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Oct 7 04 1:52 PM
"I'm resilient. And I've learned to see myself as having some talent. But I'm not a competitive person. When I was in Atlanta, there were about 50 people who auditioned before me, and only about seven made it through. So as I was sitting there, on deck, I thought: 'You are not going to make it, so just go in there and have fun with it and chalk it up to experience.' I don't understand why I'm still here. But it's going to be the greatest memory of my life."
Oct 7 04 1:59 PM
Oct 7 04 2:01 PM
TONIGHT'S SHOWDOWN WILL DECIDE THE WINNER: RUBEN, THE SOULFUL FAVORITE, OR CLAY, A GEEK WITH CHOPS
By Charlie McCollum
Ruben Studdard, known to fans of ``American Idol'' simply as Rooooooben, says he'll win ``if God's willing.''
Clay Aiken, exacting the revenge of the geeks on ``Idol,'' says it'll be him if that's ``what God wants to happen.''
Studdard, a soul singer in the style of Luther Vandross, and Aiken, more of a pop performer in the manner of Josh Groban, will face off tonight in the final of ``Idol.'' The showdown follows 17 weeks of grinding through pop standards and bad disco numbers and suffering through the cutting commentary of Simon Cowell and the banality of Paula Abdul. It will all come down to tonight's performances and the millions of votes cast by the American TV audience.
In its second season, ``American Idol'' has become a certified phenomenon. Against much stronger competition -- its first season aired in the summer -- it has averaged more than 20 million viewers per episode. Last Wednesday's installment drew more than 24 million, more than watched the finale of ``Survivor: Amazon.''
The contestants, a more talented group than in the first season, when Kelly Clarkson won, have made the covers of all the teen magazines -- and the tabloids. (Three performers who made the semifinals were bounced for various transgressions, including the imposing Frenchie Davis, a talented singer who almost certainly would have made the top 10 if it weren't for her early career in porn.)
There have also been a couple of intriguing aspects to this season's ``Idol'' that didn't present themselves in the first season.
First and foremost is that the three finalists -- Studdard, Aiken and Kimberley Locke, who was voted out last week -- hardly fit the classic image of a pop idol in terms of looks. Studdard may be sexy, but he's also heavy and has stubbornly stuck to his distinctive style. Aiken and Locke both have been glammed up by the show's stylists. But Aiken started out as a bespectacled, skinny dweeb, and Locke became a heroine for plus-size women.
``I do think it's kind of sweet justice that I'm still here,'' Aiken says. ``Actually, that the three of us were there.
``Last year, I don't think the three of us would have made the top 32 based on the way they were doing things. It was a big image thing last year. They let people through based a lot on how they looked last year. . . . This year, they changed the way they did things just a little bit and went for talent over image.''
Then there's the fact that one contestant -- Studdard -- emerged early as the clear favorite of the judges, particularly the normally nasty Cowell. At times, the judges so lauded Studdard's performances that it appeared the competition would be a runaway.
And according to this week's Newsweek, Cowell -- who has a vested interest in the outcome because his record company will produce the winner's first album -- told ``Idol'' staff members before last week's program that ``we have a problem. I want Ruben to be in the final two, and Kimberley just had a great rehearsal.''
(In fact, Locke outperformed both Aiken and Studdard last week but still fell short with the voters.)
Cowell has been particularly harsh on Aiken, suggesting at one point that he had a future performing in amusement park shows and last week raking him over the coals for his version of Don McLean's ``Vincent.'' The song was ill-suited for Aiken's voice, and he was pretty awful on it.
Looking for pointers
But Cowell's biting words don't seem to bother Aiken, who says, ``When he gives me constructive criticism, I listen to it and take into account -- every time. That's why I completely disregard him when he says, `Oh, that was horrible, that was terrible.' He just said it was terrible, but he didn't tell me why.
``Look, it doesn't really bother me that much. I came into this with the understanding that you've got to be ready for criticism. Nobody who was on the show came into this thinking that Simon was going to be nice to them all the time. . . . I've gotten to a point where I've just said, `I'm going to go out and sing my songs and have fun and expect Simon to say something mean.' ''
Going into the final moments of the competition, Aiken and Studdard are both acting like Southern gentlemen.
Studdard says the two have become friends and -- even though he wants -- it would be ``cool'' if Aiken took the top prize. Aiken says that ``at this point, I don't really feel like I'm going up against Ruben. . . . I don't feel that -- at this point -- it's a competition as to who's better anymore.
``We're both here because we've proven that we're good at what we do.''
Final performances: 8 tonight,
Winner announced: 8 p.m. Wednesday,
The Final Two
24, from Raleigh, N.C.
How he made it: A unique voice and a sweet personality. Went from geek to chic, thanks to the show's stylists.
Why he'll win: Coming on strong while Ruben seems to have stalled. Not even a bad song last week could keep him out of the finals.
Why he won't: Still a little stiff on stage and comes across on some songs more like a Broadway singer than a pop idol.
25, from Birmingham, AL.
How he made it: A great voice for ballads and a favorite of the judges since day one.
Why he'll win: He's Roooooooban, the Velvet Teddy Bear. Simon Cowell, who clearly wants him to win, will pump up volume tonight before America votes.
Why he won't: He's not as strong on uptempo songs as Aiken and the Barry White thing is wearing a little thin. In addition, he was outsung last week by Kimberly Locke who should have made the final two.
Oct 7 04 2:02 PM
Quote:Millions of viewers are expected to tune in for the climax of US music talent show American Idol.
Finalists Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard will fight it out for the public's votes in the TV showdown on Tuesday night.
Aiken - described by the BBC's Peter Bowes as "a geeky crooner with a big, rich voice" - is up against Studdard, "a gentle giant of a guy with a flare for R&B and gospel music".
The winner of the show's highly popular second run will be announced during a further programme on Wednesday night.
The victor will emerge to potential wealth and fame as a household name among millions of music fans in the lucrative North American market.
Kelly Clarkson, who won the first series last year, enjoyed immediate success with her first single, A Moment Like This.
Aiken, 24, from Raleigh, North Carolina, a fan of Shania Twain and James Taylor, is said to be the favourite to take the title.
His rival Studdard, 25, from Birmingham, Alabama - whose hero is soul singer Donnie Hathaway - is seen as the music industry's preferred choice.
Despite complaints from the US music industry that the show is boring, American Idol 2 has won a huge following among the ordinary public.
The show, hosted by Ryan Seacrest, has attracted more than 26 million viewers for the Fox network, making it one of the biggest programmes in the network's history.
One of its biggest draws has been the acid comments of British judge Simon Cowell, well known for his uncompromising views on the original UK show, Pop Idol.
The series was on air throughout the war with Iraq and led to the release of a charity single, God Bless the USA.
Guest celebrity judges including Robin Gibb, Neil Sedaka and Smokey Robinson have joined the regular panel of Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.
Oct 7 04 2:06 PM
Quote:`American Idol' fans can't get enough of Clay Aiken
Here's a sampling of Clay Aiken fan mail received at The Observer during his run on "American Idol":
"I don't think I've ever been quite so taken with a musical performer, but there is something truly magical about Clay. I will be voting like crazy in hopes that he garners his much-deserved win."
Brooke A, 23, College Station, Texas
"I report on the SARS situation in Singapore from a medical perspective, and also write for the Singapore Medical Association's newsletter. The past two months have been extremely taxing. ... Clay Aiken is a big ray of sunshine and a shining star during these times of great sadness and despair. He's got tons of fans here in Singapore. ... His success story is a great inspiration to me and helps me find the strength to carry on with what I do"
Oh Jen J, 28, Singapore
"I came up with a couple of recipes while in the midst of my daily obsession with Mr. Aiken. Freckled Claymonade: Blend 1/2 to 3/4 cup frozen whole strawberries with 1 cup of tangy lemonade in blender for several seconds for a refreshing cool drink in honour of Mr. Freckled Cutie himself!"
Kelly B, 33, Vancouver, British Columbia
"I only wish there were men like Clay around when I was in my prime. He is perfect!"
Nancy K, 55, Medford, Ore.
"I think he is a doll. My daughter, who is 9, says, `I want to marry someone like Clay,' and my husband and sons think his voice is `awesome' and enjoy his singing style!"
Lorrie P, 40, Ann Arbor, Mich.
"The `Clay Love' knows no bounds. Fans range in age from 4 to 104. And the fandom is obsessive, make no mistake about that. This kid has developed such devotion... it boggles the mind. Making him the next American Idol has become a mission."
Allyson M, 35, Saint John, New Brunswick
Oct 7 04 2:08 PM
Quote:Clay who? 'Idol' finalist remembered as class clown
Clay Aiken -- then and now
By Alisha Puckett The Herald
(Published May 20, 2003)
My seventh-grade year, his eighth-grade year. Fall 1992.
The room was silent, and no one was working harder than Clayton Grissom. While the class was diligently working on yearbook layouts and figuring out how to photograph the winter dance, Clayton's mind was elsewhere.
It always was.
Clayton was busy masterminding jokes and witty remarks, which he conjured up with great ease. He was one of Leesville Middle School's class clowns. Often sarcastic, often theatrical, borderline annoying.
But the witty, funny boy that I shared my middle school, high school and college days with is all grown up; now, he practices his talents of a different kind -- singing in front of millions on national television every week.
Clayton Grissom is Clay Aiken, one of two finalists vying for a recording contract and pop stardom on Fox TV's hugely popular show, "American Idol 2."
Clay changed his last name after high school and shortened his first name at the suggestion of friends and "Idol" producers. It's weird to hear people call him Clay, because I think, "Don't they mean Clayton Grissom?"
Of course, it's weird to know a kid I grew up with in Raleigh, N.C., is rubbing elbows with celebs like Paula Abdul, living it up in the Hollywood hills and making girls everywhere drool at the sight of his green eyes and wild hair.
Of course, his hair wasn't like that when I knew him, and his eyes weren't as easy to see under his inch-thick eyeglasses, rimmed with bright gold.
His face bore tons of freckles and some zits, too, until "American Idol" artists got ahold of him. It's amazing what makeup and some mousse can do.
And he's always had the lanky, beanpole look to him. Clay's reddish-brown hair used to be neatly trimmed and styled, never out of place.
His clothes were never trendy. He loved to wear jackets -- it didn't matter if it was raining or cold.
To top things off, Clay wasn't a "ladies man," and he didn't have many girlfriends. The Web sites and message boards filled with women clamoring to get his autograph or gossiping about his relationship status would have been unthinkable 10 years ago. He remained low on girls' radar screens until college, when I last saw a few ladies swooning over him at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2002. I'm still convinced it was his sweet voice that won them over.
Clay's appearance and image have undergone an extreme makeover, but his genuine convictions to music, his faith and to helping children haven't changed since I met him in 1992.
In yearbook class, in the middle of conversations, in the middle of lunch and even in the middle of lecture, Clay would break out into song. He had a voice, as we all know, and he loved to practice for anyone who would listen.
My classmates and I would go to choral concerts, and Clay was the easiest to spot and had the most recognizable voice. He was front row and center, the only boy among 40 girls, yet he looked like he was having fun on stage.
Growing up, Clay would tell me stories of his auditions at the Raleigh Little Theatre or his travels with Leesville High School's top choral group.
He starred in a few musicals and loathed the hard work, but he basked in the delight of singing to an audience who clapped just for him. He would tell me his singing might not take him anywhere in life, but he still enjoyed doing it for children at hospitals and for the elderly at Christmas. And that was why God had blessed him with such an awesome talent -- not to make six figures and live in a recording studio, but to tickle the ears of people who needed to hear his music.
It's funny to recall the conversations we had about his singing. All of the obstacles he would have to go through and the competition he would face seemed daunting, but he was determined to keep up his passion.
The last time I talked with Clay was a couple of months before he auditioned for his big break on "American Idol 2" in Atlanta. I was the editor-in-chief of UNCC's campus newspaper, and Clay called me, begging to have a reporter cover a charity dance he was organizing; it would benefit disabled senior citizens.
After he informed me of his plans, he chided, "Don't you think college kids would rather read about a bunch of old geezers on the front page of the newspaper instead of mundane academic topics?"
I was stunned at his putdown of the people he was trying so hard to help.
He chuckled, and I imagined a wicked smile coming across his face. What a jokester.
Clay said he was kidding, his program was more than worthy of coverage and I'd be a fool not to offer publicity of such a worthwhile cause.
Some things never change.
Clay may be the next Justin Timberlake or, heck, maybe even the next Elvis.
But to me, he will always be Raleigh's Clayton Grissom, and the class clown who was the only boy in concert choir and whose hair was never out of place.
Alisha Puckett is a copy editor in The Herald's sports department.
Oct 7 04 2:19 PM
Oct 7 04 2:20 PM
The American Idol winner has not yet been crowned, but win or lose, Clay Aiken has already done quite a bit to raise awareness of autism and act as an inspiration to many.
A few weeks after the start of American Idol 2, I wrote an article about why I wanted Clay Aiken to lose the competition, so that he could do better as a teacher of young disabled kids. Of course I don't really want Clay to lose and all you readers got that; I still hear from you everyday and your devotion is so inspiring. I feel the same way. I had hoped that Clay would be able to use his talent to inspire others and that is what I want to tell you about today.
I am shaking as I write this because it seems that something wonderful but improbable has happened. Because of Clay's X-factor and the fact that he has worked with autistic children, he has already done more for the cause of autism than I have seen in my four years of dealing with it and trying to raise awareness. I receive countless letters from people who want to know: What is autism and how can I help?
People are opening up their wallets and their minds just when the cause needed it the most. Families of kids with autism are spreading the word among the various groups and organizations that deal with the disorder. Autism message boards are talking about Clay and Clay fan boards are talking about autism. The fans are buying Clay merchandise that supports the autism society and paying money to make a videotaped greeting to Clay with the proceeds going to the cause. There is a walk for autism scheduled for most states and Clay fans are creating teams to participate in that also. I have been asked repeatedly where to go, what to do, how to show support for Clay by doing what inspires him.
When Clay himself was asked what he thought the definition of an America Idol was he responded this way: "Someone with a talent that leaves a mark on American society and inspires people to think, feel, love, act." On Monday's show, when he was asked about the possibility of becoming the American Idol, he again talked about how he could use it as a platform to help others.
By his definition alone, Clay has become the American Idol. But truthfully, although the show is important, it really doesn't matter in the long term. We should all vote like crazy for him, but considering the fact that the producers seem to want to kill Ruben by putting him through the rigors of fulfilling the American Idol stress-filled schedule, it looks like the fix may already be in.
However, we Claymates in Clay Nation know that Clay is the next Elvis, the next Beatles, he has touched us like no one in the last few generations has. And he has touched all demographic categories. At this point, the naming of the winner is strictly a formality, no matter who gets the title, Clay, his fans and the countless kids who will be inadvertently touched by his work are huge winners.
Quote:Clay still Clayton despite "Idol" changes
BY GEOFFREY GRAYBEAL : The Herald-Sun
May 20, 2003 : 10:24 pm ET
DURHAM -- I don't really know Clay Aiken.
But I remember Clayton Grissom quite well, since he was one of my best friends at Leesville Road middle and high schools. Although mutual friends have kept me informed of his latest happenings, we've lost touch somewhat over the years though I still consider him a friend.
The past few months, watching that friend of 12 years, Clayton Grissom, transform into "American Idol" finalist Clay Aiken has been surreal.
A few years ago, Clayton legally changed his name, taking his mother's maiden name as a way to honor her. Best I can tell, he dropped the "ton" to sound cooler for the contest.
As a legion of fans has emerged for the talented singer, and women young and old swoon over the emerging star, I just smile. All these Claymates. All this attention. All for Clayton.
The same Clayton who was co-copy editor of the middle school yearbook with me.
Then, I click on the TV.
There's super gorgeous model/actress Brooke Burke melting as Clay sings "Unchained Melody." The same Clayton who as a middle-school student helped teach gym class to elementary school students for an hour a day.
Back on the tube, there's Clay on "Oprah." The same Clayton who was a broadcast journalist in the middle school's first student newscast, WLMS.
I hop on the World Wide Web. Click.
Clay face adorns countless magazines, newspapers and fan Web sites across the world
And I think back to Clayton who in 1997 brought the crowd at a packed Raleigh Memorial Auditorium to its feet during Wake County schools' annual arts showcase "Pieces of Gold."
I check my e-mail. There's a photo from a friend.
It's Clay re-united in Hollywood with four high school friends who made the trip to watch him live.
The same Clayton who often served as a designated driver for those very friends and others after parties.
These are a few of the memories I have. This is the Clayton I know. There have been some slight changes, of course, but Clay is still Clayton.
That same self-confidence is there.
Clayton believes he can accomplish anything and then sets out to do it. Don't believe me? Listen to his first "Idol" audition in Atlanta where judge Simon Cowell asks him why he's here. Clayton's response?
"I'm the American Idol."
When asked if he saw the first show, Clayton, then-contestant No. 5230, boldly declares that talent-wise he easily could have been in the top 10. Though few would have agreed at the time, my how right he was.
For many years, music has been a big part of who Clayton is. He has used that amazing God-given talent to perform whether it was in the school chorus or belting out the national anthem at Dorton Arena for the now-defunct minor league hockey team, the Raleigh IceCaps.
Music was never really Clayton's first career choice, however. He wanted to be a journalist, then a politician, then a teacher.
Although his career goals have changed over the years, the determination has remained with each pursuit.
On "Idol", however, Clay seemed somewhat muted at first. The Clayton I know would have had a sharp-tongued reply for some of the harsh criticism from brutally honest judge Cowell.
Clay(ton)'s sarcasm, wit and sense of humor seems to still be intact. Remember the Ford commercial where all the Idol contestants are pimped out except Clay at first. Aside from the Alfalfa part, the red-haired bespectacled goofy looking dork that emerged is Clayton. That's Clay spoofing Clayton. Priceless.
Obviously, the look has changed the most. Clayton has gone Hollywood. The glasses are no more. The spiked morning hair look a la host Ryan Secrest is the new 'do. Stylin'. Profilin'.
And of course folks certainly treat Clayton differently now. Fame seems to do that. The slightly dorky kid who some classmates made fun of and picked on is now the talk of the town. Gov. Mike Easley promised him his own bridge. Fans flock to him. Even other celebrities come to hear him sing. And who can blame them?
America loves Clay.
And I can only grin. And shake my head in disbelief. I don't need the contest to reaffirm what I already know. That's my friend. Clayton Grissom.
The American Idol.
Oct 7 04 2:22 PM
Quote:LOS ANGELES -- Marlayna and Michael Brown are sister and brother, both hailing from Riverside, Calif. As zealous American Idol fans, they arrived at the set of the Fox talent show at 5:30 a.m. last Tuesday, 12 hours before the live performance, hoping to get a couple of the hottest tickets in Hollywood.
But one significant difference separates them: Marlayna, 21, is part of Clay Nation, while her 17-year-old brother represents Ruben's world.
From the start of the Fox hit's final rounds, Clay and Ruben ï¿½ now single-name entities in the popular culture ï¿½ have been the favorites to meet in tonight's final competition, with the winner being named Wednesday (both nights, 8 ET/PT). The two also have sported the biggest, loudest and most passionate fans of any of the 12 Idol finalists. Some of Clay's fans even refer to their devotion as an obsession.
"They've been the top two from the beginning. They have the most awesome voices," Marlayna says.
Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard are at least partly responsible for putting the Tuesday and Wednesday Idol shows in the Nielsen top 10 for the season, with each averaging more than 20 million viewers. Those numbers are millions higher than Idol's initial outing, in the lower-rated summer months. They're certain to jump higher this week with a marquee matchup of the sort many believe the first Idol missed. (Tamyra Gray was eliminated two weeks before Kelly Clarkson won, beating Justin Guarini.)
Indications of fan ardor for Studdard and Aiken seem to be everywhere:
The signs at the show. "I am the Potter, U R My Clay" is one of the seemingly endless plays on Aiken's first and last names. Three Studdard fans who traveled overnight from the Bay Area ï¿½ sisters Nicole and Natalie Antes, 22 and 16, of San Ramon, and Beth Rogers, 23, of Sonora ï¿½ favor texture over wordplay, sporting signs made from carpet remnants.
Fan-made souvenirs. Three women at last week's show sported black-and-hot-pink Claymates T-shirts that feature a silhouette of their favorite; in an earlier round, Studdard fans banged plastic thundersticks that said, "Ruben is the American Idol."
Clothing sales. Orders at 205 Flava of Birmingham, Ala., have skyrocketed since hometown hero Studdard started sporting its area-code apparel. Sales have "boosted, boosted, boosted. Man, it's unbelievable," says CEO Willie Jenkins.
Clayisms. The Claymates group provides new members a lexicon that includes AmerAiken, a fan from the USA, as opposed to a Claynadian; Clay/December romance, referring to his appeal to older women; and Clayniac, the type of fan who might feel infatuaAiken.
Online support. Aiken is the Idol king, with four times as many Internet searches as Studdard and 10 times the number of any finalist during last season's show, says Aaron Schatz of Lycos, an Internet search company. Studdard comes in No. 2.
Internet buzz boosted
Idol overall is a bigger hit on the Internet in its second season, perhaps fueled by Clay/Ruben fan rivalry. It ranked fourth last week on the Lycos 50, a measure of the most popular searches, and has been on the list 17 weeks, Schatz says. Last time, the show peaked at No. 8, with eight weeks in the top 50.
Fans of both singers profess online allegiance around the clock, with one exception: "No chatting during voting time. If they're chatting, they can't vote," says Julie Lowes, 27, of Powell, Ohio, co-owner of the Claymates' Yahoo group.
Idol host and radio DJ Ryan Seacrest is dazzled by how fan passion has turned Aiken and Studdard into household names. "I was in New York (Friday) standing in front of my hotel. People drove by, opened their windows and yelled, 'It's gonna be Clay.' Or 'It's gonna be Ruben,' " he says. "I don't often see the pop artists we play become as big with fans as quickly."
The two finalists accept the fanatical support with characteristic modesty.
"I'm glad I've got people enjoying what I'm doing," says the 25-year-old Studdard.
"It's more than flattering," Aiken, 24, says of the fan clubs and the newfound fame. "It's absolutely amazing. I'm just a normal person who sings."
In the only tally that counts, the Idol elimination vote, Aiken and Studdard were just 2% apart last week, making it hard to determine whether the slender, big-voiced Aiken or the big-bodied, smooth-singing Studdard has more supporters. It's difficult to characterize such large fan bases, but each singer's following has some noticeable traits, according to fans, music experts and others who follow the show.
For a start, at the studio performances, their fans sound different. During a commercial break before Kimberley Locke's elimination, Aiken partisans chanted "Clay Must Stay" to the accompaniment of high-pitched shrieks; when they stopped, the low rumble of "Rooo-ben, Rooo-ben" served as the Studdard side's response.
R&B vs. pop
Musically, Studdard's fans are more likely to enjoy R&B. Aiken draws followers who admire traditional pop stylings that have been a staple over the decades.
Both have large numbers of young female fans, Idol's viewing core.
Studdard probably has a greater percentage of male fans, says Lon Thompson, whose Elitestv.com Web site keeps tabs on the most popular reality and alternative shows.
Beyond the teenybopper following, Aiken enjoys big support from women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, many of whom say Aiken is the first singer they ever swooned over. Lowes knows of a 93-year-old woman who calls in multiple votes each week from her nursing home. There's even a Lecherous Broads for Clay Aiken Web site.
For passionate intensity, including numerous complaints whenever a slight is perceived, nobody matches the Aiken brigades, Thompson says.
"I don't think I've ever seen one person in a reality show have such a hard-core, fanatical following as Clay," says Thompson, who surmises that Studdard partisans may share a little of the laid-back nature of their singer.
The tenacity of Idol fans isn't surprising, says Clay Calvert, a Penn State professor and author of Voyeur Nation: Media, Privacy and Peering in Modern Culture.
The allegiance brings to mind sports fans.
Idol is "like a sports contest in the realm of (performing) talent," Calvert says. "Many people can relate to somebody from an average background who rises to be a star."
But why such strong devotion to these two singers: Aiken, who has been praised for learning from judges' criticism and going from "geek to chic," as fan Marlayna Brown says, and Studdard, a consistent performer dubbed the "velvet teddy bear" by Gladys Knight?
Hooked by sound, charisma
For some, it starts and ends with the voice. For others, the attraction goes far beyond. They see their favorite as an admirable person ï¿½ idol as role model ï¿½ and the praise at times can sound similar.
"I believe that Clay's fans are attracted to him because he is a good human being. He is mature, intelligent, funny and caring," says Elisa Crossman, 22, of San Diego, who arranged a face-to-face meeting with two friends from her "That's the Clay" message board at last Wednesday's show. The trio wore Claymates T-shirts.
Tamera Mathus, 24, of Oakland, who co-moderates the Ruben Studdard Fans Yahoo group, says, "The humbleness that Ruben possesses is simply amazing. I love the fact that he remains true to himself, no matter what and (proves) this year is honestly about the vocal talent, not just the image."
Partisans don't want to hear criticism, such as comments that Aiken's style is too Broadway or Studdard is too large. A tagline on Claymates messages says, "Don't love Clay anymore? Don't tell us!"
But as fiercely as each side campaigns for its singer ï¿½ and message boards have been buzzing with get-out-the-vote strategies for tonight's expanded, three-hour call-in window ï¿½ there is not as much sniping aimed directly at the opposing performer as one might expect. (Aiken faithful, however, complain that media coverage favors Studdard, and some Studdard advocates think Aiken fans are visiting their message boards to monitor voting strategies.)
Many fans point out that the two finalists are friends and wouldn't want any fighting.
"I don't sense (fan) animosity," Seacrest says. "It's more a matter of such passion for one or the other."
If only Ruben fans actually knew the truth...
Find this article at:
Oct 7 04 2:31 PM
Quote:May 20 -- Most weeks there are two competing strains of entertainment on "American Idol": The swinging and swooning of the young contestants and the unvarnished truth of Simon Cowell. Tuesday night, the crooning wasn't all shivers and chills, but Cowell was in fine form.
AFTER CLAY AIKEN'S final performance of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Judge No. 3 said, "If I'm being honest, I think you were a little off tonight." As his fellow judges and the audience started to protest, Cowell added, "I'm saving the best for last: I think that performance could win you the competition."
It's not that Cowell didn't have nice things to say about Aiken's competitor, Alabama native Ruben Studdard.
Although the Velvet Teddy Bear received a flat "it was good" for his rendition of Burt Bacharach's "A House is Not a Home," for his performance of John Lennon's "Imagine," Cowell said, "That was risky but you pulled it off." And for his final song, "Flying Without Wings," Cowell practically raved: "That was fantastic, the best."
Still, there seemed to be an edge for Aiken on Tuesday night.
The Raleigh, N.C., native began with "This Is the Night," an original composition that drew raves from judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul but not from Cowell. "It was like 'American Idol, the Musical,' " he said. "You're capable of better."
Indeed, Aiken, with his weeks of powerhouse crooning, seems to have that extra something to carry him to "Idol" status.
Keeping true to the "American Idol" image, where voice alone just won't do, Cowell noted after Aiken's first song, "What's astonishing is how handsome this show has made you. I don't think I'm being rude. You were ugly when you started and now you're handsome."
Abdul sweetly disagreed. "I always thought you were handsome," she said.
"The Juice": Why I didn't vote
Let's see what America's voters think come Wednesday night, when Fox airs the show's two-hour finale. The "American Idol" winner gets a recording contract, but the runner-up won't be dissapointed.
A few weeks ago, Neil Sedaka said to Aiken, "I'd kill to write and produce your first CD." No one has made much of that comment, certainly not humble Aiken. He's already passed the winning judgment to a higher power. "This is in God's hands now," he said.
Oct 7 04 2:32 PM
Quote:RALEIGH, N.C. -- Will Raleigh's redheaded string bean Clay Aiken, possessed of a startlingly powerful voice, or Ruben Studdard, 350 pounds of stage presence and soulful style, become the man of the moment?
The "American Idol" competition ended Tuesday with Clay and Ruben's final performances.
Phone lines were jammed across the country Tuesday night as American television viewers called in their vote to decide which of the 24-year-old Southern singers will claim the title of "American Idol."
Aiken and Studdard each performed three songs in front of a crowd of 6,000 screaming, sign-holding fans at the Universal City Amphitheatre.
Aiken's first song was an original song appropriately titled "This Is The Night." His second song was "Here, There, Everywhere" by the Beatles.
Saving the best for last, judge Simon Cowell gave Aiken the compliment of the night when he said Aiken's final performance of the night -- a rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" -- was the performance that could win him the competition.
In an interview with WRAL's Lynda Loveland following the competition Tuesday night, Aiken thanked his fans in Raleigh and said he is glad that the 12-week competition is over. He said he felt good about his final performances and admitted he could barely hear the judges comments over the roar of the audience. Aiken said, "It's back to the real world on Thursday."
Not likely. While both Aiken and Studdard shrug off the question of who will win, crowned or not, they have a serious shot at a career because of "American Idol."
"There's stars out there who would die to have this much exposure," Aiken told The Associated Press in an interview last week.
"Everybody in this competition is a winner," said Studdard, of Birmingham, Ala. "I don't think there's too much difference."
During Monday's night's show, Aiken won a coin toss allowing him to choose the order in which he sings Tuesday. Aiken will sing last.
Tuesday morning, fans showed up bright and early in Raleigh at the A.E. Finley YMCA where Aiken was a counselor before embarking on his whirlwind "Idol" run. Local fans, friends and contest winners are also in Los Angeles to cheer on their favorite crooner.
Lawmakers are placing bets on their homeown favorites. U.S. Rep. David Price has entered into a friendly wager with Birmingham Congressman Spencer Bachus. Bachus is putting Alabama barbeque on the line; Price is offering ice cream from Chapel Hill's own Maple View Farm, which has created a special "Croonin' Clay's Carolina Crunch" flavor in his honor.
The winner will be announced during the final show of the season Wednesday night and FOX is inviting the public to come and watch the "Idol" final at the RBC Center.
Admission is free and doors open at 7 p.m. WRAL's Mark Roberts will be on hand for the festivities -- and crowd shots from Raleigh will be shown on national TV. Everyone is encouraged to bring their Clay signs for the cameras!
Some 19 million votes were cast last week when a third contestant was voted off the show. Aiken and Studdard, of Birmingham, Ala. were separated by only 2 percent.
Aiken's appearances on "American Idol" have not only helped his potential career, but they have also benefited the Autism Society of North Carolina and the YMCA -- two organization close to Aiken's heart.
An Autism Society of N.C.spokesperson said it received donations over the weekend ranging from $15 to $500. Other donations have come to the society from events at area shopping malls, like a recent event where people videotaped a message to Aiken for a $1 donation.
The A.E. Finley YMCA in Raleigh, where Aiken was a camp counselor for many years, has received about $2,800 for a campaign to help fund summer programs and camp scholarships.
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