Why 'Idol' Could Go Country

6:00 AM PST 07/31/2012 by Shirley Halperin

But why give up four months of lucrative touring?

No sooner had reports emerged in late July that Brad Paisley was being considered to join Mariah Carey and Randy Jackson as a judge on American Idol than Toby Keith revealed he'd also been approached. Keith claims he nixed the idea for the same reason a lot of country superstars would: Why give up four months of lucrative touring? Indeed, Paisley's current tour grossed $20.5 million during the first half of 2012. It's clear to many that Idol should pony up and put a country star in the judge's seat, given its track record for minting stars in that genre. Carrie Underwood remains the Idol sales champ, her four albums having moved a collective total of more than 13 million units. Season 10's Scotty Mccreery's 2011 debut, Clear as Day, is up to 1.1 million, far outstripping any other recent Idol winner.  Runners-up Kellie Pickler and Lauren Alaina also have viable country careers. Even season 11's Mississippi- born Skylar Laine boasts the current best-selling CD at Walmart with an EP of her Idol greatest hits. "Country is America," Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe tells THR. And it's growing: Country sales are up 5.8 percent overall in 2012, while the rest of the industry is down 3.2 percent. It only makes sense that after blake Shelton's breakout success on NBC's The Voice, Idol might want -- or even need -- a Dixie star such as Kenny Chesney, Keith Urban, Garth Brooks or even Shelton's wife, Miranda Lambert. Who will it be?

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