Every American Idol season is eagerly anticipated. But Season 8 brings a significant change-a permanent fourth judge. Did it work on opening night?
Guest judges have been utilized in past seasons of Foxs ratings juggernaut, but 2009 is the first year American Idol has expanded the core judging panel consisting of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.
Who is the Fourth Judge?
The newcomer is a very successful songwriter named Kara DioGuardi. Ms. DioGuardi's first name became a source of playful contention on night one of the new season, for although her name is pronounced "care-uh", Simon Cowell insisted on calling her "car-uh", much to the confusion of contestants and viewers alike.
But it was not her name that held everyone's attention, it was her ability to seamlessly blend in with the other judges yet hold her own as an individual. Unlike previous guest judges who did little more than parrot already voiced opinions, or offer milk-toast praise that added nothing to the decision-making, Ms. DioGuardi burst forth as a judging force to be reckoned with. She proved she was no guest. She belongs.
Success Breeds Success
Kara DioGuardi's background as a prolific award-winning songwriter brings a different perspective to American Idol. As any songwriter can attest, inspiration comes from many places, and as the contestants perform, Ms. DioGuardis songwriting instincts give her the ability to hear a potential hit perfectly suited to the contestant's voice before others may even know such possibilities exist.
While viewers may hear a great vocal performance during an audition, Ms. DioGuardi may hear a voice that is ready to be married to the next great song that is already forming in her head. It is an exciting prospect and adds a rich dimension to the process.
While some may think that Ms. DioGuardi's spirited burst into song to show a bikini-clad contestant just how the song should really be sung was rude, it is that kind of spontaneous freshness that helped make opening night of Season 8 more fun than usual.
No one likes to see contestants humiliated, but mixing it up with them can be enjoyable. And Ms. DioGuardi's ability to recognize and exploit opportunities for fun is a welcome breath of fresh air for a long-in-the-tooth show.
Is She Here to Stay?
If American Idols Season 8 premier night is any indication, the viewers may be in for a treat. The addition of Ms. DioGuardi to the show may prove to be one of the best decisions made by American Idol's powers-that-be since its inception, or it may prove to be a flash in the Idol pan. Only time will tell if she will gel within the format for the long run.