The hit television program American Idol provides a stage where the politics of national, regional, ethnic, and religious identity are performed for millions of viewers. Diversity is carefully highlighted and coached into a viable commodity by judges, argues Katherine Meizel, with contestants packaged into familiar portraits of American identities. Consumer choice, as expressed by audience voting, also shapes the course of the show—negotiating ideas of democracy and opportunity closely associated with the American Dream. Through interviews with audience members and participants, and careful analyses of television broadcasts, commercial recordings, and print and online media, Meizel demonstrates that commercial music and the music industry are not simply forces to be criticized or resisted, but critical sites for redefining American culture.
Introduction: No Boundaries
1. Facing Reality: American Idol as Reality Television
2. Facing the Music
3. Win or Lose: Success and Failure and the American Dream
4. Idol Worship: Civil and Sacral Religion in American Idol
5. Going Places
6. Politics as Usual
7. The United Nations of Pop: Global Franchise and Geopolitics
An engaging analysis of one of the most important developments of the past decade for popular music on television.
author of Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class
Meizel’s ambitious book is a model of clarity and seriousness in its treatment of American Idol, American identity, the American mood in the early 21st century.
University of Western Ontario
Meizel writes with a clarity and intelligibility that makes her analysis of the phenomenon of the show compelling even for those who are not interested in the show itself. She takes a broad view of the show, using plenty of outside sources to put it in context. She not only brings understanding to many aspects of the show but also uses the show to bring understanding to issues of media and American culture.
Music Reference Services Quarterly
[An] engaging critical [investigation] of nationalist music politics. . . Katherine Meizel persuasively theorizes that American Idol is important because it constructs and voices narratives about American nationalism, while pop-song performances mark boundaries between Americans and Others.Dec 2012