Top Ten Country Stars to Judge “American Idol”
1. Brad Paisley
Handsome, talented, and one of the most successful male country stars in the past decade, Brad Paisley is perhaps the best choice for a new judge on “Idol.” Success on the charts aside, he has hosted the Academy of Country Music Awards multiple times, which is valuable television experience. Plus, he and Carrie Underwood could perform their duet “Remind Me” during the finale. It would be perfect.
2. Keith Urban
The only non-American on this list, Keith Urban has performed on “Idol” before, memorably with winner Kris Allen. He has experience as a talent show judge on the Australian version of “The Voice,” but “Idol” would be an obvious promotion for him. Perhaps a permanent move stateside would allow him to spend more time with his wife, actress Nicole Kidman.
3. Tim McGraw
McGraw is such a quintessential country star that Taylor Swift wrote a song about him. That should be reason enough to put him on a panel in need of a country star. Who knows how many other women would write songs about him (and conceivably watch “Idol”)? He’s also ventured into film lately with roles in “The Blind Side” and “Country Strong,” so McGraw is not afraid of diversifying.
4. Toby Keith
Another veteran of the country industry, Keith has never shied away from the spotlight, whether appearing on “The Colbert Report” or feuding with the Dixie Chicks. He would relate to the struggling contestants well, since he was not discovered until after he was thirty and faced much rejection at the beginning of his career. The only mark against him is that he isn’t as photogenic as Brad Paisley or Jason Aldean, but, then again, neither was Steven Tyler.
5. Carrie Underwood
The winner of “Idol”’s third season seems like an obvious choice for the judging panel, and she would certainly bring a country flair along with real talent-show experience. The only argument I can think of against her is her gender, as she would be the third female judge after Carey and Minaj. If she’s interested, they should sign her. Underwood is easily the biggest success story to come out of “Idol.”
6. Luke Bryan
The “Drunk on You” singer began as a songwriter in Nashville and now has a platinum-certified album, so he would bring a solid perspective of the ins and outs of the music business. That’s something the panel could use without Randy Jackson on it anymore. He’s relatively young for a male country star and only has a few albums to his name, but he is very similar to Blake Shelton from “The Voice.” If “Idol” tries to imitate “The Voice”’s panel, Bryan is a good bet.
7. Kellie Pickler
Sure, she only finished sixth during the fifth season of “Idol.” But she’s found success on the country charts with hits like “Red High Heels” and “Best Days of Your Life.” She’s also a feisty interview and seems to be free right now, as her contract with Sony Nashville was not renewed and her website is down. She’d be a great addition, but, once again, do the “Idol” bosses really want three women on their judging panel?
8. Reba McEntire
McEntire is the queen of country, and she has plenty of television experience as well from her long-running TV sitcom “Reba” (2001 to 2006). Sure, she would bring another female perspective to the judging panel, but her 30-plus years of experience are impossible to argue with. Unfortunately, she just returned to TV on ABC’s “Malibu Country,” so she probably won’t have time to judge “American Idol” as well.
9. Hunter Hayes
He’s relatively inexperienced in the country music business, but he looks like the long-lost sixth member of One Direction in a flannel shirt. “Idol” wants a Jonas and a country singer; why not combine the two? And all due respect to the JoBros, but Hayes is a much stronger singer. A wild card, but he would bring even more preteen girls onboard the “Idol” train.
10. Miranda Lambert
This is a longshot, as her husband Blake Shelton is one of the judges on rival show “The Voice,” and she has served as a mentor on that program. Plus, her work with her own girl group Pistol Annies makes her more suited to “The X Factor” than “Idol.” But Lambert is both talented and a lively, sassy personality who placed in “Nashville Star”: tailor-made to be a judge on some talent show, someday. Why couldn’t that show be “Idol”?