The Beets Talk Enduring Friendship, Disappointment Over ‘Masked Singer’ Elimination: ‘I Want to Win Everything!’
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The Beets Talk Enduring Friendship, Disappointment Over ‘Masked Singer’ Elimination: ‘I Want to Win Everything!’

SPOILER ALERT: The following story reveals the identities of the eliminated contestants on Wednesday night’s (May 1) The Masked Singer.

Over the years, The Masked Singer has served up some fun and funky costumed duos, including Snow Owls (Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black), Banana Split (Katharine McPhee and David Foster), Beach Ball (Honey Boo Boo and Mama June) and Hydra (Penn & Teller).

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The tradition continued this season with The Beets, who made their smashing debut last month during The Wizard of Oz night when they teamed up for Michael Bublé’s “Home,” before singing The Pointer Sisters’ 1982 Billboard Hot 100 No. 30 hit “I’m So Excited.” The men’s voices melded together so perfectly that panelist Rita Ora gushed, “Beets just beat it up!”

The singers were back Wednesday night (May 1) for a performance they said was inspired by them becoming dads, with their touching take on “One Moment in Time” by Whitney Houston breaking the weep bank on Soundtrack of My Life night. The mix of their soulful vocals — one high and sweet, the other warm and rich — drew gasps from the judges and the audience as they hit each and every note with ease. 

The clues for the two did not help at all, with one dubbing himself “the ladies’ man” and the other “the tough guy,” though they did admit that they “couldn’t be more different” and that they never tried to outdo each other but rather teamed up “like a good girl group.”

The guesses were all over the place, from podcast and Arrested Development castmates Will Arnett and Jason Bateman, to K-Ci & JoJo and members of Boyz II Men, as well as country duo Dan + Shay, Steve Martin and Martin Short, Brooks & Dunn and another comedy duo, Scrubs co-stars Donald Faison and Zach Braff. Ken Jeong, as always, was way off the mark with his Josh Groban/Brian McKnight guess.

After joining in the Group B team’s run through Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life” and coming back to sing Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes’ “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” during the Battle Royale against Gumball on Wednesday night, alas The Beets didn’t make it through the quarterfinals. And though the Internet figured out early on who they were, the judges were stymied about the identities of American Idol season 2 winner and runner-up, and best buds, Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, both 45. In addition to staying friends, the dynamic duo have toured together several times over the years, including last year for Twenty The Tour, celebrating the two-decade anniversary of their Idol debut.

The night also saw the unmasking of Seal, who turned out to be 1980s child star and rocker Corey Feldman. But before that, Billboard spoke to Aiken and Studdard before their elimination to find out why their “adult vegetable” costumes were the most challenging ones ever on the show, how they’ve stayed so close over all these years and why Ruben was pissed to not come out on top again.

I’m sure you feel differently, but of all the nutty costumes on the show to date yours seemed kind of the easiest to move around in.

Studdard: Absolutely not! I felt so awkward and out of place in that costume because we literally could not see stuff. The only thing we could see was right in front of us. So trying to perform in those costumes was daunting.

Aiken: What? Oh my gosh I would say it’s the opposite! I want to claim a privilege here and say that Ruben and I — yes, a lot of people have more elaborate costumes and that’s what made the Beets more adorable in their simplicity — but if you look at it the Beet itself covers our whole bodies down to our knees, then our arms are completely inside the Beets, so we just have our wrists out, no arms or really any legs. If you watch, we’re only moving from the knee down. It was simple, but near impossible to move in. I think we had it the hardest, Ruben.

Talk to me about dedicating the Whitney Houston song to being dads, what an emotional moment.

Studdard: [laughs] I was just trying to remember all the words!

Aiken: And not fall off the stage!

Studdard: Anytime you get to reflect on the people that mean the most to you it’s special. Dedicating most of my performances to my kids now has been the joy of my existence. Anything I do on stage, whether people know it’s me or not, it’s for them.

Aiken: It was interesting because the theme was to pick a song that talks about our story or our life or career and that song meant nothing specifically to either of us, other than watching Whitney sing it in a stadium. But the lyrics obviously relate to our time on Idol and how that show changed our lives and it was interesting to do it on the same network where we started and on stage in front of a studio audience. So much about the Masked Singer has parallels to Idol — even though so much is completely opposite and different — but it was cool to re-live that 21 years after we lived it on Idol.

Whose idea was it to be on this show and was there something alluring to you about being disguised given how well-known your story is?

Studdard: I definitely was enthusiastic about being on the show. I don’t know if my initial want was to perform with my brother, but to get the opportunity to continue what we’ve been doing… we did our 10-year tour, we were actually out on the road while we were doing the Masked Singer, so it made all the sense in the world for us to get an opportunity to close out the 20-year reunion strong as the most disgusting condiment they put out.

Aiken: You’re telling me you don’t love beets Ruben? I love beets. That’s how old I am. No kid likes beets, but as we get older I have found that I enjoy beets now. That’s something that adults do, so it was appropriate that we were an adult vegetable.

Oh boy, I am not going to Google “adult vegetable!” Switching gears completely, you are both dads, did you watch the show with your kids before saying yes?

Studdard: I watched the show, but my son is three so he has no idea what it is and my daughter is a baby.

Aiken: We had both seen the show and I believe we had even talked to each other over the years as it’s been on the air how cool it would be to do it, but Ruben’s been busy and I had not been performing at all, so when Ruben got me back on stage for this tour I think the show saw that we were out doing something together. We’re not a duo that records together, so I think they say, “wait a minute, Ruben and Clay are on tour together, but people might not think of them as a duo, so that might be a way to trick the audience,” so it worked out perfectly for us.

Be honest now, what was scarier: singing on Idol as newcomers with no mask or trying to sing inside that costume?

Studdard: Singing on Idol for sure.

Aiken: The interesting thing about Idol for me was obviously it was scary every week because you’re worried you’re going to go home because there’s stakes involved and it’s your life and your career. On Masked Singer we didn’t have that concern at all. We came off tour to do it and went back on tour after it and we came on knowing we were going to have fun and goof off and enjoy ourselves. I never worried about falling off stage on Idol. I was definitely worried about it every time we performed on this show.

You placed one and two on Idol, so are you disappointed to leave Masked Singer after just a few performances?

Studdard: I was disappointed to leave… I want to win everything. I don’t care if it’s marbles or jumping jacks — and I know I can’t do that many — but I want to win.

Aiken: Ruben and I have a very different philosophy on it and I reminded Ruben that Masked Singer is not a singing competition. It’s a singing show, but it’s only marginally a competition because there are so many other factors to it. I was not bothered by losing and I know damn well that we sang the living s–t out of that Whitney Houston song! So I ain’t worried about us when it comes to that. I have lost things multiple times in the past, so I am much more used to it. Ruben has never lost anything before, so it was a little tougher on him [laughs].

After 20 years, why do you think your friendship has endured and continued to bring you together like this?

Aiken: Because I don’t mind losin’! And that’s with marbles and jacks and jumping jacks and everything. I lost to him on everything.

Studdard: [Laughs] Despite our obvious differences, we came up through a situation that inclined us to be closer to one another. American Idol was a lot different than it is now and we relied on each other a lot. We had to depend on each other to be timely, to be kind because we were living with one another. And not just for Clay and I, but I think the majority of our cast mates, we found a way to remain family over the 20 years since the show.

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