Today finds one American Idol alum with a new record deal -- and another dropped.
While recent runner-up Jessica Sanchez lands at mentor Jimmy Iovine's Interscope Records, country cutie Kellie Pickler has parted ways with Sony Nashville.
It comes as no surprise to Idol viewers that Sanchez was all but guaranteed a home with Iovine, who repeatedly sang her praises throughout Season 11. Her album, due in October, will feature a more urban flavor devoid of the middle-of-the-road ballads the 16-year-old performed on the show.
As for Pickler, who turns 26 today, she was released from Sony's BNA Records imprint after sales of her old-school country record, 100 Proof, struggled. She signed to the label in 2006, the same year the Season 5 singer placed sixth on Idol.
"Kellie's contract with Sony came to an end, and they mutually decided not to renew," her manager, Larry Fitzgerald, told ABC News Radio.
Her 2006 debut album, Small Town Girl, sold more than 800,000 copies and scored three hits at country radio, including "Red High Heels" and "I Wonder." Her subsequent record, 2008's Kellie Pickler, yielded a hit with "Best Days of Your Life" (co-written by Taylor Swift). To date, 100 Proof has sold 74,000 copies.
According to Marty Mitchell, program director of "rockin' country" station WKMK-FM in New Jersey (aka Thunder 106), Pickler's recent material -- a twangier ode to influences like Loretta Lynn -- might not have caught on with her fan base in certain markets.
"[The singles] didn't gain momentum like her previous songs," he said of Pickler, who phoned the radio station just days ago promoting her Aug. 12 show at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank. "I know she was anxious to continue on, record label or not. She was on with us a few days ago and didn't say a word, so it was kind of a shock [to hear the news today]."
Mitchell predicted that Pickler will have no problems finding another label home.
"Part of her appeal is her personality, as well as her music," said Mitchell.
"She has a big fan base, and when we mentioned that she was coming on, the phones lit up. What was supposed to be a few minutes became a 20-minute interview," he said. "She answered questions from fans on Facebook and talked about everything. She was a lot of fun, very talkative."
The perpetually sunny Pickler isn't letting the bad news spoil her birthday. She rolled up her sleeves at the Nashville headquarters of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee earlier this week, assisting middle school children loading backpacks filled with food and necessities as part of the Hunger-Free Summer program. She also tweeted that her episode appearing on former Idol judge Ellen DeGeneres' show was being re-aired on her birthday.