It's still the holiday season in Judge Lacey Worrell's heart. In fact, we've had to speak to her several times about taking down the mistletoe.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas!
A Clay Aiken Christmas originally ran as an NBC special in December 2004, but given Clay Aiken's massive teen fan base, a DVD release of the show is a marketing no-brainer. Aiken, the runner-up to American Idol Ruben Studdard in the closest and most exhilarating American Idol finale ever, appears to be completely at ease as he moves easily through standards such as "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Silver Bells," with guest star Quiana Parler. Aiken is also joined by special guests Barry Manilow and Yolanda Adams, who perform solos and also join Aiken on "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town" and "Because It's Christmas (For All the Children)." Manilow's upbeat interpretation of "Happy Holidays" and "White Christmas" is a welcome addition to a show that is too slow-paced at times.
Aiken does fine work on the underappreciated standard "The Christmas Waltz," as well as "Mary Did You Know," a song that, when sung by Kenny Rogers, makes me cringe and want to hide under the couch. Aiken's rendition is a huge improvement, and the preface he gives the song is touching; it is to his credit that he gives off an aura of sincerity, when on countless other Christmas specials the preludes are often gooey and overly sentimental.
A Clay Aiken Christmas is a passable special and is sure to please Aiken's hardcore fans, but I much preferred the energy of the television special Fox ran in December 2004 that featured all three American Idols to date: Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, and Fantasia Barrino. It was more high-energy, and it was nice to see the three past winners come together and share the stage. Both specials, however, do mention God quite frequently, something that, with the commercialization of Christmas and the fear of offending nonbelievers, is quite a bold move.
It makes sense that Clay would have his own show apart from the other Idols, given his fan base and distinctive singing style. The set design of A Clay Aiken Christmas is far superior to that of the Fox special as well. There is a flickering fireplace, lush drapes around the windows, even an electric train in the background. The audience is seated on couches scattered around the set, which is a nice touch. To add to the overall experience, the picture quality is especially beautiful on DVD, given the fact that this was originally a television broadcast, and the colors are extremely sharp. Fans will also enjoy the opportunity to skip to their favorite songs using the DVD's menu.
There are some curious choices in terms of costuming, however. Aiken is outfitted in a lime-green crewneck sweater, and Manilow even wears a fuchsia dress shirt; it is obvious the costume designer did not want to use the traditional red and green. But hey, it's Christmas, the only time of year red and green are considered complementary colors. It's okay to use them in a holiday special.
The 11-minute behind-the-scenes footage is uninspired. Fans will enjoy the fact that Aiken sings "Sleigh Ride" over the opening, but other than that, this featurette is a mishmash of warmups for the backup singers and bits and pieces of the dress rehearsals. It is difficult to hear what individuals are saying at times, and it appears that this footage was thrown together for the sole purpose of being able to claim that the DVD contains a special feature. It would have been far more interesting, and more of a gift to his fans, if Clay could have been interviewed at length about his preparation for the show and the process of song selection, and if he had shared more detailed memories of past Christmases. As it stands, aside from the brief comments Clay makes to introduce his songs, the entire DVD gives fans little insight into Clay's persona.
Although I was squarely in Ruben's corner during the Ruben-Clay finale that captivated America, it bears mentioning that Clay is a technically perfect singer in terms of hitting and holding notes. I just didn't find him all that interesting, and when I was fourteen I don't think I would have felt any differently. Clay is a very good singer, but he just doesn't do it for me. There, I said it. Now let's cue the sound of my computer crashing as I receive angry emails from "Clay-mates" worldwide, angry that I am not as captivated by their hero as they are.
That said, while it may not win him any new fans, this DVD will please established fans to no end.
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