OK, let's just stop and regroup for a moment. Everyone stand up, take a deep breath and let's exhale as we make this sound together: Chakaaaaaa.
We've all been through a lot in these rocky, early months of 2020, and the one place we've come to rely on as a respite from this prequel to the apocalypse we're living in betrayed us Wednesday, and wow. Miss Monster got her furry behind sent back to the woods in just the third episode of Season 3 ("Masking for a Friend"), and when she unshackled herself from her disguise, she revealed herself to be music royalty Chaka Khan.
Of course, any casual fan of contemporary pop music should know this. Even if you don't know the name Chaka Khan — the sobriquet of Chicago's Yvette Marie Stevens, the 10-time Grammy winner — you've heard that voice, somewhere, somehow. Her enduring, instant party-starter remake of Prince's "I Feel For You," perhaps. Or maybe the version of "I'm Every Woman" that Whitney Houston didn't popularize, or possibly "Sweet Thing" — the slow-groove masterpiece she did as part of the band Rufus before she went solo. That voice has been nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame three times; even if you've only heard that voice at a mall, or a Kanye West sample you've heard it, which is why it was so disheartening to see The Masked Singer's two professional singers not get it until the day she was eliminated — a miscarriage of justice on its own.
It's not just that Chaka's voice is "good" (which it very much is), but it's also singular and specific. Even while she struggled through tracks including "Fancy" by Bobbie Gentry and tonight's "You Don't Own Me," she still sounded like...Chaka Khan. Oh, how painful it was to witness Robin Thicke, an actual R&B singer who has LITERALLY PERFORMED WITH CHAKA KHAN, letting his fellow judges fix their lips to say Mary Wilson of The Supremes and Queen Latifah! Trust and faith are shattered,but at least Chaka Khan isn't too bummed about it. Turning 67 in March and still very much in the game (she's going into the studio with Anderson .Paak soon) she told TV Guide via phone after her elimination that she was kind of over it, even though she was having fun. Here's what she had to say about leaving The Masked Singer and not being recognized when we hopped on the phone.
Okay, I am so thrilled to be talking with you — I'm a huge fan and have seen you perform at least five times — but I'm also outraged and very confused. How could they eliminate one of the best voices of all time, and how on Earth did the judges not know it was you?
Khan: Well, thank you! [Laughs.] I am too. I was like, "What the heck?" Online everybody knew it was me. At first I was going to do a country thing. Then I said, 'You know what?' I'm just going to sing like me. It seemed like they knew my voice.
Did you enjoy doing it?
Khan: It was hard, work I gotta be honest. I would not suggest anybody older than 10 do this. Those costumes are really intricate and young people can dance around and sh-- in those costumes. There was no way I could. I could barely walk!
Why'd you want to do it? Did producers approach you or did you volunteer?
Khan: It was cute! It appealed to children. They approached me. I'd seen it once or twice.
I'm sorry, I still can't get over them not knowing your voice! Did you choose the songs you'd sing?
Khan: I know! I was like, "Are some of those people dead?" I chose the songs myself. I started out doing country, we did country with Rufus, and I lived in jazz...I just picked songs I liked.
Why'd you choose the monster? Did it have significance at all?
Khan: I had two choices. Of the two, I thought it was the most whimsical.
You have children in your life, right? Grandchildren...
Khan: I have a great grandson!
Did you tell them?!
Khan: My grandchildren didn't know and my great-grandson saw it one day and told me, "Nana, that was you." I couldn't say anything. I said, "Oh, I've really got to watch that show then!"
It sounds like you had fun but you're glad it's over. Would you say the experience benefited you?
Khan: Oh yeah. It was a new experience! It let me know I can handle things; I can do things I never thought I could do.
The Masked Singer airs Wednesdays 8/7c on Fox.