Forget the New York Yankees — Diddy and Fox have built the newest superteam.
The producer, rapper, and mogul headlines the panel for The Four: Battle for Stardom, Fox’s attempt at revolutionizing the singing competition and countering American Idol (the network’s former crown jewel) moving to ABC.
Speaking with EW recently, Diddy said he was looking to mimic Dwyane Wade and LeBron James’ former Miami Heat squad by building his own “superteam.” He’s done just that, as he’s joined by Grammy winner Meghan Trainor, mega-producer DJ Khaled, and Republic Records boss Charlie Walk, with Fergie serving as host.
“We start where all the other shows end,” Diddy said of the “disruptive” event series, which skips the audition rounds and begins with four finalists. But each week, they must defend their spot against newcomers trying to knock them out of the competition. The last singer standing will be named iHeartRadio’s “On the Verge” artist and earn the guidance and support of the A-list panel in their hopes of becoming a star.
Ahead of Thursday’s premiere, EW chatted with Diddy, DJ Khaled, Walk, and Trainor about why they joined the series, their different judging styles, and the panel’s “adorable” chemistry.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it about this show that made you want to be a part of it?
MEGHAN TRAINOR: I was so excited to be a part of this show because it’s brand new. I’ve always wanted to be a judge or panelist on a lot of shows that I watch, but this one was too cool. I was one of their first meetings, and I’m so honored to be a part of the entire creation; I got to learn a lot about how to make a TV show and how involved it is. And for the premiere to finally be here … I’ve been crossing off the days on my calendar for this.
DJ KHALED: Diddy and Fox made the phone call and I was just grateful for the opportunity. I’m a music man. I’m always excited to do a film or make records, but also to be on TV to represent the culture of hip-hop and pick the next superstar — I’m excited. That’s like a blessing, to see somebody’s life change. When I was coming up in the game, there weren’t opportunities like this. So this is a super blessing for all the talented, great artists out there to get that exposure worldwide on the biggest stage.
CHARLIE WALK: Well, I didn’t know about this show until Diddy called me and he said to me, “I’m doing a show, it’s about music, I’d like you be on the panel.” And I said, “Why you doing it?” I go, “I’ve got a day job, I’m running a record company.” And he said, “I want to move culture. I did it once before with Bad Boy. I want to go do that again, I think there’s a major opportunity.” And I said, “Well, if we can put all genres on and you’re going to do that,” I talked about the Latin marketplace. At Republic, we’ve been very successful with “Despacito” and “Mi Gente” and that movement. You now see through the streaming world that people like Latin music, even in the U.K., where they said Latin music wouldn’t work. It’s a transparent game. And I just felt like I could bring my day job to the night job here and mix it up with a very elegant panel of friends. It’s not that there’s pressure, we just have to be very specific and right as we choose the artist to take them on their journey to carry off and give them the liftoff. That’s a long answer, but that’s how I felt. I felt like, let’s put steroids into what I’m already doing and what everyone else is already doing and care, and care more than maybe other shows that we’ve seen out there. This isn’t about the voice, it’s about an artist.
DIDDY: I think it was the disruptive nature of this show. We start where all the other shows end. In this music industry, everybody is fighting for that No. 1 spot, and so this is more reflective of how it is. Instead of people controlling your own destiny, you control your own destiny. And I think that’s what this present place of the music industry is at. The new generation is taking control of their own destiny, and that’s what this show wants to embrace.
The format of The Four is unlike any show before it. What do you like most about the setup?
TRAINOR: I like that it feels like a new game. I had to learn the rules and learn how it works. I thought was exciting. And I like that right away it’s an intense competition, from episode 1. It’s not like everyone’s auditioning just to get to a different level. No, we have four chairs here and they are our kings and queens and we love them already, so battle them if you can. I thought that was sick.
WALK: Everyone loves a battle. Everyone loves the underdog. We’re going to get a lot of that here. So what does that mean? It means that there will be multiple challengers every week against the four; I bet someone gets knocked out. I bet it gets bloody and sweaty and intense in this coliseum that we’re in; that’s what it feels like when I’m there. The idea is to make a difference in culture. With this panel and this platform and the show’s concept, I think it has the best opportunity to at least take someone and move culture, because we’re going to promote it and market it and push it and give someone the opportunity that no one has seen before.
It’s early, but how would you describe your judging style?
DJ KHALED: My judging style is I’m me. If you were great, I’m going to tell you that you were great. If you need advice, I’m going to give you advice. If you need to do better, I’m going to motivate and inspire you to not give up. Because if you don’t come out the winner of this show, that doesn’t mean you’re not the next superstar, because they told me “no” my whole life. Look where I’m at right now. So that right there, it can be the No. 5 person that becomes the No. 1 in the world, but everybody gets an opportunity. It’s on you what you do with your opportunity.
TRAINOR: I don’t really know. I assume that I will be emotional and helpful as much as I can. I think I’m going to be the most musical when I give advice compared to the other guys. But I’ll have a lot of love for these people, because I know what it’s like to be in their shoes.
WALK: We’re not going to hold anything back. Someone said to me, “Who are you going to be?” I’m going to be me. I’m not a villain, we talk truth because for this show. I’m not looking for someone to play clubs for the rest of their lives, I’m looking for someone to play arenas. Those are the acts that we get to work with at Republic.
What’s the chemistry been like so far between you and your fellow panelists?
DJ KHALED: It’s been real organic, authentic. Diddy is Diddy. He’s gonna do he what he do. Khaled, he’s gonna do what he do. And you’ve got Charlie Walk and Meghan Trainor, they’re doing their thing, meaning as in they’re going to do what they do. So it’s been a good energy and I feel like you’re going to take a lot from watching it at home. And as an artist, you’re going to get all this advice and either motivation or compliments or telling you that you need to step it up. You’re gonna take it and know it’s real.
WALK: We’re not manufactured. There wasn’t like a huddle to manufacture us. Diddy called me, then I talked to Khaled, Meghan’s like, “I think I’m doing this.” I’ve known Khaled for 10 years when he put out “All I Do Is Win,” I’ve known Megan since before “Bass.” We like each other, so it’s just a natural thing that’s happening backstage, on text, at Diddy’s house, on the weekends. Because we have to live with each other, and at the end of the series, the prize is us.
TRAINOR: I mean, I’m a middle child between two boys, so I feel right at home. I like that I’m the only girl … and now I got my girl Fergie, who’s just like my queen and gets me through everything; she’s the best. But the chemistry is adorable, and like, even my 95-year-old nana’s gonna love this show, I know it.
The Four premieres Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on Fox.