Kara DioGuardi On Ellen, Lambert And A Girl Winning ‘American Idol’

This is only Kara DioGuardi’s second year judging American Idol, but she’s already had to cope with some giant, unexpected changes: Paula’s out, Ellen’s in, Simon’s about to jump ship, and now even her precious Coca-Cola has been (temporarily) replaced by the healthier Vitaminwater. “Everything’s changing always on the show,” Kara told reporters on a Fox conference call this morning. “I kind of just drink from the cup and just hope there’s no poison in it.” The accomplished singer/songwriter discussed all things Idol, including her thoughts on Ellen’s debut and who she really wants to see make it to the finals. Read on: 

Like everyone else, she thought Ellen did a bang-up job on her premiere episode. “I think that Ellen brings such humor of course, but she knows more about music than you think she does,” says Kara. “I think she was critical and constructive. When I was sitting next to her I thought she had a really good handle on whether a conestant had really good potential, if they had star quality, if something was off in their performance.”

Kara’s definitely on Team Ellen, but does she agree with her other co-judge Randy Jackson and his claims that a girl will take home the crown this year? “I would love to see a girl win. I think this year, and what’s going on in musical currently, it’s the woman’s moment. Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga… all these women at the forefront of the music industry.” Of course, she has to add: “But I also do think the men are really good.”

Interesting that Kara brings up both Taylor and Gaga in the same breath as a “woman’s moment”, since, according to some cultural observers, they sit are polar opposites in their influence in young women. But regardless, she’s right about women controlling the charts at the moment. We’re sure that emphasis on female musicians—particularly ones who can write and play their own music, as Swift and Gaga do—will be reflected in this season of Idol.

One of the men DioGuardi was fond of was Andrew Garcia, who wowed the crowd with a folky rendition of Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.” She called his performance “genius,” and compared his ability to twist a song around to Adam Lambert. So is there an Adam effect in this year’s competition? “People were interpreting songs from the get-go during audition week,” explains Kara. “They were taking risks, and I think maybe that is because of Adam. But I think that’s the sign of a good artist when they do something unique and new with the material.”

Many commenters are all atwitter that the more appropriate comparison to Garcia’s acoustic, guitar-driven version of a pop song would be Kris Allen’s take on Kanye West’s “Heartless.” We agree, but we don’t fault Kara for citing Adam, since he reinterpreted songs just about every week he was on the show, while Kris’s retweaking of the rap hit was one of his few attempts well-remembered by the public.

And finally, what’s with those pesky Howard Stern rumors? Kara could not sound more annoyed that the radio host’s name was even brought up. “I don’t think he has musical background or any music… anything.”

What kind of person should be replacing Simon? You could argue that Howard is as accomplished a musician as Ellen, and she’s on the show. “To replace Simon,” states the Idol judge, “It has to be someone who knows about signing good artists and being there for their career from the very beginning. That’s a precursor. Or them being artist themselves.”

Sorry, guys, we think that sadly rules out Conan O’Brien from the running.