Move over, Paula Abdul

Times Staff Writers

In May, responding to a small decline in "American Idol" ratings, Fox executives said there would be changes to the show in its eighth season.

The first of those changes was announced on Monday. When "Idol" premieres in January, there will be a fourth judge seated at the table: Grammy-nominated songwriter Kara DioGuardi.

The New York-born DioGuardi, 37, has written songs for and with Christina Aguilera, Celine Dion and Gwen Stefani.

She has also worked with former "Idol" folk such as Kelly Clarkson, Bo Bice and Taylor Hicks.

In a press release sent out Monday, Cecile Frot-Coutaz, one of the show's executive producers, was quoted as saying, "We had originally intended for 'American Idol' to have four judges."

DioGuardi, interviewed by reporters on a conference call after the news was made public, said people from the show approached her for the job. "I just really found out a few days ago," she said. "Next thing I knew I was on a plane to New York."

As far as her judging philosophy goes, DioGuardi said she considered Simon Cowell, the harshest of the "Idol" judges, to be "spot-on most of the time."

She said she wanted contestants to sing in a way that "is true to them and is artistry and not just karaoke."

In an interview with a Phoenix radio station on Monday, "Idol" judge Paula Abdul expressed concern about the change, saying she wondered whether the audience would accept the altered dynamics.

When asked about Abdul's comment, DioGuardi said she herself wasn't worried, but "anybody with the right brain would say something like that. . . . She's just probably pondering what could and could not happen."

DioGuardi said her favorite contestant from Season 7 was Brooke White.

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stephanie.lysaght @latimes.com

maria.elena.fernandez @latimes.com

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