American Idol‘s new judge Kara DioGuardi, who’s written and produced music for stars including Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani and Celine Dion, spoke with reporters Thursday and gave some hints about what to expect when Idol‘s eighth season kicks off with a two-night premiere on Jan. 13 and 14. How does Kara, 38, get along with Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and the other woman on the panel, Paula Abdul? Which former contestant is she dying to work with? And how does Peg Bundy fit in? Read on for more from Idol‘s opinionated new judge. — Marisa Laudadio
How have you changed the judging dynamic?There are times definitely that Paula and I have kind of … let’s say there’s a little girl power going on. With any kind of change, it brings out a different dynamic on the panel. In the beginning, it was a little unnerving — I didn’t know where I was going to sit, when I was going to speak.
Did you make any mistakes when you started taping the show?I would talk over a lot, because I didn’t really know when to talk. And some of my looks in the beginning, I didn’t get them all right. I do have a stylist. But the makeup and the hair, it took me a minute. That first city, it was pretty big hair. I look like Peg Bundy. Those days are done.
Simon has said that you and Paula were ganging up on him during auditions. Were you? When he deserves it, we give it to him. And believe me, he deserves it sometimes.
What do you bring to the judges’ table that American Idol did not have before?What’s really unique about me is that I’ve worked with a lot of great singers, 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. I’ve worked really closely with them and given them guidance and I think that distinguishes me.
How would you describe the other judges’ styles, and your own?Paula has a lot of heart. Simon pretty much tells it like it is. Sometimes he can be pretty harsh but he’s usually right. And Randy, he’s the diplomat. I have a combination of all of them. I do like to say it like I see it … but I do feel I have a heart. When your dealing with creative who have some talent, you want to make sure 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. 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.
With four judges, Simon will be the tiebreaker this season. Did that happen often?The two of them Randy and Paula would say yes at times, and then it would come down to me, because I knew Simon would say no. So I had to make that decision, whether I was going to give them another shot or not.
Who do you tend to agree with the most?There are have been times that I’ve agreed and disagreed with all of them. I definitely can sometimes see where Simon’s coming from. I wouldn’t have said it quite the way he said it, but I also do believe in second chances early on … Sometimes you see potential in and you have to think past some of the mistakes they made because they were nervous. But third chances, that’s another story.
Are there any stand-outs this season?The males were the strongest. There are at least five that are great. That being said, there are one or two females that I’m excited about as well. There is a uniqueness to some of the male contestants. There was a lot of soul influence, like the way that Maroon 5 is soulful.
You’ve already written or produced music with former Idols Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, as well as David Archuleta. Any other former contestants you’d like to work with?I really like Daughtry. I would love to co-write with him. If he’s out there and he wants to do a co-write, please call me! FOX