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Clay vs. Ruben: Idol Finals Set

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RALEIGH, N.C. — And then there were two. Raleigh's Clay Aiken made the cut and will compete in the final round of the "American Idol" competition.

Aiken and Ruben Studdard will compete next week after America voted and sent home Kimberly Locke Wednesday night.

Advancing to the final round is especially sweet for Aiken, after an emotional night for the Raleigh native and his fans.

There was some controversy behind the scenes of Tuesday night's show. The judges said Aiken forgot some of the words to Don McClean's, "Vincent." It turns out show producers wanted to make the song longer right before the live broadcast and Aiken did not get to rehearse the change, causing some confusion on stage.

"I thought he was in big trouble after that first song," said Simon Cowell, one of the judges on "American Idol."

Aiken finished the night with a stunning rendition of "Unchained Melody" that had the audience and judges cheering. Aiken also nailed "Mack the Knife," a song the judges picked for him.

"He redeemed himself. I thought Mack the Knife was excellent," Cowell said. "I still think he's Broadway. I think he would make a lot of money on Broadway."

The performance earned a standing ovation from judge Randy Jackson.

In Los Angeles Tuesday, fans lined up armed with "Aiken for Clay" signs. Fans have kept Aiken in the running for the title of "American Idol," but it is the judges who have put him here.

Jackson told WRAL's Lynda Loveland he is confident in Aiken's talent.

"He can definitely win this. He is a brilliant talent, an amazing singer and he can turn it up a notch when he wants. He is a talented kid and I do believe stars are really born," he said.

Aiken has always been one of judge Paula Abdul's favorite contestants.

"Clay is a true champ. I have no worries for Clay. He has never been in the bottom three -- not once," she said.

In Raleigh, Clayniacs lined up early outside Raleighwood to see their "idol" on the big screen. Aiken's mom and Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker were among those in the crowd. Friends and fans come out every week to watch Aiken perform. Then they all get out their phones and vote as many times as they can.

Aiken is coming back to Raleigh and bringing the "American Idol" cast with him. "American Idols" Live comes to the RBC Center Wednesday, August 6.

Advance sale tickets

are now available online.

Tickets go on sale Friday morning through Ticketmaster.

Aiken's fans will have the opportunity to cheer on their favorite 'Idol' and to raise funds for two local non-profit organizations Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. at the Triangle Town Center.

Fans can send their unique thoughts and best wishes to Aiken by recording video greetings. A donation of $1.00 is requested, and all profits will be donated to the

Autism Society of North Carolina


The Claymates, Aiken's fan club, will sell t-shirts. Profits will be donated to the Autism Society and to the A.E. Finley YMCA.

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