Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Made my coffee like I always do

I was pretty much rooting for Clay Aiken from his first appearance on American Idol Season 2. His voice is amazing and, though it may be a bit more Broadway than traditional pop, it can be harnessed towards making excellent pop songs. He finished second that season, behind Ruben Studdard, but so far has had more commercial success. More important than commercial success, though, is the quality of his songs.

Invisible--Yes, I know the lyrics here are sort of stalkerish. I still love this song. I was shocked--SHOCKED!--to discover that this was a cover of a song by Irish group D-side. And, based on the low-quality 30 second clip I found of the original online, pretty much all that changed was the vocal. I would never have guessed, though; the song fits Clay's voice perfectly. It's mid/uptempo pop, soaring in bits, and, even if Clay never sounds particularly heartbroken, his voice is so smooth and melodic that the song is listenable just because of what it sounds like, not what it's saying.

When You Say You Love Me--another mid to up-tempo song. Not as soaring as Invisible, and probably not single-worthy, but with a bit of a catchy chorus. I think I heard that this song was written by Darren Hayes (ex-Savage Garden, now a soloist), though I'm not sure if he performed it (maybe it was a B-side somewhere, or under consideration for his use? I don't think it was on either of his albums), but I would be interested to hear his version, if he did.

The Way--more ballad than either of the previous two songs. Although you're not really hearing the Broadway-ness of Clay's voice throughout most of this song (though there are parts like that near the end), the song still works, which I think shows that Clay could be a really good popstar.

Build Me Up Buttercup--live, from American Idol. AI is so filled with ballads that I was always hoping for a more uptempo song from Clay so he would stand out more. The night he performed this song, he also performed Solitaire, which was probably his most praised performance for the entire season. However, I love his version of Buttercup; I'm generally skeptical of covers, but I'd love a version of this on his next album. (Credit for this song goes to FCA Media; now, if only that site could find a clear and complete copy of Clay singing Kyrie, I'd be really happy).

Continuing the theme of AI2 finalists who've aimed themselves at the Adult Contemporary chart, we also have Kimberley Locke, the third place finisher. The second season of American Idol was its best, I think--the top three finalists (Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken, and Kimberley Locke; if I remember correctly, they were all in the same semifinal--Clay only made it to the final because of the wildcard show) were all really good but also interesting. Rubben and Clay were probably always the favorites, but as time went on, someone began to challenge them: Kimberley Locke. She showed consistent improvement each week--so much so that, though she ultimately lost to Clay and Rubben, she was a legitimate threat to them.

8th World Wonder--This song never quite took off as it should have. Besides on American Idol, I only ever heard it once, inside a store in a mall. It's good pop, more like Clay's "Invisible" than Kelly's "Miss Independent" (just in terms of subgenre of pop). Mid to uptempo, and Kimberley's voice is pretty powerful in the chorus.

Wrong--This is just a little more like "Miss Independent"--the sort of angry chick sound (yes, I know Kelly isn't really mad in that song, but it's an angry-sounding delivery). The beginning is a little deceptive, as it sounds like it's going to maybe go ballad, but by the time Kimberley's voice hits, you can tell this is no ballad. As much as I love Clay and see a lot of potential in him, I think Kimberley actually made the stronger first album; it's more diverse and has more personality (I think "Invisible" was a very strong single, but the rest of the album blurs together and doesn't have many stand-out high points). That makes it a shame, then, that I don't really like her new single, Supawoman; it's all right, but, since it's pretty much just a generic R&B song, her new direction means I probably won't like her next album as much.

To buy Clay's album, Measure of a Man, go here (physical) or here (digital; not a direct link--you'll have to search for his name). For Kimberley's album, One Love, go here (physical) or here (digital).

Next up: finishing up American Idol with a quick look at two women from seasons 3 and 4. Then, finally, we can move beyond the UK and US!


Paul said...

hmmm to clay - he just seems so creepy and uncool to me, although i prefered him to Rueben... i can't think of the song from his debut album that i thought should have been a single.. think it was perfect day?

LOVE Kimberley Locke - i thought 8th World Wonder was a work of genius and adored her debut album... supawoman ain't great but i'll still check her out...

Jessica said...

Hello! Darren did originally record that song himself and it was a special bonus track on his Spin album which could only be found when you went on a special part of his website while you had the CD in your computer. I haven't heard Clay's version (I tend to avoid anything involving him, I find him a bit disturbing I'm afraid) but I can say without a shadow of a doubt that Darren's is better. I'll send it to you if you give me your e-mail.

Poster Girl said...

Not surprised by the reaction to Clay...maybe he's an acquired taste, or...well, I do know a lot of Americans who don't like him, too, so I suppose that can't be it (though I would agree with the uncool comment). Oh well :) And I second the big vote of approval for 8th World Wonder.

Jessica: I'd love to hear Darren's version! I have a feeling you're right about it being better than Clay's (even beyond Darren's general amazing-ness, the song doesn't seem to quite fit Clay). My e-mail's, and thanks!

split chick said...

Hey - just discovered this place from Spark Pop. it's great! Anyway, I love Clay, which is a rare occurance in these areas of pop blogs and stuff. He can be considered uncool but so is about 90% of my music collection.

Paul - while I can't actually read your mind for what song it was, I always thought "Perfect Day" was single worthy from the first time I heard it, and am still puzzled to this day that it was apparently never even considered.

Poster Girl said...


I haven't listened to Perfect Day in a while, so I'll have to go do that. I just Wikipedia'ed Clay and was surprised to learn that "The Way" made it all the way up to #4 on the US charts--I don't remember ever hearing it on the radio, and I only ever saw the music video once; maybe that was just based on physical sales? Either way, though, if it really did do that well, I'm surprised at the lack of a followup single.

I'm still excited for his next album, whenever it sees the light of day.

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