Is Kara DioGuardi the Best Judge on American Idol?
American Idol's current season of contestants is spottier than a D.I.Y. dye-job., but the judging panel isn't exactly a cohesive powerhouse either. Between Randy Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres, and Simon Cowell, critiques have been vague, pandering, and suspiciously biased, respectively. Meanwhile, Kara DioGuardi has improved from her first season, now ably diagnosing issues with song choices and artistic intention. Could the withering backlash against her have had more to do with her sometimes-cloying way of addressing the contestants than with her views themselves? Here are three advantages Kara has over her fellow judges:
More than the other judges, Kara attempts to address each artist as an individual. While she's savvy about the categorization inherent in the music industry, she also acknowledges what makes each contestant different than their genre boilerplate.
Said To: Didi Benami, after her performance of "Play With Fire"
"I think sometimes when you push on your vocals, you lose your way a bit. But what I liked tonight that I saw was an intensity that you attacked the song with. And that's what those lyrics were about. You got dark. There's something very compelling about the sweetness of your voice with the eeriness of the song. And you did it last week. So for me, it's two steps in the right direction towards who you're becoming as an artist."
Grading Week-to-Week Trends
While Randy and Ellen have exhibited sketchy recall when it comes to past weeks of performances, Kara has a better comprehension about each artist's progress. Best of all, she never becomes dismissive like Simon.
Said To: Aaron Kelly, after his performance of "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing"
"Ellen said it -- best song choice of the night. Maybe one week you were off, but week to week, you know how to pick a song that accentuates the strength in your voice and shows consistency, because you do have that country twang in your voice, and I hear it week to week. I'm not going to beat you up on the vocals, because it wasn't perfect, and we know why. I am going to say, [I want] more stage presence from you. But overall, good attempt."
Kara's greatest strength is how she actually gives the performers ideas by zeroing in on their talents and mistakes. While Simon's curt appraisals may be more titillating, Kara's the one who's best able to encourage -- and without Ellen's "Great job" pull-toy soundbites, to boot.
Said To: Crystal Bowersox, after her performance of "Long As I Can See the Light"
"You completely recovered from last week. 'You Oughta Know' [Erratum: She meant 'Hand in My Pocket'] was a more contemporary song, and it just didn't fit you. This is you who are. You are that Americana, rock. And when you come out here, it's effortless. You're just centered. You're focused in a way that the greats are. It's coming from your heart, and you can feel it. And i love it. I think tonight you hit a new level. You hit a new level, and I have to congratulate you for that, because that's very hard in these early days."