"The percentage is less than more," the Canadian singer-songwriter tells PEOPLE

By Dana Rose Falcone
November 27, 2020 11:00 AM
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Broccoli; Paul Anka
| Credit: Michael Becker/FOX; George Pimentel/WireImage

Paul Anka did The Masked Singer his way.

The legendary singer and songwriter, 79, just missed making the Super Six when he got voted out and unmasked as Broccoli on Thursday's Group C finale, but he doesn't mind.

"I didn't have any expectations," Anka tells PEOPLE. "It was just fun to get out of the house and do it."

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The Canadian crooner took a break from working on his latest album — which will feature Andrea Bocelli, Il Divo and Olivia Newton-John — to partake in the singing competition and aimed to show off his stamina on stage.

"I wanted to get songs with a lot of energy, songs that I don't really do," he says.

Despite being a seasoned performer, Anka initially found it challenging to perform on the show using an in-ear monitor. "My only concern was getting used to that," the father of six says. "I'm not an in-ear guy. I perform right on with people. I want to hear them and feel them and I interact when I do my concerts. But I got used to it pretty quickly."

Anka talks about being a broccoli-loving "health nut," finding success on TikTok and the performers who he thinks will endure for decades to come.

Why did you want to do The Masked Singer?

I was a fan of the show. I've gotten calls to do certain shows like Dancing with the Stars, which I turned down quick. The ones that I've done, [like] American Idol, they all had a reason to it. I've got a 15-year-old son and I've got grandchildren and we were fans of the show. We love the costumes. I had to be very honest with my son because I spend a lot of time with him — I don't work in an office anymore, I do everything at home. So I told him [about doing the shhw] and he got a big kick out of it. When I got the call, I really thought about it because I was in the middle of an album for quite a few months. It all came together where I can get out of the house, I could have some fun and I can get out and do some socialization.

I'm a broccoli eater, I'm a health nut. It's hot inside there! With the heat and moving around like I did, I recommend it for those who want to lose weight; it's fantastic. I was drenched every time I got out of it.

Paul Anka performing as Broccoli on The Masked Singer.
| Credit: Michael Becker/FOX.

What made you so passionate about health and fitness?

I was hanging around the Rat Pack and Frank Sinatra and those guys — I was around all of the bad habits and the potential derailments. When you're thrown into that group, it's a lot of partying and drinking, so I realized I wanted to keep whatever I needed to get out of those teen days and get over a few humps to last, because they just don't last in this business. I'm not a smoker, I don't drink heavy liquor. I'm not interested in any of that. I've been around too many — from [Elvis] Presley to everybody —  to know that if you abused it, you're going to lose it. I saw it, I watched it. I was afraid of that.

I started really getting into what I ate and exercise and I apply that lifestyle right now. I'm 79 years old and my doctors tell me I'm 40 and 50. I've got a lot of energy and I don't really have, knock on wood, any ailments right now that would be curtailing what I want to do.

You hinted at a lot of the late legends who you've worked with in your clue packages. Is there anything about them — Sinatra, Elvis, Michael Jackson — that people would be surprised to learn about?

Michael was very focused. He had a certain lifestyle. His dinner was nuts: peanuts and Brazil nuts. He was very very ambitious. He would come to me for a lot of advice and I'd help him. Sinatra and those guys were exactly what you read about. No one back in the '50s ever saw what was coming, the technology, TikTok, that I'd be in a costume being Broccoli. We would just sit there and have fun and misbehave in the areas of men will be men.

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What do you think has been the biggest change in the music industry?

When I started, you stood in a room and everybody played their instruments naturally and you sang and you were well-prepared. The technology and the kind of music that's coming out of it, that's the biggest change. I mean, streaming, who would have ever imagined? Who would have ever imagined the power of TikTok? Who would imagine that record companies are very few and that their distributing dynamic has changed? Years ago, you did a couple of TV shows, you did some radio, everybody knew [about your album]. Today, nobody knows what's out there, who's got a new album. People really are unaware. Take the Grammys — they're just so unaware of what people want and what they're doing. It's so political.

Do you think any of today's popular artists have staying power?

I don't see a lot of them really being around a long time, unfortunately. But when you get down to what Bruno Mars does, The Weeknd or Adele, there are few out there who have the potential to be around. This new crop of kids, they have the hits, the success, but it's another [thing] to deal with it, stay focused, stay human. You're really trying to deal with the success of it and not becoming an asshole. I see [Justin] Bieber and some of these young kids, and they just don't know how to deal with it. You can't take a kid out of somewhere and say, "Here's a $100 million dollar check." You're not ready for it. My first check was $300 and I thought, "Wow, this is it!" There'll be a few that may last; I would say the percentage is less than more.

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You talked on the show about being a ladies' man and getting a lot of female attention — did you ever get used that?

You don't get used to it because it's just so unnatural. As I got older and my fans remained and they're obviously older — and with TikTok now I've got a whole new young audience — I know what's real about the attention. I've tried to tell so many performers, the Biebers, people like that, even Michael: "Just don't let it get to your head, because it's not you. It's going to be somebody else tomorrow." You don't get used to it but you do as you get older. A lot happens with wisdom.

Paul Anka on Gilmore Girls with Lauren Graham.
| Credit: Warner Bros.

You have more than 123,600 TikTok followers and a lot of millennials know you from Gilmore Girls, but what are you hoping viewers take away from you from your time on The Masked Singer?

Gilmore Girls, yes, I've gotten a lot of attention off of that. I've gotten a lot of attention off of TikTok now because of "Put Your Head on My Shoulder" and "Puppy Love." I might be doing something with Madison Beer. But back to Masked Singer, I wanted to throw the coaches. I thought that Robin [Thicke], who got it, wouldn't get it. Where he got it in the process I don't know. It was all energy that I wanted to put across. And then doing songs that I didn't think they'd expect me this thing. So that's pretty much what I wanted to execute, knowing that I was confined to a suit.

The Masked Singer returns Wednesday (8 p.m. ET) on Fox.