American Idol Live! Is the Last Refuge of Idol Superfans
Don't get me wrong -- it's still big. Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips' debut single is still impossible to avoid if you are or have ever been inside a grocery store. But how many of the finalists from this year's show can you name? How many of the judges can you name?
At the show's peak, being a runner-up was its own kind of pop stardom. Even Clay Aiken, one of the least obvious stars of the past decade, didn't actually have to win to pick up a radio hit, the astonishingly creepy "Invisible":
That kind of pop culture pull made Idol Live!, the concert tour featuring each season's finalists, a big deal in itself. The Top 10 were all possible stars, with their own hyper-devoted Idol fiefdoms.
This year, in a finale watched by just 14 million fans, Candice Glover -- she's the winner, the first in years who isn't a gravelly voiced guy with an acoustic guitar -- beat Kree Harrison. Glover's first album won't come out for a few months, but her debut single peaked at 93 on the Hot 100.
For all that, though -- for all the indications that its demographic is narrowing, and with it the appeal of the people who get voted into pseudo-stardom -- it's still around and still, if I had to guess, making a ton of money.
American Idol began life as one of the most ubiquitous shows in decades, an anomaly in a TV (and music) landscape increasingly dominated by finding niches to appeal to and then exploiting them.
Now it's become its own niche.