By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated May 27, 2010 at 02:32 PM EDT

Image Credit: Michael Becker/FoxAs you’ve no doubt heard, Lee DeWyze is your new American Idol. Now what?

DeWyze’s victory last night demonstrates that he has millions of fans who are at least committed enough to call a phone number. The question is how many of those fans will keep supporting DeWyze by buying CDs, concert tickets, and other merchandise in the years to come. Right now, that question is an open one, as it would have been for anyone else who won American Idol‘s ninth season.

That crown, after all, doesn’t carry the same weight it once did. Look at last season’s winner, Kris Allen, whose debut album made an underwhelming first-week splash on the charts in November. A year after winning Idol, Allen is still fighting to stay on the public’s mind and expand his fan base. DeWyze will have to work even harder if he ever wants to be mentioned in the same breath as Idol-winning megastars like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood — and avoid the fate of season five champ Taylor Hicks, who’s been all but forgotten by the mainstream pop world.

So what should he do? Here’s some unsolicited advice: DeWyze should stay true to his own sound. This is a guy who has Cat Stevens lyrics tattooed on his body. I’d suggest booking some extended studio time with a serious producer who shares his love of roots and folk-rock — someone like T Bone Burnett — and seeing what emerges. That might sound like it contradicts my previous suggestion that DeWyze needs to hustle toward a bigger pop profile, but it doesn’t have to. Ultimately, any success DeWyze sees from now on will be largely due to his own merits as a singer and songwriter. Drawing on the influences that he personally cares most deeply about could be his surest path to lasting stardom.

In other words, the future of Lee DeWyze’s career is up to him. Which really means it’s up to you. Will you support DeWyze’s future endeavors? Do you think he has what it takes to become a major-league pop star outside of the Idol dome?

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