Built-in followings are hard to come by, so it’s no wonder Zhavia Ward, the standout finalist from Fox show “The Four: Battle for Stardom,” got herself a recording contract. What is surprising, however, is that it’s not with Republic Records.
The Universal Music Group label had first dibs on any singer who competed on the show, which aired in January, according to insiders. The season 1 winner, Evvie McKinney, received a record deal with Republic (home to The Weeknd and Ariana Grande) and a partnership with iHeartRadio, whose “On the Verge” program provides swift national exposure to millions of listeners.
But Ward, who went by simply Zhavia on the show (and was arguably its most recognizable contestant, thanks in large part to her dreadlocked hair — she currently boasts more than 3 million Instagram followers), has signed to RECORDS, a joint venture with Sony Music, through its Columbia label. Multiple sources tell Variety that Republic, which is run by founders Monte and Avery Lipman, passed on Ward, while Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry was waiting in the wings.
The RECORDS team includes industry veteran Barry Weiss, who founded the company, and Jenna Andrews, who was brought in as an A&R consultant earlier this year. Andrews posted news of the signing on social media, revealing Ward’s participation in a cut from the “Deadpool 2” soundtrack. Diplo’s “Welcome to the Party” also features Lil Pump and French Montana.
Hosted by Fergie and featuring expert panelists Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, DJ Khaled and Meghan Trainor, “The Four” returns to Fox for a second season next month. It’s worth noting that the original panel lineup included former Republic Records president Charlie Walk, who parted ways with the company following public accusations of sexual misconduct.