Music, Media, and Identity in American Idol
Katherine L. Meizel
Distribution: World
Publication date: 02/16/2011
Format: Paperback 6 b&w illus., 9 music exx.
ISBN: 978-0-253-22271-8
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Honorable Mention, 2011 Woody Guthrie Book Award

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.

Author Bio

Katherine Meizel is Visiting Assistant Professor at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.


“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.”
 — Matt Stahl, University of Western Ontario

“An engaging analysis of one of the most important developments of the past decade for popular music on television.”
 — Chris McDonald, author of Rush, Rock Music, and the Middle Class

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Table of Contents


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
Epilogue: Crystallized

Works Cited

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