Michael Slezak
August 12, 2010 AT 07:35 PM EDT

Image Credit: Todd Williamson/FilmMagic, George Napolitano/FilmMagic, Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty ImagesAnother week, another round of American Idol judges’ table rumors. People.com reported yesterday that (le gasp!) Jennifer Lopez’s much-buzzed-about deal with the show might’ve fallen through. Kara DioGuardi’s dad told Capitol Tonight (file this news using the oh-no-they-did-NOT tab!) that his daughter heard her neck was on the chopping block via media reports only. And Nick Cannon got a little loose-lipped with the Hollywood Reporter and declared that his wife Mariah Carey “would love to” be the next Simon Cowell. (Reps for Fox and FremantleMedia declined to comment on these stories; reps for Lopez, DioGuardi, and Carey did not respond to EW’s interview requests.) But an Idol insider tells me the only thing certain is that Fox is loving the 24/7 cycle of media speculation about a show that’ll enter its tenth season in January 2011. “It’s the perfect position to be in,” says my source, who wouldn’t be surprised if Fox waits till the end of the month to make an announcement about which celebs will play the roles of Randy-Paula-Simon for a new generation of Idoloonies.

But hey, if speculation is what Idol wants, who am I to deny ’em? I already yapped incessantly about J.Lo (I think she could be an awesome choice — if she learns from Ellen DeGeneres’ mistakes) and Kara the (Formerly) Terrible (this is how Fox thanks arguably the most astute voice on the season 9 panel?), but what about the woman whose “We Belong Together” is a staple on my iPod?

When I first read the Mariah-as-Idol-judge proposition, my mind went completely blank — and stayed that way for hours — which I guess says a lot in and of itself. (Or maybe my brain is fried from considering Chris Isaak, Shania Twain, Bret Michaels, etc.) I mean, yes, Mariah’s sneezes have more vocal authenticity than J.Lo’s entire musical oeuvre, and yes her season 7 mentor stint resulted in a night of fantastic performances (remember David Cook’s “Always Be My Baby” or Jason Castro’s “I Don’t Want to Cry”?), but it’s hard to envision the sometimes, er, spacey diva offering tough, lucid critiques in a live TV setting. Isn’t she just too nice for the gig? Then, this morning, it struck me: Idol producers could devise a wordless critique system in which Mariah judges the performances by holding up one (or more) in a series of eight flash-cards: Unicorn, sparkles, rainbow, butterfly, lamb, cotton candy, negligee, and sad clown. What would it all mean? Who cares! From a TV theater standpoint, it would be kind of amazing, and at the very least, more succinct than a Randy Jackson riff. In other words, J.Lo, Kara, or Mariah…I could learn to live with any one of ’em. Perhaps even more than one of ’em. But while Fox suits are still brainstorming in the boardroom, we might as well put it to an official vote, no? Who knows, maybe Nigel Lythgoe and Cecile Frot-Coutaz are rabid EW.com readers and value our opinions. (I’ll pause here so we can all laugh it out.) Vote below, then head down to the comments with your own left-field picks for Idol judge!

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