‘American Idol’ Adds a Fourth Judge

When aspiring pop stars take to the stage for the next season of American Idol, they will be facing more “constructive” criticism than ever: Fox announced on Monday that a fourth judge would be added to the panel.

Grammy-nominated songwriter Kara DioGuardi, whose work will probably be much more familiar to audiences than her name, will join judges Simon CowellPaula Abdul and Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest when the eighth season kicks off in January 2009.

It’s a major shakeup for America’s most-watched TV show and its three-judge tradition. There hasn’t been a major personnel change since Brian Dunkleman failed to rejoin Seacrest as co-host of the show after season one.

In a statement, Mike Darnell, President, alternative programming of Fox, offered this explanation: “For the past seven seasons, Paula has had to endure the experience of being the only woman at the judges’ table. She’s been as an island of consideration and gentle criticism between Randy and Simon, offering her invaluable expertise as a performer and No. 1 artist to the thousands who have competed on American Idol. With Kara by her side, Paula finally has some back-up and now there is going to be a lot more ‘girl power’ on the show.”

Idol’s creator and executive producer Simon Fuller, meanwhile, sang the praises of DioGuardi. “She is a smart, sassy lady, and one of America’s most successful songwriters. We know she will bring a new level of energy and excitement to the show,” said Fuller in a statement.

DioGuardi boasts a highly successful and prolific history, having written songs performed by the likes of Celine Dion, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, Miley CyrusFaith Hill and Santana, as well as almost every former Idol contestant who has gone on to stardom.

There has been scant speculation that Idol’s most (in)famous judge, Cowell, will soon walk away from the show, and DioGuardi’s arrival could start a rumor frenzy.

What do you think about American Idol adding a fourth judge?