Three years ago, Clay Aiken made it to the final round of the "American Idol" talent show. He placed second in the competition and earned millions of fans, known as "Claymates." The 27-year-old singer has just released his third album, "A Thousand Different Ways."
"When I See You Smile" is one of 10 well-known songs from the 1970s, '80s and '90s Clay Aiken recorded for his new album, A Thousand Different Ways. In addition to the 1989 Number One single by Bad English, Clay covered other popular hits made famous by Foreigner, Bryan Adams, Dolly Parton, Celine Dion, Elton John and others. He also included four original tracks. Among them is a song Clay co-wrote, another was written by Desmond Child and New Jersey rocker Jon Bon Jovi.
Some critics believe it was risky for Clay to make an album of cover tunes so early in his career. Clay admits he was hesitant at first, and originally planned to include only one or two remakes on the collection. But, as Aiken explains, RCA Music Group chairman Clive Davis, had another idea.
"We realized as we were picking new songs that they just don't make songs like they used to," Aiken says. "Then, eventually Clive Davis said, 'you know what - let's just do an album full of the greatest love songs ever.'"
Clay was born and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he taught children with disabilities before auditioning for the 2003 season of American Idol. Fame came quickly. Combined sales of his first two albums exceed three million copies in the U.S. Clay sums up his experiences during the past three years this way:
"An education. Easily, an education. I mean, (going from) middle America to Hollywood - big difference," he says.
Clay is arguably one of the most successful American Idol contestants, but his overnight success led to physical problems, including panic attacks. Perhaps adding to his stress were tabloid stories focusing on his sexual orientation. When the accusations began a couple years ago, Clay denied that he was gay. Now, he has only this to say:
"What I do in my private life is nobody's business anymore, period. You know, it's one thing to try to be open and talk to people and try to share as much as I can," Aiken says. "And, of course, I want to do that. But, at some point, it just becomes really rude. You know what, I'm not spending my time with this anymore. This is a waste of my time."
Clay recently left California and moved back to his home state of North Carolina, where he feels his private life is more guarded.
To promote his new album, Clay is making numerous television appearances, but he'll wait until early 2007 to begin a concert tour. In December, however, Clay will perform songs from his 2004 holiday album in 16 cities throughout the U.S.
The first single from A Thousand Different Ways is Clay's version of Harry Nilsson's 1972 Number One hit, "Without You."