Congratulations, Clay Aiken!

Clayaikengayso_lThis just in: Clay Aiken is gay. And in other news, the Earth revolves around the Sun, American Idol is a massive hit for Fox, and Paris Hilton is inexplicably famous. Okay, okay, I don’t mean to be dismissive, but on some levels, Aiken’s revelation on the cover of People magazine that fatherhood has prompted him to publicly acknowledge what most of us have suspected for a long time now is pretty much the "so what?" announcement of the year.

And yet I also recognize that as a milestone in the life of Mr. Aiken — and perhaps in the lives of the thousands and thousands of folks across this nation who, for whatever reason, have two very small, very significant words ("I’m gay") caught somewhere in their throats, or further down in the knots of their stomachs — the People cover is, in fact, a big deal. Of course, in the coming days and weeks, we’ll hear folks yell things like, "keep it to yourself, Clay, we don’t want to hear about your private life!" Yet I suspect such vitriol will come from the same folks who have never once railed against Elisabeth Hasselbeck or Kathy Lee Gifford or Kelly Ripa for yapping incessantly about their husbands and kids — their private lives! — on daytime talk shows.

I wish we lived in a world where Aiken’s announcement wasn’t considered brave, but rather mundane. I wish we lived in a world where the only message-board debates about Mr. Aiken involved the quality (or lack thereof) of his music, rather than what pronouns he selects when he’s singing a love song. And part of me — the selfish, out and proud, pop-culturally obsessed, Idol fanatic side of me — wishes Clay had opted to come out back in 2003, before he released his debut disc, Measure of a Man.

You see, Aiken’s announcement that he’s gay comes at the lowest point of his pop popularity. That 2003 debut disc moved 2.8 million copies according to Nielsen SoundScan; his 2004 Christmas album sold 1.4 million copies; A Thousand Different Ways (released in 2006) barely went gold, selling 528,000; and his latest, On My Way Here, has moved only 152,000 copies since its May 6, 2008 release date. So as a test balloon — can an openly gay American Idol contestant hit multiplatinum success on a major label at the beginning of his career? — we’re going to have to wait a little while.

So what about Clay’s prospects on the charts post-coming out? I’m guessing they might actually go up. Any fan of his who’d abandon him over the People story probably jumped ship around the time the tabloids ran what was allegedly grainy web cam footage of a shirtless Clay looking for love on the Internet. The diehard Claymates, I’d imagine, will stick with their man. And those like me, who’ve never dug the former Idol runner-up’s musical output, well, we’ve just received a reason to listen to the guy’s next project with open ears. Surely, a newfound emotional honesty can only help his artistry, no? (Oh, and if you haven’t seen the People cover, do check it out after the jump!)


A review of On My Way Here

The 15 Best American Idol Performances Ever

addCredit(“Clay Aiken: Amy Sussman/Getty Images”)


Comments (164 total) Add your comment
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  • SJP

    Totally agree with you. No one is surprised, I don’t think, and I’m not really a fan of Clay’s music, so it makes no difference to me as a ‘fan.’ But I’m proud of him for doing it, it sounds like it was a hard thing for him to do.
    But mostly, I also look forward to the day when this is really not news at all. Unless it’s someone I’m dating, sexuality is totally irrelevant to me.

  • John

    I’m proud of Clay. However gay he may be it still takes a lot of courage to come out to the masses. I really believe that each celebrity coming-out makes a difference. One day the coming-out stories will be quietly moved to the sidebars, and hopefully one day will not be controversial news at all. Thanks for the post, Slezak!

  • Raven_Moon

    I’m happy that Clay finally came out. Good for him. I’ve never been a fan of his music, but I still wish him well. I know we aren’t there yet, but I think these announcements are becoming a little more mundane. NPH, Lance Bass, now Clay. I think people (unfortunately though, not everyone) are becoming more open-minded about these things, thanks in part to these people who honestly put themselves out there, which makes it more common & perhaps, gives someone else the courage to be openly honest about who they are. I, too, hope for the the day when admitting you’re gay isn’t news.

  • Jason

    It is not “courageous” to come out only when your career is in free-fall. Clay is not the first one to go this cynical route, and he won’t be the last.
    There are real courageous queers out there. We don’t have to settle for fake ones.

  • alexandra

    i guess i just don’t get why gay artists, etc, have to come out on a magazine cover. no straight musicians or actors have to proclaim, “i’m straight!” on the cover of people. so why should the gays? and when people like perez hilton press artists to come out – wouldn’t it be better if it didn’t matter? i get that maybe these gay artists will prove to be an inspiration to younger kids who are afraid to come out, but i think that the public proclamations make it more of a big deal than it is. i mean, honestly…so clay is gay. big deal. like we didn’t know that before he ‘came out’? it doesn’t affect me in the slightest. same thing with NPH or t.r. knight – i like them for their work, not their personal lives. i think celebs are better off keeping their personal lives personal. straight or gay.

  • Winona

    I’m glad he finally came out, but disappointed that he took so long to do so. Good for him, though, to finally be honest with all of us; I’m proud of him. But as others have said, it really shouldn’t matter.

  • Liddy

    As much as I loathe his music, I am proud of him for finally coming out. I just wish he could have been braver sooner. Does this really come as a surprise to anyone? I figured it out a long time ago when he refused to give an answer. And then had a baby with his friend.

  • Tony

    Alexandra – If you haven’t seen the video of Michael Stipe applauding Peter Buck and Mike Mills for being brave enough to come out as straight, you need it check it out. His deadpan delivery is priceless.

  • Stef

    Who cares when he “should have” done it? He did it when it was right for him. Good for him, and I am sure he will be a wonderful father.

  • Not Surprised

    I’m not surprised that Clay came out, but I wish he would have felt comfortable enough to do it years ago. He always refused to admit or deny, but that made the issue bigger than it needed to be, especially since most people had him figured out. I feel bad for the fans who have insisted for years that he was not gay.
    I also look forward to the day when people don’t have to have a cover story coming-out announcement. No more closets and people can just be who they are and love who they want without hiding it.

  • t3hdow

    Not to belittle Aiken or his sexual orientation in any manner, but was this a surprise to anyone? Anyone? No? Okay, let’s move on.

  • Jason

    Not Surprised, you “feel bad for the fans who have insisted for years that he was not gay”?!?!?
    You win the prize for Idiot Of The Day

  • bb

    As a Clay fan (and gay man), who has seen Mr. Aiken in concert, it was indeed very brave of him to come out. His fans are mostly middle aged lonely (and/or married and lonely women) who crave a sensitive man to love. Most of them now will jump ship because they were delusional to begin with.
    He is a great talent and I’m sure we have not seen the last of him. (Spamalot again anyone?)

  • aliya

    I completely agree with every word of this post. Thanks, Slezak.

  • Brandon

    The straightest man in the world says it’s okay to be gay.

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