In her decade-plus career, Kara DioGuardi has helped write some of the biggest hits for artists like Kelly Clarkson, Pink, Cobra Starship, Carrie Underwood, the Pussycat Dolls and countless others. But when you’re an in-demand pop songwriter and you’re churning out tracks at a breakneck pace, they can’t all be winners. Hell, even John Lennon and Paul McCartney published a few turkeys.
Lucky for fans, DioGuardi’s sense of humor is just as strong as her sense of melody. When stopping by MTV News to promote her Bravo reality competition “Platinum Hit,” the former “American Idol” judge was more than happy to dish about some of the crazier credits on her otherwise-sparkling résumé.
Sample Lyric: “You can go higher, you can go deeper/ There are no boundaries above or beneath ya.”
Backstory: Kara’s two-season run on “American Idol” as “the fourth judge” wasn’t as well-received as she’d hoped, but nothing stung more than the flak she got for co-writing the season-eight winner’s song. In her recent book “A Helluva High Note,” Kara compared Kris Allen and Adam Lambert’s finale performances to a plane crash.
Kara’s Take: “The song that almost ruined my career! Let me tell you what really happened: I wrote that song for a girl, and when it went into the male register, it was a nightmare. Certain songs don’t translate,” DioGuardi admitted, adding that her finale half-naked sing-off with “Idol” reject Bikini Girl helped redeem her status with TV critics. “When your songwriting is really bad, just put a bikini on,” Kara joked.
In the End: Kris Allen became the first “Idol” winner to drop the “victory song” from his set list during the “Idol” tour. Last fall, he debuted a tongue-in-cheek “reggae” version of the song in front of Entertainment Weekly‘s cameras.
Lindsay Lohan’s “Confessions of a Broken Heart (Daughter to Father)”
Sample Lyric: “Daughter to father, daughter to father/ I am broken, but I am hoping!”
Backstory: After the platinum success of Lindsay’s debut album, sparked by hit single “Rumors,” Sony rushed Lohan and DioGuardi back into the studio to record a follow-up full-length, A Little More Personal (Raw). The kick-off single for album number two was a dark, autobiographical tune about fatherly abandonment.
Kara’s Take: “If you solo the vocals you’ll hear race cars, because we brought the studio to [Lindsay's] trailer on ‘Herbie Fully Loaded.’ I’m not kidding! She had no time to do the record, so she would be on her lunch break, and I’d be like, ‘Throw that thing down your throat and get over here, ’cause we got to finish these vocals!’ So I sat for 14 hours on the set and would grab her for, like, 10 minutes at a time. The poor girl. That’s the reality of young Hollywood. When they’re hot, they’re worked to death. It was 18/20-hour days. … And I swear: ‘Vroom! Vroom!’ You can hear it in the back.”
In the End: Fans were less enthused with Lindsay’s airing out of the family’s dirty laundry. The song stalled at #57 on the Billboard Top 100 chart, and no other singles were released. A Little More Personal (Raw) sold half as many units as her first foray into pop music, and Lindsay’s third album has been shelved indefinitely.
Katharine McPhee’s “Open Toes”
Sample Lyric: “I’m lovin’ these sling-back shoes/ I like the way they stay loose/ I could wear them all day and listen to the click-clack/ Shoes like this make me hate flats.”
Backstory: In addition to Kat’s successful single “Over It,” the season-five “Idol” runner-up’s eponymous debut contained a bizarre R&B party banger dedicated to open-toed footwear. Seriously.
Kara’s Take: “You know what? I have to tell you, I just edited it. … Sometimes you get writing credit … ” DioGuardi trailed off, embarrassed. “For instance, if you don’t have the whole idea, but someone brings you a song and says, ‘We really love this song. Can you help make it a little better?’ you probably don’t want to say, ‘Don’t write about open toes, because people will think about fungus and weird things on toes and stuff.’ So I was like, ‘Well I’ll just fix it a bit.’ I just totally put those [co-writers] under the bus,” Kara winced.
In the End: Katharine’s pop music career quieted down as her acting career picked up. She’s starring in the highly anticipated fall NBC show “Smash,” executive-produced by Steven Spielberg. Meanwhile, Kara and Katharine remain close friends. DioGuardi gushed, “I love Katharine McPhee, ’cause whenever I do a charity event, she is my go-to girl and she always shows up and sings a song. And it’s not ‘Open Toes,’ ” she said with a knowing wink.
Do you have any favorites from Kara’s catalog? What do you think of Kara’s behind-the-scenes dirt? Leave a comment below!