The Masked Singer winner Sun fought to perform that stunning Billie Eilish cover a cappella
The celeb under the Sun mask tells EW the story behind her bathroom encounter with Nicole Scherzinger.
Warning: This article contains spoilers about Wednesday's episode of The Masked Singer.
After another flawless performance, the incandescent contestant sealed the win and was revealed to be none other than two-time Grammy winning singer LeAnn Rimes. Ahead of the reveal, Rimes spoke to EW about her journey as the Sun, her hilarious encounter with panelist Nicole Scherzinger in the bathroom, and her new album.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The panelists pegged you as a potential winner right off the bat. Would you say you are a competitive person?
LEANN RIMES: I have to admit, I am. It's interesting, because I started out so young, and I think that competitive nature serves a beautiful purpose and at the same time can get in the way at times. But if I go into something, I am 100% going in with the desire and the thought process of, "I'm winning this." I also know, at the same time, when it's a competition, you never know. You have no idea what people are going to vote for. It's not about who's the best singer all the time, it can be about people who are super entertaining. Whatever it may be, you just never know what people are going to gravitate towards. So I definitely went in with high expectations, but I knew it could go any way. It's funny about competition, too. I've enjoyed it, and at the same time, I don't love it because somebody is losing and I don't love that feeling. I don't like having to experience it, and I don't like anybody else having to experience it. When it came down to everyone at the end, my dear friend was literally standing next to me and I had no idea that Aloe Blacc was with me on stage. We've dueted together before and he's just such a great guy. And when it was over, all I wanted to do was be like, "Can I go hug him? Can we see each other?" I just really wanted to see my friend. It was cool to be on the stage with everyone at the end of the show, but especially him, because it's so interesting to be up there with a friend and not even know. I had no clue.
Your voice is so iconic and recognizable, and people guessed you right away, even if the panelists didn't. Did you keep up with theories online, and were you surprised by that?
I was afraid of doing the show at first because I was thinking for sure people are going to know my voice. There's no way of disguising that. People play the game very differently. I know Aloe really disguised his voice, and I was thinking it's so hard for me to disguise my voice, and if I did, I probably wouldn't do it justice. We kind of had an arc to the music, starting off with something that people would least expect for me and then kind of going from there. But yeah, I was watching online, and it's so funny, as soon as I opened my mouth, a lot of people knew. There was a lot of other guesses that were definitely reasonable guesses, but I think a lot of people definitely did know. I just have been having to bite my tongue for weeks now. It's been so hard, but it's been funny to kind of sit back and watch as it all unfolds.
In 2021 you will be celebrating your 25th anniversary as a recording artist. What does winning this show right now mean to you?
So much went into this. Every single person and creator that I got to create with are just so fantastic. So much time and thought went into the costume and the reasoning behind being the Sun and what I wanted to connect it to. I feel like between my chant album, my Wholly Human podcast, and my new song, "Throw My Arms Around the World" that just came out, I feel like the messaging behind everything is what the Sun is all about. That was the visual that I wanted to bring to the forefront with the messaging that I'm putting out in the world of hope and connectivity and possibility. Being the ray of sunshine and bringing light to such a dark moment was so important. As much work went into this as anything else that I've ever done in my life. So it feels beautiful for people to have connected with the whole story, and to have been the one to bring that story to life visually and the character to life. I'm super proud of what I created and what we all created when it comes to the whole package of who the Sun was.
One of the clues you gave this season was that your connection to a panelist was with Nicole, and you'd met in the bathroom. Can you tell me about that?
[Laughs.] Yeah, I don't remember where we were. It was one of those Grammy dinners or Clive Davis parties or something along those lines. And I think she was singing that night. So she was in the bathroom, like warming up next to me in the stall. And we both came out and I was like, "Hi…" You know when you don't know anybody else is in the bathroom? She's like, "Oh... hello." So I think that's where we actually first met was in the bathroom. I was like, how are people going to take this story? This sounds very strange. But yeah, that's exactly what happened in the bathroom. [Laughs.]
Your costume changed a bit throughout the season — from wearing pants at one point to sometimes having a halo. What went into deciding what version you'd wear when?
Gosh. First off, the costume in itself was a challenge to wear and perform with the weight of it. As a singer, my airway has to be open and there was a lot of weight on my head. And I am claustrophobic, so I had them not put anything on the back of my head. So it was just kind of the front mask. It was on a helmet that I put on, and then clasped underneath my chin. And basically, for every piece of the costume, we wanted to kind of play around with just having a different visual for different performances. So for Janis Joplin, I didn't want to have the skirt on, and then for the bigger ballads, we wanted to use the skirt. And then we played around with the halo, but the halo only works certain times because they had to push this piece like down to my skirt. And it was almost like wearing a corset when they put that on. It was very thought out into how I want to perform the song and how much I want to move and all of those things. So I really did want to be able to kind of play around with different looks within one costume.
Your a cappella performance of Billie Eilish's "When the Party's Over" was one of the best performances of all time on the show. Can I convince you to release your version of it at some point?
Funny enough, I might just do that. We've been talking about doing that. I mean, I have a new album coming out hopefully in May of next year, and the new song just came out. So this is the beginning of releasing music off that new record. Maybe we can cut it as a bonus track. We'll see what happens, because you're not the first person that's said that. So many have.
It's such a beautiful song. And for me, I loved having a different take on it, obviously, with the intimacy of it being just so bare — and I was so specific about that. I really, really wanted to do as much of that as possible with the a cappella. It's such an interesting TV moment because usually a cappella is not the way to go, you usually want to do this big dramatic thing, which it ended up that way [at the end of the song], but I really fought for that. I really wanted the intimacy of that, because I know how powerful that can be. When I saw it, I thought it turned out exactly like I wanted it to. People connected to it so deeply, and it was a powerful moment. So thank you for saying that. You're not the first and I'm taking it all to heart for sure.
What can you tease about your new album and what's coming up next for you?
Well, my chant record, CHANT: The Human & the Holy, just came out. The album that I've been writing right now, we're about 10 songs into it. We're just finishing it all up, and it's just powerful. I don't have words for it, yet. There's a lot of world vibe to this record. There's a lot of percussion on this album, more like up-tempo stuff and a different sound for me that I think people are normally used to. I'm calling it worldicana, because it's not Americana, it's got all these world grooves. So it's like this blend of so many different genres. I don't think it fits into any box, which I love. It is an inspirational record, when it comes to the things that I'm speaking of, and speaking very much to the time that we are in. I'm so excited for people to hear the music. I've never been more excited in my life about new music.
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The Masked Singer
Celebs compete in this reality-singing TV show while wearing elaborate costumes to conceal their identities. Can you guess the celebrity behind the mask?