One – his determination to be a person of worth. I guess you could call it stubbornness. The man is bound and determined to have purpose in his life; whether he becomes one of the world’s greatest recording artists and humanitarians, or the beloved principal of some charter school in Podunk, North Carolina.
Two - his way of inspiring such passion and emotion, both good and bad, in so many people. Ones who claim to not like him seem to know every little obscure thing about him, from exact quotes in his interviews to who grooms his dogs. And some of those who love him, whatever their reasons, believe with their full heart that he inspires them to be better people.
A person with the power and opportunity to affect change, who also has the ability to inspire passion, and action; a person with these qualities may be threatening to some people. Sure, he's polarizing, and has been since Idol. But that’s not entirely a bad thing. More on all this later.
There has probably been a mention of Clay in some type of media every day for the past three years. Some are random and totally unrelated to him, except in principle. His name has become synonymous with the idea that “second place is sometimes better.” He is the Avis Rent a Car of current pop culture consciousness.
People, in general, are interested in him; if not his music, just the idea of him. Clay especially fascinates the media. They don’t seem to understand why, which creates a sort of subconscious resentment in some, resulting in many of those mentions being negative in tone. Clay is different, and interesting. He is different because he is succeeding while in defiance of standard celebrity norms. He is interesting because he cannot be labeled.
With his recent stance of refusing to respond to questions about his personal life, he has made himself even more intriguing.
It must be exasperating to those who feel they must always have their finger on the pulse of pop culture, even while dismissing most of it by lazily slapping a label on everything and everyone in the public eye. Some throw around labels like so much rice at a wedding. “Geek, elfin, mama’s boy, crooner,” the media declares. But somehow, those epithets fall short, and are laughable even, because we know he is really more.
Clay Aiken must be a source of frustration for those who believe all things can and must be labeled. For some, if it can’t be labeled, it must not be good. And that must be conveyed to the masses; the unwashed, unhip, middle American, adult female masses.
Using more labels while doing so; such as "blue haired," "teenybopper," "nostalgic moms," and other unoriginal descriptives. As I said in DMCI, the media sometimes appears to be as or more interested in the fans than the fans are in Clay.
People don’t always “get” Clay. Even some fans can’t explain their devotion. Even he doesn’t get why people like him. I’m pretty sure he realizes people love his voice. There are some who respect his humanitarian endeavors, others who admire how he deals with adversity. He is informed, funny, confident, thoughtful, and talented. He has purpose. He makes people happy, or inspires them. There isn’t one answer, and that’s OK. Not all questions in life have only one answer.
The critics often go beyond the pale of just reviewing the music. They are somehow compelled to also review his origins, his looks, and even his fans. Often, I have to laugh at some of the reviews. But that's another blog.Then there are those who don’t understand why others like him. Especially the ones who are the antithesis of what he is about, or who don’t know anything about him except his surface.
Or perhaps they see in him what is missing in themselves.
On American Idol, Clay refused to label himself. Letting the stylists on the show mold him to their will (except for the unfortunate demand that his freckles be covered,) he stood tall in the face of weekly diatribes from Simon (which included, yes, labels, such as "Broadway".) His strategy in the competition seems to have been allowing America to ascribe onto him their own notions of an “idol." A good strategy perhaps, but it fell short.
Or perhaps it was really the logistics of American Idol voting that fell short. You can only put so much water into a bucket, or so many phone calls onto the phone lines, before you lose some in the overflow. Just a theory.
His role from the very beginning was that of underdog. He lost his first audition, so he tried again. He lost the first round, but America brought him back. He did not win the title of “American Idol,” coming in second to his friend Ruben, but he did seem to win the hearts of America.
Enter the Claymates.
To be continued - feedback is welcome.
touchstone (n) a basis for comparison; a reference point against which other things can be evaluated
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