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‘The Four’ ignores Charlie Walk drama, focuses on contestant drama

Lyndsey Parker

The Four has been all about drama this season, but this week the drama wasn’t on the set or stage. Instead, it was judge Charlie Walk of Republic Records, who made headlines when he was accused of sexual misconduct by a former employee, Tristan Coopersmith. Fox quickly announced that Walk will not appear on next week’s finale, and Walk’s attorney, Patricia Glaser, released the following statement on the disgraced judge’s behalf:

“Out of respect for the contestants, my fellow judges, and everyone involved with the show, I have made the decision not to attend the finale of The Four. I do not want my presence to be a distraction. Needless to say, this is very upsetting. Although I continue to support the ‘Me Too’ movement, there has been an extreme rush to judgment against me in this particular case which is unfair and inconsistent with anything that even actually happened. I welcome any investigation so that in short order these unfounded and hurtful accusations can be put to rest.”

However, since this week’s penultimate episode was taped earlier — before this scandal broke — Walk did appear on the show. Barely. Yes, he was included in occasional wide shots, but most of his commentary unsurprisingly ended up on Fox’s cutting-room floor.

Instead, the episode focused on the usual drama — contestants smack-talking each other, rudely mouthing off to the judges, getting dragged away by security, etc. — plus the added drama of a “comeback” round featuring four previously eliminated singers.

Are you ready to eat? (I loathe that catchphrase, by the way.) OK then, let’s get to this very layered, very onion-like recap.

Vincint Cannady

I really liked this androgynous soulman’s R&B cover of Coldplay’s “Magic”; it was a unique interpretation, and his voice was lovely and silky. At first, I thought his performance style was too timid and tentative (and Meghan Trainor did advise him to make more use of the stage), but he blossomed slowly, and eventually he got my attention. This was magic.

Meghan liked Vincint’s “impressive but not aggressive” vocals. DJ Khaled appreciated Vincint’s gospel influences. Diddy expressed some doubts, but in the end voted Vincint through to the challenging stage. Charlie didn’t speak (or, if he did, Fox edited out his comments). But I’m going to assume Charlie liked Vincint too, because the judges’ “yes” vote was unanimous.

I guess Vincint wasn’t so timid after all, because he challenged … Jason Warrior, the longest-running (and possibly shortest-tempered) member of the current Four.

Jason Warrior vs. Vincint Cannady

Jason totally rubbed me several wrong ways by bragging that he would make John Legend’s “Ordinary People” his own by “hitting notes John Legend doesn’t hit.” Classy! I will say, though, that this was a classy performance, more restrained than Jason’s usual Warrior shtick. I don’t know, however, if he really “made it his own.” The Legend comparisons were just too obvious.

Vincint countered with Brandy’s ‘90s jam “Sittin’ Up in My Room,” and while he struggled with his lower register in the beginning, once he got into his groove, he had me dancing like Brandy in her Delia’s-appointed teenage bedroom. This felt original and swaggalicious; Jason’s performance was nice, but not extraordinary. Jason may have annoyingly/confusingly boasted, “Jason Warrior is like an onion with so many layers, and if y’all give me a chance, I guarantee you this finale will be the best finale you’ve ever seen in your life!” — but in my opinion, this Warrior had finally lost the fight.

Meghan was similarly underwhelmed by Jason, saying, “For some reason, I wasn’t as excited and pumped up as the other nights you’ve been here. And I don’t know if it’s because I’ve heard John Legend sing right next to me, and I don’t know if it’s because like, ‘Oh, we already have that,’ or you oversang the song.” Diddy preferred Jason. As for Charlie’s opinion, we will never know — Charlie said nothing, at least not in this episode’s careful edit.

The voting studio audience agreed with Meghan, and Vincint won this challenge. Jason then threw a bratty tantrum and claimed, once again, that he is more talented that John Legend. Sheesh. I will be checking Chrissy Teigen’s Twitter later to see if she throws Jason any shade.

Evvie McKinney

This 20-year-old Memphis diva gave a very traditional, very American Idol-style performance of Andra Day’s empowerment anthem “Rise Up,” dedicated to her late father. I don’t think she did much new with this either, but she certainly did the song justice — the girl had major, Andra-level pipes and “one of the strongest falsettos I’ve ever heard,” according to Meghan. Diddy raved, “You gave me range, you gave me color, you gave me complexity, and I’m gonna tell you one thing you did: You gave your family and your father victory.” (What did Charlie think? Who knows? Who cares?)

I guess Charlie agreed with Meghan and Diddy, because Evvie got four yes votes. And so, she challenged … Kendyle Paige, the girl who controversially knocked frontrunner Zhavia out of the running last week.

Kendyle Paige vs. Evvie McKinney

Controversy aide, Kendyle actually deserved to beat Zhavia last week. But I don’t think that, if she had performed this cover of Alessia Cara and Zedd’s “Stay” then, she would have had the same result. This week, Kendyle sounded desperate and shouty, and her unique, sexy, rasp had vanished. It didn’t look like she’d “Stay” after this.

Taking on Aretha Franklin’s “Never Loved a Man,” Evvie wiped the floor so hard with Kendyle, this episode might as well have been sponsored by Swiffer. Damn! Evvie was a beast on this. She was so on fire, even Charlie squeaked a comment in. “A star was born tonight. You,” he said.

Of course, Evvie won. Zhavia stans and Kendyle haters were satisfyingly avenged.

Now, with the regular auditions complete, it was time for four Twitter-voted returning contestants — Zhavia among them, of course — to try to reclaim their circular neon thrones. The other, non- Zhavia contestants were Candice Boyd, Ash Minor, and Saeed Renaud. For reasons that show host Fergie didn’t even bother to explain, Saeed battled Candice, and Zhavia battled Ash. Obviously, this was all a setup for Zhavia’s quickly orchestrated “comeback,” so Ash must have been bummed. I hope he hadn’t flown all the way from Australia for this.

Saeed Renaud vs. Candice Boyd

Saeed’s biggest problem when he originally competed on The Four was his old-fashionedness, so I don’t think his song choice, K-Ci & JoJo’s “All My Life,” helped him in any way. This was nice, but it was so American Idol Season 2. I wish he’d done something a little fresher — something by Frank Ocean or Solange, maybe? — because vocally, he did bring it.

Candice followed with Keyshia Cole’s “Love,” and while her performance also had a bit of a hotel lounge vibe, the titanic ballad really showcased her titanic pipes. I can’t imagine Candice winning The Four in the end, but it was obvious that she’d won this round. “Candice, the key changes in that song were so difficult, and you nailed every single one,” Meghan said.

So Candice prevailed, and then this show’s screwy format got ever screwier — when, out of nowhere, Fergie revealed that she could challenge either Nick Harrison or Tim Johnson Jr. (both incumbent Four members) to win back her seat. Nick did his best Jason Warrior impression and inexplicably mouthed off, arguing that Candice didn’t deserve another chance — so of course Candice took the bait and picked him for this showdown. “Maybe you shouldn’t have said that,” mused the mild-mannered Vincint.

Nick Harrison vs. Candice Boyd

Doing this “own little twist” on Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s “All the Way Up,” Nick’s fire and ferocity were undeniable. His likability, though? Oh, I could deny that, for sure. Braggadocio and ‘tude work well in the real hip-hop world, but they don’t always translate well on mainstream television. Then again, Nick had a point when he audaciously rapped, “Are we trying to make great music or reality stars?” Hmmm

In this apples-and-oranges battle, Candice too the show back to the ‘90s again with Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” — and it felt, well, very X Factor. But she won of course. Nick had alienated studio audience members, who were chanting, “Take his seat, take his seat!” before he’d even rapped a note.

Ash Minor vs. Zhavia

Ash pulled an Ed Sheeran/John Mayer, strumming a simple version of Bruno Mars’s “When I Was Your Man” on a bluesy guitar. It was actually very nice, very soulful, very sexy, with some tasty guitar licks, too. I was vibin’, as DJ Khaled might say. But was this enough to beat the eternally ready-to-eat Zhavia? My guess was no.

Still, I don’t think a personality-plus song like “Bodak Yellow” was the best choice for the brooding and stank-faced Zhavia, since she didn’t possess Cardi B’s innate lovability and vivaciousness. However, Diddy was feeling this, saying, “Zhavia, you stepped up. It took a lot of heart and courage to do that Cardi B song, and I think you did a great job.” Meanwhile, Meghan said, “Zhavia, I’m so proud of you for picking such a difficult song. I just wish you did something different.”

Oh, but of course Zhavia won. This was probably the most anticlimactic and preordained singing-show outcome since Jordan Smith won The Voice.

Tim Johnson Jr. vs. Zhavia

But Zhavia hadn’t secured her finale spot just yet! First, she had to beat incumbent Four member Tim, who lent his quirky, chirpy voice to “Earned It” by the Weeknd. I think he earned it, really. I have always found this kid fascinating.

Meghan was disappointed that Zhavia decided to do a ballad for her second song, but I think switching things up with A Great Big World’s “Say Something” was a smart move. After all of her smack talk and sass this season, we needed to see Zhavia’s sensitive side. She impressed me. “Thank you for picking that song,” Meghan later told her.

And Charlie finally got to speak! “Tim, I’d love to see a little bit more of the voice and a little bit less of the movement to feel you, especially for that song. I worked with the Weeknd on that song, and it was never about him moving. Zhavia, tonight, the song you just chose showcased your voice in a different way, and I hope everyone in this room understands what we’re trying to do — put a record out.”

Man. Zhavia and Tim were the two most interesting contestants this entire season. It was a shame they could not both advance. Zhavia ended up winning — but only by 2 percent of the vote. She earned it too, I suppose. But Tim will be missed next week.

And so, final Four moving on to next week’s finale are Zhavia, Candice Boyd, Evvie McKinney, and Vincint Cannady. (Not moving onto next week’s finale? Charlie Walk!) It seems weird that two of the finalists are singers we’ve just met, thrown in with one person who got eliminated weeks ago and another person who’s been pimped all season. But then again, very little about this show’s format has made sense to me since episode one. How are producers even determining who wins this thing, and will Charlie even have a say, since he’s currently on leave from Republic Records?

Well, whatever happens next week, there is sure to be drama.

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