Which singer wants Paula Abdul's ''Idol'' spot? Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, who says she predicted a Kelly victory early on, is gunning for the judge's job

By Gary Susman
September 05, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT
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While Simon Cowell has reportedly signed a $1 million deal to return as a judge on next year’s ”American Idol,” fellow judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson have not confirmed their returns. But if Abdul doesn’t come back, there’s another pop star willing to take her place: Dixie Chick Natalie Maines.

For one thing, the Dixie Chicks singer tells the Associated Press, she has a keen ear for talent. ”I knew from the first episode that Kelly was the best one on there,” Maines said Wednesday of ”Idol” champ Kelly Clarkson. ”She had it from the beginning.” Praising her fellow Texan, Maines said, ”I like that she doesn’t look like she’s trying too hard… her pitch is always on.”

Maines also said that if she were given a judging slot next year, she’d give Cowell serious competition in the sharp-criticism department. ”They should watch out for me, I’d be more ruthless than Simon,” she said. ”Paula Abdul would really hate me!”

Of course, Abdul may not even be back. The ”Straight Up” singer is capitalizing on the return to the spotlight that ”Idol” has afforded her, telling the New York Post that she plans to record a new album, her first since 1995. Maines, however, doesn’t need a TV publicity boost. The Dixie Chicks’ new album, ”Home,” opened at the top of the Billboard chart this week and sold nearly 800,000 copies.

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