Archive for June 2009

Clay Aiken – “He’s a musician in every sense of the word.”

Monday morning, I had reason to be going through some of the Clay Aiken “history” that is stored on my computer.  Yes, I am a “right-click-save” addict.  I have pictures, videos, concert and TV show reviews and even some album reviews.  It didn’t take long before I forgot my project and started reading some of the album reviews.

I got stuck on the reviews of “A Thousand Different Ways.”  I had forgotten how many wonderful things were written about that CD.

Mitch Velez at American Idol Magazine said:

This 14-track collection of memorable love songs from the past 30 years receives the classic Aiken touch of tender rearrangements, lilting melodies, and a voice from heaven that continues to grow and dazzle. Which is a good thing: For this effort Clay leapt off the cliff to cover songs by icons (Celine Dion, Elton John, Jon Bon Jovi, and Dolly Parton) and a host of former chart-toppers by familiar names among the over-35 crowd (Foreigner, Bryan Adams, Paul Young, Harry Nilsson, Richard Marx and Mister Mister).

Numerous songs stand out on this CD. Clay’s rearrangement of “Everything I Do, (I Do It for You)” caught my ear because instead of trying to emulate Adams’ raspy voice, he deepened the feeling with a wonderful Celtic sound. His rendition of Dion’s “Because You Love Me” serves the song very well, while he gives us plenty of range in terms of both sensitivity to material and vocals with “Everytime You Go Away”, “When I See You Smile”, and “I Want to Know What Love Is”. These songs might have started out in your parents’ collections, but Clay just made them your songs. Buy them now.

Shipwreck Island Studios said:

● Clay Aiken – A Thousand Different Ways (Island Preview – First Reaction):
I was privileged to listen to Clay’s album today and I have to say he’s got a winner on his hands. I was a bit put off by the idea of another covers album but he’s pulled it off nicely. A classic track such as Bryan Adams “Everything I Do” which I felt couldn’t be redone properly is completely retooled and sounds amazing. I’d say the best reinvented track has to be the Celine Dion song “Because You Love Me.” I didn’t care for the original version but Clay sped up the song and added his own flavor to it making it his own. Now when I first heard about this disc the one song that stood out to me was the Bad English song “When I See You Smile.” I read some pretty harsh comments from some fans that in a nutshell said that Clay couldn’t pull off this classic track. While it’s not quite was redone as other songs, Clay’s vocals fit perfectly and with a violin backing really allows the song to breath a bit more. To me Clay pulled this track off with no issues at all.

Honestly, I’m shocked over how good this disc turned out. 17 days to go until it’s release but I’ll have an album review up before its release. Everyone is in for a real treat with this release. – Tony

Tony wrote more when the album was released:

Are the new songs any good? I’ll go one better, these songs are going to set the tone as to how Clay’s career goes. I firmly believe that if he sticks with this soft blend of material and intertwines a few pop tracks he’ll be one of the most successful singers in music history. There are very few mainstream musicians that capture me the way Clay does. He’s a musician that when there’s word of new material on the way people go crazy, that’s a good thing. With songs like Without You & A Thousand Days Clay has opened the door to greatness. Some might be put off by this album’s soft tones and if that’s the case you’re not following what Clay is trying to accomplish. This disc is all about not only reliving the past but reviving it. Clay has set a course toward the future and with time I think fans of all genres will notice this release for its original material as well as the reinvented cover tunes.

This is a career setting album for Clay but not his best, as his best is still to come. You could hear throughout this release how completely in love he is with the classic material and as a listener it’s nice to hear an artist actually appreciate the material being put forth.

Hopefully with the right push from his label and fans this disc will see success not only in sales but in terms of overall play. I am hoping some of these songs show up on Movie/TV soundtracks.

The only thing missing was 1 more original song. I say that because I’m sure some fans were looking for a full pop album from Clay. There are hints of pop throughout the disc on the cover tracks that should keep those fans happy but I do see the point as some are looking for something that was a bit more familiar.

Overall this is a brilliantly done album that one can sit back, listen to and just drift away. Clay is much more then just some kid from a realty show, he’s a musician in every sense of the word. The best is still to come and what is scary is that this disc is so good how can he possibly top it?

Bill Lamb is a music journalist specializing in pop music. He has been covering the world of pop music on the web since 1999.  He said:

As it has been since American audiences were first introduced to him auditioning for American Idol, Clay Aiken’s voice remains a marvelous instrument. His most successful tunes here resist temptations to over-emote and simply allow the song to shine through with his clear, resonant voice. Without the bombast of Celine Dion’s performance, Diane Warren’s “Because You Loved Me” reveals itself as an irresistibly romantic pop classic. A stripped down and reduced tempo version of “Here You Come Again,” originally a top 10 pop hit for Dolly Parton, reveals a melody that instantly sticks in the mind sounding like it was written for Clay Aiken….

One of the most interesting reviews was from Ken Barnes.  Writing for USA Today, Ken was not afraid to ask a lot of questions that so many wanted to understand.

Overall, I just don’t understand the reasoning behind this album. In the immortal words of Carl Wilson describing the Beach Boys’ modest Smiley Smile album salvaged from the ruins of the ambitious Smile, it’s a bunt instead of a grand slam. The label had an artist coming off a highly successful first album, in easily the best position for growth outside of Kelly Clarkson before her second album (and maybe even stronger than that, considering the intensely loyal fan base Clay had generated).

They encouraged Kelly (or agreed at Kelly’s insistence) to branch out in a new direction, add more contemporary rock to the Idol pop/pap formula, write more songs, etc. — and saw a huge payoff. Kelly’s sold more than 5.5 million, gets Grammy nominations and is taken seriously as a leading artist now — a considerable achievement for someone who had to overcome the “manufactured pop star” image of an Idol winner.

So why not try something similar with Clay? I don’t mean he should have hired the guy from Evanescence to co-write songs and set the decibels blasting (although he does have Jon Bon Jovi, Mick Jones and former rockers Desmond Child and Aldo Nova in his songwriting credits). But a contemporary pop album, minus the hip-hop trappings Justin Timberlake adopts but a mix of up-tempo songs and ballads with a modern sound, would have given Clay a chance to catapult to the top ranks of today’s hitmakers.

Instead, he releases an album with 10 covers, leaning heavily toward middle-of-the-road ballads of a certain age, plus four new songs, all of which are ballads. I could be wrong on this, but I don’t hear anything on the album that a top 40 station (Kelly’s main bastion of radio support) would be likely to play.

I just don’t get it. I’ve mentioned this before, and so have some of you, but it seems as if Clay’s almost being abandoned. Instead of having him record an album that could be his springboard to general superstardom (as opposed to cult idol status, however massive his cult is), it’s as if he’s doing a side project at a crucial juncture of his career. This album is the kind of thing he should be doing in 2014, after he has five big contemporary albums under his belt, not now. There’s no need to consign Clay to the nostalgia market so early in his career. This feels like an aging, or past-his-peak, artist’s album.

A Thousand Different Ways is a beautiful album.  Every reviewer recognized the brilliant singing and musicianship that Clay demonstrated on the album.  And many agreed with Ken Barnes.  It was a questionable choice for a sophomore album.  I really don’t care.  Clay’s voice soars and I still have many of the songs on my favorite playlist.

If you have made it through all these words, you need a reward. The following video is a wonderful performance of Because You Love Me.  It not only shows off Clay’s wonderful voice, it shows his love and appreciation of his fans. This was filmed at his last concert stop in Orlando on 8/19/07.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDs-rfQIFJk


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