Clay Aiken, beloved by millions, is almost as famous with his fans for his bon mots as for his singing.
One of the pearls of wisdom to come out of Mr. Aiken’s mouth was something along the lines of: whatever the vicissitudes of life after American Idol, he was dead-set against becoming just another “useless celebrity.”
As we ponder what Clay might have meant by the term “useless celebrity,” it’s perhaps enlightening to look around at the most recent useless celebrity feuds.
Or maybe not.
Okay, I know you want to go there.
First up, we have the Kelly Clarkson v. Benji Madden swingfest, which I helpfully documented here.
The lovable Kelly Clarkson of course was being her lovable self when, in an interview for a magazine feature actually called something like “Stupid Questions for [Name That Celebrity],” she dared to make a joke—a joke not only about Beyonce, but—gasp!—about HILARY DUFF.
Well, slap you up side the head, Ms. Clarkson.
As Hilary Duff’s boyfriend’s genius twin brother was quick to opine: Kelly Clarkson got her start as a pop star on a tv show, while, according to said genius, Hilary “Lizzie McGuire” Duff did not.
This is why internet chatters invented the ROTFLMAO acronym. Even mtv.com went “dude . . . huh?? . . .” over that one.
Then, in a different useless celebrity feud, we had Liam Gallagher of Oasis going at it with Chris Martin of Coldplay.
Mr. Gallagher, apparently, was appalled that Mr. Martin had used the occasion of a gig at a children’s cancer fundraising event to “bang” on about his political views (which, of course, children everywhere are enchanted with).
As Liam Gallagher put it:
When Coldplay did this gig they banged on about the war, that’s wrong. Chris Martin shouldn’t be using this cause to bang on about his own views on the war. If him and his gawky bird want to go banging on about the war they can do it at their own gigs.
That lot are just a bunch of knobhead students – Chris Martin looks like a geography teacher. What’s all that with writing messages about Free Trade on his hand when he’s playing. If he wants to write things down I’ll give him a pen and a pad of paper. Bunch of students.
These gigs are about kids who have got cancer, they’ve got to fight a war every day of their lives. That’s what we’re all here doing this for.
Then later, at the next celebrity event, Chris Martin, exacting revenge on Gallagher for calling his wife a gawky bird, called Liam Gallagher “short.”
Wow. Call the waaaammmmmmbulance.
(Mental note: Chris Martin looks like a geography teacher? I did not know that.
My geography teacher was an alien (the kind from outer space) named Miss Crosskey, who sat behind her desk, spinning a huge globe and laughing maniacally, while we all waited for Batman and Robin to burst into her lair and save us from her evil clutches.
Plus, besides Miss Crosskey, I seriously thought that all the other geography teachers in the world actually had real jobs. As football coaches. So they looked like . . . David Hasselhoff?
Please, all you people from the United Association of Geography Teachers World-Wide. Stop hatemailing me. Calm yourself. Go look up the northernmost city in Kazakhstan. Nah, I’m just pulling your longitudes. I meant Uzbekistan.)
But I digress.
Not since The Fight of the Girl-Gnomes (a/k/a the 1967 Walt Disney classic, The Gnome-Mobile) has a catfight been so entertaining.
And, while it’s never polite to call someone’s wife a bird (much less a gawky bird—although it seems that is more politically correct than calling someone a water buffalo), one must admit to the fact that—whether Beauty or The Bird—Gwyneth Paltrow is a woman who started out in life with Brad Pitt and ended up with Chris Martin.
Which reminds me of the fact that a similar human conundrum, Mia Farrow, started out in life with Ole Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, and ended up with Ole Bug Eyes, Woody Allen.
Now: what is this about Clay Aiken and The “Useless Celebrity” Mode?
I do believe that Mr. Aiken has said something along the lines of at one point in his life he had decided he didn’t want to be “just” a singer; he wanted to be “more than” a singer.
So, while he’s done gigs such as reporting (to rave reviews) from the red carpet at the Emmys for The Insider, Clay Aiken also has been off on UNICEF tours and busy with a charitable foundation.
But my point is this: love him or hate him, for millions, Mr. Aiken’s voice is not “just” singing. It’s joy. And creating joy is never useless.
So—upon the second anniversary of the release of Measure of a Man—here’s to Mr. Aiken’s sophomore disc, wherever it may be.
In the meantime, unlike Ms. Paltrow and Ms. Farrow, Aiken fans can—sssshhhh!—gloat that they started out in life with Clay Aiken . . . and ended up with Clay Aiken.
And with his singing. ‘Nuff said.