Do you watch American Idol? Have you ever watched American Idol? Of course you have! It's popular. But it's sad, too. Every year the country spends half a television season watching contestants sing. They vote for their favorite performer — or against yours. The weeks grind on. Someone wins, even though we all realize that there is no culturally significant difference between a champion and her trail of vanquished competitors. Despite increasingly smaller numbers, Americans still watch in droves. With regard to the show as a catapult to fame, however, we might have moved on.
But that's not what's sad about American Idol — or sadder still about The X Factor. What's sad is that it doesn't give you the winner you want. The first couple of seasons, we didn't what know we wanted, which was lucky for Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. The culture was just different enough then. But eventually — maybe after Underwood's season in 2005 — you'd listen to the advice of the judges and hear comments from friends, critics, and select social-media guides and realize you don't really want to watch a stranger evolve into a star.
The winner we want never looked like a loser. The winner we want is a fully developed, perversely gifted mutant entertainer. That winner we want has already won. And the winner we want is Celine Dion.