After just two weeks, four completely different singers occupied the blue circles of The Four: Battle for Stardom. And two of them would be gone by the end of the night.
We started with Elanese, Blair, Lex Lu, and Ash. For episode three, we had Cheyenne, Candice, Zhavia, and Jason. Being in a blue seat doesn’t guarantee a performer much protection.
As usual, the Four got their spotlight at the beginning of the episode, singing Bang Bang as each took a turn at the lyrics. Three of them were onstage, while Zhavia got the honor of singing right by the judges’ table. Her signature dreadlocks were wrapped into a giant bun atop her head.
Thoughts after that? DJ Khaled was in matching red Louis Vuitton jacket, scarf, and gloves. “It’s a cold world; bundle up!” Huh? Diddy was wearing shades. “This is strictly about making sure we get a superstar artist. I could do something really special with Zhavia.”
But Zhavia wasn’t feeling so special. She woke up that morning with a cold and very weak voice. Did that make her vulnerable to a challenge — or more sympathetic to the audience? “I’m not in the best condition, but I’m not gonna let that hold me back if I get challenged.”
The first challenger was Rell Jerv, a 24-year-old rapper from Washington, D.C., with two adorable kids. He performed Pools by, er, Rell Jerv. Good verbal gymnastics. From his Four seat, Jason Warrior gave him a standing ovation.
Meghan: “I like when you can hear every single word. You can tell when they have amazing breath control. I would like to see you loosen up a little bit.”
Charlie, ever the marketer: “I was thinking that hip hop is the most consumed genre, the #1 genre. Real artists do what you just did. You did you.”
But Diddy (still in shades) wasn’t sure. He heard the influence of too many other people. “For 35 seconds, I heard Rell. Loosen up!”
The judges voted and unanimously decided to advance Rell. Who does challenge? “It’s only right for me to pick the one to take out the rapper, Cheyenne.” Cheyenne somehow eliminated rapper Lex Lu last week, possibly because her grandmother Dionne Warwick was working the crowd.
Fergie asked her about that possible bias. Cheyenne replied, “I respect my family and I love my family, but I’m my own person and I’m willing to work just as hard as any of these people up here.” No one believed her. She sang Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus. It was a sincere, breathy, operatic version of the song, with none of Miley’s roughness.
Rell rapped I Own It, also written by him. The challenge drew mixed results from the judges. Diddy called Cheyenne “the future icon” but Meghan told her “I do wish we saw something more from you.”
Winner: Rell! I suppose the show must have a rapper. Or maybe the audience was making up for last week’s mistake.
Rell: “It feels good, but I get right back to work tomorrow.”
Cheyenne: “This competition made me stronger. I’m walking away from this experience believing in myself.”
I tweeted that I wanted to hear Fergie’s farewell to a fallen Four-ier, “Walk your path with pride,” whenever I faced frustration in my life. Fergie was kind enough to retweet me.
The next challenger was another non-amateur, 18-year-old Sean Cavaliere. At 14, he performed in the boy band New District; the group only broke up last month. He says the show is “the biggest opportunity I’ve ever been given,” which doesn’t seem true.
He sang Stitches by Shawn Mendes. Zhavia mentioned to Jason that he looks like Shawn Mendes. Meghan told her fellow judges he sounds like him too.
After the performance, Meghan showed some rare insight: “I wish you didn’t do a Shawn Mendes song, because it’s tough to see where you fit in the industry right now. We have a Shawn Mendes.” Though Meghan did compliment Sean’s “Leonardo diCaprio eyes staring into my soul.”
DJ Khaled lit his vibe candle. “You was good. But I don’t feel like you’re better than the Four.”
That led to a huddled debate among the judges. Charlie cautioned, “We have better talent coming,” while Meghan pointed out, “If we lose him, we lose him forever.”
In the end, Diddy and Meghan voted yes, while Khaled and Charlie voted no. Khaled tried to comfort him with “They said ‘no’ to me my whole life. Look where I’m at right now.”
Next up: Jefferson Clay from Austin. The first performer to bring a guitar. He covered Better Man by James Morrison in a pleasant coffeehouse kind of voice, with a bit of Texas twang.
Meghan, always so kind to the male performers, said “You came out here like it was home. I had a really fun time and I enjoyed every part of it.”
He somehow got all four votes. Who would he challenge? DJ Khaled offered to advise him…by bringing out his son Asahd. Adorable, yes, but not really helpful. Despite or because of this, Jefferson chose Jason with a salty “Thanks for keeping my seat warm.” In fact, his whole attitude changed once he got the go-ahead. He went from charming to smarmy.
Jason sang Love on the Brain by Rihanna, with energetic, wailing vocals. He looked great in a pink suit too (and looks matter; this ain’t The Voice). Zhavia said he was “amazing,” and I agree.
Jefferson responded with a “meh” version of R. Kelly’s Ignition. Afterwards, with each singer flanking Fergie, things got tense.
Jefferson said about Jason, “You cannot deny that voice. But this is about being an artist.” Jason replied, “An artist is someone who is born with the gift, not someone who learned to play the gift!” Jefferson’s wrong in that Jason isn’t an artist; Jason is wrong in that hard work plays just a big a role as natural talent.
DJ Khaled asked the two men to shake hands and “respect each other.” They went a step further and hugged instead.
Diddy cautioned Jason, “You’re playing around too much. Stay focused and go for it. This is a serious craft. You need to have some finesse.”
The audience voted and Jason survived. I was glad, because Jefferson was becoming a jerk. “I had to do it,” he said afterwards. “It’s a competition.”
At this point, Fergie announced that America could bring back one former Four-ier for a second chance. Lex Lu has my vote.
The next challenger was Nicole Boggs, a 30-year-old singer from Nashville whose father played keyboard in a rock band. She made the bold move of singing Like I’m Gonna Lose You by Meghan Trainor.
Fergie said she was “speechless” and hugged Nicole. But all that mattered was what Meghan thought. “That was so good. I always forget that chorus is so difficult to sing, and you sang it like it was so easy! I got jealous.”
Nicole got four blue circles. Going from bold to suicidal, she challenged Zhavia, the fan favorite who had the audience’s sympathy for being sick — and whom everyone was afraid to challenge last week.
Zhavia covered Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly in a low, smoky voice that sounded perfectly fine. Not exciting or big, but she got through it without a problem. She hit and sustained the last note, crying after she finished. DJ Khaled held up his lighter.
Nicole countered with Kesha’s Praying, which can make a lot of people cry. It showed an entirely different sound to Nicole. “We all got goosebumps,” Charlie told her. Khaled said “This is undeniable talent.”
Diddy told Nicole, “I’m very impressed with your audition. But what Zhavia showed me tonight made me think I’ve identified an artist I haven’t seen before.”
As Talent Recap predicted days ago, the audience kept Zhavia in her seat.
Our final challenger was Tim Johnson, Jr., from Philadelphia. He’s 18. His father was in a gospel group and had a recording studio in the basement. Tim played young Simba in the Las Vegas production of The Lion King (this show is one strange talent search).
He sang Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together, which sounds a bit odd coming from a teenager. He did the splits at the beginning and worked the crowd well. There was some talk among the judges that he was too much like Michael Jackson.
Meghan: “When they say you can really feel music in your bones, I see it all over you. It was the coolest thing to watch.”
Charlie: “You’re the ultimate performer. And I’m curious to see what your next performance will be.”
Tim got the votes to advance. His only choice is to challenge Candice, who eliminated Ash last week (remember him?).
Candice covered Alessia Cara’s Here. Khaled said “She’s a beast” while she sang. It was certainly a strong performance.
Tim sang All I Want by Kodaline, a softer song that showed his range. Candice looked displeased as she watched.
Khaled: “I’m very stressed out. Candice, you’re not playing no games. You’re soulful, you’re powerful, you’re a queen. I see the vision.”
Meghan: “I see Tim’s vision more. I’m the biggest fan, Candice. No one can out-sing you. But Tim, I think you’re something magical.”
The audience voted, and Tim won. He starts crying. Khaled told Candice “Don’t give up.” She said, “I felt like I got robbed a little bit. Vocally I’m stronger. I think my performance was stronger.” She forgets that only the first round is up to the industry experts. Her ultimate fate is in the hands of a studio audience, who can be swayed by a sob story or a famous relative.
Last week’s ratings were down 17% from the premiere in a key demographic. Will this week’s Zhavia drama and Jefferson/Jason battle bring them back up? We’ll see.