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Simon Has Spoken: Clay or Ruben

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American Idol’s grumbling voice has spoken: he thinks Clay Aiken or Ruben Studdard will win the competition:

    “In the next few weeks, I think the person you’re going to see getting stronger and stronger is Clay. I think he’s the person to beat,” Cowell said.

    And the always-smiling Studdard is “very, very marketable.”

    Both contestants have already received standing ovations from Cowell’s fellow judges – Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson – and even the hard-to-please Cowell has used “outstanding” and “excellent” to describe their performances.

    Meanwhile, Cowell has announced exclusively to The Post that he has had a change of heart: He will return for another season of the show – but not if Fox insists on airing “Idol 3″ in the fall.

    Cowell believes Round 3 should be put off until next year to allow the winner more time to be turned into a star – and to protect against brand-name overkill.

    ….For Cowell, postponement is good business – his recording company provides the “million-dollar” contract to the series winner and has first pick of the other contestants.

    In addition to inaugural winner Kelly Clarkson, 22, Cowell also signed runner-up Justin Guarini and the popular Tamyra Gray. And he has already signed Frenchie Davis, who was dumped from the current show because she had done a soft-porn video several years ago.

    ….Cowell also revealed that Elton John (news) is being wooed as a celebrity judge. [NY Post]

I agree with his assessment on the talent, but the voters have the final say, and though they seem fairly compliant with the “suggestions” of the judges, you can’t count on it.

For more, see my recap of the first round of the finals from last week. I haven’t mentioned that the Wednesday night show where the voting results from the night before are announced, breaks the record for least actual CONTENT in a half hour program. They somehow managed to drag the announcement of ONE result – the person with the fewest votes – out over an entire 30 minutes. Well thirty TV minutes, which is more like 18 real minutes: 18 minutes of extended cruelty toward the poor contestants.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://??whatthis Ann Helm

    I’m very dissappointed that American Idol did not release Trenyce. How can you justify a felon on your popular program. What kind of message are you sending the American Public. So she had a year to have her record removed. I think you should show her MUG SHOT on American IDOL, so the audience will be updated.

  • Debra

    They said the only thing that was on her record was a parking ticket. Not to mention the store she was working for said it wasn’t a big deal at all. So get over your self-righteous attitude, Ann.

  • Joan Hall Hovey

    I’m old enough to remember well the days of Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. And I’ve gotta tell ya Clay Aiken has a true, original gift. He should win if it’s about talent. His voice is wonderful. I also think he’s cute and personable. Everyone remember Barry Manilou and Frankie Avalon? How boring if everyone looked like Ricky Martin. Best.

  • Eric Olsen

    Joan, I am no longer young (in age) myself. I agree that Clay is outstanding, and should have real career even if he doesn’t win.

  • Phillip Winn

    Be nice, Eric. There are 21 minutes of content in a typical 30 minute TV show. 8^)

  • CWebb

    You know what? I agree that Clay has a great voice, but it resembles too much the voices of Barry Manilow, Nat King COle, etc. That sound is great for a Disney Soundtrack or something. And don’t get me wrong, I love Disney soundtracks. But Ruben has the style that they are looking for. Look at all the “Pop” artist trying to sound more and more soulful. From Justin, Brittney, Christina, etc. they all want the soulful sound Ruben is born with. Not to mention that it stems from a rich foundation in the black church. Nat Cole was mentioned with the other great singers of the past, but he was also molded into that era. Anyway, I love Clay and his personality. But as you can see – I think Ruben should win. I can’t wait for this show to be over and he returns to the south east for a few days.

  • Eric Olsen

    I think Ruben WILL win, but I would have no problem with him Clay or Kimberley Locke winning either – I have come away convinced that there is a lot of genuine talent among the contestants, especially at this point.

  • Lacey

    As Simon says, “Clay is broadway” and lets face it, the guy is always going to be broadway. However, I’m not taking away from his talent. Ruben is the man, everything an American Idol stands for! go 205!

  • Britt

    I agree with most people that Ruben is great, but he’s no Clay Aiken! Clay has the strongest voice of any of them and I love his personality! He should win.

  • Mary

    The Next American Idol
    (or Is This Vote Rigged, Too?)

    By Mary C. Fairbanks

    By now, all of you know how I feel about the stolen election of George W. Bush for President over Al Gore and his brother, Jeb, as Governor over Bill McBride, or John Peyton (Gate Petroleum heir) over Nat Glover for Jacksonville, FL mayor. In all cases, votes were bought and/or voters disenfranchised.

    Well, let’s just say that the same thing is happening on Fox Network’s “American Idol”.

    We are down to the final two wannabe’s for the American Idol II.

    Clay Aiken, the geeky-looking but altruistic perfect crooner and Ruben Studdard, the self-centered (thinks he is Michael Jackson already) raspy-voiced “Velvet Teddybear”.

    Voters are casting their votes more for Clay than for Ruben on online polls. Yet, the media, as it always does when things aren’t going as they should in a true, free press, is pushing one contestant over the other. Take for example, “Entertainment Tonight”.

    For the last three days they have showcased Ruben by showing his hometown, family, and friends. They have aired excerpts of his songs and Paula Abdul, one of the judges on “American Idol” is their consultant. She seems to glimmer with glee when she talks of Ruben.

    Now, if a judge is to be impartial off air, then they should not tout one over the other. Their job is only to critique.

    Then, to make matters worse, Oprah got into the mess and you could tell that it was evident that she gave more smiles to her racial peer, Ruben, than to Clay or Kimberly Locke, who was still a contestant then.

    Now we have Regis and Kelly weighing in. They had Simon as a guest on Friday morning and when asked who he thought should win, he coyly answered, “Ruben,” even though the audience was shouting “Clay”.

    Where is the media for Clay?

    I started an online barrage to “Entertainment Tonight” asking them why the preferential treatment and trying to influence the audience? Many fans of Clay wrote to their e-mail address, too, complaining of the inequity and prejudice. Here is the link if you, too, so feel inclined.

    I don’t think that they realize how it might hurt their viewing audience if they are showcasing the wrong person or better yet showing impartiality. One Clay website has even put up a direct link to them and one to Fox.

    Now, obviously, I am a Clay fanatic. And, at this age, that is saying something. My last crush on a singer was probably Neil Diamond.

    Anyway, I came up with the top several reasons why I think that Clay should be the next American Idol. Actually, USA Today had an e-mail address where you could tell them what you think and I did. Here is what I said:

    “Why Clay Aiken should be the new American Idol. Look at the facts.

    Clay has control over breathing. Ruben breathes at the wrong time in a song.

    Clay works with autistic children. Ruben said he has no job in his interview.

    Clay said that the reason that he wants to be an American Idol is “American celebrities have an amazing amount of influence on the way America thinks, feels, and acts. I think that such influences should be used in the most positive way possible.” Ruben says, “To show off my talents.”

    Clay appeals to everyone across the board. He has young fans and baby-boomers. Even Grannies like his sound. Ruben caters to the R&B crowd. He even said it in his interview. Smaller market.

    Clay buys his own clothes. Ruben begged for a 205 shirt and didn’t even pay for it.

    Clay keeps things in perspective. Ruben, in the limo, said that he was the next Michael Jackson. I think it will go to his head.

    Clay emphasizes good health. Ruben, well, let’s just say that he likes to eat! (Hmmm, why did Simon tell Kimberly she was overweight and tell Vanessa even more when Ruben is both of them together and Simon has not said one word, except that Clay did not look like an idol. Ruben does?)

    Clay is making his way by himself. Ruben is getting a lot of help from Entertainment Tonight by getting more air time on their show. (and with Paula on ET, too, it is not fair as she should be unbiased off Idol.)

    Clay’s voice is one of a kind. Ruben’s voice crackles and sounds like other artists.

    Clay markets himself, even though Simon says “he (Simon) does not know how to market Clay.” Ruben can be marketed by Simon by what he said, “205, the Velvet Teddybear, etc.” (You know who Simon is voting for. He wants dollars over talent.) If Clay loses the title, compare album sales and see who garners more.)

    Clay did not need Regis and Kelly. Ruben needed Simon to go on their show live and say that Ruben should be the next idol. (May 15, 2003)

    Clay did not need Oprah to banter about his race. Ruben banked on her input.

    Clay handles the pressure the best. Ruben just stands there and stares.

    Clay would look better in a movie with Kimberly. Ruben and Clay in a movie like Kelly and Justin would be a comedy of errors.

    Clay has never been in the bottom two. Ruben has.

    Clay was set up with the “Vincent” song when they added the second verse without letting him practice it. Ruben did not have the same challenge but it was reported that he, too, missed some lines during practice.

    Clay’s pants stay on. Ruben has to keep pulling his up.

    Clay is the next Clayboy Idol. Ruben is the next Krispy Kreme spokesperson.

    The bottom line is: Clay all the way. You are the role model that I would want my own grandchildren to emulate. You are the best!”

    Mary (a baby-boomer and fan of Clay)

    Now, I urge all of you to get out those cell phones and text message your votes for Clay on Tuesday. And, write to “Entertainment Tonight” and let them know how you feel. We need to take back the media and let them know that we will not be snowballed once again. Bush? Bush? Peyton? Ruben? Somehow, it just doesn’t sound right!

    And, if you are really a Clay fan, then visit this site:

    There, you will find direct email links to ET, FOX and the polls. Click on the USAToday link, also, to write an email to them.

    And, while you are there, check out the FORUM. There, you will find interesting information about Clay and also tips on voting on Tuesday. (It is worth it if you are a Clayboy)

    In any event, the bottom line is: Who do we want our kids looking up to? I know that I want mine and their offspring to return to the Glory Days of when a singer could really sing and rapsters kept their pants up.

  • joanne godsey

    Mary….I read your comments and sat back and laughed!

    Get serious. Where did you get your facts about Ruben…most of which are wrong and statements contribuited to Ruben taken out of context.

    I am older white female who once swooned over Paul Anka. Both young men have wonderful voices, but my consumer dollars will go to Ruben Studdard’s voice, style and wonderful soft manners.

    I find Clay to animated and “cute” to take serious.


  • Marie

    “too” animated … to take serious*ly*

  • Marie

    *too* animated … to take serious*ly*

  • Dave


    If Ruben was not overweight, he would not have even been in the top five!!!! It is a novelty to have someone that big up there. If he were skinny, what would he go on? His voice is not even near the level of Clay’s. If you want to hear someone that sounds just like Ruben, every week, tune into late night at the Apollo. Singers like Ruben are everywhere. Clay is one of a kind, like it or not. Ruben’s weight has taken him this far. I fear if he were to do a tour, he would not last a whole concert. Not right that the women are told to lose weight, but Ruben gets a pass. Why???

  • http://none Whatever Whatever

    I just want to say that it is unfair how everybody is trying to make Ruben the American Idol. It’s quite clear to see that Clay is the better singer, and the only reason Ruben is still on is because he is fat. Now Im not hating on Ruben, I just like to be honest. Clay deserves to win this. If Ruben wins, I’ll know without a shadow of doubt that Fox fixed it that way. Ruben is an extremely talented singer, and I’m sure he’ll be successful, but he should not be the American Idol. And for everybody who may think Im just racists, Im not, as a matter of fact, I’m a black male teenager.

  • http://?????? Kayla


  • sam

    On the final show last night Ruben’s family and friends were interviewed and they said they called in their vote at least 60 times, (they dialed over and over again to constantly place a vote) did this family make the difference in the percentage over clay? Is is legit to keep calling in a vote over and over again? It shouldn’t be. I wonder what the outcome would have been if Ruben’s family members each voted once

  • Eric Olsen

    There was all kinds of repetitive voting on both sides. The final difference was about 13,000 votes out of 24 million, so no, Ruben’s family didn’t make the difference. I’m sure Clay’s did the same.

  • Natasha

    Wahoo! Clay rocks!!! And Ruben has ANYTHING BUT a smooth voice. please, it’s always all scratchy. And really, how is he the worlds velvet teddy bear? Personally, I wouldn’t ever wanna hug him. I’ll take Clay. There arnt hardly any fan sites for Ruben, but there is like a billion for Clay. He is soo much better looking too! HE is so hot! His little eyes, his BIG ears, his huge feet, his little body, how adorable can u get? GOD made him special. Ruben sweats like a pig. eew. Thats gross.Ok buh bye! ~I love u Clay Aiken! :)

  • Phillip Winn

    Whenever I read about how teachers are concerned that their students are turning in assignements in IM-speak, I think of posts like this one, and I fear for America’s future.


  • uglyamerican

    Mary is a cracker. Clay, in the long tradition of honkies, is appropriating the song craft of the black man for his own personal gain, just like the thieves Elvis, Pat Boone, and Fred Durst.

  • Eric Olsen

    I like Ruben and Clay about equally well, though hugability does not enter into my assessment. I have to disagree on two levels about cultural “thievery”: Clay sounds about as white as Mr. Clean to me, and are black opera singers “thieves” as well. I have always found the cultural thievery argument to be highly unpersuasive – culture is there for the sharing and it goes in every direction. If you are saying Pat Boone’s “whited down” version of early rock ‘n’ roll classics suck compared to the originals – I agree. But Elvis transformed what he borrowed, making it even better, and Fred is just another combiner.

  • Joan Hall Hovey

    I’m listening to Clay’s ‘This is the Night’ right now, in Saint John, N.B. Canada. He’s a fabulously talented young man! His voice is rich and thrilling. And to top it off, he’s got a terrific personality. And it’s been a good long time since I’ve been a teenager. Decades. lol

  • Natalie Davis

    I actually like the Clay Aiken single; he is a talented person, as is Ruben Studdard. It just makes me sick that everyone seems to be fawning over Aiken, and not over the guy who actually won the competition. Clay getting the cover of Rolling Stone before Ruben was just wrong.

  • Kitty

    It’s sad to think that American Idol had to turn into a racial/cultural issue. On one hand I don’t believe that Studdard should have won because (as stated earlier) he lacks artistic originality and widespread appeal.

    Looking back at articles and reviews from the season it’s obvious that all three judges (especially Simon) had a bias for Ruben to win. That obviously had an influence on viewers. It was a smart move for Rolling Stone to put Clay on the cover simply because Clay-fans bought millions. There simply aren’t as many fans of Ruben, and the ones that are there definitely are no where near as rabid.:).

    Ruben is very talented, but it’s interesting to note that he studied music for many years (including college) and Clay barely had vocal lessons yet no one can debate who has the better voice. The rest of the contest was about preference and frankly I think that a large number of people, including the AI judges were afraid to put their support behind Clay simply because he presents something new and almost unprecedented into the world of music. He doesn’t fit into a box and that alone makes him unsuitable to be the American Idol. In that sense Ruben deserves the title.

    Whether or not the public becomes open enough to embrace a new form of music is anyone’s guess, but it is horrible that we aren’t given the chance. Considering Clay’s popularity, media coverage is embarrassing at best and frightening otherwise. Is this another case of censorship?

    Clay’s longterm success is tenuous at best right now. Unless he can create a niche in the industry, one that people will be willing to embrace, I honestly don’t know what will happen. The public is too fickle for a (relatively) small group of fans to carry him for long.

    It is curious though that there is even less media at present for Ruben Studdard. In many ways R&B is more difficult to be successful in than no category at all.


    PS. On the subject of widespread appeal, I am an avid Aiken fan myself as well as black, a female, and a teen.

  • Natalie Davis

    Why can no one debate which has the better voice?

  • Eric Olsen

    Actually Natalie, much to my amazement I ended up getting hooked on the show last year and watched pretty much every episode, and I think it was a tossup. They both have classic voices in their own ways and were both very appealing on the show – again, in their own ways. Even now it’s still pretty much a tie as far as I can tell. Neither lost because the public knows both of their names and still likes them both. There have been three winners so far – it seems like Justin has faded. But that’s still pretty amazing production. Having produced actual pop stars, the show has to be seen as a total success thus far.

  • TDavid

    It’s somewhat difficult to compare their voices. IMO, the season one winner Kelly Clarkson had a better voice than both Clay and Ruben. Will be interesting to see what becomes of Ruben and Clay because I haven’t heard much about them since the second season ended.

  • Natalie Davis

    I’m with you, Eric. Both men have fine voices; I don’t see either as being a technically *better singer* than the other. My preference for Ruben is directly related to my antipathy for the Claymates.

  • Eric Olsen

    YOu couldn’task for a better mismatched pair, which I think also adds to each’s success – they succeeded individually but also together, and I think they will be remembered as a pair.