Are 'Idol's' Stars for Real, or Just for Reality TV?

As the seventh season premieres, some 'Idol' alums aren't doing so well.

ByABC News
February 11, 2009, 9:53 PM

Jan. 15, 2008 — -- "American Idol" makes its triumphant return to TV tonight, and with the Hollywood writers strike still going strong, more viewers than ever may tune in to see Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Ryan Seacreast try to turn a brand new batch of contestants from off-key shower singers to polished pop stars.

But will the seventh season of "Idol" produce a music legend in the making, or just another reality TV trophy-holder?

The last six months have made clear that not all who grace the "Idol" stage go on to find fame and fortune. Season one winner Kelly Clarkson split with her management, sparked a storm of negative press around her third album, and canceled her summer tour. Season four finalist Jessica Sierra made more headlines for her drug and alcohol abuse than her "Idol"-honed talents.

Poor album sales got three "Idol" stars booted from their record labels: Season two winner Ruben Studdard, season five winner Taylor Hicks and season five runner up Katharine McPhee.

And while 2006's "American Idols Live" tour practically sold out, last year's run saw only 68 percent capacity crowds.

Is "American Idol," one of the highest-rated programs on TV, losing its touch?

"I think the program is kind of showing its age right now," said Sean Fennessy, Vibe magazine's associate music editor.

"Jordin Sparks had the lowest debut of an 'Idol' winner on the charts," he added, noting the season six winner's November debut at No. 10 on the Billboard 200 album sales chart. "That is exceedingly low for someone from a show that had millions of viewers a week."