I'm a little ashamed to admit this, but I really enjoy reading celebrity memoirs sometimes. Don't get me wrong, I read lots of other, less trashy things, too, but contemporary memoirs are so far outside of my research interests that they make useful brain relaxation tools. I also find it fascinating to read how certain celebrities see and present themselves autobiographically.**
So as an (some might say) obsessive American Idol fan, I couldn't resist having a look at Kara DioGuardi's new memoir A Helluva High Note: Surviving Life, Love and American Idol. After reading it, I have to admit that I felt a little bad for her about Idol. She was (and still is) a mega-successful songwriter, with vocal chops of her own, but with virtually no experience on TV when she was thrust into the Idol limelight, albeit voluntarily. She describes how difficult the first season was for her, and how she was given very little advice from producers or anyone on the show about how to do the job she had been enlisted to do. To add to that, things were uncomfortable for her with Simon, and as that first season (season 8) went on, she found herself continually ill at ease with him. On top of all that, she knew the second she heard it that the much panned winner's song that year, "No Boundaries", which she penned with another songwriter Cathy Dennis, was a disaster, and after the finale she went to her trailer and cried.
It's not honest of me to say that I didn't criticize her a lot during her first (and about half of her second) season, but after reading her side of it, it's easy to see why she had so much trouble jumping in there with smart, useful critiques for contestants, and I felt genuinely bad for agreeing so virulently with some of her most vocal critics. That said, during the second half of season 9, she was the only judge on the panel doing the job well. Simon had a raging case of senioritis, and Ellen and Randy didn't give the contestants much to work with, either. I thought Kara really stepped up, becoming the lone voice of reason. She won me over, and I was really sad to see her leave with the judging shakeup last summer.
All that is to say that I think her new competition reality show on Bravo, Platinum Hit, which debuts tonight at 10/9c, could be really great. As I understand it, she and Jewel will widdle down a field of twelve singer-songwriters, using a series of songwriting challenges to determine who is most deserving of a $100,000 and a publishing/recording deal. Songwriting is Kara's game, and she's had a very successful run of it***. The kinds of critiques she is capable of offering could be pointed and interesting. As could be those from Jewel, who has proven her worth as a singer, musician, songwriter, and even a TV judge (remember her run on Nashville Star?).
Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this one! Let me know what you think if you tune it.
**For your own delight and delectation, the best ones I've read in the last year are hands down Alison Arngrim's Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated, a hilarious and heartbreaking account of how playing Nellie Oleson helped Arngrim grow into a confident advocate for abuse victims, which she herself had been as a child; and Tina Fey's Bossypants, a witty, non-linear collection of essays about her life, and the laugh-out-loud funniest book I've ever read.
***Among the notable songs she's written or co-written are the following: Christina Aguilera's "Ain't No Other Man"; Carrie Underwood's "Undo It", "Mama's Song"; Colbie Caillat's "I Never Told You"; Cobra Starship's "Good Girls Go Bad"; Kelly Clarkson's "I Do Not Hook Up", "Walk Away"; Pink's "Sober"; Hilary Duff's "Come Clean"; Ashlee Simpson's "Pieces of Me" (say what you will about Ashlee Simpson, but that song is fun!), "Shadow", "La La"; Enrique Iglesias' "Escape"; Katharine McPhee's "Terrified" (a personal fav).