Clay Aiken’s fourth album, On My Way Here, released today

American Idol 2 runner-up Clay Aiken releases his fourth studio album today, and continues to overshadow everyone else from his season. On My Way Here, which Amazon is currently selling for $8, is only really his second album of original music, as his last album was mostly full of covers and wasn’t well-received.

This time, Clay says, “we just made an album that is me — songs written for me or whose meaning I connected with, and songs that I sing well,” he told Reuters. And he told The AP, “When I (did) the first album, I ain’t been through nothin’, you know? … But now I’ve gone through some crap, and I’ve gone through some good things, and I’ve started thinking, ‘Oh, wow, I know what that song’s saying, I’ve done that, I’ve experienced that, that’s happened to me.’ … It’s amazing how I meet people all the time who think they know me. … I just did an interview a minute ago with someone (who) said, ‘You used to be a nanny right? That’s so great.’ And I was like, nooo!”

He’s talking there about the song “The Real Me,” and it’s kind of impossible not to read a first-person song about hiding one’s true self as about, you know, the part of Clay he’s convinced no one cares about. Sample lyrics: “Painted on, life is behind a mask/Self-inflicted circus clown/I’m tired of the song and dance/Living a charade, always on parade.”

And the title track’s lyrics include: “I’ve been a fool/I’ve been afraid/Yeah, I’ve been loved/I’ve been lied to/I’ve been wrong/And I’ve been right/I’ve fallen hard/But I’ve been loved/And in the end it all works out/My faith has conquered fear.” Not quite the most lyrically rich stuff, but clearly quite personal.

As a result of those kinds of lyrics, The Washington Post calls the record “a recessive blend of sweetness, piety, confusion and barely concealed resentment that occasionally, if unintentionally, bares its teeth. The subtext of every song seems to be, How did I wind up here? Or, alternately, What do you want from me?”

On My Way Here [Amazon]
Clay Aiken doing it his “Way” with new album [Reuters]
Clay Aiken realistic about his lack of cool [AP]