By People Staff
Updated August 25, 2008 12:00 AM
Credit: FOX

Paula, Randy and Simon are getting some company.

Grammy-nominated songwriter Kara DioGuardi is joining American Idol as a judge when the singing competition returns for its eighth season in January 2009.

“We are turning the heat up on Idol this year and are thrilled to welcome Kara to the judges’ table,” show creator Simon Fuller said in a statement released Monday. “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.”

DioGaurdi is certainly qualified for the job, having written songs for artists as diverse as Kelly Clarkson, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Celine Dion, Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, Santana, and Pink. Even Miley Cyrus and the Jonas Brothers have released DioGuardi’s songs.

Adding a fourth judge may seem like a shakeup for TV’s biggest show but, according to executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz, producers always intended to have a fourth judge on the panel.

“We’ve seen from our international series that having a fourth judge creates a dynamic that benefits both the contestants and the viewers,” Frot-Coutaz said.

And at least one executive at FOX, Mike Darnell, the network’s president of alternative programming, believes that original female judge Paula Abdul deserves some companionship.

“For the past seven seasons, Paula has had to endure the experience of being the only woman at the judges’ table,” Darnell said in a statement. “With Kara by her side, Paula finally has some back-up and now there is going to be a lot more ‘girl power’ on the show.” Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic