By Kate Ward
September 04, 2010 at 04:41 PM EDT

Image Credit: Michael Becker/FOXOh, Kara. Kara, Kara, Kara. (Sorry, turned on my Randy Jackson switch right there.) Last night, you announced via a statement from Fox that you will not be returning to the tenth season of American Idol. And, sweetie, I gotta tell ya, we’re going to miss you.

I know: I’m a little shocked to have written that statement myself. Because here at PopWatch HQ, we have long been critical of the fourth judge, who was added back in season 8. We chided her for her tendency to favor commercialism over true talent when it came to the show’s contestants. We blasted her for allowing Danny Gokey to assault our ears on a week-by-week basis. (Remember this?) We seriously questioned her music I.Q. after she made such blunders as labeling “Cryin'” “early Aerosmith.” And then, worst of all, she cursed us with “No Boundaries,” a song that should be buried deep below the surface of the Earth, only to be consumed by dirt-dwelling insects tired of feeding off of chemicals washed from Ryan Seacrest’s formerly frosted tips.

But you know what? It was exactly blunders like these that made DioGuardi a (excuse the term) packaged artist on the judges’ panel.

What is Idol without an infuriating judges’ critique? A regrettable slip of the tongue? (It’s why we loved Paula so, after all.) A terrible coronation song that, to your horror, you find yourself adding to your iTunes? (A move no doubt fueled by the brainwashing power of this tune.) Here’s the thing: Even if you hated the way Kara pounded her fists on the judges’ panel, praising the undeserving while casting aside more talented artists with a condescending “hon,” you have to admit that the judge created moments on the program. The most rabid of Idol fans might not be able to recall one memorable Randy Jackson critique, but they remember that Kara mislabeled Studio 54 as “Studio 57” back in season 8. Fans might not recall that Joe Jonas or Victoria Beckham served as guest judges during the season 9 auditions, but they remember Katy Perry guesting on the panel, mostly because she served as Kara’s sparring partner. And fans might not recall finalists like Lil Rounds or Michael Sarver, but they sure remember Bikini Girl after Kara challenged the auditioner (twice!) with her own stripped-down (heh) vocals.

And, finally, what is Idol without a redemption story? Kara might have consistently riled us up from January to May 2009, but during the disaster that was season 9, Kara proved herself by being the one knowledgeable, interesting, and not-checked-out member of the judges’ panel. She gave constructive criticism. She actually discussed musicality. She inspired the contestants. She was, as Ellen would say, pretty…great.

Heck, at least she was better than Randy, right?

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Kara DioGuardi not returning to ‘American Idol’: It’s (finally) official