[Spoiler alert: This story contains the identity of the eliminated contestant on Wednesday night’s (Dec. 2) The Masked Singer.]
In two weeks we’ll find out which masquerading crooner will come out on top on the fourth season of The Masked Singer. But on Wednesday night it was time to party, and no one had more fun trying to make it to the finish line than judge’s favorite Popcorn during an intense semifinal showdown. The veteran vocalist made it to the Super Six with nuanced, powerful takes on Harry Styles’ “Falling” and Bryan Adams’ “(Everything I Do) I Do It for You” and a jaw-dropping cover of P!nk’s “What About Us.”
And while it seemed like her New Yawk attitude and major pipes would help click another major career win off Popcorn’s bucket list, even a showstopping take on Tina Turner’s “Better Be Good to Me” that had Ms. Turner’s signature smoky attitude wasn’t enough. Sadly, it was the end of the road on Wednesday’s two-hour, triple-elimination episode. Ken Jeong called the Turner turn a “religious experience,” inspiring guesses that ranged from Turner herself to Bette Midler and The Supremes’ Mary Wilson.
When the final kernel popped and the tub came off, though, it was none other than Taylor Dayne.
The singer, who has sold more than 75 million records worldwide thanks to such hits as “Tell It To My Heart,” “Love Will Lead You Back” and “I’ll Always Love You,” has done everything from touring with Michael Jackson to appearing on Broadway in Elton John’s Aida in 2001. But, she tells Billboard, it was her run on Masked Singer that really got her blood running during the pandemic lockdown.
Between this summer’s epic dance anthem “Please,” last year’s memoir Tell It To My Heart: How I Lost My S–t, Conquered My Fear and Found My Voice and recent studio sessions for fresh tracks, Dayne has plenty of things to be thankful for this year. Speaking to Billboard before her elimination, the singer described why she wanted to get under the bucket during these dark, dark times.
Why did you pick Popcorn? It seemed like a smart choice because it was the cutest and, seemingly, the least cumbersome.
Exactly what you just said. I thought she was adorable and available to the audience. She’s friendly and we had an election this year and everything was so doom and gloom and we all needed a fresh take on moving through the year. I love the familiarity and the smile on her face.
Were you watching the show before you agreed to be on it? What appealed to you?
Yes I have, and they said my name last season, so I was like, “Ohhhh… hello??” [The judges dropped Dayne’s name last season while guessing the identity of eventual season 3 winner Night Angel Kandi Burruss.]
The show feels like the perfect pandemic distraction. Was that part of the reason you did it, to give people something to find joy in during lockdown?
Yes, 100%. It’s just great, the chemistry is real and these guys are having a blast.
You’re known for being a dynamic, high-energy performer. Did you have to tamp down some of your signature stage moves so as not to be too obvious?
I think we did that with the material, and if you saw all the responses, you’d understand what I mean. We did it with the producers and the selection of songs. We went through the list and they’ve had some of the greatest voices of all time on the show, so they understand, and obviously my voice is very recognizable. On some level, between [judges] Robin [Thicke], Jenny [McCarthy] and Nicole [Scherzinger], I know these people and we’re not here to fool anybody. But I wanted [the performances] to be very enjoyable, so I chose material that was in my lane and some that wasn’t… that might throw people off. But I also didn’t want to dummy down my voice.
The guesses for you were all over the place, form Ken suggesting Tiger King‘s Carol Baskin to Anita Baker, Katy Perry, Tina Turner, Molly Ringwald and Mary J. Blige. Were you surprised, horrified, delighted by those guesses?
Oh no! I’m telling you this show… every time I watch it, it cracks me up. It’s so well done you just have to laugh! I was just trying to breathe under the costume and I’m listening for the beat under a drum for a belly and making sure I can stand in place and see my feet.
It was interesting that you chose two songs by male singers. What was the challenge for you in singing those songs?
I’m a huge Bryan Adams fan and Harry Styles was a producer choice and I had to find the rhythm in that one. Once I found it and understood, I did what I have with Barry White and many other male vocalists I’ve covered. I did what I do, which is find the rhythm of it and understand where they’re coming from and the male perspective. I did it with the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Under the Bridge,” same thing.
Did you expect to get as far as you did? Were you planning to win?
These are challenging things, these competition shows, and you have no expectations. I had no idea who those Snow Owls were, but I’ll tell you those Owls were competition! Trust me. When the male owl was singing, I was like, “Okey dokey.”
You’ve done some other reality TV, Broadway, movies, but surely this was the weirdest thing you’ve done so far?
No, I would say there’s been some further weird things I’ve done, but it was definitely very joyful and something else. I loved being a part of it. it felt like it made sense. This was beautiful.
It’s been more than a decade since you released an album. Were you nervous at all to burst back into the public eye on the biggest reality show on TV? Do those old nerves come back?
No. Not nerves, just anticipation and the joy of it. I’m more than ready, I just have to train and get my voice into a place and that’s what you do: you stay ready. I’m always in a trained place and then you do what you do.
You have college-age twins. Did you tell them and how did they feel about you being on the show?
They’re 18 and they’re getting ready to go off to college and they’re so proud. They love it.