Clay Aiken – A Part of The Final Three

May 13, 2003………American Idol, Season 2.  It’s time for the Final 3.

Clay Aiken, Kimberley Locke and Ruben Studdard worked hard each week to impress the audience so that they would continue for another week.  American Idol’s fans did it right that season.  They voted for the best three  singers of Season 2.

For the Final 3 show, there were only the regular judges.  No guest judge joined the panel.  Ryan Seacrest explained that this was a night of “picks.”  All three contestants sang three songs; one was a random pick, one was a judge’s pick and the last was the Idol’s pick.

The performances of the night and their order were:

Random Round ( fishbowl):
1. Kimberley Locke- “Band of Gold”
2. Ruben Studdard- “Signed, Sealed, & Delivered”
3. Clay Aiken- “Vincent”

Judges’ Choice:
1. Kimberley Locke-“Anyone Who Had a Heart” – Randy Jackson
2. Ruben Studdard- “Smile” – Simon Cowell
3. Clay Aiken- “Mack the Knife” –  Paula Abdul

Contestant’s Choice:
1. Kimberley Locke- “Inseparable
2. Ruben Studdard- “If Ever Your In My Arms Again”
3. Clay Aiken- “Unchained Melody”

Each Idol chose a song from a fishbowl.  Kim picked “Band of Gold” as her random pick and Ruben picked “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”.  All three of the judges thought both of the performances were brilliant.

Clay picked the song, “Vincent” made famous by Don McClean.  The song about suicidal painter, Vincent Van Gogh is a sad and dreary song.  Clay sang a haunting version of the song, but missed a cue that was not noticeable to most people.  He did an excellent job of covering up and going on which is the sign of a true professional.

The judges were brutal.  Their comments ranged from boring to dreary.  Well, it was a dreary song about a sad time.  What was the singer supposed to do?  Of course, Paula had to let everyone know that Clay “forgot” the words, but did not let the TV audience know that the arrangement of the song was changed just before the program started.  Clay said later that he had never even practiced the new arrangement.

The second round was the Judge’s Pick.  Randy picked “Anyone Who Had a Heart” for Kim.  Both Randy and Paula thought it was beautiful, but Simon said it was “safe….good…ish.”

For Ruben, Simon chose the song, “Smile.”  The judges’ comments included the words, brilliant, well-done and beautiful.

Paula announces that Clay had been assigned an ‘American classic’ known as “Mack The Knife.” She also said it oozes coolness—and he deserves coolness.  She commented that if Clay pulls this off, he will be cool and not a lounge lizard. He will go straight to headliner.

Most of the audience thought that Clay did an awesome job on the song and thought he looked great in his tux.  The judges seemed to agree and used the words, cool, brilliant and standing ovation when they critiqued his performance.

For the last performances for the Idols, they were supposed to pick a song from their own idol.

Kim and Ruben sang their picks and the judges were extremely nice in their comments.  Simon said, “This is the only time we’ve had three good people in the Top 3… not the case last year -so I don’t know who will be in the Top 2 because you all deserve to be there”

Clay sang “Unchained Melody” after sharing that it was his mom’s favorite song and she was his “idol”.  The judges were impressed with his performance, especially Paula who thought it was the best performance of the entire season.

And, after some “silly” banter by Ryan Seacrest, the show was over for the night.

The following evening was results night and we finally got to know who would be in the finale.

The contestants did a medley of love song duets, including “Up Where We Belong,” “Reunited,” and “Solid.”  The three contestants were great together and a shout out to Michael Orland for arranging the medleys.

Musical guests for the evening are Tamyra Gray and Justin Guarini who both sing.  Too bad that Justin chose to sing the same song that Clay sang the night before…Unchained Melody.”

The contestants had a chance to fly home to their hometowns for a day the previous week. Kim had many appearances and interviews. One DJ predicted next year’s movie will be From Kimberley to Ruben! She sang for friends, returned to school, signed autographs—had a good time.

Ruben headed home to Alabama and greeted lots of kids and former teachers. The kids seemed star struck. He also visited his school, his church friends, and had other assorted appearances.

Clay headed to North Carolina. He went to the YMCA to receive a 500-foot greeting card, he did radio and TV interviews, he went to his old school to see the kids, and he spent time with Mike and Diane. Clay went home and ate some barbecue with the family.  He took his Mom a bouquet of flowers.  He met the governor and he got to throw out the first ball and sing the anthem for the Durham Bulls game. He was brought to the game on a helicopter. Then it was back to LA. It was apparently a really full trip considering it only lasted a little over 24 hours.

Finally, it was time for the results and it was revealed that Kim was going home.  She smiled graciously and gave a hug to tearful Clay.

Ryan closed the night by announcing that there would be an extra show the next week to get to know the contestants better.

Next week……the finale!!

We have included videos of all three of Clay’s songs and the group performance.  It certainly was a great week.

Click here to see videos:



Mack The Knife


Unchained Melody


Group Performance


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13 thoughts on “Clay Aiken – A Part of The Final Three

  1. So nice reading all this again. I often thought at the time, as many of us had, that Rueben was the chosen one.. I like Rueben, but it was obvious. Seriously, who would actually pick a song “Vincent”. The other 2 had uplifting songs…Clay got Vincent…??? and then they changed it up on him at the last minute….!!!

    And although Clay did an amazing job on “Mack the Knife”…truly, how many people would be able to sing that song? That is a hard one, but he was fantastic….

    I so love watching and reading all this stuff…It sure takes you back…to Clay’s introduction to the world…..It’s been a great 6 years, and I’ve loved it…

    and CANN…thanks for the video above of Bridge Over Troubled Water…..I could watch that clip over and over… Clay’s voice is truly amazing on it….


  2. Love that you posted all of this. I have never watched AI..even AI2. So it makes me really happy to see it all here. I’m glad I didn’t see it when it was actually happening or I probably would have had a meltdown worrying about Clay.LOL

  3. Thank you for the walk down memory lane! Even though there was a mistake on Vincent, Clay still sang it very well. Every week Clay came out there and had solid performances. The judges didn’t make it easy on him like they did Ruben…even though I love Ruben. There will never be a final two like Clay and Ruben! Never!

  4. What a wonderful blog. I don’t think you missed anything about the final three nights. It was nice to see all video memories posted here.

  5. Thanks for all the video’s from that night. It was really noticeable that they evidently changed the lyrics on Clay..without him knowing it. Doesn’t surprise me though. Clay still did a great job. He blew away Mack The Knife, Unchained I ever heard, Solid As A Rock…Clay was and is sexy. Loved it.

  6. So glad to see the videos. I really liked AI at that point and there were some great moments with Clay Aiken and with Clay and Ruben. Sorta like an age of innocence.

  7. Sweet memories of a wonderful time.
    AI2 was awesome & exciting to watch, it will always be my favourite.
    Thank you for the write up and videos, all AWESOME!!

  8. I did watch those days of idol over and over so many times since I tape the show, Clay did such great job with all the songs!
    He always will be my idol, don’t matter how many shows of idol I watch.
    Thanks for all the videos!!!

  9. That was a nice trip down memory lane with Clay Aiken! I was his fan then, I’m his fan now, and I’ll be his fan for as long as he wants me to be!

  10. Wow!!! THis article is amazing. You out did yourself with your research. It was a great walk down memory lane. Clay Aiken looks so young in those pics. He has done so much growing up in the past 6 years.

  11. Loved this!! For me this was only the second time I had watched AI2 and I was already hopeless hooked on Clay Aiken and his amazing voice. And since then I have also become hooked on Clay Aiken the person. He’s the best!!!

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