"A lot of 'Idol' alums have kept a career going, even if they haven't won multiple Grammys," said Katherine Meizel, an assistant professor of ethnomusicology at Bowling Green State University in Ohio and the author of "Idolized: Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol."
"Idol's" early, enormous influence, Meizel
said, paradoxically led to its own obsolescence.
"It sparked so many other versions," she
"Its impact on American culture is still powerful, but it's not centralized now.
It's become much more diversified."
What we're looking for in our Idols, Meizel
said, is a tale that reflects some aspect of the American Dream - success stories so embedded in American culture we forget how deeply rooted they are in political strategies for creating a national identity.
"They are about capitalism, competition and the ability to move up the economic ladder, about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps," Meizel
Recent winners, Meizel
said, simply don't have the compelling backstory of, say, Carrie Underwood, who emerged from rural Oklahoma to become a star.
"It's about re-affirming that their opinion matters," Meizel
said, "that they have any sort of good taste and the capacity to impact their own culture.
"That's a great theory," Meizel
the second-to-last chance that 'Idol' has to create a superstar," Meizel