What has six legs, three heads and destroys dreams? Answer: The judging table of American Idol. Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson have been breaking untalented American hearts for years, but now they're about to grow a new head, because four heads can break hearts 30% faster. Award-winning songwriter Kara DioGuardi -- who's lived with Paula Abdul, worked with multiple AI contestants and writes half of the mainstream pop played on radios nowadays -- is joining the judges' table in Tuesday night's premiere. To get to know this newcomer/industry veteran, we sat in on a conference call where she talked about her catchphrase, the new Cowell-centric voting system and which former Idol she'd like to work with.
So what do you bring to the judge's table that American Idol did not have before?
Kara DioGuardi: Well, I think what's really unique about me is that I've worked with a lot of these singers that are out there, from Christina to Pink to Celine Dion. I've been in the studio with them when they've actually recorded songs that we've co-written. And I've worked very closely with them, in both listening to how they interpret the songs we've written and giving them guidance and support, and I think that distinguishes me.
Since four judges can mean two-to-two ties, Simon now gets to be the tie-breaker. Did that happen very often? What do you think of that system?
DioGuardi: Well, for me, the thing that would happen is that [Randy and Paula] would say yes at times; then it would come down to me, because I knew [Simon] would say no, probably. So I had to make that critical decision there whether I was going to give them another shot or not. And that was tough, because you're dealing with people that you've met for a few seconds of hearing them sing, and you're not sure if they had a bad audition or if you want to give them another shot. So, you know, I was put in that position a bunch of times. You have to think, "All right, maybe this guy had a bad audition or maybe this girl, you know, there's something interesting about her" and give him or her one more shot.
How would you describe, in just a few words, each of the other judges?
DioGuardi: I would say that Paula has a lot of heart. I would say that Simon pretty much tells it like it is. Sometimes he can be pretty harsh, but he's usually right. And Randy is the diplomat.
How about yourself?
DioGuardi: I think I'm a combination of all of them. I do like to say it like I see it. I don't really mince words, but I do feel I have a heart, and when you're dealing with creative people that have some talent, you want to make sure that you encourage them. But also, if they don't have any talent, you want to discourage them, because you don't want them to waste their time. So, I may say things that are negative, but I always try to do it with some heart and some understanding of what it's like to be on the other side of the table.
Do you think that will come across to the viewers?
DioGuardi: I think they're going to see somebody who is pretty feisty and opinionated, but is also coming from a good place, trying to help these contestants and impart my own experience to them, so that at the end of the day, whether they win or lose, they've learned something.
Do you have a signature line? Anything that we can count on you to say repeatedly?
DioGuardi: I would say right now my line that I would tell these kids is, "Be you. Don't try to be anybody but you."
Are there any former Idol contestants that you would like to work with or write a song for that you haven't gotten the opportunity to yet?
DioGuardi: Yes, I really like Daughtry. I would love to co-write with him. At one point it looked like he was going to do a duet on a song that I had written, but it never happened. So, if he's out there and he wants to do a co-write, please call me.
What do you hope you get out of American Idol, as far as your own career and your own work? Is there an agenda here? What can you see the end result being for you, as a songwriter and producer?
DioGuardi: You know, I never in a million years imagined that I would be a judge on American Idol. So when I got that call, it was really an honor, and in some ways I felt like I hit the lottery. I didn't even really think about, "What is this going to mean?" I just said, "Yeah, I'll do this, of course." I mean I've been involved in so many of these kids' careers, and this is what I do every day. I look out for talent. I help them in the studio. I produce them. That's my life. I live for that and it just felt like a natural extension. That it's on television and the biggest TV show with so many viewers... wow. I don't know what to say about that. It was an honor to be called, and I'm looking forward to making this year as great as it can be and finding the best talent out there and giving my spin on why I think they're great or why they're not.
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