By People Staff
November 10, 2003 12:00 PM

Clay Aiken

The Al Gore of pop—if a couple of hanging chads had fallen his way, he would have beaten Ruben Studdard on American Idol—finishes first this time, beating the Velvet Teddy Bear to the stores with this not bad album. If you had access to an all-star team—including songwriters for Celine Dion, producers like J Records chief Clive Davis and American Idol‘s backstage mastermind Simon Fuller—you might be able to put out a decent disc too, but there’s no denying Aiken has chops. His fans will devour this one like blueberry pie.

Predictably, the producers keep the schmaltz pouring and their knobs turned to optimistic power ballad at all times. Aiken’s tendency to oversell a song is indulged to the hilt, but he also displays a tender touch when he needs it on the quieter, more melancholy tracks. The instrumentation plows along with a few Elton Johnish piano flourishes and a sprinkling of light rock guitar.

As Simon Cowell never tired of pointing out, this recovering geek doesn’t project attitude. His aw-shucks personality is mirrored by the bland lyrics, which recycle standard themes of love and heartbreak. Aiken has said he’s never been in love, and while his voice has impressive range, it’s hard to locate any genuine emotion in it. Keep an eye on him, though. Clay has a knack for reshaping himself, and he could stay hot as long as his flatiron does.