Season 7 of American Idol premieres next Wednesday and Thursday on Fox, but evidence in the press suggests that contestants might not have as long a shelf-life as Kelly Clarkson’s career would have you believe. Case in point? Katharine McPhee has split from RCA records, joining her fellow castmates Taylor Hicks and Ruben Studdard in being without label representation. Wikipedia notes that there are rumors of her courting another major label (or vice-versa), but there’s no word on any of that yet. Still, she’s in markedly better shape than down-and-out former Idol contestant Jessica Sierra, who’s on VH1′s new show, premiering tonight, Celebrity Rehab. Couple all that with Sanjaya exhaustion, and we’re beginning to wonder: Has the Idol phenomenon lost its luster? Maybe it’s just us, but we’re kind of wishing pop music would go back to its much less democratic state, with nepotism and Berry Gordy in charge.