Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Claymates Attack Reviewer of a Clay Aiken Concert

Clay exhorts his Claymates to "kick butt" and they obey. One of the only legitimate media reviews of a Clay Aiken concert was recently written by Ben Wener, a music critic for the Orange County Register. This review was a detailed, thorough account and critique of Clay’s recent concert at the Greek Theater. Here is the review:


” Sunday, August 5, 2007
Clay Aiken not quite a Manilow in the making
Review: The natural entertainer's Greek debut suggests he is on the right road to Vegas, however.
The Orange County Register

I've been telling my mother for years now that Clay Aiken is Vegas-bound.

You remember my mother, don't you? Name's Candy. She's a sweetheart. Ask anyone.

Start with any of the 150 people who got one of the glow sticks she handed out Saturday night at Clay's Greek Theatre debut.

You read that right: 150. That's the count my sister Jennifer gave me, anyway, and she helped pass 'em around. I imagine my mother's gal pals in Clay's Clackhouse were in on the plan, but whoever was chiefly responsible, I did see at least 150 glow sticks shoot up and wave all around me when Clay went into "Because You Loved Me," that evil Celine Dion song, to close his show.

That's a Vegas finish if there ever was one, though not all of Clay's selections this night were so insufferable. Well, "Right Here Waiting" was, but I've always liked Dolly Parton's "Here You Come Again" and Hall & Oates' (and Paul Young's) "Every Time You Go Away," while Elton John's "Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word" and Harry Nilsson's (not Celine's) "Without You" are classics in my book. (Hate how Clay sings those last two, however.)

Also part of his show: two odd, hackneyed medleys. The first was devoted to more than a dozen TV themes, from "Full House" and "Charles in Charge" to "The Jeffersons" and "WKRP in Cincinnati." The second was even sillier. After a painfully drawn-out lead-in about how uncool he is, Clay set about proving it by tackling tunes he facetiously figures might make one cool: "Baby Got Back" and "O.P.P.," for example, and "Yeah!" and "SexyBack," and from the country world "Achy Breaky Heart" and "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy."

It was all a bit befuddling. I know he's doing what he has to for an album (the widely panned "A Thousand Different Ways") he didn't want to make in the first place, and I appreciate the cheekiness of calling this trek The Soft Rock in Hard Place Tour. (Though really, Clay … "Rock"?) But am I mistaken, or wasn't he hoping to avoid such just-a-cute-entertainer pigeonholing?

Not that he's ever succeeded at that. I've always insisted he's Vegas-bound, much to my mother's dismay, not only because his voice is made for Sin City's revue distractions but because he performs like he wants to headline a destination show there before he's 40. Yes, he sought to make this last record an original goopy-glossy production, and instead got a "mandate" (his word for it Saturday night) to cut a remakes-heavy homage to the last quarter-century's most blah ballads. But what was his covers-crazy Jukebox Tour of 2005 all about, then? And what of his three Christmas jaunts since 2004?

Presumably Clay has much more control over his live output than he currently does with recordings, and still he has presented himself as an old-fashioned entertainer, the sort who might regularly put out discs like "A Thousand Different Ways" and then embark on a slow-songs-with-orchestra outing like this one. Only during "Measure of a Man" (which got me to clap when his covers didn't) and his co-written but shakily executed song "Lover All Alone" did Clay seize the opportunity to veer into something different – something to suggest he really wants to be contemporary.

Otherwise, he behaves like Barry Manilow, the soft-pop icon who has undertaken similar tours in the past – and whose routine now plays best in Vegas.

Clay invoked Manilow's name twice Saturday to top off self-effacing quips: "Only me and Barry," that's who gives you nights like this. At times, though, it seemed as if he'd been studying Manilow's playbook, incorporating some old tricks into his shtick.

His talented, naturally engaging supporting vocalists, for instance – Quiana Parler and Angela Fisher – are not unlike Ladyflash, Manilow's toned-down version of Bette Midler's Harlettes. Just as 30 years ago Manilow would detour into his "Very Strange Medley" (a hodgepodge of jingles you'd never have guessed he wrote), so does Clay indulge his TV tribute and "uncool" roundup. He even repeats the master's stock lines, placating husbands who got dragged to his show by reminding them they might get lucky later that night.

That's straight out of Manilow 101 – as is decrying radio with these-kids-today disdain, which Clay did more than once to hearty applause from a largely older and female crowd (a devoted fan base that nonetheless fell far short of filling the Greek). But, see, Manilow can get away with bagging on the new because he once dominated – and still co-rules his domain. He remains a soft-pop maestro, a gifted pianist of considerable variety, and a strong, distinctive vocalist. Clay is just Clay – a nice charmer with an undeniably powerful (albeit hardly to all tastes) voice that is already showing signs of strain and aimlessness when he goes for glory notes these days.

Clay will never be but a fraction as talented as Manilow, something he surely realizes, but you can't deny he's on the right track. He's got a witty way about himself, and banters off-the-cuff exceptionally well. Mind you, he almost talked here as much as he sang – not entirely a bad thing – and his habit of tumbling into and out of songs while chuckling isn't cute so much as unprofessional. But I found his asides more appealing than his songs, just as I enjoy his interviews with Jimmy Kimmel more than his performances whenever he's on.

If he'd just settle into this as a career path – and maybe he is – he still has a very promising future as a new sort of Wayne Newton. That said, Mom, if you don't mind, I think I'll stay in the casino while you catch whatever he puts together next. Let me know if things ever start tightening up.”

On posting this review, the Claymates immediately went into attack mode, posting the most vicious and excessively-unfair personal attacks in responses to this review. Not only did they flood this site with vile comments, but they systematically removed responses that were posted in support of Mr. Wener’s review, and on reposting by the website, repeatedly removed them again and again.
In response to these attacks, Mr. Wener posted this rebuttal, pointing out aspects of his review that were clear to anyone who was not a Claymate.


”Clay Aiken update: Just for the record …
August 7th, 2007 · Post a Comment · posted by bwener

I had my say about Clay Aiken. Thousands of you had your say. Now, despite the risk of further fanning hateful flames, I’d like to respond.

1) I love my mother very, very much, and she knows it. How dare you suggest otherwise – or contend that, simply because I choose to occasionally write about her Clay Aiken obsession (and VERY briefly this time, I might add), I must have some crazy mommy issues to work out. (Who are you people?) Terming it an obsession, by the way, isn’t mocking her – she’s joked about it as such in the past, though she’d prefer to call it a “passion.” But I freely admit I have teased and even given my mom a hard time about her Clay adoration in the past – and in print, when she sometimes would rather I kept her out of the Register’s pages altogether.

To do so, however – to act like her intense devotion doesn’t exist – would be some kind of lie, a betrayal of everything I’ve honestly written about Aiken, with regard to my mom’s superfan loyalty to him. From the second he caught on via “American Idol” four years ago, the ups and downs of his career have been a regular topic between us. That constancy cannot help but get intertwined with my appreciation (or lack thereof) of his career – which is why I’ve openly made it a part of my Clay-related writing all along.

Mind you, I evaluate Clay each time out in the same fashion, just as I would anyone else. I start with as open a mind as possible. (Given that I’ve already heard his albums and seen previous shows, yes, I do have some preconceived notions, as anyone would - critic or not.) I do my best to tune out others’ opinions, lest they influence my own – then I form an argument for or against, or neither, while trying to take into account the audience response I’ve witnessed, particularly if it’s markedly different from my own.

To ignore my mother’s presence at a Clay show – particularly when she’s involved in passing out glow sticks, thus making her presence known – well, that goes beyond mere opinion writing and crosses over into colorful background, details to help people who weren’t there (and who very likely aren’t devoted Clay fans) a sense of what it was like to be at the Greek and see a wave of glow sticks suddenly go up all around you. (My sister would like me to report that there were some thousand or so on site - many more than they handed out.) Either way, were it something someone else sitting near me had instigated, wouldn’t I write about it? Why would it be any different just because my mom had a hand in it? In fact, that’s even more reason to include such a detail – it’s my mom.

But where and how exactly did I ridicule her? I said she’s a sweetheart – “ask anyone.” That was not meant sarcastically. She’s one of those warm and caring spirits whose mere presence tends to instantly put people at ease. In my three decades or so of introducing friends to her, every one of them has at some point come away saying, “Your mom is just the nicest person!” If she’s Debbie Reynolds, all sunshine and smiles, then I’m her Carrie Fisher. Yet nothing comes between us – least of all Clay. I wouldn’t know how to mock her kindness, and I think it’s clear I wasn’t trying to. I was only acknowledging, for the sake of those who have read other chapters of this saga, that my mother was in attendance, handing out glow sticks to friends and strangers, and having a blast.

Read it back again: Do I say anything more about her? I spot only two other mentions (which hardly adds up to “half the review,” as so many contend). One comment reiterates my opening statement, referencing my mother’s dismay that I would consider Clay Vegas-bound, for she, like so many of his staunchest fans, often takes grave offense at that suggestion because they want bigger things for him. (Although what, I wonder, is so horrible about being big in Vegas? I like Wayne Newton just fine, Barry Manilow even more, I love Elton John and have at least respect for Celine Dion’s international appeal. There’s hardly any failure in becoming a Vegas star – Elvis and Sinatra were ones. Clay should be so lucky.)

The only other comment involving my mom is the only one actually directed to her – my parting line, where I tell her that next time I’ll take a pass when it comes to Clay’s show. “Let me know if things ever start tightening up,” I added, for I’m not now nor have I ever been out-and-out anti-Clay. I don’t see the miraculous gifts so many of his fans do, but I have always taken notice of his affable charm and vocal prowess. I don’t put it past him to pull together a better show someday – something I trust my mother to notify me about when the time comes.

How it is that all of this was misconstrued – that for whatever reason I was somehow out to get my mother with this review – is positively beyond me. I can’t help but think that the people who have been saying loathsome personal things about me (”fantastically unwarranted,” as my wife Roxanne put it) are still carrying baggage from the column I wrote last year, which was unquestionably more personal and mom-centric. I can’t help but think they were looking for a way to harangue me, simply for not liking their hero. But that’s all I did – criticized Clay the way I would anyone else I feel isn’t up to snuff. (I doubt any of these readers would have nearly so many problems with, say, my recent slam of Fergie.)

“Writing reviews just to trash your mother is a very sad thing,” one commenter wrote. I agree. Really glad I didn’t do that to her.

2) “I hope your superiors call you on this drivel that does not pass for a review,” one ranter wrote. “”If you’re getting paid to write reviews, you are not doing your job, at least in this case.” Then she adds: “I haven’t seen any of your other attempts.” Thanks for keeping up. But to put your mind at ease, my “superiors” haven’t the slightest problem with my review. One editor even praised it, and thought the details about my mother were sweet. It’s incredible, I know, but critics typically aren’t fired because they don’t like something everyone else does.

Also, regarding this business of comments at the end of the review disappearing and reappearing and disappearing again – I have nothing to do with this, and have been doing everything I can to restore any and all comments when they get deleted for no good reason, whether they’re for or against me. Everyone has the right to sound off – to fiddle with that forum would be to condone censorship. It is, however, a self-policing tool - two strikes and the comment is removed. Our web editors are trying to restore comments whenever they are unnecessarily deleted.

However, I so far cannot explain how the vote count (something else I have no part in) went from being 400-plus for and 400-plus against to now being, at last check, 82-29 in favor of the ayes. I wonder if that counter rolls over at 500.

3) The two charges of inaccuracy or gross unfairness that have been lobbed my way involve Barry Manilow and dry SoCal air. About the first: Many felt I should have known that Manilow (apparently on “Oprah” or in some other interview) has said that he thinks Clay has a much better voice than his own. To which I say: Good for Barry, though I wonder if he was just being modest, as he often is. Regardless, just because Barry thinks Clay sings better than him doesn’t mean I do. (Differ all you like.)

As for the dry SoCal air concern, some readers felt I should have been kinder about the evident strain in Clay’s upper register because he was having difficulty combating the outdoor air (most of his other shows had been indoors). If he mentioned something about it at the show, I didn’t catch it – I’m human. Still, such conditions are what singers face from time to time. The best overcome such occasional adversity. That such a young performer with routinely had wobbliness on his higher notes tells me something. It’s worth singling out.

4) “If you don’t like him, why bother writing about him?” Again, I don’t hate him. And to let hundreds of his angriest fans browbeat me into never considering him again lets them win. I will continue to judge his work when it seems necessary. I’ll stop bothering when and if it seems everyone else has, too.

… Ben
StumbleUpon Clay Aiken update: Just for the record … Stumble it!

This entry was posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2007 at 1:10 am and is filed under Sounding Off: News & Musings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.”

This is a prime example of how the Claymates operate and why they are unlike any other celebrity’s fanbase. In fact, they more closely resemble a cult, and their obsessive, rabid defense of a pop singer who has perpetrated a fraudulent image has reached a level of sickness and viciousness unprecedented in the history of the music industry. Mr. Wener is to be applauded for his honesty, fairness and integrity in writing both his review and his rebuttle, and for his staunch defense of his opinions in the face of such harassment. Sadly, it's not just critics who draw the wrath of the Claymates, it's anyone who they perceive to be negative about Clay, whether real or not. Worse, Clay boasts about the Claymates' bullying in public.

Clay, stop encouraging your Claymates to "kick butt" in your defense before someone really gets hurt. You are on record as promoting this behavior and will be held liable if any harm comes to anyone.

Claymate Enters Billboard Contest To Write Clay Aiken Concert Review?

The Claymates are enraptured by a positively glowing review of Clay Aiken’s recent concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles, written by Dave Chung, whom they believe to be an official reviewer for Billboard magazine. His review is posted on Billboard’s “Mobile Beat Blog”:


Hundreds of live shows, 26 bloggers, 17 cities, one summer. Billboard.com has turned over this concert season to a small ar
my of our readers. Armed with a blogging-ready LG camera phone, who will come up with the coolest coverage of live summer? Come back often to check out their latest photos and reviews and you judge.“

Here is his review:


On reading this review, it becomes clear immediately that the writer, Dave Chung, is a Clay Aiken fan (who owns Clay’s CD’s) and a reader who recently won one of the 26 spots as amateur reviewer by entering the “Mobile Beat Competition” contest:


”Complete 2 blog 4 Billboard w/LG Phone Welcome! This is your chance to enter to win press access to some of the hottest music acts in the country and a sleek new camera phone from LG. Here at Billboard, we'll choose dozens of winners to attend local concerts, festivals and shows for free throughout the summer in our Mobile Beat competition. If you are a lucky winner, you will receive up close and personal Billboard press access to concerts in your area. What you will need to do for us is take photos at the show and send us your review for posting on our special Billboard blog page. Seriously, how cool is that!?!? Just follow these simple instructions on how to enter and you could end up with one of the hottest prizes of the year. * First off, get creative and send us the coolest photo mashup you can come up with - and yes, they have to be your photos and yes, they need to be safe. Keep them clean too, please. * Then, in 100 words or less, tell us why you want to be a Billboard blogger in our Mobile Beat contest. * We'll then choose a bunch of winners and mid-June they will be announced and ready to hit the hot summer concert circuit. The only requirements are that you need to be at least 18 years or older and ready to deliver mini reviews and photos from your brand new LG camera phone on a regular basis. Good luck!”

Furthermore, Dave joined a Clay Aiken fan message board before writing his review, suggesting that he was perhaps more than a casual fan or wanted to make friends with members of Clay’s large and extremely enthusiastic Internet fanbase.


Offline Offline

Posts: 10

My review of Clay's Concert in Los Angeles for Billboard.com
« on: August 05, 2007, 06:22:35 PM »

Hi Claymaniacs!

Thanks for all your help in preparing me for my first Clay Aiken concert this week Smile I had a great time at the show!

I am a writer for Billboard.com and I'm currently in a blogging competition covering concerts all summer long for Billboard. I'd love it if you guys could check out my review and leave a comment on the Billboard page (one of the ways the competition is being judged) to let me know you've stopped in! It's such a great community here on Claymaniacs and I'd really appreciate all your guys' support! I hope it'll be some great exposure for Clay and I think it's a fun read as well.

http://billboard.blogs.com/mobile_beat/2007/08/clay-aiken-the-.html#more I've covered a bunch of other shows this summer, which can be found here http://billboard.blogs.com/mobile_beat/post_DC.html as well. Thanks so much Claymaniacs and see you at the next show! Sincerely, Dave Chung”

In reality, Dave Chung is not “a writer for Billboard.com” in the sense of being a legitimate staff member, but he is simply someone who won a position as an amateur reviewer in the “Mobile Beat” contest run by Billboard to recruit readers of Billboard magazine and a possible Claymate. Dave has actively promoted this review on various Internet sites, including a Carrie Underwood blog where he wrote the following:


” Hey Carriefans!

I checked out fellow American Idol alumnus (though he didn’t win like our Carrie) Clay Aiken’s show in Los Angeles this past weekend for Billboard.com. It wasn’t quite the experience that it was with Carrie’s show a couple weeks back, but I had a great time!

I think it’s a fun read, perhaps not as action packed as my Carrie write up, but I’d appreciate it if you guys could check it out and leave a comment to let me know you stopped in!

Clay Aiken Concert Report

Thanks guys!”

Dave is obviously an enthusiastic Carrie fan. It’s understandable why Dave was so excited by Carrie’s concert, since he got to meet her. Dave’s recap of Carrie’s concert can be found here:


So, unlike the more tempered review by Ben Wener, a respected, professional music critic and writer at the Orange County Register ( http://www.ocregister.com/entertainment/clay-aiken-manilow-1798759-night-vegas
), the Claymates are lauding the review by Dave Chung and regarding it as an official music industry review of Clay’s concert by Billboard magazine.

Sorry, Claymates. Although Dave’s reviews are certainly fun to read and enthusiastically written, they do not qualify as legitimate music industry reviews. Instead, these reviews should be regarded as no more or less than they are – amateur recaps written by readers of Billboard magazine recruited to cover the various summer concerts.

So Claymates, by all means, shower Dave with your praise and compliments, and give his reviews lots of hits. That will go a long way towards helping him win the “Mobile Beat” competition. It looks like Dave made a very wise choice in attending Clay’s concert and writing a review that he knew would be so popular to Claynation. ;)