Clay Aiken – “He Has An Audience Like No Other”

The Automatic Coin Operated Phonograph (Jukebox) has been a part of American social scene since the 1930’s.  It has provided music and a visual reference to many generations.


I never thought much about a Jukebox until 2005 when Clay Aiken starred in the Summer Jukebox Tour.  I traveled from California to the New York area and saw two of the tour stops.

The jukebox tour is one of my favorites.  I loved that Jukebox Tour spotlighted each decade from the 1950s to today with an introduction to some new songs we all thought would be on Clay’s next album.  It also provided a creative outlet for his sense of humor and quick wit.

Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.  He wrote a fun review of the Greenville, South Carolina stop:

Less than a week after kicking off his 25-city “Jukebox Tour,” Clay Aiken performed in Greenville, South Carolina. After performing an energetic review of hits from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s, he concluded with a few original songs, including “When You Say You Love Me,” which was on his first album, “Measure of a Man.”

As he began to sing, he stumbled, arriving at the wrong words at the wrong time. The music kept playing but Clay turned to the singers on stage with him and said, “That’s the third night in a row!” He laughed. “I don’t know the words to this song!” Then Clay pretended to sulk off stage, letting one of his back-up singers take over, but he quickly came back to give it another try.

Then, in the front of the Peace Center’s auditorium, near stage left, a fan held up a sign. But she wasn’t proclaiming her love for Clay; instead, she was offering assistance. “Are those the cue cards for that song?” he asked, walking over toward her. In her hands were, in fact, homemade cue cards with the lyrics to “When You Say You Love Me.” Having known of his tendency on this barely week-old tour to have trouble with the song, someone had constructed cue cards to help him out and passed them to the front of the auditorium. His fans knew he was going to mess up before he did.

“Although I feel completely, miserably embarrassed, I’m going to try to continue, if that’s okay,” Clay said. Then he asked, with mock incredulity, “How do you know I’m going to do the same ones I did last night?”

That’s a good question, but there’s an easy answer: Clay Aiken may have been the runner-up on “American Idol 2,” but two years after he lost that competition, he has become the single most successful and popular reality TV show contestant ever. No other reality TV stars—and few stars of any other origin—have managed to build a fan base like that at the Peace Center last Wednesday. Other reality show participants have recognizable names (such as Omarosa, Richard Hatch), and others have gone on to successful careers (like Clay’s “Idol” predecessor Kelly Clarkson, for example), but Clay has an audience like no other.

Even though Clay lost “Idol,” he easily outsold winner Ruben Studdard in both singles and albums, and his debut record landed at number one upon its release. His fans are obsessively devoted to both Clay and his art, going online to discuss his music and his charity work (as a UNICEF ambassador, among other things).

There’s even a Clay Aiken credit card, which can be used to buy everything from a Clay Aiken bucket hat to a Clay Aiken thong.
Why exactly is this “skinny white boy,” as Clay described himself in Greenville, such a sensation? I went to Greenville to try to find out. What has inspired the rabid devotion that characterizes Claymates, as his fans are known? What sort of performance causes fans to attend concert after concert on the same tour?

Although a single concert just skims the surface of the phenomenon, from the moment Clay strutted out on-stage arm-in-arm with his back-up singers, the audience was, well, clay in Clay’s hands.

Before the concert began, I asked a fan sitting in front of me to explain, in a sentence, why so many people loved Clay Aiken. “We came for the music, but we stayed for the man,” she said.

This enthusiasm for both Clay and his art didn’t subside the entire evening. Throughout the two-and-a-half-hour show, the audience stood up (during the fast songs) and sat down (when Clay was telling a story or singing a slower song). Waves of energy rippled throughout the auditorium as he performed medleys of well-known hits from the past half-century, more than capably tackling covers of songs by everyone from Elvis to Prince.

As Clay moved on stage, camera flashes strobed constantly, and tiny images of the stage were visible on dozens of video cameras’ view screens. Some fans stood with cell phones open, broadcasting the concert to others around the country, who transcribed it online for the benefit of other fans. The audience cheered wildly when Clay accompanied himself on piano, because, someone quickly told me, he was just learning to play.

Everyone who’s heard him knows that Clay can sing. But on stage, Clay is also energetic, humble, and awkward. He mixes self-depreciation with a dose of pretend, over-exaggerated ego, and genuinely appears to be having a great time interacting with his audience and his band. Far more experienced performers would have been thrown off after forgetting words to a song, but it didn’t really phase Clay at all; in fact, he embraced it. His personality and persona are as much a part of his performance as his music.

During the performance, Angela Fisher and Quiana Parler sang back-up for him throughout the evening, but the phrase “back-up singer” doesn’t really apply to either one. Clay literally shared the stage with them, as they performed their own solos as he stepped aside.

His gawkiness is especially endearing. Clay may be able to sing exceptionally well, but his on-stage talent drops off rapidly after that. Primarily, he dances like a wooden puppet on a stick.

But every time he’d awkwardly attempt a dance move, or just attempt to move a body part, screams would ripple through the crowd. And he played along, giving them more of what they wanted.

Watching Clay and his audience interact was revealing, but in many ways, the concert seems to be just the public side of his popularity. Fans gather online and in person, and have two and a half years of history with Clay; I don’t know if I’ll ever fully be able to see the Clay phenomenon in exactly the same way they do. But the performance made it clear that, in this era of manufactured pop, where top-40 music is constructed for the benefit of the audience by marketers and radio station conglomerates, Clay Aiken’s fans believe they have found something real. That’s ironic since Clay Aiken, the phenomenon, was born of “American Idol,” which, with its narrow focus and snap judgments, is a televised look inside the machine that produces our entertainers.

At the same time, Clay’s fans were introduced to him and his music and saw him work his way up throughout the competition. His talent and his personality are genuine, or at least appear to be, because we’ve watched him grow along the way. Clay Aiken may be a product of the “American Idol” factory, but to some degree, what went in is what came out, and that’s just the way his fans like it.

Yes…Clay is a talented man and I hope he decides to do JukeBox Tour II

Did you see the Jukebox Tour?

Would you like Clay to do the Jukebox Tour II?


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  1. What a truly magnificent write-up – tears did come very easily reading that – The "MAN" brings so many great events to mind and the JukeBox Tour was definitely one of them. I did see it and loved
    it. Being 76 years old all of those years were special to me and I do remember putting the coins in
    the jukebox!!! Maybe this being the 10th Anniv. year he will bring back some of those special times.
    Anxiously awaiting the new Chat with Clay – maybe he will bring good news! 🙂 <3
    Thank you, Musicfan.

  2. I hadn't "discovered" Clay yet at the time the Jukebox Tour came around, but I have seen the Clack
    and I loved it! I am certain if Clay were to have a Jukebox Tour Part II, it would be a sold out tour.

  3. OMG, I LOVED the JBT!! I was lucky enough to see 6 of the concerts and my first M & G was at the very first one! Wonderful memories, and I would like nothing better than to have a JBT II!!! Clay was fantastic and surprised us with his talent at singing songs from any era!

  4. It is what us Claymates dream of. Another JBT.
    I have been watching old clack of the tour… much fun.

  5. I loved the Jukebox Tour. Went to 6 of them, what a wonderful experience. Clay was great. A fan from the start.

  6. Loved the videos of the Jukebox tour, they're great and would love to see Clay do jukebox tour 2! Loved the writeup about Clay, I will always be his fan for the man he is. Thanks musicfan and Deona, you guys are great, I enjoy so much the work you put into these posts xox.

  7. What a great writeup! Thanks for bringing it to us musicfan. I saw Jukebox Tour I several times, and it was a fabulous experience. I would LOVE for Clay to do a Jukebox Tour II. Let's all tweet him about it!

    What fun to relive those magic moments with the three videos here. "Back For More": love it! The medleys: WOW! There's NO one like Clay on stage!

  8. I have not been to the Jukebox Tour. What little bit I've watched on YouTube I love, so YES to another Jukebox! I want to see Clay sing Elvis!!

  9. iloved the juke box tour iwold inded love to see clay do anther juke box tour the melodys wow oh wow to me and im sure every one agrees when i also say theres no one likee clay aiken on stage

  10. Wow! It was fun watching those Jukebox Tour video's again. I went to the one in Valdosta, Georgia. We had a ball. Clay even outdid Elvis IMO. I would be there in a flash if he had another JBT. I am still in the Aiken Fog just from seeing him in November in his JNT.

  11. Yes please please another Jukebox tour, I will go to all of them, I love Clay singing Elvis, by the way Elvis is the only one and I mean the only one hat can sing better than Clay, but Clay comes so close to sounding like Elvis…..

  12. Love your article today, Musicfan. Thank you.

    I loved the JBT. I saw it 3 times. Darien Lake, Clio and Toronto. It was so much fun and would love to see another. Can't wait to see what Clay has in store for us. I have loved every tour, but the summer tours are so much fun and upbeat!!!!!!

  13. Reliving the JBT brought a smile to my lips. Saw Clay twice on that tour. This was a great write up, but I think that Clay only pretends that he can't dance. We've seen some smooth moves since the JBT. Watched "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me" behind one of the posts. I never heard Clay sing that song before. Was it a bonus on one of his CD's? I'd love to have that one to listen to. Brings back fond memories.

    • Emily…..There is a "HMTMKM" download at the CLACKUNLIMITED site. It is listed under Classic Clay – Early Media – Hometown Connection – Early Demo Tracks – LWLHD – Volume 2. Just keep clicking onto the different pages. Maybe someone can come up with a link.

  14. I didn’t get to see the jukebox tour so I would love for Clay to tour again. He really is an amazing entertainer and singer.

  15. yes to another JBT. I have a JBT poster on one wall and Elvis on the other.Clays poster is right next to me when I go to sleep each night.I loved Elvis too but only Clay makes me melt inside.I would love to hear Clay do How Great Thou Art.

  16. Love seeing Clay doing his thing during his"olden days". The videos are a great testament to his early and still ongoing superb singing and entertainment talents. The photos you chose are really wonderful snapshots of the JBT's fun and excitement. Thanks for the memories (a la Bob Hope). I vote for a Jukebox Tour #2!

  17. Although I have been a fan since "take" I never realized I could go to ANY concert by myself. Was married at that time and I doubt he would have let me go alone. Hahahahha, now I travel alone all the time unless it's a road trip 🙂 Little did I know about sharing hotel rooms and whatnot! I am so jealous of all those who went to multiple JBT concerts. Hope he does it again one day!!! Bring on the video chat!!!

  18. If Clay ever did a JBT2, I'd be fighting with the other fans to be first in line for tickets. The JBT was the most fun tour of any artist I've ever attended.

  19. Hi!

    I wasn't lucky enaugh to see JBT, but 2 friends of mine did, and they called me during the concert. It was WONDERFUL to hear Clay's voice "live", I wonder if he ever knew that while he was singing a lady in Iceland was singing with him, with tears in her eyes just because she was listening to him and whising with all her heart that she could be there :0)
    Hugs to you all.

  20. I saw the JBT three times and Clay was fantastic!! He can sing anything better than the original.
    I would love to attend another JBT. I agree that he can dance and has a great since of rhythm. He does this self-depreciating act at times–maybe so that we relate to him better.

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