American Idol 8 has cancelled the amateur songwriting contest for this season, and new judge Kara DioGuardi is working on a song that may be selected as the winner’s coronation song–as she has in the past, although her previous entries were rejected.
“I’m taking a stab at writing a song, possibly the winner’s song,” Kara told me. “I was just told, if I want to take a stab at it,” to do it, and so “I’m going to put my hat in the ring and see what happens.” That producers have asked her–and presumably others–to write the finalists’ original song means there’s no songwriting contest this year.
Fox confirmed that, as a spokesperson told me, “There isn’t a song writing element to this season’s American Idol.” The songwriting contest first began during the sixth season, although even then it almost didn’t happen. While it wasn’t promoted as much last year, a songwriting contest also produced the single the Davids performed and Cook released, “Time of My Life.”
I interviewed Kara for this msnbc.com feature about her time on the show so far, in which she talks with remarkable honesty (“I’m learning every week. I’m trying to get better”) about everything from the rumors of conflict between judges (“just not true”) to her judging style (“more technical … I take people’s dreams very seriously”) to why song choice is important (“you’re going to live or die by your song choice after this competition”).
Speaking of song choice, Kara said this isn’t the first time she’s tried to write the coronation song. “I’ve always tried to write the final song so it’s not really a big [deal]–they’re either going to like it or they’re not. I have, and it didn’t work out. But I got singles on some of the Idol’s [albums], so that was a good consolation prize.”
When I complained about how terrible that song tends to be, Kara told me that “it’s a hard song to write, because it is inspirational and you find yourself when you’re writing it, it can be cliché, it can be all those things. But at the same time, the show is about dreams, it’s about going for your dream and not letting anybody stop you and hopefully realizing that moment and having the audience have been a part of that. It’s a pretty powerful thing when you think about it.”
I asked if she’s writing a specific style of song or one that can be adapted to a wide range of styles, and she said, “There are some performers who can take on many different songs and still make them their own, and then there are some which we’re seeing, I think this season, that can’t. So when I’m writing the song, I’m not thinking of the winner, I’m just thinking of the three strong people that I could think could end up possibly being the American Idol, I do believe that all of them could take the song on and deliver it in a way that’s unique to them.”
“I would hope that whoever wins this year could take a song and make it their own,” Kara added. “And I think that’s really what the American Idol is about.”