"American Idol" adds writer-producer as 4th judge

Mon Aug 25, 2008 11:23pm EDT
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By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - "American Idol" on Monday added a fourth face to its panel of talent judges, a songwriter and producer who calls herself a "feisty" "straight-shooter" looking to crown a winner who is, above all, unique.

The Grammy-nominated pop composer, Kara DioGuardi, will join veteran "Idol" judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson for the upcoming eighth season of U.S. television's most watched show when it returns in January 2009.

The addition of DioGuardi, 37, marks the biggest format change for the series, subtitled "The Search for a Superstar," since it burst into prime time on the Fox network in 2002.

Self-assured with a matter-of-fact, no-nonsense style, DioGuardi is expected to provide a counterweight to the sometimes gushy, even vacuous on-air persona of Abdul, 46, who first gained fame in the 1980s as a pop singer.

Though hardly a household name, DioGuardi has written and produced songs for numerous recording artists, including pop stars Gwen Stefani and Christina Aguilera as well as past "Idol" winners Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, and has received several awards in recent years.

In a conference call with reporters, she noted a previous collaboration with Abdul, saying they co-wrote a song early in her career, "Spinning Around," that went on to become a hit for Kylie Minogue.

"For the past seven seasons, Paula has had to endure the experience of being the only woman at the judges table," said Mike Darnell, head of alternative programming at Fox. "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."

Producers will put that chemistry to its first test on Tuesday, when DioGuardi joins Abdul, Cowell and Jackson for the kickoff of auditions in New York.   Continued...

<p>Randy Jackson helps Kara DioGuardi of Platinum Weird with her dress during the Los Angeles Chapter of the Recording Academy's annual ceremony to honor extraordinary artists in Los Angeles, California June 8, 2006. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson</p>