Television

Russian Dolls Talk 'Masked Singer' Exit: 'I'm Pretty Sure We're Not Sugarland'

The Masked Singer
Michael Becker/FOX

The Masked Singer: Russian Dolls in “The Quarter Finals - Five Fan Favorites!” episode of airing May 12, 2021.

[Spoiler alert: This story contains the identity of the eliminated contestant on Wednesday night's (May 12The Masked Singer.] 

Are three voices better than one? That was the quandary facing The Masked Singer trifecta of perfect pitch known as Russian Dolls on Wednesday night. The trio inside the gigantic wooden costumes had survived the quarterfinals round and made it into the top five, but after showing their final bit of flair with a cover of Elton John's "I'm Still Standing" in their last performance, it was time to set aside the bedazzled heads and boas.

The end came after the singers made it pop with Bruno Mars' "24K Magic," crushed an emotional take on Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper's A Star Is Born hit "Shallow," flexed their perfect falsettos on Jason DeRulo's "Want to Want Me" and blew the roof off with Michael Jackson's "Man in the Mirror" to start their deep run on the show.

After talking about being ridiculed for trying to do their thing earlier in their career and laughing their way through guesses that ranged from Menudo to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Boyz II Men and the Jonas Brothers, when push came to shove, it could only be one family band under those massive heads: Hanson. The trio of Taylor, Isaac and Zac had the panel stumped for most of this season, but if you've followed the Tulsa-bred band's 25-plus-year career at all, those harmonies were unmistakable.

On Wednesday, the Grammy-winning "MMMBop" trio also announced their seventh studio album, Against the World, which will premiere in seven consecutive monthly singles throughout the rest of the year, beginning with lead single "Annalie," out now. The brothers have also planned a concert series from July-October at the Cains Ballroom in their Oklahoma hometown, with each show spotlighting a different part of their career, followed by a world tour in 2022.

Billboard spoke to the Hansons before Wednesday night's elimination to find out how they ended up on the show, why they picked the totally awkward Minion-like Dolls costumes, and what fans can expect from their new collection.

You've explored so many different musical avenues over your career that a reality singing show seems like the last stone unturned.

Taylor: The show was a really unique in that it gave us a different opportunity to highlight our strengths and the things we admire about different artists and songs with melody. It was a cool opportunity in that you're presented with these Russian Dolls and you had to see if you could woo people as a singer [in the costumes]. That was fun and it was an interesting challenge to put to the test what it is that makes us unique. In this case, it was leaning into our harmonies and Zac doing his ridiculous Bee Gees falsetto and Isaac with his baritone and I'm doing that kind of MJ thing on "Man in the Mirror."

Were you in agreement on the costumes? They seemed super cumbersome.

Zac: They were like giant avocados. [Laughs] The main driving force for our costume was accentuating the idea: How many people are onstage? When you look at a Russian doll you have no idea how many are in there, and we knew it wouldn't last the whole show, but if we could go three to four episodes and make people wonder, "Is one more going to show up?" But yeah, it was very cumbersome and hard to see out of and difficult to walk in, but also it allowed you to become someone that wasn't yourself. ... It was like trying to be a cartoon instead of a drummer.

How did you decide who got to be in the biggest one? Was it by age? Height? Were there fights over them?

Isaac: We actually swapped it up a bunch. Whether it was the size of the dolls or being in the largest doll. When the large doll was onstage, there were two of us in there in order to move it and do the articulation of the mouth, which was impossible to do as one person. We are brothers, but I would prefer never to be that close to Taylor or Zac like that again. We tried to change up the sizes so people wouldn't know what to expect. Sometimes I was in the middle doll.

You all have kids, so is it safe to assume you were already watching the show with your families?

Isaac: Our kids had actually never seen the show, so I don't know what that says about me. But they know about the show and it was a fun experience for them to see it with fresh eyes.

Zac: I did not know how many of my friends watched this show! After a week or two, I started getting all these winky emojis from so many people! "I know what you did," wink. "What did I do?!" It's only becoming clear now how many of my friends and their wives and kids watch the show.

Did you tell your kids?

Isaac: I had to keep it secret from my daughter because she can't keep a secret from anyone. But my older boys knew.

Zac: I told all my kids because it was very hard to explain why I was leaving their eight-months-pregnant mother to go to California. "Dad, why are you leaving now? You're not on tour. What's going on?!"

Taylor: We all balanced it differently, but I had my whole posse [Taylor has seven children with wife Natalie Bryant] with me the whole time and they were curious about it and into it. They would comment on the songs and costumes, and the main point from my crew was that it needs to be cute; scary costumes never win. The Dolls costume definitely had a comical flair to it, they were so round and jolly ... "Here comes the Masked Singer Minions!"

A lot of your clue packages were about how people have underestimated you and even pushed you aside after your initial success. Did Masked Singer feel like a good way to show off your chops without having people judge you?

Isaac: Twenty-five years in, we're at the point in our career where you don't often get an opportunity to make a first impression, so that was the most exciting thing for us. We could lean into this and give people a unique, fresh look at who we are as singers.

Zac: There was something subconscious in us about telling our story and look at our music career and see the overriding themes... that idea of taking every opportunity be what you want to be and overcome what you're going through.

The guesses were pretty spot-on but also bonkers, from the Jonas Brothers and Brady Bunch to the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Boyz II Men. Were you surprised by any of the guesses?

Isaac: At some point, the judges were definitely fishing a little bit and maybe trying to throw each other off the scent. It was interesting and fun to see who guessed us first, but Jenny [McCarthy-Wahlberg] leaned into it pretty hard. That was nice because we have a longstanding relationship with her. ... We did our first-ever television performance on her show in 1997, an acoustic performance of "MMMBop."

Zac: There were some super cool ones -- Boyz II Men, the Jacksons, these are people who are legends -- but some you really couldn't understand. "Do I really sound like a woman? They keep saying they're hearing a woman's voice!" I'm pretty sure we're not Sugarland.

It sounds like you have a pretty ambitious 2021-22 planned with the new album, residency and next year's tour. Have you been itching to get out of the house after lockdown?

Isaac: We've been itching to get on the road and that kept getting pushed back, so we're just excited that we've got a bunch of stuff on the docket... For seven straight months there will be a single every month culminating with the Against the World album and an ambitious touring plan next year that we will announce [at a later date].

Taylor: One of the things about the show that we loved was that it was something you could do at a time when the things typically available to you weren't. It arrived at a unique time and it was such a positive thing and a great escape for a lot of people that lifted them up. And now we're going into this time when we're going to get back together with fans all over the world and we'll be everywhere next year.