“The Masked Singer” returned to its regularly scheduled competition on Wednesday after last week’s highlight reel/sing-along special, with this week seeing The Kitty face off against The Frog and The Banana showdown against The Rhino.
As this wild and heated season roared on with stirring performances, The Kitty and The Banana both came up short in their matches and were forced to throw down in the Smackdown Round.
The Banana performed a rollicking cover of “Brick House” by the Commodores, but The Kitty’s rendition of Sia’s “Unstoppable” proved to be rather prophetic. After the final votes, The Kitty moved on and The Banana was sent home.
After some final guesses as to The Banana’s real identity from the show’s panel of “celebrity detectives” — including Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger and Ken Jeong, alongside guest panelist Sharon Osbourne — The Banana was finally unmasked.
As it turns out, four of the five judges were right when they guessed rocker Bret Michaels! (The only hold out, as has become tradition, was Jeong, who wrongly guessed Brad Paisley).
On Wednesday, Michaels spoke with ET, reflecting on his time on the show and the fun strangeness of performing as a human banana.
“‘The Masked Singer’ is the perfect storm. You’ve got vocals going on, you’ve got insane outfits going on. And I like to consider myself an amateur detective,” said Michaels, who added he was a big fan of the reality competition series long before he ever became a part of it.
“There’s an irony to the show [because] there’s a part of you that doesn’t want anyone to figure you out, and there’s a part of you, you know, 30 years into my career, you pray to God that someone figures you out!” Michaels explained with a laugh. “There’s a part of you that goes, ‘I hope to f**k someone knows my voice after 30 years of singing music!'”
While many fans were quick to guess Michaels — based on his vocals and his complex clue packages — the singer said he was doing his “best to throw them off” with his unexpected song selections, including Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart,” the Elvis Presley classic, “A Little Less Conversation,” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” just “to throw some country rock in there.”
While most of his song choices were up-beat and lent themselves to high-energy performances, one of his most memorable performances came when he sang the iconic Bill Withers tune “Lean On Me.” Michaels said he chose the heartfelt song as a tribute to his dad, who died in August 2019 from a heart attack.
For the singer, however, the experience was a real roller coaster of emotion and surreal weirdness that he’ll never forget.
“I’m about to sing a song that my father, who’s just passed away, was one of my and my dad’s favourite songs. And it’s a tough song to sing because it starts really low. And then there’s a couple people in the audience who are like, ‘Bret, is that you?’ And I can’t acknowledge them. And if you don’t look over, you’re saying it’s you, and if you look over you’re saying it’s you,” Michaels recalled.
“Then I’m starting this song that’s very emotional, and inside my brain is going, ‘You’re a frickin’ banana! You’re in a banana costume singing a song that’s making you cry,'” he continued. “And I’m thinking to myself, ‘Please don’t screw this song up.'”
Moved by the power of the moment and the memory of his dad, Micheals revealed that he closed his eyes, almost unintentionally, and then “almost walked off the stage!”
“When [the song] started to pick up with the gospel choir, I opened my eyes and I was completely almost walking into the crowd off the four or five-foot drop-off. I was like, ‘Thank God I’m still on that stage. That wouldn’t have been a nice moment.'”
However, he managed to deliver a really powerful performance that secured his spot in the Super Nine and touched a few of the panelists.
“It felt like it all came together and I did it right, for my dad,” Michaels said.
For Michaels’ final big number on Wednesday, before his brief Smackdown Round song and subsequent unmasking, he chose another slower, more emotional tune — Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”
While the song is emotional in and of itself, Michaels pointed out a very special serendipity to the selection — considering Wednesday also marked the exact 10th anniversary of the rocker having to undergo brain surgery after suffering from a life-threatening stroke and cerebral hemorrhage.
“Not only am I a human Bandana Banana, but I’m singing ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ on April 22, and … 10 years ago this night, they were operating on my brain to make me survive and release the brain bleed from my subarachnoid hemorrhage,” Michaels reflected.
In the decade since the nightmarish medical scare, Michaels has been working hard to stay fit and healthy, while also striving to thrive. And he actually credits a lot of that with another ailment that’s he’s been dealing with since childhood.
“Being a diabetic since the age of 6… that diabetes has been my blessing and my curse, because it’s helped me find a way to stay [healthy],” Michaels shared. “It is as much a mental game as it is a physical game, so staying positive, not being overwhelmed by the disease. And it’s helped me face some of the toughest moments of my life — one of which [is] the brain hemorrhage.”
“I’m just glad to be here, 10 years later,” Michaels added. “And I’m just glad to be on the good side of the dirt.”
Michaels is undeniably positive and upbeat — a friendly soul who loves to connect with his fans and stay close with his friends, which is one reason the absolute secrecy of The Masked Singer proved to be such a challenge for him.
“The toughest part of “The Masked Singer” isn’t the stage performances. The toughest part is they hide your identity one million percent. You got a mask, gloves, they even made me wear socks so people couldn’t look at my ankles,” he recalled. “I was walking around the hallway, past people I’ve known for 20 years, people that worked on my road crew not even a year ago, and I’m walking by them as they’re working on the lighting and the show and the rigging, these people I’ve partied with, and they have no clue it was me.”
“I wanted to hug ’em and say, ‘Hey! It’s Bret, dude. How you been? How’s the family? How are the kids?’ And I want to shake their hands, and people are like, ‘Don’t do that!'” he said. “That was the toughest part of the show, because I’m a hand-shaker, hugger kind of guy.”
Michaels’ time on “The Masked Singer” will actually be a part of the singer’s upcoming book, “Bret Michaels: Auto-Scrap-Orgaphy Vol. 1. :It’s an innovative mix of storytelling, narrative, photos and documents retelling parts of Michaels’ life story.
“It’s like an audio-visual biopic,” Michaels said of the project, which is described as a “blend of hardcopy and digital E-book,” which Michaels himself reads. “It’s never been done like that before.”
Among the many stories Michaels recounts in his book is a retelling of the time when he and three of his friends were held up at gunpoint as teenagers by a group of guys who wrongly believed they’d robbed their house.
“I literally negotiated for my life when I was 16 years old,” Michaels said. “I can’t make this sh*t up… the truth of my life is freakier than if I made it up.”
“Talk about the roses and thorns in my life, that’s what this book is about,” he added of the project, which comes out May 12.
Meanwhile, Season 3 of “The Masked Singer” continues as the final six singers will be battling it out for the Golden Mask trophy.
“The Masked Singer” airs Wednesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.
MORE FROM ET: