okay, so radio just showed up in Peabody & Sherman’s Wayback Machine, having—Three Stooges-like—accidentally pressed the “forward” button.

But it may be too late. American Idol generated fan bases that, more than any other fan groups in recent music history, wanted to and were determined to affect airplay.

True, fan support plus, um, industry support made Kelly Clarkson the darling on Top 40 radio [here] (and deservedly so). Her sophomore disc, Breakaway, is brilliant on several relevant scales.

But otherwise, despite massive fan efforts that, by rights, should have catapulted their guys and gals to the top of the charts, nothing happened.

Nothing happened on the airwaves, that is. But out in real life, a sea change happened. And if radio doesn’t figure out how to ride that wave, it’s going to find itself unable to get tickets to the concerts people actually are attending.

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  • Jo Ann Edwards

    Great article, we all know what a wonderful performer and entertainer.Clay Aiken is…he can do more than just sing…but the radio people have to have money from a promoter of an artist ….in order to play them…and Kelly got promoted to death…she also changed her whole look as well, Clay’s People have not promoted him as well…but he is doing great anyway..5 sold out concerts in 2 years…not too shabby…and this time he has no warm up act…with Clay Aiken …we don’t need to be warmed up…he is soooooo HOT….Thank you for a well written article…Jo Ann

  • Dianne Melton

    Thank you very much for such an well-written, fact-based, intuitive, insightful, articulate and well-written article, one that was actually based upon personal observation, experience and research. Thank you.

  • Cindy Harrison

    Thanks for the article about Clay Aiken. It was very well written and the point you made is so true. I just went to my first Clay Aiken concert, but it will not be my last. WOW! He could sing everything! I hope they put it on a DVD. Radio was so important when I was younger. That was the only place to hear new music. Then it went to TV. Now you can hear new stuff in lots of new ways. Radio just isn’t keeping up.

  • Linda

    Thank you for the very insightful comments regarding Clay Aiken’s music. He can sing the pants off of any song given in any genre of music…and there are not too many artists who can do that.
    As you stated with the technology today the Radio industry had better watch there step. The public does not need them anymore to hear the music they want…but Radio does still need the public to survive.
    It will be interesting to see what airplay Clay’s sophmore CD will get since we know he already has one surefire hit on it. But then again I don’t need Radio to tell me what is worth listening too!

  • Joyce

    I want you to know that I thoroughly appreciated your article. It is refreshing to read your funny yet insightful comments. In my younger years, the radio was playing constantly. The music was great and the DJs were entertaining. Today, I have a choice and I choose to play the music I want to hear on my CD player and my iPod.
    Yes, Grandma does have an iPod. If it weren’t for classical music stations or NPR, radio could take a flying leap.
    I didn’t follow AI4 so don’t know Bo Bice but I love Clay Aiken.
    If you make friends with a Claymate, I betcha they could score you a better seat.

  • Sandy

    I like Bo and Clay. I think radio will be more accepting of Bo than Clay just because Bo fits better. Rock radio may not play him, but mainstream/top 40 will do just like they play Kelly Clarkson. Yeah I think Vehicle would have been great on the radio. I just don’t think the record company wanted to push a cover on the radio, even if it did include Richie Sambora of Bon Jovi. Bo has a song with Santana that might get some airplay. I hear it’s hot. Since other credible artists are willing to collaborate with Bo, I have a feeling radio will warm up to him.

    Clay Aiken is a different story. Clay Aiken has a good voice, but his songs are not made for radio. The songs he puts on his cd are more adult contemporary and I really don’t think they fit his personality at all. Clay doesn’t reach to find good songs at all. Plus since other artists still have a hard time with Clay, I don’t think the radio will warm up to him any time soon.

  • http://www.shakinaiken.cjb.net Kristina

    Thank you for writing such a wonderful article. There wasn’t a point in it I didn’t agree with. I myself have given up on the radio, and I find the only thing I’m listening to on the radio is Oldies music, simply because I can’t stand to listen to any of today’s music. And being that I’m only 16, I haven’t been able to witness a great change in the quality of the music on the radio, but I know what’s worthy of my listening to.
    I, myself, can’t wait for Clay to release his next single, so that I can give the DJ’s a piece of my mind when they scoff at me. If the radio industry doesn’t realize that Clay Aiken can “sing his face off” as Randy Jackson would say, then theier listening audience will soon be diminishing.

  • Mike

    Great article, Sticker, as always.

    With the recent expose of the Payola schemes by Sony and the pending investigation of the other big record companies and their manipulation of radio it will be very telling if Clay’s new CD is snubbed once again. I’ve heard his “Back for More” song on Radio Max Internet Radio and that song has hit written all over it. If it doesn’t get played and go to #1 on top 40 the travesty that is the current system will be glaringly obvious to anyone who has heard the song.

    His music is not AC and his voice is not merely good, its fantastic! The new song is irresistible. It makes you sing along at the top of your lungs and dance. A sure fire hit if I ever heard one.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Hello, to everyone—

    More later, but many thanks for your comments and support.

    Keep making a big enough brouhaha and maybe someone will listen!

    I agree that “Back for More” should be spelled H-I-T. And, yes, it will be telling to see how radio treats that song.

    But then there were several songs on MOAM that were worthy of airplay, if the consumer’s opinion counts for anything.

    Time will tell!

  • Lori

    The reason why Clay won’t get played on the radio is because there are no hits besides Invisible. All the rest of the songs are ballady and not pop. And Bo Bice? Trust me, he is the male Kelly Clarkson. But Inside Your Heaven is not the type of music that Bo Bice will be singing. RCA does not want to promote Bo as a cover artist, so Vehicle f/Richie Sambora was not promoted as the A side.

  • Jackee

    I can’t understand why radio won’t play Clay. RCA won’t promote his songs to radio is what I can think of. But I hear RCA will promote Bo to radio. Why do you think he is going to be on Santana’s cd? Why do you think hitmakers like Better than Ezra and Nickelback are writing for Bo? I think they are waiting for original material.

  • tita

    clays fans are doing most of advertising for him.they are the best promoters. Isend some of his records to friends overseas to promote his songs. he is the best person ever inside and out.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Lori,

    What songs are you referring to on Clay’s cd that you think are “not pop”?

    The ballad is a staple of both pop and rock radio. Take a look at the hair bands, for example: many of them had their biggest hits with ballads.

    Take a look through Fred Bronson’s book and check out how many songs might be classifed as “ballady.”

    This is my point: someone please DEMONSTRATE, not through the simple use of conclusions, that Mr. Aiken’s music is so “not pop” that if it were on the radio, millions of people would sit up and scream, “what was THAT?”

    Can’t be done. For every Aiken song you can give me, I can find a song on the radio (now or in the past) that is not only quite similar, but often not as good.

    Sounds like a fun parlor game, Claymates. Have at it.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Re Clay Aiken’s music and radio:

    For important research purposes for this professional blogger, I would like it if those persons who are of the opinion that Clay’s music somehow doesn’t fit on radio provided me with specific examples—specific songs from his cd and the individual’s supporting analysis.

    I would find this extremely interesting.

    And P.S.: The fact that you, personally, don’t like a song cannot be part of your rationale for concluding it should not get airplay.

    There are loads of songs that loads of people despise, and the tracks still get airplay. Why those tracks and not others?

  • judy reeder

    Thanks for the great artical on Clay Aiken, I think his next CD will have a better selection of radio friendly music (at least I hope so), he is trying some new songs out on this tour. I am also a big Bon Jovi fan, and they had a lot of trouble in thier career, getting recogition for thier talent. And I think Have a Nice Day will be a big hit for them, I also think that if Clay includes ” Coming back for more” on his next CD, it will get radio play. I have my fingers crossed. Thanks again.

  • Lisa M

    Great article on a number of levels! I live in Nashville & worked in the music business here for several years. Our local paper recently ran a piece on digital radio, & an industry insider was actually brave enough to go on record as calling it ‘the last improvement to the buggy whip’. Commercial radio is a dying dinosaur, because of its head-up-A arrogance. How dare the unwashed masses make up their own minds? HA. Satellite & Internet radio are the future. Now if you’ll excuse me, one more round of applause for you, dear writer, & I’m off to start packing for a drive next week to Indianapolis…to see Clay Aiken’s Jukebox Tour for the 2nd time.

  • Mike

    One of the things I find ironic is that those critics who think that Clay belongs on Broadway (a compliment in my opinion) are saying that his voice is wrong for pop radio. They say that he should stick to AC and Vegas yet they are reviewing his concert and at the same time many are saying that he does a credible job singing all of those hits from the 50s through today. None of them are criticising his voice. He always gets credit for being a phenomenal singer. You can’t have it both ways. He is proving that he can sing rock/pop/soul with the best of them.

  • Linda

    Thank you for saying “out loud” what so many of us have been saying for 2 whole years! Clay is an amazing entertainer, a fantastic vocalist, and a particularly admirable human being. Whoops, maybe the radio people don’t want to know he’s living clean and doing good for children. But he sure as heck can sing and this current tour is outstanding! Hope somebody is listening.

  • Vern Halen

    I don’t know much about Mr. A, but I’d like to address the comment about rock music and the big rule book that decides who’s in & who’s out that was mentioned near the beginning of the articlle. Rock differs from pop in that it asks the listener for a different level of intellectual & emotional intensity than pop. Not to say that all rock songs are necessarily more intense or deeper emotionally than pop – there’s lots of crossover. It’s also about having an attitude that declares that this is rock, and having the listener buy into that attitude.

    As I said, I don’t know much about Clay Aiken, but I think that the perception is that he’s a lightweight because he made it big through a TV show contest, and furthermore, he’s considered to be a pop singer & not a rocker by general consensus. He also doesn’t have 50 plus years of history to back up his songwriting, whereas even the lightest Elvis song is given the benefit of the doubt and considered to be rock ‘n’ roll by many people.

    I think artists are starting to see their careers rise & fall faster than ever – here today: gone before the next TV season. Too bad, but they’d better get used to it, brcause that seems to be the way the business works nowadays.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Lisa M.–

    Have a great time in Indy and do drop me a line with any observations you have about the show/crowd/etc.

    Sticker

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Mike–

    Dude! You are so right! How can people say Aiken does a good to great job singing THE ENTIRE AMERICAN POP CATALOGUE and then somehow insist he can’t sing pop.

    Hello . . .

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Vern Halen (any relation to Van?)—

    My comments about rock radio were more about Bo Bice than Clay Aiken, although IMHO Mr. Aiken can also rock with the best of them because he’s got the pipes to outdo STEVE PERRY. ‘Nuff said.

    I agree with you that rock asks its listeners to buy into some kind of attitude, but my take on that is that that is getting a little pretentious at this moment in history.

    If rock radio wants to care more about a singer’s backstory than his music, well, some rock fans may be okay with that, but it puzzles me.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Linda,

    I do think that Clay’s wholesome image is a turn-off for some people in the industry—imagine that!

    Okay, fine. But doesn’t an industry exist to provide products to CONSUMERS? If the consumers happen to like a singer’s backstory, as well as his voice, who is radio to say, well, anyway, na-na-na, you can’t have him?

    The joke, my dear, will soon be on them, methinks!

  • MJP

    Great article Sticker.

    If it had been given the chance, I always thought that Perfect Day would have done well on radio as well as a couple of other songs.

    The same people on the internet who always said that there were no radio friendly songs on Measure of a Man are the same ones that are now insisting that Back for More is not a pop or rock song but only an AC song.

    I think it could do well on CHR Pop and Adult Contemporary, what format do you think it would do well on?

  • http://gratefuldread.net Natalie Davis

    Probably both, but who really cares? Conventional radio, for the long run, is so over.

  • Mike

    Something else that is not talked about enough when it comes to american Idol is that most, if not all, of the top 2 or 3 finalists have been singing and fronting bands or in theater, choir or something for years. They did not wake up the morning of auditions and decide to sing. Many did exactly that, but they were quickly eliminated.

    Clay was the front man for several bands and performed for years in bars and auditoriums before ever appearing on AI. It shouldn’t matter how you get your break. the talent and professionalism is what counts.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    MJP—

    What I would like is for those individuals who say Clay Aiken’s songs are not “radio-friendly” (first, what does that mean?) to:

    (1) Name names. Which songs, specifically, are you talking about? (Truth be told, half the people pontificating on this subject haven’t gotten within 10 feet of MOAM. But if they have actually heard the music, even better: NAME NAMES.)

    (2) Provide a reasoned rationale, with appropriate use of comparison and contrast techniques, on why the named songs are not “radio-friendly” compared to all the other songs on the radio.

    I agree that there are indeed inside tricks that make a song more likely to receive radio play than not, but let’s talk about what people actually *hear*, not hocus pocus in the sound booth, etc.

    As for “Back for More,” I am still ruminating on it. At this point, all I can say is, I see no reason whatsoever why it shouldn’t be a huge hit.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Mike—

    Once again, what you said, dude!

    And it makes sense: of course, the people who go the farthest in AI and beyond were very experienced performers.

    Remember Julia DeMato in AI2? Listen to her sing “At Last” on the AI compilation album and you will be amazed at what a creamy, enchanting and somewhat unique voice she has.

    She’s also was quite attractive.

    But she had never once, not once, before sung on a stage in front of people before AI.

    She turned to stone and, no matter how well she could sing, she just wasn’t experienced enough to perform in that environment.

    Early on in the AI4 season I was making fun of Simon and wrote that at one time I could see someone telling Bruce Springsteen, “My god man, you sound like you should be singing in some bar in a backwater town in New Jersey!”

    Point: That’s how The Bruce came up and . . . so . . .

    First they tell ya, “you sound like you should be singing in a bar somewhere,” then they rag on you because you didn’t spend a sufficient number of years singing in a bar somewhere before getting your break, as it happened, through AI.

    But did singing in a bar really *make* Bruce into The Bruce? Or was that just what he did to get by until he got *his* break?

    As I said in that same piece, for all the jaw-flapping about wedding singers,

    “If Bono were to sing at your post-nuptial celebration, would he still sound like . . . Bono?”

    Bottom line: if a person’s got the music in ’em, shut up and let ’em sing!

  • Pamela

    Thanks for such a clear and thoughtful
    wording of the radio problem that has been puzzling and maddening every fan of Mr. Clay Aiken’s considerable talent.

    MOAM is a great album that received little air play. The wife of someone who works at a radio station said that they were told not to play Clay’s music even when it was requested! That’s how deep this twisted approach to what people want to hear and what is fed to us goes.
    It’s very deliberate and has little to do with the quality of the song or the skill of the singer.

    I’ve had the pleasure of attending many of Mr. Aiken’s concerts. Not only does he have the most amazing voice but he can sing any song, any style and make it his own-and usually better than the original! Yes, Clay can ROCK. You should see him do “Great Balls of Fire” and “Chain of Fools!” He can POP he can do ballads and gospel and he grew up singing country-and he’s very entertaining. A new song he’s trying out for the new CD-Back For More-has HIT written all over it and you heard it yourself at Wolf Trap-I was there, too.
    The crowd was fired up inspite of the rain! It will be interesting to see how
    radio treats this one.

    To anyone who has not seen a Clay Aiken concert-go-you WILL come back for more!

  • eloise

    Why does Clay Aiken not get the radio air time he deserves? The answer is actually quite simple. A recent investigative news report confirmed that radio play is all about “payola”, and not what the listeners or fans are actually requesting to be played. Recording artists such as Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Simpson are just two of the MANY examples of recording artists who know that their labels are indirectly paying off DJ’s and station managers to frequently play their songs on the radio. It does not matter whether the songs are good or bad; you get what you pay for. I don’t know if Clay Aiken’s label or management team tried to get radio play for him using by using the customary “payola” to the stations or not. One can be certain that Clay Aiken would never knowingly allowed this to happen. He would rather not have his songs played on the radio, than to have indirect knowledge that something illicit was going on to get him that radio play. You have to remember that Clay is the singer who literally stood up to Clive Davis and refused to “dirty up the lyrics” just to sell CD’s. Clive Davis told Clay that he wouldn’t sell any CD’s if he wasn’t willing to take his advice. Clay did not take Clive’s advice, yet he went on to go triple platinum without much radio play at all. It would not surprise me in the least if Clay refused to be part of any payola scandal. I am not implying that Jennifer Lopez or Jessica Simpson are directly doing something illegal, but I do believe they know what is being done on their behalf to get radio play and to ultimately sell more records and concert seats. Everyone within the music industry knows that this is how the industry works. If you want so many spins of a CD per day, you have to “pay” to get them. Maybe now that the radio industry has “big brother” watching over them, Clay may finally get a song or two with a lot of radio play. Only time will tell. At first, the industry just paid the money up front. When that became illegal, they found other ways to seduce DJ’s into playing the songs they wanted have played. Even though this has now been exposed to the American public, the music industry will most likely find yet another way to get a lot of exposure/radio play for the songs of the artists whom they represent. Where there is a will, there is a way. If Clay Aiken’s new (yet unrecorded at the present time) song “Back For More” does not get the radio play it deserves, then you can rest assured the industry has found yet another way to get around the rules of the trade.

  • Sandy

    Great, perceptive article, Stricker! (Though you might note that Britain’s monarch is heralded with “God Save The” (not “Hail To The”) “Queen (King).” 😉

    I disagree with your assessment that none of the hits Clay covered in his Jukebox Tour are better songs than anything on Measure Of A Man. Some of them are, in my opinion, pop masterpieces, and I wouldn’t put anything from MOAM in that category. But you’re right that some of them, as well as many other radio hits, are hardly anything to write home about. Uncle Kracker covered “Drift Away” in an unimaginative way recently and rode high on the charts for almost a year, and your exposé of the talented Gwen Stefani’s lame watered-down take on Yarburg & Lane’s wonderful “If I Were A Rich Man” was spot-on! Why should I listen to Counting Crows’ version of Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” when her most recent live concert recording is light years better? And how come Sheryl Crow gets to score big with a cover of a cover (The First Cut Is The Deepest) while music industry insiders pan Clay for “not writing his own songs?”

    You’re also right that Clay and Bo are being snubbed primarily because they got their big breaks on a TV talent show (as did Leann Rimes, Alanis Morissette, Britney Spears, Sawyer Brown, Gladys Knight, and a host of others, by the way). But if Kelly Clarkson — the first “American Idol” — is somehow ‘legitimate’ after a makeover and the release of a sophomore album, let’s see if radio is willing to judge Clay’s sophomore album on its own merits, too, and lose the “We don’t play American Idol” attitude.

    And, oh, yes. You forget to mention that, while The Police won a Grammy for “Every Breath You Take” — an admitted “stalker song” — and there have been a number of similar watching-and-yearning-for-you-from-afar hit songs over the years, Clay’s very “pop-radio friendly” song “Invisible” was dissed by way too many critics and DJs as having “creepy,” “stalkerish” lyrics.

    The only music radio I can stand listening to are the rare stations that are eclectic and reflective of listener tastes — just like our iPods and self-burned CD mixes . I agree that Clay’s “people” probably haven’t done the kind of promo for him that Kelly’s have for her — but paying for airplay should not be necessary, especially when fans are paying for CDs and concert tickets.

    Thanks again for shining a disinfecting light on a cockroach-infested industry.

  • Enrico

    Look guys, Clay have a wonderfull voice, i like him. In contrast, Mr.Bice sings songs that is “rocky”, it doesn’t neccesary means that Bo doesn’t have a good voice, he have a beautiful voice, but he just doesn’t like to show it, as he likes to sing rocks that doesn’t show his voice. About Clay, he voice is wonderfull, and he choose to sing songs that shows his talent (his vibrato). I think, long before he becomes an Idol, he have been singing for God, so it’s not a strange thing for him to make a christmas album, i love his christmas album! feel free to email me.

    Enrico

  • Sherry

    Thank you. Someone does see it.

  • Rico & Katrina

    We can tell you exactly why Kelly is being heavily played on the radio and it has nothing to do with the quality of her songs, they are no more radio friendly than her last songs. Her airplay drastically declined when “Low” and “The Trouble With Love Is” because of payola and her American Idol image. Her new songs are no better or worse than any of Clay’s from MOAM. The difference is………her image. Look what she has done to herself. She sold out to get credibility. Also RCA likes Kelly and knew after her sales were good that they could make a heck of a lot more sales on her next CD with more promo than they did with the first one. RCA made no bones about the fact they they don’t care for Clay and are selling ‘the best vanilla’ to the public. We hate RCA. They made their money off Clay and couldn’t care less if he gets airplay or not. They couldn’t care less about the fans’ agony over not hearing our fave on the radio. It is just money, money money for them. We can’t for the life of us remember where we heard it, but it was said by RCA that the money they make off Clay’s sales would be used to promote their other artists who don’t have any where near the sales Clay had and they feel are going to get somewhere. We hate to say this but if “Coming Back For More” doesn’t get radio play it will be the same old story because the truth is the song itself is just formalaic pop, the stuff that is already out there. What makes it special is Clay himself with that golden voice. Clay stated in an interview in NC that the reason he didn’t get radio play was a dispute between the label and radio execs.

  • Linda

    Great article – I had previously read your rant about radio play and Bo Bice and I agree whole-heartedly with both your pieces!!

    I just don’t understand why the radio stations would play the heck out of Kelly Clarkson’s first cd, yet barely play Clay’s. Meanwhile over on TRL, Invisible was RETIRED at #1 and The Way RETIRED at #2 after hitting #1 for many, MANY weeks. Seems that what the people want to see/hear is not what radio today gives us.

    I live in New York City and listen to several stations: a top 40 station, a classic rock station and a station that plays more contemporary rock (but has since fallen into playing “hair bands” and the occasional classic rock song to compete with said classic rock station). None of these stations will play Clay OR Bo and I really don’t get it.

    I also don’t understand the mentality of these said stations giving artists that they deem worthy airplay, yet the real talent falls to the wayside.

    I do buy CDs on a regular basis, but most of what I buy is not on account of what is pumped out on the radio airwaves.

    My musical tastes run from classic rock to Motown to British Invasion to pop (think Manilow, Streisand, James Taylor) and back to more current bands like Live, Green Day, Matchbox 20, etc.

    I’ve been listening to radio since there were AOR stations in the 70’s when call in requests were the backbone of radio stations.

    You couldn’t pay me to sit still and listen to Jessica Simpson or Gwen Stefani, let alone some of the other so called “recording artists” that are played on top 40 radio. Never was into Rap or Hip Hop, yet we are fed all this as if it is what we are clammoring for.

    Measure of a Man was a much more solid CD than some of what is played on radio today, yet because of the fact that he appeared on Idol, he is basically being shut out of radio.

    The new songs that have been performed on his current tour (including Back For More and 1,000 Days) both seem to be “radio friendly” to me and I’m hoping at least one if not both make the cut and one of them is released as a single. He seems to enjoy performing these songs and the instant feedback from the crowds has been fantastic.

    I’ve been to three shows this tour so far (I was at the kick-off show at Toms River) and the crowds knew the words to Back For More by the following night’s show in CT (which I also attended).

    Apparently these radio people are not attending his concerts, cause then they would see how great a performer he is, not just a great voice on a CD. He puts 1,000% into his songs when on stage and it shows.

    If you haven’t been to a show this tour yet and you can find a ticket to one near you, I highly recommend going. This tour is not to be missed.

  • Rico & Katrina

    clarification (because Katrina insists I do it!)

    We love the song “Coming Back For More”, the tune does leave you wanting more and more of it. We didn’t mean to imply we didn’t like the song, because we do! Also, during AI1, we equally voted for Kelly and Tamyra until Tamyra was voted off, that is she voted a specified number of times for Tamyra and I voted the same number of times for Kelly because we each loved them both, then we voted for Kelly every week. For AI2, we voted for Clay every week, until the finals, when we couldn’t get in. We didn’t watch AI3 or vote, and we didn’t vote for AI4, in fact, no matter who is on the show we will never “vote” again. Katrina insisted I tell all this because we didn’t want Kelly’s other fans to say we are just jealous of Kelly’s airplay or whatever. We are Kelly fans as well as Clay fans.

  • rosie

    Great blog Sticker.
    I agree with you on all points. Songs that get extra radio spins are “sponsered” by the record label. At one Chicago station they only played Ruben Stoddar’s music only when it was “sponsered”.
    I love Clay for holding on to his integrity thru all this radio stuff. He also does radio interviews knowing he probably won’t get played anyway. I suppose he does it just to keep in touch with all his fans who,like me,hang on to his every word. I say WE All stage a boycot of top 40’s snotty radio people. I know,in the past, we’ve e-mailed,phoned and practically begged them to play Clay’s cd,so it would have to be a really big protest, if only in the interest of fairness. Radio has ignored Clay long enough!!

  • Marti G.

    Radio?? What is that anymore? Top 40 is a mundane run of songs that all sound the same. I haven’t listened to NON internet radio for about 2 years now. My car is full of what I want to hear. Clay Aiken,(about CDs,including the Christmas CD) some Kelly(sophomore CD), some Eminem, Tom Petty, etc…
    The only radio station that I listen to is RadioMax.
    Your article spoke for THOUSANDS, and it was rewarding to know that someone ‘gets what’s going on with radio’, and the bias against Clay Aiken.
    I heard the new Rolling Stones song today,and about choked on my lunch. If Top 40 is spinning this record on a regular basis, then NON internet radio needs to get a grip.
    This ‘ballad’ was so bad, and NOT deserving of continuous play.
    Because it is,”The Rolling Stones”, it gets the airplay.
    Who Needs Radio?? NOT ME!!!

  • Sherry D

    Thank you, Sticker, for telling it like it is and thanks to everyone commenting who has taken commercial radio to task by tuning out. Sponsors need to see more articles and comments like these. Satellite stations and the Internet stations are hitting monopolies like Clear Channel right in the pocketbook and I still can’t believe their egos have caused such a heavy glaze over their eyes that they can’t see what’s happening.

    Clay Aiken’s fans have pretty much been boycotting commercial radio without making a formal declaration in the media. There was a time when you could hear Elvis, Frank, Sammy, The Beatles, Ray Charles and “Ahab the Arab” or “Wooly Booly”, all in 1 hour, on the same “Top 40″ type station. Fans of many artists are only asking for fair play but we get foul play instead.

    What I feel is the bottom line is that Clay has scared the beJesus out of the modern-day Music Industry. His fans are so well versed now that we can’t be fooled any longer. Radio’s excuses aren’t washing and we’re glad that “creative payola” is being exposed to the public.

    The days of crotch grabbing, butt bouncing, and lipsynching to compensate for lack of talent is slowly surfacing (thank you, Ashley) and the Idols will be handing out the pink slips. Why? Because they are the REAL talents and the so called artists who have “street cred” are the ones who are manufactured.

    Lori, I hope the facts as displayed within the article and the comments have open your eyes a little. “Radio-friendly” means M.U.S.I.C. of any kind that people want to hear. The DJs are playing a mind game with you and other listeners because there are big bucks involved and their hands are tied. They HAVE to convince you that what they spoon feed you is the only music that’s radio friendly on Top 40 stations or their jobs are on the line.

    Enrico, I loved what you had to say. Clay has an undeniable strength and seems to be the person most capable of challenging radio head on. The talents of Bo Bice and other Idols strengthen the efforts to get radio back to doing its real job.

    Note to radio: Clay has given us back the music, it’s your job to play it.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Sandy (#31)–

    Thank you for reminding me about “God Save the Queen.” I knew when I plopped those words down, I’d not gotten it right, but I was on a roll and wanted to steam straight ahead.

    Then I forgot to go back and check/fix it. My bad.

    The error has been fixed now, thank you.

    Sticker

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    I was out of the net yesterday, came back and there are so many great comments to talk about.

    Pamela —

    It is very true that radio stations consistently refused to play Aiken’s music no matter how many times it was requested.

    I hope to be writing soon about how playlists are set and I think it will blow most people’s minds. Especially those who have come back to music after having been away awhile and who still remember the day when fans could call radio stations and propel a hit from the ground up.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Sandy—

    DON’T even get me started on Uncle Cracker and Sheryl Crow!

    During the season, I was discussing the judges’ reaction to Constantine singing “I Think I Love You” and, in part, said this:

    If “I Think I Love You” had been a hit for Sheryl Crow, rather than The Patridge Family, the judges would have been falling all over themselves to say to Constantine, “Dude, you took a risk; you worked it out; you made that song your own; good for you. Wow!”

    [full article here]

    Likewise, if Sheryl Crow had recorded, say, “When You Say You Love Me,” (a song on Aiken’s debut cd) she would have been nominated for a Grammy.

    Because she sings better than Clay Aiken?

    No, because she’s Sheryl Crow and WYSYLM is a perfectly fine pop song which is absolutely “radio-friendly.”

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Okay, I have yet another delicious (not) irony to point out, as brought to light by Sandy, who wrote:

    And, oh, yes. You forget to mention that, while The Police won a Grammy for “Every Breath You Take” — an admitted “stalker song” — and there have been a number of similar watching-and-yearning-for-you-from-afar hit songs over the years, Clay’s very “pop-radio friendly” song “Invisible” was dissed by way too many critics and DJs as having “creepy,” “stalkerish” lyrics.

    I found this so absolutely laughable. Come on, people. First, the DJ Bubba Club disses Aiken because they don’t agree with his non-sleazy image.

    IOW, they seem to operate under the impression that to be cool, edgy or whatever groovy label they want to use today, one needs to have some sort of a sleaze factor.

    However, then, solely because of their own sleazy perspective, they read into a totally typical pop song something creepy and sleazy and gross—which, hello, we thought they were saying was actually necessary to be relevant in music today—and then they dismiss the song on the basis that it’s . . . (in their mind) sleazy!

    What is wrong with this picture?

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Linda–

    You wrote:

    I just don’t understand why the radio stations would play the heck out of Kelly Clarkson’s first cd, yet barely play Clay’s. Meanwhile over on TRL, Invisible was RETIRED at #1 and The Way RETIRED at #2 after hitting #1 for many, MANY weeks. Seems that what the people want to see/hear is not what radio today gives us.

    This is, indeed, intriguing.

    Some people attribute it to the fact that RCA made a different committment to Kelly’s music than to Clay’s.

    (I believe Clay has said in an interview that his cd was caught up in some kind of internal corporate dispute.)

    Some people also perceive that the music industry has a sort of “stupid chick” mentality.

    That is, it’s not as “unforgivable” for a girl to go on a talent show as it is for a guy (unless, I guess, you are Justin Timberlake and you get your start on The Mickey Mouse Club. Or, say Frank Sinatra, who got his start on The Amateur Hour)—because pop music girls can’t be taken seriously anyway, so who cares?

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Rosie–

    People can do their part to protest by posting on threads such as this one that go public.

    Although I have always thought the industry would be smart to have people who’s job it is to cruise the fan boards and see what actually is going on out there, I’m not sure they do enough to capture and utilize that information.

    If they did, they would demonstrate a better understanding of what the new music fan actually wants.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Sherry D—

    This is what they don’t get, what you said:

    The days of crotch grabbing, butt bouncing, and lipsynching to compensate for lack of talent is slowly surfacing (thank you, Ashley) and the Idols will be handing out the pink slips. Why? Because they are the REAL talents and the so called artists who have “street cred” are the ones who are manufactured.

    I wrote on this subject [full article here] months ago, framing my discussion in the context of some of my encounters with the Clay Nation over the years.

    In agreement with you, I commented on Randy Jackson’s stated view that the Clay Aiken audience is a “niche market” and said:

    The real niche market is, for example, the one that buys songs about cop-killing and ho’s. And, yes, there will always be a niche market for teen angst songs, but at some point most people grow up.

  • rosie

    Hi,Sticker
    The radio station pinheads don’t read these blogs(can they even read?)what I was suggesting we do is to syncronize our watches with all of Claynation and crash on them all at once using all mediums,ha ha. So lets stop empowering radio with all this talk about them.
    Lets talk about Clay Aiken,the role model,the light in so many peoples lives,the selfless guy who is not afraid the share the spotlight with his backup singers at the risk of being upstaged by them,the guy who is honest to a fault,the one who works hard to give children a voice. Personally speaking, I was going thru a rough time after losing my job and just by hearing him sing I’d feel better. If angels came down from heaven to sing they would probably sound like Clay.

  • Sarah Langley

    Sticker, thanks for the Clay Aiken Blog
    I have read you blogs before and once again you have a winner. A good friend of mine is a DJ here in Raleigh, NC. I used to listen to her morning show every morning. I would request her to play Invisible, (that was a couple of years ago when Invisible was first released as a single) It was only played only once a day if we were lucky
    I knew nothing about the games radio played at that time. Thanks to you I do
    know now. I haven’t listened to radio for over a year.Thank you for your unique perspective and thank you for expressing your admiration for Clay’s talent. It is truly amazing.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Thanks, Sarah Langley, for stopping by.

    Golly, I have barely scratched the surface of what could be said on this subject.

    It will be interesting to see what happens when Aiken’s next disc comes out. And the sooner the better.

  • Ann

    Clay Aiken is my favorite male singer and male entertainer. Clay Aiken is the greatest and the best male musical artist ever!!! Clay Aiken Rules!!!

  • Ellen

    Hey Sticker,
    A Claymate friend of mine sent me the link to this. WOW! Many years ago a friend of mine opened my eyes to the music industry. When he told me you could no longer request a song for a radio station to play I did not believe him. I began my own campaign to get a local station to play music from the Rembradts (anything except “I’ll be there for you”). I bought them their own copy of the CD when I was told they didn’t have it. I bribed the DJ’s with homemade cookies. NADA! I then began to believe that radio was way out of touch. Have you ever listened to Marshall Crenshaw? In his best of CD there is an interesting viewpoint by some employees of the label (Rhino). “But how can we rationalize the continued underappreciation of Marshall Crenshaw? Since 1981 he’s been churning out insanely catchy pop tunes that effortlessly encapsulate the best things about rock ‘n’ roll…the fact that songs like ‘Someday, Someway’…weren’t pumping out of every pop radio station in these United State is not only a mystery but also a miscarrage of justice.” (Gary Stewart & David Gorman) Kind of sounds like Clay!
    I need to tell you that I never watched AI. I went to my first Clay concert with my Claymate friend because someone backed out at the last minute. I knew next to nothing about his music. I had the time of my life at that concert. What a hoot! We followed that experience with another clay concert in a nearby state 2 months later. Tried to make the Christmas concert but got snowed in. Tragedy! I just saw him last week on the jukebox tour and had a ball. I’ll be seeing this tour two more times. I have been converted!
    I think big radio will eventually be sitting a pile of rubble when the walls come crashing down scratching their heads saying “what happen?” Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately it will be too late for them.
    Thanks for the insight!
    Ellen

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Hey, Ellen—

    Thanks for stopping by!

    As with any career, we all know that there are a combination of factors that has to occur before someone rises to the top.

    For example, I think we can all think of a local reporter who is better than the national anchors, but labors away in relative obscurity.

    Certainly these days the blogosphere has demonstrated that there are loads of people who can write more interesting, more relevant, more entertaining and more insightful pieces than many of the paid “op-ed” and “entertainment” writers.

    My point is talent is only one factor. So some Marshall Crenshaws are going to get rained out every year.

    BUT in the cases we are discussing—specifically artists discovered through AI, but NONETHELESS DISCOVERED—and who then become the object of huge market demand, it’s simply deduction that there must be more at work than the Fates.

  • teamlamb

    Clay cannot compare to the greatest of all time, Mariah Carey. Please go to the following website:

    http://www.wisethinker.com/teamlamb

  • Linda

    I find the whole issue of Clive Davis and RCA not wanting to promote Clay’s cd as strange considering the BIG deal that they made in presenting Clay his RIAA certified Double Platinum CD on Good Morning America the week AFTER his first week of sales and Clive Davis made the presentation and even went on and on ad naseum about sales and how great they were and how proud they were of Clay, yadda, yadda, yadda.

    How can this happen one day and then the next thing we knew they were pulling all support for the 2nd single – The Way from radio? I mean he did great in sales the first weeks, then with the Christmas push he basically went Triple Platinum by January (or close to it) while Ruben’s cd lagged far behind in sales by comparison–and he was the supposed winner? Did he not do ENOUGH?

    I just hope that they (meaning RCA) don’t turn their back on his sophomore release. Also would be interested to know how many more CDs Clay is contracted for with RCA, since it would most likely benefit Clay in the long-run if this were his last with them and that another label made a bid to sign him, hence showing RCA what they were losing.

    The radio listeners know what they want to hear and it sure ain’t any of the mediocre artists that we are being forcefed to us through top 40 radio.

    I recall the days when I used to be able to call up and request a song and about 20 minutes later – BINGO – said song was played with a comment about my requesting said song. Too bad that doesn’t happen anymore (well except for my classic rock station and that’s only because I know the program director and he’s kind to listeners who make the occasional request) and this is a CLEARCHANNEL station no less – so go figure!!

  • Music Lover

    Thank you for taking the time to really do an educated column.

    I think that radio is going downhill and sooner (rather than later) more and more people will catch on to the games that radio play. Radio HAD been a major part of my life for a long time. There were times it would be great to cruise along in the car with the windows open and radio blaring. NOT anymore. 1/2 the “music” (using the term loosely) is disgusting. There are so many ‘singers’ (again, using loosely) that sound so much alike, that it is necessary to hear the DJ’s say who is singing. Only a very few singers have a voice that can picked right out because actually they CAN SING. But if they aren’t “cool” enough for the DJ’s and the Program Directors – then they don’t get heard. Oh well – that is why cd’s, ipod’s and the like will OVERTAKE radio. The listening public wants to hear what they like to hear – NOT what they have been told is ‘good’.

    As for those that have come off of American Idol – no matter what happens in the future – they will always have that “manufactuered” label stuck to them. And that is NOT FAIR. Clay Aiken can sing circles around each and every person that is FORCED down our throats on the readio. He falls into a category all his own. He can sing anything. Everything. And many, many times, brings back a song that was loved years ago, and makes it his own – makes it brand new. The man has talent oozing out of his pores, yet the radio industry overlooks him. Well guess what? He still sells out every tour he does – his fans aren’t going away – and he is the most sought after artist right now. The media knows that too – yet radio is AFRAID to accept the fact that he can sing. Nobody is asking that he be loved by everyone. That won’t happen. But at least have the guts to admit that the man can SING!!! And even without the PAYOLA, he isn’t going away.

    Now – Kelly Clarkson can sing too and I do like Kelly. BUT it’s sad to think that much of her radio play was due to Payola. Sure, she is doing fine on her tour – but there are many that feel that Kelly changed her image to meet the market standards. She didn’t have to do that. Kelly has talent. Kelly has personality. But as well as her new cd is doing, there are many songs on that cd that if you didn’t know who sang them, you’d have to listen to the DJ say who it is. Her great and distinctive voice has blended into the Avril, Jessica, Ashley, Britney group. There is very little now that yells “I’m Kelly Clarkson”. It’s sad because Kelly can sing many songs too, yet her agents wanted a harder edge and Kelly went with that, rather than just relying on her voice – which was, in my opinion, enough to be successful.

    Let’s just hope that radio smartens up and gives us, the listeners, what we WANT to hear, otherwise there will be many radio personnel out of a job.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Linda–

    Mr. Aiken has reportedly stated that at some point his cd (the promotion of it, etc.) became embroiled in some kind of dispute between various TPTB.

    Maybe that explains the apparent cooling off of RCA’s enthusiasm.

    Plus there was the somewhat infamous “best vanilla” comment, which indicated that a lot of the staff on the RCA foodchain was resisting this direction in music.

    And, true enough, the days of fan requests being able to influence radio play and a singer’s career trajectory are, for the moment at least, over.

    That’s one reason why commercial radio is in grave danger of being swallowed whole by the custom-content vehicles (sat radio, internet radio, other podcasts, iPod etc.).

  • Becky

    Radio on the most part has become sickening! Hip Hop rap,to lip synching,to screaming lyrics rather than singing has dominated the airwaves. I grew up loving the oldies,and yes Clay does do covers..But my oh my he makes them flow like honey..sweet and endearing. Clay can do anything,his voice is like no other..Thats what sets him apart..He’s unique.. His vocals reach low to high range..Don’t believe me?Attend his JBT..He sings so many songs..And there grand slams.. He leaves you always wanting more..Yes he’s phenominal.. Radio will play what they get paid for..Who cares if theres real bona-fide talent..Your already labled.. Clays new songs are awesome..Strong and addictive..If they get ignored,then radio is not worth my time..

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Music Lover—

    I’m still of the opinion that Kelly Clarkson’s voice is quite distinctive.

    True, at first listen, her Breakaway disc sounds a little like Avril, Amy Lee, etc., but, at least for me, I found that gloss quickly wore off and Kelly’s true pipes shone through.

    Especially after Avril released her new single, which I like a lot, but—again, at least to me—it made the distinction between her voice and Kelly’s even more glaring.

    I know Kelly Clarkson’s voice is still unique because the first time I heard Breakaway I had that reaction of “who is THAT?”

    Meaning: I knew this was not the voice of the usual suspects in pop music today.

    And I certainly agree with you that it will be interesting to see what happens with Clay Aiken’s sophomore cd.

    I’ve got several articles in the works discussing various things about radio, with Mr. Aiken as the case study, coming up.

  • Bonnie

    Thank you for the great column…..IF, I listen to music on the radio it is 50’s/60’s/70’s stuff and here in the south you can still call in and ask for a song to be played. All the other radio stations are playing hip hop and rap (YUK – when will it EVER stop) and Country music is not my cup of tea. I am also not a fan of Gospel music, altho I have heard some that sound really beautiful. AI changed Kelly Clarkson to what they wanted her to be.
    Guess she is happy with that, we hope so. Rueben Stoddard always was a hip hop singer – even while he was doing the AI stuff. He gets plenty of airtime and TV time for the kind of junk he does..
    To each his own.
    But our Clay would not allow himself to be changed into something he was not! He shook lose (legally) from AI, Clive Davis, and has been and is doing his own thing!! I have no doubt he is being made to suffer for his decision —but we have clay doing all the concerts and sounding soooo fantastic just as he wants to do. Problem is, some of us “old” folks have not been able to get to see Clay’s concerts…living down here in Rueben Stoddards’ territory. YUK Maybe Clay will come to Nashville again and I will be able to get a ticket somehow.
    WOW!!! What a dream that would be!

    Has anyone tried to record (DVD) Clay’s concerts? I would love to buy several even the ones from last year. If only they would be done in a very professional way like the music from IA
    that Clay sang….I have all his music on my desk top, along with his beautiful face…..So Much Pleasure!!!

  • Michele

    Great blog! I adore Clay’s voice and have been to many concerts. He is a magnificent performer and showed us that on AI as well. That is all part of his success and charm.

    I frankly NEVER listen to the radio. I live in NYC and don’t have a car so my IPOD it is when I travel by bus or subway. I gave up radio years ago, too many obnoxious DJ’s and annoying advertisments. I got tired of listening to all the garbage, for example Gwen Stefani. What did that girl have to do to get herself a career?? She’s awful, no talent, but yes, she is pretty.

    How incredibly stupid of the stations not to play requested songs. Isn’t the customer always right? The advertisers should decided what’s played, not the station execs.

    Personally, although I adore Clay, I didn’t think MOAM showed him to his best advantage. Let’s hope the next one utilizes his talent to it’s best extent. He is a crooner and a balladeer not a rocker. He has so much experession in his singing I’m hoping to hear lot of that on his next album.

  • Sheila Vogler

    Wonderful article. I just read a simular article in the Orange County Register, Orange County, Calif. written by Ben Wener. It’s titled, “DON’T BET ON PAYOLA EVER GOING AWAY”. Ben Wener’s mother happens to be a Claymate, OCRegMom. Ben writes for the ‘Pop Life’ section of our newspaper and since he attends concerts, he takes mom to see Clay Aiken. His mother mentioned no matter how many CD’s this man sells, no matter how he packs in his concerts, you won’t hear his music on the radio. Ben wrote on the reason why. Clay won’t play the game! He won’t send over the plasma TV’s, laptops and trips to Las Vegas in exchange for airplay. His management isn’t paying off the station for spins at about $3600.00 for 63 spins during prime time. That’s why we don’t hear Clay on the radio. You can contact the author, Ben Wener at 714 796-2248 or email bwener@ocregister.com I sure hope you post this where people can read this! Thank You, Sheila Vogler

  • barbara parker

    I am a Clay fan and really enjoyed the article. But I couldn’t help but notice the glaring omission of any mention of the names, recordings or photos of Rueben Studdard and Fantasia Barino, the winners of AI2 and AI3. A charitable explanation might be that their music style is not comparable or relevant to the topic, and a more cynical explanation might be racism, maybe unconscious, since both are African American. Whatever the reason, it is a glaringly noticible ommision to this WHITE fan.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    Sheila Vogler—

    Very good information. Thank you.

    Yes, as I’ve said, it’s pretty obvious that it is not some demonstrable difference in the MUSIC that has caused Mr. Aiken to be virtually banned from radio while others equally or less talented get airplay.

    The explanation you received from Mr. Wener is worth ruminating on, surely.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    My article was about Clay Aiken because it was about Clay Aiken.

    I had just been to a Clay Aiken concert.

    Clay Aiken sings mainstream pop music. The article was about Clay Aiken and mainstream pop radio.

    Neither Ruben Studdard nor Fantasia recorded pop albums and, therefore, their situation is not relevant to a discussion of pop radio.

  • http://www.yahoo.com Sara

    Thank you for the wonderful review. Someone who actually understands Clay and the phenomenon. I don’t listen to the radio anymore because they don’t play him and don’t like him for some unkown reason. Their loss; our gain.

    Sara

  • Rene

    What’s this I keep hearing about Kelly Clarkson changing her image? If I rememember correctly, Clay Aiken had an image makeover WHILE HE WAS ON AMERICAN IDOL! He has not reverted back to his hideous red headed, four eyed personna he was at the beginning of AI.

  • huskerfalcon

    Actually, Invisible did get airplay… just not enough. But I really don’t buy the idea that Clay is so “pure” that he refused to go along with payola or anything like it. I don’t know where that notion got started… give me a break!

    The thing that killed Kelly’s ‘Low’ and Clay’s ‘The Way’ was that they Independent Tour went with AEG Entertainment instead of Clear Channel. Both songs SANK after that announcement.

    I’m interested in seeing how Clay’s second album does… RCA would be pretty d-u-m-b to not promote radio songs and help the album sell more. My opinion anyway.

    And yes, Clay can sing the shiznit out of everything he touches. He’s very amazing.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    huskerfalcon–

    On the issue of payola, I would add to your comments that I really don’t think the artist is involved in that loop.

    I mean, I don’t think the suits ask the artist, “Is it okay with you if we do pay-for-play on your next single?”

    Also, yes, there is always the simple aspect of “just business,” as in one company, for example ClearChannel, making sure it does everything it can to blunt the success of its competitors.

    That’s “just business.” If an artist gets screwed in the course of that, that’s da way it iz.

    RCA absolutely would be dumb not to promote Clay’s next cd to radio. They owe it to their shareholders, who expect them to MAKE MONEY, as much money as possible.

  • MJP

    huskerfalcon & Sticker–

    I agree that the Independent Tour going with AEG killed airplay for both Kelly and Clay. The radio station I was listening to played Invisible and Low quite a bit and then all of a sudden they just stopped playing them. I thought it was strange at the time but the more I read about payola and such makes me believe that it was because ClearChannel wasn’t chosen to promote the concert.

    I wonder if RCA decided it wasn’t worth promoting either CD on radio at that point because they knew that ClearChannel would not play them, even with payola, once AEG was chosen for the tour.

  • http://www.idolhabit.blogspot.com Sticker

    MJP—

    Just another example of how “creative” payola can get. There will always be a “you better scratch my back or I won’t scratch yours” aspect to what songs make it on to playlists.

    Kelly is getting massive airplay for all her Breakaway singles right now.

    Even Kimberley Locke recently had a single in the Top 20 (“I Could”)—if I’m recalling correctly right now, it was the AC chart.

  • Mike

    Actually Rene, Clay has stayed pretty consistant with his look. If you call wearing contacts, a better haircut and gaining a few pounds an image make-over, I wonder what you would call the bleached blonde, overly made-up and asscrack baring image that Kelly is now sporting? Your remarks were very unkind.

  • Sherry D

    Yes, Rene! What Mike said! The original point that was made was that Kelly, who already had a fresh look and unique voice, caved under the industry’s “hype” of what image and sound sells best. She was doing just fine as Kelly Clarkson.

    So now, Sticker, in light of the new Indy Star review of the Jukebox Tour that surfaced this morning, could you someday cover the “Karaoke” thing. Why has it been OK in the past to rerecord and/or publicly perform old songs but when Clay or other Idols sing them, it’s “karaoke” to some critics even though they sing the beJesus out of them? What is the purpose of using this term?

  • marie

    thanks sticker for your well-written,humorous and snarky piece on clay…i enjoyed your article so much that i loved reading and re-reading it…it was on the top articles on the web when one searches for clay on “google”or “lycos” till yesterday(9/13) when it disappeared suddenly.i was just puzzled by the complete disappearance of your insightful article that i suspect it must have touched a nerve on somebody important…i was able to locate you again via blogcritics.org