If Clay Aiken seems cheery now, just wait.
"I think the next album should have more positive stuff," the singer said earlier this week. "This last album kind of depressed me, a lot of stuff about heartbreak and stuff that I really don't know too much about. So the next album will hopefully have a little bit more upbeat sound to it."
It could also find Aiken recording with artists outside his genre, as Martina McBride and Faith Hill are both on his collaboration wish list. "I really like that some female country artists have amazing voices and they are about the music and not about the sensationalism," he explained. "A lot of their songs are very pure."
Claymates need not begin planning record-release parties, however, as Aiken is just starting to think about the proper follow-up to Measure of a Man and wants to take a substantial vacation before he returns to the studio.
Aiken, after all, deserves some time off. Between touring, recording a holiday album, writing a book and doing charity work, he's hardly relaxed since his debut hit shelves last fall (see "Clay Aiken Acts, Thinks And Sings His Way Through Measure Of A Man"). And the hectic pace won't let up until next year.
He will be taking off on a monthlong holiday trek called the Joyful Noise Tour, which was initially scheduled to kick off on November 21 in Pasadena, California. However, on Thursday, Aiken postponed the first three dates of the tour — Pasadena, November 22 in Phoenix, and November 23 in El Cajon, California — due to vocal-cord damage resulting from ongoing ear and sinus infections.
Those dates are being rescheduled and the new dates will be announced by next week, according to a statement released by Aiken's publicist. The tour will now start on November 26 in Costa Mesa, California.
Aiken is getting into the holiday spirit even more with his own special, "A Clay Aiken Christmas," which airs December 8 on NBC. The show will feature Aiken performing songs from his holiday album, Merry Christmas With Love, which was released Tuesday, as well as duets with Barry Manilow, Yolanda Adams and "Will & Grace" star Megan Mullally.
"I like that because I got the opportunity to sing with some real amazing performers who I've listened to for a long time," Aiken said.
"I've always loved Christmas music," he added. "I think everybody, no matter what kind of music they like, always has some holiday song that they like a lot."
For Aiken, that song is "Mary Did You Know," which he sings on the album and on the show. "It's one of my favorites simply because it's different," said the singer, who is also part of the "Christmas in Rockefeller Center" special airing November 30 on NBC. "It talks a lot about what Christmas is about, and it's in a minor key. It's a little bit different than most Christmas songs that you hear."
While Merry Christmas With Love is expected to be a smash hit with Aiken's Claymates, the singer is hoping his fans will also be open to buying his book, "Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life," which he wrote while touring over the summer.
"It's a collection of essays about different people that I've met or experiences I've had in my life and what I learned from each experience," Aiken explained. "My mom told me to learn something from every single thing that happens to you, whether it's good or bad."
The book shows various sides of Aiken, including his charitable side, which seems to expand with each week. Last week at a Los Angeles McDonald's, he made a cement handprint that is being auctioned off on eBay to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities as part of the third annual World Children's Day, while this week he was named an ambassador for UNICEF, an organization dedicated to saving, protecting and improving the lives of children around the world.
"It's one of the best parts about the job," Aiken said. "And I think it's a responsibility. You don't get this type of audience and this type of stage just for yourself. I would have done nonprofit work before I did this job, and now I just get to do it on a much larger scale, which makes it really cool and a lot more fun."
[This story was updated at 1:00 p.m. ET on 11.19.2004]