With several platinum records to his credit, Clay Aiken is the most prosperous loser in the history of American Idol. On the show's 2003 finale, Aiken, a former North Carolina choirboy, came in second place to Ruben Studdard — a decision surprising many Idol fanatics (and so-called "Claymates") and even prompted rumors of voting fraud. Less than a month later, Aiken vindicated himself with the release of "Bridge Over Troubled Water"/ "This Is The Night" which debuted at Number One, and became the best-selling single of the year — and he was just getting started.
His first album, Measure of A Man (Number One, Top 200), followed a few months later, and sold more than 600,000 copies in its first week. Produced with the aid of more than 30 songwriters, Man is absolutely risk-free with singles like "Invisible" (Number 37), "The Way," "I Will Carry You" (Number 25, Adult Contemporary) and the Neil Sedaka cover "Solitaire."
In 2004, Aiken toured with fellow Idol star Kelly Clarkson, and released Merry Christmas With Love (Number One, Top 200), a seasonal collection that would spur a yearly holiday tour and a follow-up EP, All Is Well — Songs for Christmas.
He also made numerous TV appearances, guest-starring on everything from Scrubs to Days to of Our Lives, and even had an on-air semi-spat with daytime talk-show host Kelly Ripa; the latter incident mobilized Aiken's zealous fanbase, the Claymates, who are quick to spring to his defense online, as evidenced by the gargantuan discussion pages dedicated to his Wikipedia entry (where the singer's sexuality is analyzed at great length).
Aiken's next studio album, 2006's A Thousand Different Ways (Number Two, Top 200), consisted mostly of cover songs, including a take on Badfinger's 1970 hit "Without You" (Number 28 Adult Contemporary) and an impossibly bathetic version of Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings." Ways didn't perform as well as Measure of a Man.
In May of 2008 Aiken released On My Way Here, which debuted at Number Four on the Top 200 chart with the title track reaching Number 26 most-tellingly on the Hot Adult Contemporary chart. In August of 2008 Aiken became a father with producer Jaymes Foster. Also in 2008 Aiken performed on Broadway playing Sir Robin in the Monty Python spin-off Spamalot.