Measure of a Man

CLAY AIKEN: Measure of a Man (RCA)It's hard to believe it has already been over six months since America sat with baited breath, waiting to hear who the next American Idol would be. Fans of the show flocked in droves to watch the finale. When the results were finally in Ruben 'The Velvet Teddy Bear' Studdard was crowned king crooner… but not without a fair share of protests. A rumored to be small percentage separated the "winner" from the "loser," which left many irate Clay fans vowing the show was most certainly not over.

Fast forward a few months and it seems one can't go anywhere without seeing the red headed charmer, Clay Aiken. Mr. Studdard, meanwhile, is still waiting for his ship to come in while fans are still waiting for his upcoming record, Soulful. In the interim, Aiken has been holding court. From the cover of the Rolling Stone, to numerous promotional television appearances, diehard Aiken fans (better known as 'Clay mates') are getting their chance to gloat.

If the televised appearances and the glossy interviews are the key ingredients to success, Measure of a Man is most definitely the icing on the cake. The first single, the slightly up tempo torch song "Invisible," fits Aiken perfectly--making the likes of straight laced singers like Richard Marx turn at least a pale shade of green. A great opener, "Invisible" surprisingly stands alone, as none of the other tracks match the enthusiasm of the album's kickoff track.

This is not to say that Measure of a Man is a bad debut, to the contrary. In fact, the album scored the top spot the week it debuted and it is still going strong as a major chart contender. The main problem with this record is that its title is actually a bit haunting since the collection is not an accurate measure of Aiken's musical capabilities or live, 'bringing down the house' type riveting performances. Songs like "I Will Carry You," "I Survived You" and even the uplifting title track "Measure of a Man" are cleverly crafted, but also are nearly identical--each song rehashing the same sentiments along with nearly the same sentences.

Absent from the collection is the spine tingling staying power of a "Bridge Over Troubled Water" or a fun upbeat vibe such as "Build Me Up Buttercup," neither of which are originals, but versions that somehow still managed to make us forget there were ever other singers behind the songs. The illuminating "This is the Night" also surfaces, a great, fitting tune that embodies the feeling the night Aiken won in the hearts of so many of his fans, despite what the numbers said.

Although the album scores low in terms of originality, Aiken remains rather unaffected and refreshing, and dare I say, downright likable. There's just something about Aiken's geek to chic demeanor that many Americans feel like they had a hand in making the man. And no matter how vanilla these songs are, Aiken still manages to inject life into them. It's just a shame that the slick producing team didn't take as much time with the music as they did with the management of a man who most definitively deserves his success, despite Measure of a Man, which, quite honestly, doesn't quite measure up.

© 2003 Janet Branagan
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