What do Brad Paisley, Toby Keith and Reba McEntire have in common? Aside from being some of country’s biggest names, the threesome have each recently been questioned about taking up a spot on the ‘American Idol’ judge’s panel. McEntire is the latest name to pop up in headlines, but she says — rather emphatically — that we won’t see her on ‘American Idol’ this fall.

“No, no, no!” the singer assured during an interview on CMT radio. “I like to play somebody else’s character like on ‘Malibu Country’ and the ‘Reba’ show.”

As for why she wouldn’t be a good fit for a show like ‘Idol,’ McEntire says, “I don’t think I’d be able to critique somebody. I don’t speak too hard — that’s against my nature.”

So if the red-haired sweetheart isn’t going to judge ‘American Idol,’ who will?

Rumor has it that ‘Beers Ago’ hitmaker Keith turned down an invitation to take Steven Tyler‘s place on the show. With a busy touring schedule and a new album in the works, the tell-it-like-it-is country singer doesn’t have time for reality TV in his busy schedule.

But before Keith, Paisley was the person of interest — and still is. Apparently, ‘Idol’ execs are seriously eyeing the ‘Remind Me’ hitmaker, and he may have open ears. In fact, just last week he was said to have been heading to Los Angeles to have an official sit-down with the show’s team. Producer Nigel Lythgoe lit the flame further when he poignantly declared that country music is a defining part of America’s culture — it is ‘American Idol,’ after all.

It’s understandable that judges would want a country crooner sitting in the third chair. The genre has exploded on the show in the past few seasons, with Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina taking the lead during Season 10. In season 11, Skylar Laine was a favorite among the Top 10. Oh, and let’s not forget that Carrie Underwood took home the crown in Season 4.

This could be a strategic move to help lure more country hopefuls to auditions and to convert country fans into viewers of the show. Of course, that will only work if one of country music’s stars agrees to take the job.

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