2 min

Achin’ clay

Pixie-man's bland fest

Credit: Xtra files

It’s 1960s night on American Idol 2. Five competitors left. Clay Aiken, the pixie-man belter from North Carolina, has just nailed “Build Me Up, Buttercup.” Neil Sedaka, this evening’s guest judge, gushes, “Clay, you sing like Andre Agassi plays tennis. Perfection. And I would kill to write and produce your first CD.”

Well, Sedaka’s death threat made little impact. The job of moulding the carrot-topped Clay into a recording artist fell to Clive Davis instead. Too bad he and his horde of hit-smiths (Desmond Child, Lindy Robbins, Clif Magness to name a few) turned what should have been a retro-Vegas romp into a soft-pop bland-fest entitled Measure Of A Man.

Of course, the assignment could not have been easy. Aiken is a TV phenomenon; you have to see Clay to love Clay. Watching his transformation from gangly karaoke clown to polished crooner was breathtaking. Unfortunately, the people behind Clay’s recording debut have demonstrated little understanding of, or affection for, their performer. Take the first track, “Invisible.” It’s one of the least flaccid renderings on the CD, but its puerile stalker theme has nothing to do with Clay’s essence. When he quivers, “If I was invisible… / Wait, I already am,” the lyric resonates all too sadly.

That said, it’s still possible for a Clay fan to eke pleasure out of this limp affair. Here are some suggestions. Listen to Clay’s second track “I Will Carry You” and, as you ponder such nonsense as, “When the stars go blind/ And the darkness starts to flood your eyes/ I will carry you,” imagine he’s singing to Ruben. If you have a keen ear, switch to track five the power-ballad “No More Sad Songs” and locate the section of melody borrowed from Abba’s “Take A Chance On Me.”

Should you start feeling fidgety, unfold the liner notes. You’ll notice that Danielle Brisebois (who played the little girl the Bunkers adopted) co-wrote the vapid “Perfect Day.” Now turn the page over, fold it in half and, as you savour the title track, you can ogle Clay straddling an open-backed chair.

For those of you who like to cut a rug, there are two tracks you can almost dance to: “When You Say You Love Me,” an appropriately youthful wad of bubble-gum rock; and “Touch,” a vaguely Latin seduction song with intermittent patches of rhythm.

So what’s next for our Clay? Certainly he’d make a lovely Joseph in Dreamcoat. Or maybe, as a friend predicts, he’ll play Seymour opposite Ruben’s Audrey-Two in Little Shop Of Horrors. And if, perchance, another CD is in the works, let’s hope the decision-makers get with the program. Neil Sedaka’s packin’.


Clay Aiken.

BMG. $13.99.