Shirley Halperin
January 03, 2008 AT 12:00 PM EST

It seems winning American Idol is no guarantee that you’ll actually keep your major label deal. Just before Christmas, rumors began circulating that season 2’s Ruben Studdard, who released three albums for J Records since 2003 (the latest, 2006’s The Return, to modest sales), had been dropped. (Studdard continues his management contract with 19 Entertainment.) Now the Hollywood Insider hears that season 5 winner Taylor Hicks has also lost his J Records deal. “Taylor is going to record his next album on his own,” said a label rep. “He is no longer on the J Records roster.” Back in March 2007, we wrote about Hicks’ performance on the charts and later analyzed several more Idol hits and misses. What does this mean for the latest winner, Jordin Sparks? Or, with season 7 kicking off on January 15, the franchise’s star-making power?

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