Nothing about this world is surprising anymore. Example number seven thousand from this month: The ratings success of The Masked Singer. A couple weeks ago, my brilliant colleague Kristen Baldwin asked a simple question about new Fox series: What the holy hell is this insane reality competition musical mystery show?
The answer: Holy Hell, indeed. The Masked Singer has scratched some apparently essential itch in our ruined culture…an itch for gorgeous costumes, surreal origin montages, cyclops back-up dancers, and anonymous crooning. I am already hooked. Like, I want to plan a Masked Karaoke party. Like, I look at Monster and see myself. So I watched Wednesday’s third episode and reviewed all five masked musical numbers. The results were beyond cromulent!
Lion sings “Feeling Good,” by Nina Simone
The Lion resembles what will happen when someone in Hollywood is finally brave enough to adapt “The Chronicles of Narnia” into a roller disco musical. Lion is “definitely a seasoned performer,” said Robin Thicke, which made me think Lion must be a teenager, maybe a young-ish millennial, definitely the opposite of whatever “seasoned” is. Lion’s song choice was an absolute Ms. Simone classic. She killed it, though I have to apply some demerits for the rather blah staging. She was mostly imprisoned within a silo of bright lights — but this beast cannot be caged! Some demerits removed for the moment when the Lion emerged from the silo. She walks between the raindrops, just like M. Bison in Legend of Chun-Li. The big clue to her identity: A history of activism and female empowerment.
Utterly Unlikely Celebrity I Will Now Declare Is Definitely Behind The Mask: Solange Knowles
Deer sings “Get Your Shine On” by Florida Georgia Line
Ah yes, a Hannibal dream sequence brought to life, with a Spider-Noir trenchcoat and the voice of a tough gym teacher with a heart of gold. Deer’s performance was very meta. He sang on a stage on the stage, surrounded by black-outfitted dancers. The message was clear: Deer was reliving tragic memories from episode 1, when he lost to Lion. The crowd, so cruel! What a sorrowful life Deer lives onstage! Some awkward steps taken on bad knees implied an athlete’s background. The dancers had flashlights, a nice touch. “I don’t think you’re a professional singer,” said Nicole Scherzinger, and she’s always right.
Utterly Unlikely Celebrity I Will Now Declare Is Definitely Behind The Mask: Michael Jordan
Peacock sings “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic
“Peacock, Peacock, Peacock!” the crowds chanted, as the avian warbler described a career with “different incarnations.” Despite a terrible fear of heights, Peacock began singing from 30 feet high in the air. Props for giving the OneRepublic tune a totally radical rethink, transforming the pop number into the type of song that insiders refer to as “a lounge-singer crooncake.” Panelist Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg said she got youthful vibes, which means Peacock is definitely a nonagenarian. Seriously, I had this whole “Hal Holbrook” theory, but then the glimmering birdman pulled out some wild calisthenic moves. That’s not the crowd work of a man born during the Coolidge administration! “He could be an actor,” said Nicole Scherzinger. He must be. Maybe he was in Gods of Egypt, that movie where all the gods kept turning into giant robo-peacocks?
Utterly Unlikely Celebrity I Will Now Declare Is Definitely Behind The Mask: Jamie Foxx
Unicorn sings “Oops, I Did It Again” by Britney Spears
Disembodied limbs floated behind a sparkly backdrop, as the equinosapien from Beverly Hills sang Britney’s Martian anthem. This was the best performance of a Britney Spears song by someone not Britney Spears since Spring Breakers, though the phrase “probably not a professional singer” was certainly invented for Unicorn. But I’m moving this up a couple grades because the Unicorn costume design here remains my favorite thing about The Masked Singer. Like, why is she channeling Queen Elizabeth I in a wedding dress? Are we meant to understand this Unicorn is an alternate-universe ghost from the timeline where the Virgin Queen got married? So many questions, not enough answers!
Totally For-Sure Celebrity I Am Completely Convinced Is Behind The Mask: Paris Hilton
Monster sings “I Don’t Want To Be” by Gavin DeGraw
The best new character on television in 2019, the Monster returned to The Masked Singer with something to prove. Despite the fact that its triumphant “Don’t Stop Me Now” musical number was a hundred thousand million times better than anything in Bohemian Rhapsody, the first episode saw Monster in the bottom three. They say revenge is a dish best served cold… but who are “they,” and why don’t “they” go burn in hell?! Monster brought the fire this time, hyperbolizing a country music number into a mini-rock opera. Flames everywhere! The Monster hit the big high note with primal-scream intensity. “That was my favorite,” said Robin Thicke, agh, I guess we agree! Does Monster have a spinoff yet? He could be a life coach or a barista for a struggling Philadelphia mom ‘n pop cafe. He could be an ambassador.
Utterly Unlikely Celebrity I Will Now Declare Is Definitely Behind The Mask: Also Jamie Foxx
The Deer was actually Terry Bradshaw, a championship NFL star-turned-TV host, who for the purposes of this pop culture-themed website I sadly have to refer to as “the co-star of Failure to Launch.” With the mask on he looked like the bounty hunter the elf bloodking hires to murder the last of the wood nymphs, but with the mask off Bradshaw just looked like Emperor Palpatine all dressed up for a German nightclub. Huzzah, sportball!