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Clay Aiken fans show their love.
Scott Gries/Getty Images
Once again, I have visited the NPR Music decade-end coverage, where NPR Music Editor (and my personal Music Stylist) Stephen Thompson and I took an hour and a half out of our lives recently to dissect the significance and insignificance that is American Idol.
In the resulting conversation, we touched on old favorites like Constantine Maroulis, Justin Guarini, Kristy Lee Cook, Jason Castro, and even some people who actually won. An excerpt from the part where we touched on fandom:
LINDA: I think every discussion about being the future of music, of course, has to start with the fact that the kind of people who REALLY become the future of music would never go on American Idol in the first place. They have very specific aspirations involving popularity, not involving changing the game. Carrie Underwood didn't go on American Idol to reinvent country. She went on American Idol to exploit what was already working. The kinds of people who push boundaries are not really interested in doing "Conga" on Gloria Estefan Night.
STEPHEN: Aaaaaaaaaand now "Conga" is going through my head. Thanks loads, Holmes. But I think you're exactly right. So what do you think American Idol says about fandom? To me, it seems to have really brought out a rivalry among pop fans that's fascinating to witness. It's not like, "Which New Kid On The Block is your favorite?" It involves David Archuleta fans collapsing in tears when David Cook wins.
LINDA: To me, that started with the Clay Aiken people. I don't know what it was, but that was the season when it became insane. I have told you before about hearing stories of people who claimed later that they were burning his CDs and handing them out on the subway, which is kind of ... unbalanced. After that, it seemed like fans were competing to be the most weird, the most inappropriate, the most overinvested. It's very competitive, and the Internet has been a huge contributor to that. People sign on to tell stories of their own reactions — "You were crying? Well I was crying and shaking." These discussions happen every single week. Not among the bulk of the viewers, but among a small subset of people who are so devoted to that show that, while it's on, fandom related to that show is their job.
STEPHEN: Yeah. I mean, whatever floats your boat and all, but the intensity of it is incredible. I grew up around comic-book and science-fiction fandom, and it's fascinating to see that same sort of geeky hyper-competitiveness — "No, I am the No. 1 Doctor Who fan! You call that a scarf?!" — writ unbelievably large, and broadcast worldwide.
Read, and possibly take great offense at, the whole thing here.