Fox’s new singing competition series The Four: Battle For A Superstar premiered tonight. Hosted by pop star Fergie, The Four has four vocalists of varying genres sing in front of a live audience and the four experts: producer and songwriter Sean “Diddy” Combs, producer and artist DJ Khaled, singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor and record label executive Charlie Walk.
The four artists fight to stay on the show, with newcomers challenging their spots every week. The last singer standing at the end of the six-episode run will get a record contract with Republic Records through Universal Music Group and will be named iHeartMedia’s “On The Verge” artist.
After a new artist sings, all four panelists have to vote yes in order for them to get a shot at challenging the sitting four. After the challenger and a member of the four of their choosing each sing, the studio audience then votes on their phones to decide if the challenger gets to take one of the seats.
The first four artists were Latin pop singer Elanese Lansen, alt-pop singer Blair Perkins, R&B singer Ash Minor and hip-hop singer Alexis “Lex Lu” Boyd. They kicked off the show by singing “Can’t Stop The Feeling” by Justin Timberlake, and Boyd set herself apart by delivering a rap verse.
The first challenger of the season was Tyler “Ty Alexander” Griffin, a 24-year-old singer. He sang “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo. He was a natural performer, but the vocals were not all that impressive. “You made me smile,” Combs said. Walk was not a fan, and even though the other panelists voted yes, he voted no, barring Griffin from advancing in the competition.
The next challenger was 16-year-old Zhavia. She sang “Location” by Khalid. She had an interesting tone, and she sang the song as if it were her own. “This is why I’m here,” Khaled said. “I feel like I was listening to the future here tonight,” Walk said. “I think you should be absolutely terrified right now,” Trainor said. But Combs said he didn’t think she could knock out any of the sitting four. The panelists all voted yes, making Zhavia the first challenger of the show.
She chose to challenge 22-year-old Lansen, who said she wants to channel her Latina roots in her music. She sang “Échame la Culpa” by Luis Fonsi and Demi Lovato. It was a fun and authentic performance, with Lansen proving she has what it takes to be a Latin pop singer.
Zhavia sang “Unforgettable” by French Montana, and she showcased more range and versatility than in her first performance. Trainor and Khaled said they were both great. Ultimately, it was up to the fans, who voted for Zhavia to take Lansen’s spot in the four. Zhavia’s seat was then locked for the rest of the night, meaning she was safe until next week.
Anthony Hall was the next potential challenger, singing “Feel It” by Portugal. The Man. He was an engaging performer, and it was the right song choice, his rasp sounding good on the song. “That’s my favorite song right now, and I loved what you did with it,” Trainor said. Ultimately, the panel did not vote him through. Walk said he doesn’t see him as being able to fill arenas. “You did not bring everything you had,” Combs said.
The next potential challenger was young rapper Illakris, who sings, writes, produces, and performs. He rapped over an Earth Wind and Fire sample and started the performance by saying his own name, channeling Khaled. “Your stage presence is something I’ve never seen before,” Trainor said. Walk said he found him interesting but suggested that Illakris wasn’t right for this particular show. Combs disagreed strongly. Khaled said he didn’t get enough feeling from the performance. Combs and Walk appeared to have a little sidebar as the panelists cast their votes. The panel voted for Illakris to challenge one of the four. Illakris chose to challenge Lex Lu, which made sense given their similar genre leanings.
Lex Lu, who identifies as a femcee, sang Khaled’s own “Wild Thoughts.” She nailed it, delivering the best performance of the night.
Illakris gave a performance of “Special Delivery” by G. Dep, and it was technically strong, but Lex Lu brought a lot more to the table in terms of star power and versatility. Combs said he wasn’t totally happy with either artist. The audience voted for Lex Lu to keep her seat, which was then locked for the rest of the episode.
The next potential challenger was Valentina Cytrynowicz, who sang “Green Light” by Lorde. It was a little too close to the original recording, but Cytrynowicz had charisma and a strong voice. After she directed and filmed her first music video, Vogue declared her a rising pop star to watch, but there wasn’t anything all that special about her. Trainor said she felt like Cytrynowicz was putting on a voice. “I didn’t like it one bit,” Combs said, which angered Walk, who wanted to give her a chance. Khaled asked Zhavia what she thought, and she said that Cytrynowicz needed to add more of her own sound to the song. Combs voted no, so Cytrynowicz did not get a shot at challenging. She walked off in tears.
Up next was Saeed Renaud singing “Run To You” by Whitney Houston. He was charming and had a gorgeous tone. He had one of the most technically impressive voices of the night. “If someone says no on this panel, I’m out of here,” Khaled said. Walk said he thinks there’s a place for Renaud in the music industry.
The panel voted for Renaud to challenge one of the four. Renaud chose to challenge Perkins, who has already established himself as a professional songwriter. Perkins sang “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith, showcasing his beautiful tone and impressive falsetto. Renaud sang “Love Me Again” by John Newman, and it was even better than his first performance. He put up a good fight.
“Both you guys have something really, really special,” Combs said. The audience voted for Renaud to take Perkins’ seat in the four. So by the end of the night, two of the original four were out, and two newcomers were in. Next week, a new set of challengers will attempt to unseat Renaud, Zhavia, Lex Lu and Minor, who was not called upon to defend his spot tonight. What do you think of this new competition format?
This article originally appeared in THR.com.