And all that has happened since he lost to Ruben Studdard in the final episode of Fox TV show Wednesday! About 130,000 votes separated the two finalists.
In his first time in New York City, Aiken visited The Early Show to discuss his second-place finish on the 2003 edition of "American Idol."
"Ruben said to me on Tuesday night right before we went out to perform, just look at us, the two most unlikely people to be in this position, and here we are," Aiken told co-anchor Rene Syler.
Aiken said, "Well, you know, last season's competitors, Kelly and Justin, extremely talented but, there was a look factor last year. They definitely wanted people who could dance, unlike what's happened right now, where I'm trying to dance," he said.
The governor of North Carolina actually did mention something about his dancing - or lack of it. He said Clay should shake his booty more, which Aiken noted jokingly, "That's a dangerous, dangerous thing to ask for."
He may have not learned how to be a top dancer yet but the 24-year-old from Raleigh, N.C., did go through a physical transformation.
"It's been interesting. I definitely needed some help a little bit," Aiken said. "The clothes have changed, the hair's changed and I've gotten rid of the glasses. And I've had plenty of help. It hasn't been me who did it. It's definitely funny to look back at the old pictures and say, "Who is that guy?'"
So the future looks bright all around. Aiken is working on a debut album to be produced by music mogul Clive Davis and released by RCA Records. His first single, "Bridge Over Troubled Water,'' is expected to be released by mid-June.
And he already has a hit album in release. According to the Entertainment News Wire, the "American Idol Finalists" recording of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." has spent five straight weeks on top of Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart, selling 215,000 copies in the U.S.
Approximately 33.7 million people watched the "American Idol" finale, more than 10 million more than last year's competition.
And, of course, in North Carolina all people could talk about was Clay Aiken.
"I was amazed. You know, I don't understand why people like me," he said.