Guess it’s tough for a music mogul to give up too much creative control: After reaching out to fans of MTV’s Making the Band 4 to help select this season’s four-man line-up by voting for their favorites online, Diddy shocked a live audience in Times Square last night by announcing the top vote-getter — Donnie — would not be a member of the band. He would instead be signed to a solo deal with Bad Boy Entertainment.
Diddy followed up that surprise by announcing another: The anticipated roster of four guys had expanded to five. Robert, Willie, Qwanell, Brian A., and Big Mike were selected as this season’s winners. Seems everyone who did an eight-count across the stage came out smiling…almost. The bloodshot eyes and shellshocked expressions of the four remaining finalists proved that no one knew what Diddy had up the sleeve of the red suede jacket he was sporting.
Making the Band 3 vets Danity Kane — all five of them — made an appearance, dispelling rumors that the ladies had pulled a ”Laurie Ann Gibson” by leaving the Bad Boy family. And speaking of Laurie Ann: Following the departure of the series’ popular choreographer, Diddy used last night’s event to introduce a new dance instructor, Jamaica, whom he later revealed was in the running to pull on that famous (maybe infamous) blue leotard and fishnets.
Here, Diddy speaks to EW about the unexpected signee, working with the MTV brand, and what’s next for the most recent additions to his Bad Boy stable.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How much bearing did the public vote actually have on the process?
DIDDY: It definitely had a lot of bearing on Donnie getting a solo deal. The numbers on him were astronomical. And based on what he was bringing, his personality, he was very unique, and I thought it would be best to not force a round peg into a square hole and give him his own shine.
The look of the band obviously weighs on your decisions to cut. Did race have any effect at all on the final decision? (All the members of the new band are black.)
Naw. Race didn’t have any factor. I mean, if you’ve seen what I’ve done with Danity Kane, it doesn’t really have a factor. It was just vocal tone, and it was an energy thing. Donnie has a real laid-back energy, he’s very passionate, very sensitive, very unique… But I felt like the the guys that I put together, their swagger, and their energy, they wanna go out there and fight.
The idea of an all-male group feels really nostalgic, like the stuff you were into in the early part of your career. Did you feel that coming through?
Yeah, I would have to say that I’m very excited about going into the studio, getting behind the board. I haven’t really gotten behind the board, I haven’t had nothing I wanted to get behind. I love making R&B, and I’ma go in and be at the helm of all these albums and try to get ’em done within, like, a 12-week period. I’ma put a lot of pressure on myself and not over-produce it and make some real raw, new, hip-hop soul/R&B, you know. I think that’ll be how I can come back.
Are there any particular challenges to working through the Making the Band franchise, rather than scouting and developing the talent yourself?
No — I think in today’s industry, anything you have going for you, if you have this MTV machine behind you and the visibility behind you, it’s a plus. I think what’s kind of hard sometimes is the amount of people, because we’re doing groups. A lot of people aren’t doing groups. It’s hard to move them around with the budgets and stuff. But this group put 10,000 people outside in Times Square with no promotions, just on a viral thing. And so you’re definitely looking at a superstar sensation in the making.
So you announced that Jamaica is the new choreographer tonight. When will we see her with the band?
Well, it’s between Jamaica and another cat Jamal — they’re both splitting it because they’re both busy. You’re talking about two of the busiest choreographers in the game.
What’s next for the guys?
I don’t know just yet. We’re working on the schedule right now. I’m really trying to let them spend some time with their families, ’cause they’re going to have to move up here with me.