Tuesday, January 15, 2008

American Idol (er, Evil) Returns Tonight

"American Idol" launches its seventh season on Fox tonight, but newbie vocalists vying for prime time's biggest prize may be troubled by recent news. It seems that the days of winning "Idol" and automatically becoming one not only are long gone, but were a mirage in the first place.

Last week, Taylor Hicks, who won season 5, was dropped by his record label after selling 699,000 copies of his 2006 debut, which disappointed Arista. Soon after that, his runner-up, Katharine McPhee - who didn't quite hit the 400,000 mark with her RCA release - was also shown the door. Add to that list season 2 victor Ruben Studdard, who got the boot from J Records late last year. (All three recorded for subsidiary imprints of Sony BMG, which has contractual first dibs on "Idol" contestants.)

Of course, if being a finalist on "Idol" was all it took to become a pop star, then first season runner-up Justin Guarini would have enjoyed at least as much success as Chris Daughtry, who was season 5's fourth-place finisher but who also had one of the best-selling albums of 2007.

Which contestant will be made into the next manufactured pop star?

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