This is the night for Clay Aiken, not May 21, when Ruben Studdard edged him out to win "American Idol."
On Wednesday (June 18), the former Raleigh, North Carolina, student had to like what he saw in what is perhaps a more accurate reading of America's pop-music radar — his trouncing of the Velvet Teddy Bear on the singles chart.
Aiken's "This Is the Night"/"Bridge Over Troubled Water" single sold 392,975 copies last week, according to SoundScan, beating Studdard's "Flying Without Wings"/"Superstar" by about 107,000 copies. Interestingly, Ruben won the "American Idol" competition by about 130,000 votes.
Both finalists are big winners, though, smoking Kelly Clarkson's 236,000 copies sold of "Before Your Love"/"A Moment Like This" in her first week on the chart last fall (see " 'American Idol' Kelly Clarkson Crushes Singles Chart Competition").
Aiken and Studdard's first-week sales are second only to Elton John's "Candle in the Wind '97," which sold an extraordinary 3.44 million copies. Typically, the top selling single each week sells about 5,000 copies.
Clay and Ruben, together with the rest of the "American Idol" finalists, also have the #3 spot on the chart with "God Bless the USA," which was bumped down after four weeks at #1.
If Aiken is celebrating, you can bet Studdard is there or at least calling. The two are good friends and insist they're not competitive.
"Like I've said so many times, we're both so proud of each other," Clay said backstage at the "American Idol" finale (see " 'Idol' Winner Ruben Studdard Says He's Living Out His Dream"). "Ruben said something to me before we went onstage last night. He said, 'Can you believe the two of us, the two most unlikely people, are in the finals together?' And we're just so thrilled that we're here. I mean, as far as I'm concerned, I got to win too."
"Me and Clay, we just friends, man," Studdard added. "We have a good time."
Whatever the case, the finalists are mostly done contending with each other. Their albums are due about a month apart, with Ruben's tentatively due August 19 and Clay's in September (see " 'Idol' Heroes Ruben And Clay About To Do Battle Again").
"['American Idol'] wasn't a competition between who was better, necessarily, it was just a competition between what America preferred," Aiken said. "Did they prefer what he had to offer, which was clearly different than what I had to offer? That's all it was. So when the albums come out, do people prefer to have a CD of what he sings or what I sing? That's all it's about."