Crush Releases New Song ‘Mayday’ Featuring Red Velvet’s Joy: ‘She’s Got the Most Beautiful Voice’

Singer-songwriter Crush is back with a new single after releasing his last studio album, From Midnight to Sunrise, five months ago. The South Korean musician, who is known for being inspired by things in ordinary life such as the Han River at dawn or his pet dogs, focuses on the theme of “home” for his newest project, titled Homemade.

New singles will be released back-to-back, the first of which is “Mayday,” out today (May 21). The new song has been long anticipated by fans, especially since the announcement that Joy from Red Velvet would be the featured artist. Fans became even more curious when cute selfies of the two artists together appeared on both of their Instagram accounts, accompanied by comments on how lucky they were to collaborate with each other.

A teaser for the not-so-refined and more realistic style of the music video added to fans’ expectations. A day before his new release dropped, Crush sat down to speak with Billboard Korea to talk about the Homemade series and his collaboration with Joy.

Billboard: We’ve all been experiencing limitations on our usual activities for a while because of COVID-19. How have you been passing time?

Crush: I’ve been spending most of my time at home — working on my music, spending time with my dogs, Rose and Doyou — and making videos myself, that sort of things. [laughs]

I heard the album Homemade is going to be released in a series. Can you tell us about its concept? 

It’s literally a series of music that’s homemade, and its first single is called “Mayday” (feat. Joy). I got the idea for the song from looking at myself pondering at home. It’s got the stylish hip-hop and trap beats with soft melody, and it really highlights the unique voice Joy has. The rest of the series also features very interesting and unique styles, so I hope you all like it.

What does “home” mean to you?

It means a number of different things. For me, home can be a very personal and cozy place to relax. It can be a workspace where I constantly contemplate and ponder about music. Since I’ve got to spend more time at home lately, I’ve been able to plan and produce my music at home. That’s how I came up with the title for my new project, Homemade.

You’ve been posting “Homemade Recipe” videos on YouTube. Are they like a sequel to the Homemade series? 

They’re more like a prelude to the Homemade series. There’s the music, videos and images that make up this whole series, but “Homemade Recipe” was the first to have the grand introduction. I think it’s helped solidify the concept of this project.

Joy’s participation in your new song has been widely anticipated ever since the news broke. Tell us how you two got together. 

I’ve always been a massive fan of Red Velvet. [laughs] Since I started working on “Mayday,” the idea of adding a female vocal has always been at the back of my mind. And I thought Joy’s voice would be perfect for the song, so I asked her. I was thrilled when she accepted my offer.  

You’ve collaborated with many artists. How do you compare this project with Joy? 

I met Joy at the recording session for the first time. And from the start, she was just so great that I didn’t have to give her any directions. She also kindly agreed to appear in the music video, which I believe the style was not quite something she was used to. But despite all that, she did a fantastic job and we all had an awesome time.

Tell us three reasons why it had to be Joy as the featured artist for the song. 

First, she’s got the most beautiful voice that’s impossible to replace. Second, she’s a charmer on so many levels. Third, I just wanted to have my wish come true as her biggest fan.

Your choice of featuring artists — from major stars to hidden gems of indie music scenes — has been something that many look forward to. What do you look for the most in your potential collaborators? 

The music itself is the key factor in making my decisions. I try and see if the artist’s musical style melds well with the piece that I’m working on. I think that takes the most part of it. [laughs]

I understand you’re receiving many requests for collaborative work from both Korean and international artists. And we know you’ve done some work with Pink Sweat$. Do you have any other artists on your mind for your next move? 

There are so many that I can’t even keep track. But I can tell you many great ones are on their way, so stay tuned.

The teasers for “Mayday” seem to convey more of a realistic and unpretentious image. I’ve also noticed you’d put up a directorial debut video, and it’s made me wonder if this is going to be your chance to debut as a music video producer. Please tell us more about your music video. 

I love that real, unpretentious feel. Being yourself, natural and unique is something I constantly pursue. I single-handedly planned and filmed the video myself — although I still can’t do much editing. [laughs] 

The ideas were not all me, but I developed them with my director. The story is about me. I’m stuck at home having a difficult time, and one day, I come across a video on the Internet and put myself to this challenge. If you want to find out more, you can check out the video on my YouTube channel Crush.

You’ve been uploading TikTok and YouTube videos of yourself where you seem more real and down-to-earth.

I guess you can think of it as a part of the Homemade series. But even aside from that, I’ve always wanted to show people who I really was. I mean, I have no problem exposing myself to that extent, and I actually quite enjoy doing it.

Can you tell us how many songs will be featured in the Homemade series? And how frequently do you plan on presenting them?

Hmm … nothing’s definite yet, but I definitely want to let you know that there’s a lot to come. [laughs] And the next one up is not going to take much time for sure.

Your last studio album was back in December, but you’ve kept busy by doing features for other artists and taking part in a few soundtracks. Your discography tells me that you don’t have much time for anything else other than sleep and making music. Am I right? 

I make a living by creating music, but it’s actually my only hobby as well. It’s my biggest passion. I just love searching for new songs and enjoy trying new styles of music or particular tunes. Music is something I can completely immerse myself into and the only thing I’m able to keep doing.

Any tips for all the homebodies out there on how to enjoy their time at home? 

If you’re surrounded by an environment where you can hardly focus on one task like me, I recommend keeping yourself busy with multiple tasks — like cleaning around the house, doing laundry and dishes, and walking your dog if you have one. It can really bust your stress. You’ll definitely like it. Or do you think most people would take this as a bad idea? [laughs]

This article originally appeared on Billboard Korea.

Saint Lane Reflects on ‘Worst Year,’ Prepares For a Great One With ‘When Did We Grow Up’: Exclusive Premiere

Saint Lane is overdue some good luck. In 2019, the Gold Coast-based rapper lost his dad, and had a painful experience with three friends which, as a result, he no longer calls “mates”.

Last year was “the worst year of my life,” he admits.

And this year, well, it’s bad for everyone.

Lane was traveling in Canada when the coronavirus emergency was upgraded to a pandemic, and on his return to Australia, Lane was quarantined in a room for two weeks.

As creatives tend to do, he used his time to make stuff. With a mic and a laptop, he reached out to musician and comedian friends, including Lime Cordiale and Hayden James, for a special isolation podcast.

One of his amusing go-to questions was a gag about locating the cure for coronavirus (it’s always plain sight, just to your left). Those words “cure” and “coronavirus” apparently fell foul with the social platform’s algorithms and Lane’s witty interviews were blocked behind some faceless software.

He laughs about it now. “If it wasn’t quarantine time, I’d be so annoyed. But because I had nothing to do anyway, I just figured I’d to go back to playing video games.”

Lane makes his own luck with “When Did We Grow Up,” his new single which Billboard premieres today.

It’s a deeply personal song, which he was moved to make after the betrayal by those close to him. ”I knew these people will never apologize so I apologized to myself on their behalf so I could move on with my own path,” he explains. “It’s my mostly deeply personal track but I feel like I am ready to live with my truth and set this track free into the world.”

The new song has a warmth and generosity to it, and features vocals from indigenous artist Robbie Miller, an APRA and triple j Unearthed National Indigenous Music Award winner who Lane describes as an “important voice in Australian music” and the “missing piece to the puzzle.”

“When Did We Grow Up” also showcases Lane’s talents on guitar, an instrument he learned at age five when his maternal grandfather, from Suva, taught him scales. “Taxman” by The Beatles was the first song he mastered. “Everyone thought I was going to be a musical genius,” he quips. “But I peaked at guitar at seven. I’m as good now as I was then.”

Don’t believe it. Lane studied at the Queensland Conservatorium, earning entry as a bass player.

Born in New Zealand to Fijian and French parents, Lane has solid support for his tracks “Hickeys” and “The Family” on such platforms as triple j, The Guardian and GQ.

Lane admits he’s an eclectic character, and it shines through in his music. “When Did We Grow Up” and “Hickeys” should appear on his full-length LP, which will be titled If I leave You In The Fire.

“I’ve had an album in the works for a very long time,” he tells Billboard. Expect some “unexpected” collaborations, including a cut with rising singer Maxine Champion.

Australia, like elsewhere, is in lockdown and many artists are mulling over whether to delay their releases until life returns to normal. Not Lane. “It had better come out this year,” he says with a laugh. “I’m super proud of it.”

“When Did We Grow Up” drops Friday (May 22) on digital music services via Risqué Music.

Stream it below.

Big Hit Entertainment Global CEO Lenzo Yoon Talks New Role, ‘Localizing’ In the U.S. & Growing Artist Roster

A decade into his tenure at Big Hit Entertainment, Lenzo Yoon is gearing up for some big moves — both in the company and in his personal life.

One of the biggest takeaways of last week’s executive changeups at Big Hit Entertainment —  the South Korean label home to the record-breaking BTSTomorrow X Together and GFriend — came in co-CEO Lenzo Yoon’s expanding his role to Global CEO and soon leading from the United States. The move not only pointed to a more global outlook for the company (which had its biggest year ever with a record $500 million in revenue in 2019), but also that it was officially setting up shop in America.

Despite these changes on the way, the 42-year-old exec says the core principles that Big Hit was founded on will remain unchanged.

According to Yoon, who spoke exclusively to Billboard in his first interview since his expanded role was announced, Big Hit’s growth comes as a natural next step.

“Big Hit Entertainment’s globalization strategy has now reached a point where it needs to branch out from Korea and focus on localizing in the overseas market,” he says on bringing the BHE’s successful model in Asia to new markets. “In addition to the business innovation and expansion centered around the Korean market, we seek to maximize the business synergy between Korea, U.S. and Japan with the newly-founded Big Hit America. The company will lead the expansion of the global market by localizing Big Hit’s success formula and leverage a streamlined decision-making process to actively work together with top-tier partners in each region. It is quite a responsibility to take the role as Global CEO at this important juncture, but I look forward to it.”

The company operates with both a label sector (which includes Big Hit proper, recently acquired label Source Music and newly established Belift Lab) and a business sector (with Big Hit Three Sixty for media distribution and concerts, Big Hit IP for customer service, and beNX for digital innovation). That same, two-pronged strategy will take place via Big Hit America and the newly-established Big Hit America Solutions.

In their new corporate structure, Yoon’s responsibilities will be business-oriented (looking for new deals, meaningful collaborators and “aggressive investments”) while Big Hit’s longtime CEO and newly-appointed chairman Bang Si-Hyuk, who Yoon acknowledges for his “outstanding sense of creativity,” will focus on “creating content and top-level decision making.” The recently-hired Jiwon Park, former CEO of NEXON Korea and global COO of NEXON Japan, has been appointed HQ CEO and will be based in Korea.

“Big Hit is definitely growing in the U.S. market, but it is difficult to operate each business sector independently as it does in Korea. By establishing Big Hit America, we expedite the decision-making process of the businesses within the U.S., and provide a framework that can compete with the local entertainment companies,” he says of the expansion, before adding that “Big Hit’s operations will be different from other existing labels: We are looking to develop and present new services to innovate the customer experience by collaborating with local corporations. We do not want to limit our partners to entertainment and music, but are looking to converge with other industries as well such as IT.”

Other South Korean entertainment companies have attempted U.S.-based hubs, but notably have not seen top leadership make permanent moves stateside. This goes back to Yoon’s larger focus on the local implementation of proven methods — expanded with Yoon’s vision for BHE in Japan. He says artists’ activity in the country, which has the second-largest music industry after the U.S., will be boosted and that Big Hit will “strive to become a top tier label in Japan in the next three years.”

Despite such active plans, current coronavirus concerns have forced many in the music business and beyond to adjust strategy. Yoon notes that his company was no exception, but the CEO highlights a key point in this time that comes from their core message.

“It is my responsibility to quickly respond to any changes in business during such a global crisis,” he explains. “But I’d like to address something more important that will remain unchanged: any new service that Big Hit will present — and that I will keep looking for — all starts from our business philosophy of ‘What content will fans enjoy the most?’ and ‘How should we deliver them to magnify fans’ enjoyment?'”

Yoon points to one of the company’s founding focuses in making technology feel comforting — which connects to the tagline “Music & Artist for Healing” that appears at the beginning of every Big Hit Label video —  saying its existing technology was already well-suited for the current climate.

As an example, he points to BTS fans finding their ARMY Bombs (an official “light stick” that is must-have merchandise) could be linked via Big Hit and beNX’s global fan-community platform WeVerse to change color and flash in-sync with thousands of viewers during BTS’ virtual “Bang Bang Con” live stream. The Con garnered 50.6 million views, reaching up to 2.2 million concurrent viewers at its peak. Yoon says more than 500,000 ARMY Bombs were connected across 162 regions.

“What I’m focusing on right now is this: ‘What are the things we should preserve in the face of many changes in terms of time, environment, and technology?’ Numerous media outlets have reported that WeVerse and Bang Bang Con presented a new live performance culture, bringing together fans from all over the world. We will continue to do our best in developing the most optimized content and delivery service with a focus on fans’ lifestyle.”

Looking ahead, Yoon teases “huge projects” that are in the works. In addition to his upcoming move, Yoon is looking forward to one particular new project he’s leading, to be announced in the coming weeks. “Just to give you a little hint, I am interested in the ways of delivering great content produced by our creative team to our fans,” he says, also honoring the company’s longtime love of cryptic teases. “Big Hit’s service focuses on high-quality content, but also on the method of how these contents are delivered to magnify fans’ enjoyment. I majored in engineering, but regardless of my background, I’ve always been interested in technology fusion and tech-based services. Our new project is related to this.”

The fan-experience in sports — which is “increasingly enhanced on live streaming technology and application” — is personally interesting to him too.

No doubt Yoon and Big Hit Entertainment are aiming to shake up how a Korean record label can operate, but Yoon makes it clear that music comes first with business and service acting as natural follow ups. He adds, “As Big Hit lays the foundation and further expands for sustainable business, our artists will be able to continue their music career and the company hopes to continuously provide great content and great service to fans.”

Read on for Lenzo Yoon’s personal outlook and reflections on the current roster of artists and the new ones coming.

BTSAs Map of the Soul tour dates have been rescheduled, BTS began doing what they do best which is working on a new album as a way of restoring their daily lives to carry on. They’re also staying connected with the fans through YouTube live streams as well as planning to meet fans from all over the world through various opportunities and deliver the message of BTS. Members are working on music day and night, hoping to meet their fans soon. I believe they will be able to bring great music and performances when they meet their fans again.

Tomorrow X Together:team that keeps growing and always brings results that exceed our expectations. Following the fantastic teaser from the last album, the teaser from the new album [The Dream Chapter: Eternity] also received worldwide attention. When I saw the first glimpse of their music video, I thought it was truly amazing. I absolutely love it! I’m personally looking forward to seeing the outcome from Tomorrow X Together’s new album.

GFriendAmongst K-pop girl groups, GFriend is a team with a solid storyline and high-quality performance skills. The group has grown even more with the synergy between Source Music and Big Hit, and now more fans in the U.S., Japan and Southeast Asia will be able to see the charms of GFriend. 

Big Hit’s new boy band: Big Hit’s new boy band will give you the idea of an extended narrative that Big Hit has shown so far. Please keep an eye out for this amazing group.

Big Hit and Source Music’s new girl group: Selected from 50,000 competitors across 16 cities worldwide, the members are working very hard each and every day. You can look out for Big Hit’s new girl group. 

Makin’ Tracks: Ryan Hurd Moves Forward by Mining ‘Every Other Memory’

Ever since its inception, when promoters promised to preserve “old-time music,” country has been a genre built upon the past.

Whether it’s recounting childhood events in the lyrics or borrowing the phrasing and technique from its predecessors, each generation has managed to bring history into the here and now.

With “Every Other Memory,” Ryan Hurd accomplishes that in two ways as the song’s protagonist recalls an old flame through a mental scrapbook of their time together. And one of the specific images is an Eric Church concert, which pays homage to one of Hurd’s real-life icons.

“I really love leaning on nostalgia,” says Hurd. “It’s just such a huge part of our genre, and I kind of picked pictures, like emojis sort of, so that every line is a snapshot.”

Every lyrical line owes a debt to the guitar line that weaves its way through the entire three minutes and 39 seconds of “Every Other Memory.” Nathan Spicer — who has played guitar on the road with Katy Perry and Maren Morris, and co-wrote Hurd’s “To a T” — offered that tangy, foundational riff when they wrote “Memory” with Cole Taylor (“Home Alone Tonight,” “Sippin’ on Fire”) at Spicer’s studio in Nashville’s Woodbine area. The riff itself is continuous, though the chords shift underneath it to create forward motion for the song.

“What I love about simple riffs like that is you hear it over the first chord, and then you hear it over the second chord, and then you hear it over the third chord, and it’s different every time,” says Spicer. “It’s familiar enough that the pocket’s established, the notes are established, the field’s established, and then you can write a good song over that.”

Hurd dealt the first lines — “I still smell the smoke from/The Fourth of July fireworks” — that set the backward-glancing tone for the piece, which itself drew on past models in form and structure.

“With the memory songs, I always think of how Kenny Chesney did ‘Anything but Mine’ and how they did that summer-love thing,” says Taylor. “But they had such cool images that made it different and made it cool, so for me it was just kind of trying to find that uniqueness of images that would make anybody anywhere put their selves in that song. When we got the leather jacket [and the] front row at the concert, then that Springsteen-y vibe, we had something cool.”

Hurd tossed a Church concert into the mix, recalling a specific show he attended — March 19, 2010, at the Kalamazoo State Theatre — before his move from Michigan to Nashville. It was also more than a year before Church included his own “Springsteen” on the Chief album and two years before Church penned “Talladega.” Both songs get referenced in “Every Other Memory.”

“I have so many memories from that show,” says Hurd. “I remember seeing friends from high school there, weirdly, and I think ‘Talladega’ is a cool word, so I put it in there. Eric is obviously, like, the best songwriter of our generation in country music, and a little nod, I think, is appropriate.”

Hurd served up “Last call, first kiss” as an opening phrase for the chorus — he loved it so much that he used it in another song he wrote the same week — and the “Every Other Memory” title came once they started on the storyline, which can be interpreted as an old relationship the singer never got over or a past love that serves as a positive marker in the guy’s development.

“I think it’s more of a bittersweet kind of, ‘Man, that was an awesome thing we had,’ and it’s still there,” notes Taylor. “We all have that somebody that kind of sticks with you, you know. Whether it’s a good thing or a bad, everybody has somebody.”

The bridge changed the phrasing and gave Hurd some extended notes that accentuated the gravel in his voice. And it created a bit of a chorus/bridge loop.

“The way the bridge goes into the chorus, which is like, ‘Never be another/Like that last call, first kiss’ — it goes on and on and on, like it could never end,” says Spicer. “Which is so fitting for the song. We just had to end it.”

But they did run through the bridge a second time before reaching that finale. Ending on the bridge is an uncommon maneuver in country.

“Those are the kind of things you can do after you’ve written thousands of songs and you’re not just sticking a bridge on it just because you feel like it needs one,” says Hurd. “It really does add [to it] melodically and lyrically.”

Hurd sang a vocal for the demo, which Spicer put together alone, playing all the parts. Hurd doubted that he could beat the emotion he put into his performance, so he and producer Aaron Eshuis (Scotty McCreery) decided to build the master around Hurd’s existing performance during a Jan. 14 session at Nashville’s Sound Emporium. Derek Wells re-created the key guitar riff while cutting with a group that included drummer Phil Lawson, bassist Tony Lucido, acoustic guitarist Ilya Toshinsky and keyboardist Dave Cohen, plus a few instrumental elements from Spicer’s demo. Appropriately for a song that embraces the past, Eshuis purposely set an old-school atmosphere for the day.

“It was just kind of a band sharing the adventure of discovering the song together,” he says. “We probably had some candles going, some incense and, you know, the lighting was cool. It’s kind of a vibey studio, so it felt like a step back in time a little bit. Part of that was intentional.”

But part of that was also the history that comes with cutting at Sound Emporium, a room that has produced hundreds of hits for acts such as Alan Jackson,  Kenny Rogers and Trisha Yearwood.

“It felt like the kind of session where if Willie Nelson would have walked in the door, I probably wouldn’t have been all that surprised,” says Eshuis. “It just felt a little bit like the sessions that we always sort of dreamed about coming up into the business. It’s not always like that every day, but we got to make it happen that day.”

Hurd’s wife, Morris, must have felt it, too. As “Every Other Memory” went down, she volunteered to do harmonies on it, and she came in at a later date to knock them out. Eshuis added his own harmonies to fill out the recording.

Everyone viewed “Every Other Memory” as one of the standouts from a batch of songs he had recorded, and the general conviction at Sony Music Nashville — especially from the president/CEO — made it the choice for the next single.

Randy Goodman said so,” says Hurd with a laugh. “That’s generally what it comes down to.”

RCA Nashville issued it to AM/FM radio via PlayMPE on April 20 with a May 18 add date. Through its nostalgic plot and its nod to Church, it definitely pays homage to what has come before it, but it likewise builds on Hurd’s own past in a way that seems like a new plateau.

“It’s a song that we knew was special just because it’s well-written, sonically is neat and that feels like it’s been our biggest debut so far,” says Hurd. “It’s been a really positive start.”

Finneas Launches Instagram Search for Thief Who Took Packages & ‘Ripped’ Doorbell Camera Off House

Finneas is putting “all 2.4 million of [his followers] to good use.”

That’s what he wrote on Instagram Wednesday evening (May 20) when he shared a photo of a “handsome fella” who “stole a bunch of packages off my porch in LA today and then RIPPED my doorbell camera out of it’s socket and left with it.”

Just last year, Finneas moved into a home with his girlfriend, Claudia Sulewski, who also shared the salvaged doorbell camera footage to her Instagram story.

The “Shelter” singer then asked his fans to let him know if they recognize the man, noting that he won’t press charges “if he gives them all back and lets me give him a neck tat that says ‘thief.'”

When a fan in the comments jokingly called him out for being “petty Finn,” the Grammy-winning producer wrote back, “this isn’t pettiness this is justice.”

Finneas shared the post to his Instagram story with the caption, “Have you seen this man?”

See his full post below.

‘Masked Singer’ Finalists Night Angel, Frog & Turtle Talk New Music

[Spoiler alert: This story contains the identities of the the top three finishers on Wednesday night’s (May 20) The Masked Singer finale.]

If you’re a performer and you don’t take advantage of finishing in the top three on The Masked Singer with some new music, then you’re doing it wrong. That’s why tonight’s (May 2) finale was accompanied by new songs from the top two and the promise of fresh tracks from the third-place finisher. Billboard caught up with all three before the big reveal to find out what new tunes they’re unmasking for fans.

Turtle

First out of the box on Wednesday morning was second place finisher Turtle, aka Jesse McCartney, who is celebrating the kick-off of summer with the sunshiny, bouncy bop “Friends.” Written by McCartney, Scott Effman & Riley Biederer and produced by Twice as Nice, the song is a nod to our chosen families, the ones we hang with and go to bars. Well, the ones we’ll do that with again soon, anyway.

When I wrote the song I had no idea we would be facing a worldwide pandemic, but now it seems like it’s making people nostalgic,” says McCartney, 33. “When I’m looking at the reactions online, people are like, ‘Oh my God, I can’t wait to go out to a bar or go to the beach with my friends!’ It’s making people miss their friends, so it’s actually a perfect time.”

McCartney felt like it was a good pick-me-up for homebound fans at this time, a morale booster with a different vibe than the typical romantic pop ditty. “You rarely in pop hear songs about hanging out with your best friends,” he says. “You hear about romantic relationships and heartbreak and love, but this seemed like a fun twist about being romantic about your friends and how much you need them in your life. I think it comes at a perfect time.”

He promises that it will join his other recent single, “Yours,” on the follow-up to 2014’s In Technicolor, which is slated for release sometime later this year.

Listen to “Friends” below.

The Night Angel

Season three winner Night Angel, aka Real Housewives of Atlanta star and Grammy-winning songwriter and singer Kandi Burruss, 44, wowed audiences and judges during her impressive run on the show. She tells Billboard that the W gave her the renewed confidence she needed to reboot her solo singing career after a reunion with longtime girl group Xscape in 2017.

She celebrated her revival with the bouncy club track “Used to Love Me” featuring Todrick Hall and Precious, which dropped on Wednesday night. “It’s a feel-good song to make people dance, have a good time. I wanted to do something totally different from what than what I’ve done in the past and what people would expect of me, so that’s why I chose it,” she says.

“It’s a song that immediately when you play it the beat makes you want to dance. It’s super catchy… I just wanted a song that everybody can dance to.” And while Burruss says the song is perfect for club remixes, because of the slowly lifting COVID0-19 lockdown, those will have to wait until we can all dance together again.

“Unfortunately, we can’t go to the club right now, but we can still dance [at home],” she says. Hall landed on the track because he and Burruss are friends and she admires him as a songwriter and loves his similarly upbeat single “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels.” She thought he’d be a great fit, along with Precious, a ballroom scene stalwart who she tapped to chant over the track. And this is just the beginning.

“I definitely plan on dropping more music in the future, hopefully an EP or an album in the coming months,” says Burruss. “For now I just wanted to drop a single and let people get used to the idea of me releasing music again.”

Listen to “Used to Love Me” below.

Frog

Third place finisher Frog, rapper/actor Bow Wow, 33, doesn’t have anything on tap right now, but there is definitely music on the horizon. He and touring partner and friend Omarion recently tweeted out a tease for the sequel to their 2007 joint album, Face Off. “Me and O been in the studio working with Jermaine Dupri, we’ve been working non-stop,” he says. “I finished [an] album as soon as we got off tour, which was postponed because of what we’re going through right now.”

Bow Wow says he finished his latest solo album within three weeks of getting home from the interrupted tour and then Omarion called him ready to get in the lab together after they started cooking up new tracks on the interrupted outing. “I definitely have a major announcement to make tomorrow [May 21] about everything I have coming,” he says, promising two albums and two unnamed movies in the near future.

“When we click it just connects and that combination is a good one-two punch, it just works,” he adds of his unique chemistry with Omarion. “And when we tweeted it out it was kind of the bait to see if that’s what they wanted. And I could have guessed that’s what they wanted because of the capacity of people that were showing up to come out to see us. Our music from that era is so important and we want to give them something. If they can’t come see us this year because of corona then we want to give them something they can hear. We’re gonna give them some real good stuff.”

The Night Angel Talks Curing ‘Masked Singer’ Female Winner Drought on Season 3

[Spoiler alert: This story contains the identity of the winner of Wednesday night’s (May 20) The Masked Singer finale.]

And so, just like that, season three of The Masked Singer is in the books. It was a wild one, to be sure, and Wednesday night’s finale had all the drama you’d expect from a season that opened with Lil Wayne (Robot) getting the boot, and included the elimination of several iconic singers (Miss Monster Chaka Khan and Mouse Dionne Warwick), one reality star politician (Bear Sarah Palin), as well as a skateboarding legend, a football icon and a baseball fury (Elephant Tony Hawk, White Tiger Rob Gronkowski and Rhino Barry Zito).

Add in a metal singer and a country star (Banana Poison’s Bret Michaels and Astronaut Hunter Hayes) and a former reality singing sensation (Kitty Jackie Evancho) and what could possibly top that action?

How about a coronation for Night Angel, a season-long favorite who mesmerized the home and studio audiences with killer performances of songs by Wayne (“How to Love”), Donna Summer (“Last Dance“), Andra Day (“Rise Up“), Lady Gaga (“Million Reasons,”) Bon Jovi (“You Give Love a Bad Name”), as well as Alannah MylesThe Isley Brothers and Shania Twain. Oh, and she capped it off with a little number from Tina Turner (“River Deep, Mountain High”) that looked easy in her glittery hands.

It wasn’t a surprise that Angel got so far, because after all, she is a Grammy-winning songwriter (TLC, “No Scrubs”), a former member of an adored vocal group (Xcscape) and, not for nothing, already a reality TV star (The Real Housewives of Atlanta). Still in the dark? Well, so were the judges, who guessed everyone from Monica to TLC’s Chilli, Toni (and Tamar) Braxton, Regina King and Taraji P. Henson. They were, of course, all wrong, especially Ken Jeong, because the Angel in disguise was none other than Kandi Burruss.

Billboard caught up with Burruss before her coronation to talk Bon Jovi, why the show is way more fun that Housewives and which other contestant had her shaking in her mask. Check out our interview below.

You really showed your range on the show, going from rock with your opening Bon Jovi tune, and then pop with Lady Gaga, hip-hop, soul, country. Were you flexing, or did you go all over the place to throw the judges off?

That was my goal. My thought process was, “this is a show that everybody loves” and no matter what genre of music a person listened to they love this show. So I wanted to do all different kinds of music that everybody from every walk of life would be familiar with or they liked. And on top of that I definitely didn’t wan to do R&B because that would immediately give it away. I started off with a rock song and figured then I could show off my vocals but people wouldn’t recognize my voice right off.

Did anyone guess it was you after Bon Jovi?

A lot of people didn’t know for sure after the first song, but as we went along a couple songs gave it away. One that I thought really gave it away for me was the Shania Twain song, because it’s in my lower register and you could really hear my vibrato really strong on that one. I wanted to do a country song, but I should have picked one in my higher range. In Xscape I sang all the lower parts so it was easier to recognize my voice when I sang in my lower register.

How soon did people start guessing it was you?

None of the guest judges were guessing me at first. Jenny I know personally, so I thought she would guess me from day one, but she didn’t, so that threw me off. But once it started airing on TV fans knew immediately. My husband and my daughter, when I first told them, they were like, “They’re gonna know who you are as soon as you open your mouth.” So I did this fake accent for most of the season thinking, “Well, maybe I can throw them off if they don’t hear my real voice.”

You said you had some insecurities going in, which is surprising since you came off so confident. What was empowering for you about singing in a mask and did it help tamp down those fears?

Yes! Being behind that mask helped me so much! I didn’t go into it thinking it would have this effect on me. At first I was scared out of my mind since it had been a long time since I perfumed by myself on stage. But when I realized people are only judging you based off your voice or performance, they’re not judging you based on if they like you off another show, or if you you had a hit because there are no preconceived notions of who this person is… it’s just Night Angel, so no one judged me for anything but my voice.

You’ve written songs, been a performer and have plenty of TV experience, but were there any new skills you had to learn for this show?

Oh my gosh, yes! Okay? I’ll tell anybody that performing with that mask and that costume on… oh my God. I could not breath at first when I put it on for dress rehearsal. I had been dancing and singing in rehearsal, but on the first day of dress rehearsal I got on stage and I could barely make it through the song because I couldn’t breathe and those wings restrained me from being able to move a lot. And the mask over my face was so hot! I would be sweating so bad under that thing! So I got a hockey mask and a ski mask and I started practicing at home with the whole getup on because that was the only way to help me get used to singing with all the stuff on.

Why do this show now?

They had reached out to me for season one and I thought about it, but my group Xscape had reunited for some touring, so I didn’t do it. But when I watched it and saw T-Pain I thought it was so dope, so I said if the opportunity came around again I thought I would do it. So they reached out and I thought if everything worked out with the timing it seemed like it would be fun. I didn’t realize it was something I could make to the end and win. I’m glad I did it.

What appealed to you about the Night Angel costume?

I was supposed to have a different costume and we had settled on one and they called me back a week later and said another costume became available, would you want to try this one? When I saw it I was like, “That is me.” She’s an angel but she has a dark side. It’s a really beautiful costume and I’m glad I got it.

As the season went on you visibly gained confidence, when did it feel like you might have a chance at winning and what gave you that boost?

Oh my goodness. I’m not gonna lie, the first few performances, every day I was panicking. “Oh my God, am I gonna be kicked off? It was pretty far in… I will say my top nine performance was one of my favorites. When I did “Rise Up.” On that night I felt like I’m definitely going to the next round in my mind. After that there were a couple where I was like, “I don’t know if I’m gonna make it this night.” It worked out, but I think all the way to the last performance I was like, “I’m not totally sure that I would win,” because Turtle, I felt like he had an amazing voice and Frog was an amazing performer, he knows how to rock the crowd and that’s his thing. In my mind it was maybe the first time a rapper could win this. His performance and his energy, it might be an upset. So I was like, “It really  could be any man’s game, but it ended up being a woman’s.

You beat out Dionne Warwick, Chaka Khan, Snoop Dogg, that must have felt pretty good?

Right? Chaka Khan was like…. I mean when I saw that she was on there I thought, “How in the world am I on the same competition as Chaka Khan? A legend?” Her voice is amazing. I got kind of scared when I saw that episode, I’m not gonna like. Because we don’t know who is getting put off or whatever, so when I got to the top nine performance and I didn’t see her there, I was like, “Whoo! I might make it!”

The guesses were all over the place, all pretty impressive: Chilli, Monica, Regina King. But it seemed like Jenny and Robin were pretty sure it was you by the end and you said they know you. How did nobody else guess correctly?

I don’t know [laughs]. Like I said, I know Jenny and I thought she was going to guess me on episode one. And Robin had guessed me on prior seasons for different people. I know when Adrian Bailon [Flamingo] was performing he kept saying my name and he did it as well in season one. And you know what cracks me up? He said one night, “This voice is familiar, probably someone from a group and Jenny said, “Do you think it could be Kandi because you guessed her before?” He was like, “Naw, naw, naw.” I was like, really? He just totally dismissed me after all this time he’d been guessing me and now I’m right here in your face and you’re totally dismissing me? I just thought it was hilarious!

How does this compare to the vibe on Real Housewives?

This vibe is better. It’s positive energy, it’s love. Every time you perform they uplift you and make you feel good that you’re doing well. They make you want to do better, whereas on Housewives it’s a constant teardown. “You ain’t hot, you ain’t did nothin’, oh why you this, you shouldn’t even be here!” It’s a night and day situation.

The show was filmed before the pandemic, but did you hope that that inherent joy you just described might help people at home at this time? That they’re getting that uplift?

I think people definitely are. That’s the cool thing bout this show, people love it because it makes them feel good because it’s so positive, because the whole family can sit together and watch it. Our kids can watch it, our grandparents, the whole family can sit together and laugh and make guesses about who you think this person is or who their favorite is. You can be in a competition with each other, “this is my pick,” or “that is my pick.” Everybody can just enjoy it and call their friends. Even I, mind you I was on the show, but even I like to go online and see people’s guesses. And I hate the fact that I can’t join in and make guesses. You know I don’t know anyone else on the show? The only one I figured out was Frog. And until today I don’t know who Turtle is and I won’t know until tonight.

What was the wildest guess you saw online?

It was Pat Benatar. I was like huh? I mean I like her. Oh, and somebody said Stevie Nicks! I was like “ooh she’s dope, she’s amazing!” That would be great company.

Now that you have the crown, what does winning mean to you?

I definitely am kind of surprised, I’m not gonna lie. I wanted to win, obviously, everyone wants to win, but a lot of times I had so much self-doubt. Turtle had me spooked from the first time I watched him perform on TV. He was in an earlier group… I was not even there when I saw him perform and I was like, “Ooh, he’s good!”

I would say for me it was a total boost of confidence. It re-energized me and how I feel about doing music again. For a long time I got behind the scenes and stayed there and was not really focused on myself as an artist anymore because I didn’t really feel like… “maybe nobody is checkin’ for me.” I lost confidence in my voice, but doing this show it let me know… of course I get the negativity from the fans on Housewives. But if someone is not judging me based on something I did on a reality show, this is just about my voice, my performance that night then I can still be a winner.

There’s a fanbase that can still appreciate my music and that was a great part about this. “Okay, I can still do my thing. There are people who love my voice or appreciate it” and that made me feel really good. Not only that, you know I’m the queen of girl power. So to be the first woman and bring it home for the ladies? That was a joy in itself. During the second or third-to-last episode when I realized that no other woman had won this before. And it wasn’t even that, but no woman had gotten past third place? I was like to be able to take it home was a big deal to me.

Talk to me about “Used to Love Me,” your new single which drops tonight. It’s such a fun, uptempo track. Why come back with that song?

It’s a feel-good song to make people dance, have a good time. I wanted to do something totally different from what than what I’ve done in the past and what people would expect of me, so that’s why I chose it. It’s a song that immediately when you play it the beat makes you want to dance. It’s super catchy and it’s easy, so I just wanted a song that everybody can dance to.

It sounds perfect for the clubs, made for a bunch of remixes.

Thank you. That’s what I was going for. Unfortunately, we can’t go to the club right now., but we can still dance.

At home.

Right.

How you end up working with Todrick Hall and Precious?

Todrick is a friend of mine and I absolutely love his music and I think he’s a dope songwriter. I was just like, “C’mon and jump on this record for me.” I felt like he would be a good fit, especially with his last single, “Nails, Hair, Hips, Heels,” which had the same dance vibe. So I thought he would be a great fit for this record and Precious is from the club and ballroom scene and I had seen her posting videos on Instagram and I wanted somebody to chant on my record, so I was like, “i’m gonna sing you this and I want you to chant on it.”

Is this your musical rebirth as an artist?

For sure. I definitely plan on dropping more music in the future, hopefully an EP or an album in the coming months. For now I just wanted to drop a single and let people get used to the idea of me releasing music again.

Listen to “Used to Love Me” below.