“American Idol’s” Kara DioGuardi says new judge Ellen DeGeneres’ debut with the show was a success, and she looks forward to seeing how the dynamic of the panel develops over the show’s ninth season.
“I think she did a great job during Hollywood Week,” DioGuardi told reporters during a conference call Wednesday, the day after DeGeneres’ bow on the first of “Idol’s” two Hollywood Week episodes. “I think that Ellen brings a sense of humor, of course, but also I think she knows more about music than you think she does. I think she was critical at times, and she gave good feedback that was constructive…When I was sitting next to her, I felt she had a really good handle on whether a contestant has potential, whether they had a star quality…She delivered the message with kindness but also had criticism in there.
“I think it takes time to get used to. I think the dynamic is something that grows over time.”
DioGuardi also downplayed reports about tensions between DeGeneres and Simon Cowell. “I think you have to take any rumor about ‘American Idol’ with a grain of salt. They’re usually not true. Last year it was Kara and Paula fighting, hate each other, Kara sits in the corner…These things are just ridiculous. We’re all there to do one thing, and that’s to find the greatest contestant, the greatest ‘American Idol’ winner we can find. I know Ellen and Simon both take that seriously.”
DioGuardi demurred when asked to comment about Paula Abdul’s absence from the show but did say that the change has led to her taking on a different role with “Idol” contestants. “Paula was very nurturing,” DioGuardi explained, “and I think for me, during the audition rounds, I tried to give the kids the benefit of the doubt and tried to give them another shot when they had some modicum of talent. I felt I was a bit more supportive in the beginning rounds than maybe I would’ve been in the previous year…If you judge the way you would during the final rounds, we’re not gonna have any kids.”
DioGuardi was also not keen to discuss Simon Cowell’s pending departure from the show, but she did address rumors about radio personality Howard Stern taking the seat. “I don’t think he has a musical background or any kind of music anything,” DioGuardi said. “I think that if you’re going to replace Simon, you have to have that background. You have to have somebody who knows about signing great artists and being part of their career from beginning to end, which (Cowell) has done with people like Leona Lewis.”
DioGuardi said she was flattered to hear a couple of her songs — “Terrified” and “Sober” — performed by contestants but added that it presents something of a conundrum for her as a judge.
“It’s like, ‘Wow, they’re singing my song; oh my God, if it’s not good, what am I gonna say?’ ’cause it’s so sweet of them to even want to do that,” DioGuardi explained. “At the end of it you’re either digging it…or you’re not. You don’t want to be biased ’cause they sang your song. You want to tell the truth.”