Monday, November 7, 2011

#87 Corey Clark

Next on my American Idol finalist countdown is Corey Clark. He was known for his highly publicized disqualification, finishing in ninth place on American Idol season 2. He is signed to Universal and Bungalo Records. He hails from Lufkin, Texas. He has a long rap sheet. He was ranked at number 74 on The Los Angeles American Idol top 120 power rankings chart of May 31, 2010.

Corey Delaney Clark was born to Duane and Jan Clark on July 13, 1980, in San Bernandino, California. His parents were singers who met on the road in Nashville, Tennessee in early 1978 to follow ther musical aspirations. His father Duane was an R&B and disco singer who performed in San Bernandino, California, opened for Al Wilson and B.B. King and recorded and performed with the James Last Orchestra (a German band established in 1964 and led by Hans Last) and the Hamburger Symphoniker (a German orchestra founded in 1957 and based in Hamburg, Germany), and is of African American, Cherokee, Apache, and Blackfoot descent. His mother Jan, great granddaughter of of a Budapest concert pianist, is of Hungarian-Ukranian, Jewish, Irish, French, Cherokee, and Algonquian descent. Jan met Duane in Nashville, Tennessee, while working in nightclubs specializing R&B and Barbra Streisand. The multiracial nature of the Clarks’ relationship and of Corey’s heritage was a source of racial conflict for the family during the Clarks' early years in Lufkin, Texas, where Corey recalls a story his parents told him about a December 1979 incident in which the couple were driving to church for a Christmas celebration event with his father Duane costumed as Santa Claus, when they were pulled over by a Caucasian police officer, who smashed one of the car’s tail lights, and told Duane he was being pulled over and arrested for driving with a broken tail light.

Less subtle was the racism at school, where Clark says he and his sister got into fights with schoolmates in the first grade who used racial slurs against them. Adding to his sense of identity confusion was the fact that African Americans also rejected him, using a portmanteau racial slur against him and his sister, on which Clark comments, “It’s real unsettling when you’re young and don’t know which group you belong to.” Today, Clark reflects on his multiethnic heritage with pride, and says he wishes more people were open-minded about interracial dating, saying, “Our family could claim to be the ultimate melting pot,” and that being of so many different ethnicities gave him the ability to "adapt to any situation."

Clark's musical interest began at an early age; his first clear musical influences were his parents, his aunt Audrey, and his father's band recording a demonstration tape in a studio in Denver, Colorado.  Having attended concerts by Boyz II Men, TLC, and Montell Jordan, he began to sing at the age of 11 without formal training, at school functions and concerts.

Clark received his first formal training job at the age of 13, when Debbie Byrd, a family friend and vocal coach  who would later go on to work on American Idol, recruited him and his parents to be among the backup singers for Barry Manilow during a week-long appearance in Las Vegas, Nevada. Although Manilow was not Clark's favorite, he realized his dream during this engagement, saying: "When the curtain went up the first night, I was floored by the response from the sell-out crowd. I’d never been on stage as a professional singer before, and I got to see someone at the peak of his career working the stage and the audience. Every night he made his performance feel fresh, not just going through the motions. Experiencing the energy of a live show wasn’t at all like listening to a tape or a CD, I realized. It was magical. I was hooked!"

At age 14, Clark started and performed as the lead vocalist in a R&B vocal group called Envy. The group also included the now-Grammy-Award-winning R&B Ne-Yo (known by his mother as Shaffer Chimere Smith, Jr.), Solomon Ridge, and Ray Blaylock. Envy performed in several talent contests, and a few years later, won the grand prize at a Las Vegas amateur singing contest. Envy also opened major shows for major artists such as Mýa and Destiny's Child (which included Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, and Michelle Williams), and performed during Amateur Night at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York. The group signed a recording deal in 2000, but nothing came of it, and it disbanded after eight years of performances.

Clark and his family relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, and while working as a stage hand in 2002, he auditioned for American Idol season 2 in Nashville, Tennessee, with "Never Can Say Goodbye" by The Jackson 5, which would be performed by Jorge Núñez on American Idol season 8.  He has been described as "one of the most impressive top ten finalists of the talent search’s second season". Clark names making it to the live rounds during that season to be his proudest moment. During the semifinal rounds, in semifinal group #4, he performed "Foolish Heart" by Steve Perry, and he advanced to the finals alongside Josh Gracin. On top 12 week, he performed "This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You) by The Isley Brothers. On top 11 week, he performed "Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)" by Phil Collins from the film Against All Odds. On top 10 week, he performed "Drift Away" by Dobie Gray, and after that he was disqualfied. Due to his disqualification, he was replaced on the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2003 with Charles Grigsby.

Clark's favorite male musical artist is Michael Jackson. His favorite female musical artist Beyoncé Knowles. His favorite albums are Purple Rain by Prince and II by Boyz II Men. His favorite song to sing is "Doing Just Fine" by Boyz II Men. His other musical influences include Ginuwine, Usher, Justin Timberlake, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and Brian McKnight.

During the American Idol competition, The Smoking Gun revealed that Clark had been arrested at his residence in Topeka, Kansas, on October 12, 2002, after neighbors called police after hearing a commotion within the residence, including a girl yelling. Police arrived and questioned Clark and his 15-year-old sister Alysha, after which Clark became confrontational with the officers. Clark alleges police misconduct in handling the matter, asserting that he was beaten by the officers, who ultimately wrestled Clark to the pavement and handcuffed him behind his back. After managing to get his handcuffed hands in front him in the squad car, he was shown a taser and warned he would be shot with it if he continued to resist, at which point he relented. He was charged with misdemeanor battery on four police officers and his sister, and endangering the welfare of a child. However, both Clark and his sister Alysha have denied that he ever hit her, and Alysha echoed her brother's account of the way the situation transpired.

On December 4, days after Clark made the top 24 on American Idol, he was charged in Kansas District Court with resisting arrest, battering his sister, and resisting arrest. Clark ultimately pleaded "no contest" to "obstructing legal process" through a plea agreement, and was sentenced to sixth months of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay US$116.00 in legal fees. Clark states in his book, "Initially no charges were filed against me, and I was refunded my US$116.00 bond money after attending a November 11, 2002 court hearing back in Topeka." That December, after Corey had filled out his contracts for American Idol and was publicly named a semi-finalist on the show, the state district attorney elected to proceed with the case and filed charges against him.

According to American Idol's producers, Clark did not disclose his arrest record when joining the competition, although Clark maintains in Chapter 6 of his book entitled "American Paulatics" that he spoke with them and with judge Paula Abdul about his legal troubles. Producers also explained that the background checks conducted on all contestants did not uncover his arrest because of a misspelling of Clark's name in the police report. Clark maintains that this could not be true, as all background checks are conducted via social security numbers (rather than names), which Clark had provided to producers in his contract. The producers disqualified Clark from further participation in the competition nine hours after The Smoking Gun's story was disclosed.

Clark, along with the other second season finalists, recorded RCA Records' The American Idol Season 2: All-time Classic Love Songs soundtrack. Their version of the song "What the World Needs Now is Love" debuted at #6 on the Hot 100 singles sales Billboard Magazine Chart, beating out Jackie DeShannon's 1965 debut of the same song in at #7. With singles charting at #1 ("God Bless the U.S.A.") and #6 ("What the World Needs Now is Love") that year, Clark and the rest of the second season cast became the first act since rapper Nelly to place two titles in the top ten of Billboard Hot 100 Singles sales. In the May 17, 2003, issue of Billboard Magazine, the soundtrack attained Billboards Top Soundtrack #1 spot, Billboards Top internet Album sales at #14, The Billboard 200 hot shot debut at #2, and the single "God Bless the U.S.A." remained at #1 for 3 weeks. The soundtrack sold more than 500,000 copies domestically, giving Clark and his fellow second season castmates Gold record status, as well as making them all #1 artists on the Billboard Music Charts of May, 2003.

Clark's first album, Corey Clark, was published on June 21, 2005. Although the making of the album was highly publicized, the final product received minimal promotion or radio play. Despite high profile superstar featured guest spots from The Black Eyed Peas (which included and Fergie) and Scott Storch, consumers generally overlooked the album. Clark claimed that radio conglomerate Clear Channel refused to play his record due to threats Clear Channel received that all American Idol promotional and advertising dollars would be pulled from any station playing Clark's record.

Clark signed a one album, press and distribution label imprint deal with Universal/Bungalo Records, making him the first American Idol contestant in history to release his own album under his own record company distributed by a major label. This helped him earn a larger share of the album royalties and profits, and made him a partner in the decision-making process into the creative development of the album.

Next up on my American Idol finalist countdown is my number 86 American Idol finalist. He was born in Yalta, Ukraine. He had a tracheotomy as a toddler due to a birth defect in his windpipe, from which a scar is still visible. He was voted off American Idol after singing "I'm Already There" by Lonestar and "If You Don't Know Me By Now" Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Two days after that, his brother was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma. He competed in a special Reality TV edition of NBC's Fear Factor along with American Idol season 2 finalist Carmen Rasmusen.

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