There have been many hints of big changes on the next season of American Idol. Already producer Nigel Lythgoe has left the show, leaving judge/producer/show creator Simon Cowell to increase his involvement in the show’s production.
The first big change is already upon us. American Idol is adding a fourth judge. Grammy-nominated songwriter Kara DioGuardi has joined American Idol as a fourth judge. One of the industry’s most sought after songwriters and producers, DioGuardi’s songs have appeared on more than 100 million records. Her songs have been recorded by Grammy award-winning artists including Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Celine Dion, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Santana, and Pink. Many major recording artists including Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne, Pussycat Dolls, Miley Cyrus, The Jonas Brothers, Natasha Bedingfield, Jewel, Ashley Tisdale, Katharine McPhee, Taylor Hicks, Bo Bice, Clay Aiken, Ashlee Simpson, Hilary Duff, Jessica Simpson, Kylie Minogue, Enrique Iglesias, Nick Lachey, and Marc Anthony have also released DioGuardi’s songs. In 2006 she won the BMI Songwriter Of The Year award.
In a press conference Monday, DioGuardi said she hopes to bring an “honest opinion” to the show. DioGuardi described herself has a “straight shooter” who tells it like it is. She wants her comments to genuinely help the contestants improve as performers.
Now going into its eighth season, which starts in January 2009, Idol has been criticized for becoming stale. The judges have been at the heart of much of the criticism. They have perhaps become a bit predictable in their comments on the contestants' performances. “That was the bomb … that was a bit pitchy … that was dreadful… you sound like a wedding/lounge/karaoke singer,” and Paula’s “you are a star already” phrases have started to sound like they are choosing comments from a pre-written list.
DioGuardi said the addition of a fourth judge will add a new dimension to the show and change up the chemistry between the judges. She dismissed any speculation that she is replacing anyone, saying the "producers are thrilled with the panel they have." She insists she's just an addition to an already successful show. In fact, DioGuardi already has a relationship with one of the judges. In 2000, DioGuardi co-wrote the Kylie Minoque hit “Spinning Around” with Paula Abdul.
Starting with her first job at Billboard magazine, DioGuardi has worked for several years in the music industry. She feels her experience working with new talent gives her a unique perspective for the judges' table. She also already has some reality TV judging experience under her belt. In 2006, she appeared on the short-lived ABC show The One: Making A Music Star.
When writing songs with former Idol contestants, DioGuardi said she always strives to make sure the songs are true to the person singing them. As an Idol judge she hopes to help the contestants discover themselves as performers. DioGuardi listed Kelly Clarkson as one of her favorite Idols, and also cited this past season's Brooke White as someone she admired.
DioGuardi said she "would not be partial" to anyone who chose to sing one of her songs during the competition. When asked if she had her own "Unchained Melody," (Simon Cowell's favorite song and one a lot of contestants choose for that reason) she replied: "Imagine." Viewers may be in store for a few renditions of that song, not to mention Archuleta's recent popular version.
DioGuardi said American Idol has been a good thing for the songwriting industry. Contestants who are fresh off the show are often in need of new material when they begin working on albums. That’s a good thing for songwriters like DioGuardi. As mentioned, she has worked with several Idols in the past. She co-wrote "Walk Away" with Kelly Clarkson, "The Real Thing" for Bo Bice, and "The Way" for Clay Aiken. She also worked with Katharine McPhee on her debut album and co-wrote "Heaven Knows" and "Give Me Tonight" for Taylor Hicks. She wrote a song for the upcoming David Archuleta album and co-wrote a song with David Cook for his new album.
The addition of a fourth judge was just as much of a surprise to DioGuardi as it is to the public. DioGuardi was called only a few days ago. She said she “almost fell off of her chair” when the offer was made. When asked ‘Why her?’ she simply replied, “I’m a lucky, lucky girl.”
In a statement, Idol creator and executive producer Simon Fuller said, "We are turning the heat up on Idol this year and are thrilled to welcome Kara to the judges’ table. She is a smart, sassy lady, and one of America's most successful songwriters. We know she will bring a new level of energy and excitement to the show.”
Though the addition of DioGuardi seems like a sudden change, executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz said it was something they always had in mind. "We had originally intended for American Idol to have four judges. We’ve seen from our international series that having a fourth judge creates a dynamic that benefits both the contestants and the viewers.” Idol fans will surely be eagerly anticipating what Kara DioGuardi will contribute to the show.