Host Nick Cannon said Season 3’s finale would be the “closest race in Masked Singer history,” but judge Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg had been predicting for weeks that the Night Angel would win that Golden Mask trophy — even saying that the flying purple people-creature’s top six show performance, of Alannah Myles’s “Black Velvet,” was the greatest Masked Singer number ever. Jenny had also repeatedly guessed that it was Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Burruss lurking behind the Night Angel’s gaping-mouthed, unblinking grape-face.
And as it turned out, Jenny was right on both counts. She knew exactly who this was (sorry, Ken Jeong), and she called it — as Kandi “The Night Angel” Burruss beat out runner-up the Turtle and third-placer the Frog to become the very first female Masked Singer champ on Wednesday’s grand finale.
Kandi established herself as the clear victor when she fabulously closed the show with a Vegas-headliner-style spectacular of the Phil Spector-produced Ike & Tina Turner classic “River Deep, Mountain High,” proving she is a true star. The on/off Xscape member and pop songwriter admitted, “When I first got here I was terrified of failure, because for so long I had convinced myself that I wasn’t enough. … When I didn’t find success as a solo artist, I decided to develop other businesses behind the scenes; I did what I had to do, because I’m a mother. But as my kids have grown, it’s gotten harder to tell them to chase their dreams when I wasn’t chasing my own. So I’m here to win, not just for myself but for all women!”
Kandi did face stiff competition from the Turtle, whose epic alt-rock cover of Lewis Capaldi’s power ballad “Before You Go” — complete with raining pyro, a spiky-headed backing band, and a final emo knee-drop — was a tour de force as well. It turned out that the rocker beneath this hard-shelled exterior was none other than pop star Jesse McCartney, who declared, “I had no idea how much this competition would change me as an artist. It’s allowed me to take risks I would have normally never dreamed of. … I’ve only grown a thicker shell, because performing is what I’m meant to do, and coming back to this stage is proof of my resilience.” (Perhaps unsurprisingly, both Kandi and Jesse dropped new singles on Wednesday.)
Some people, including the judges, were surprised that the Frog only placed third, since he was the consummate entertainer of the whole season. (Judge Nicole Scherzinger had said that his swan song — or frog song? — performance, of Puff Daddy’s “Bad Boy for Life,” belonged on the MTV Video Music Awards.) But after the outrage stirred up by the past eliminations of vocal greats like Gladys Knight, Patti LaBelle, Dionne Warwick, and Chaka Khan, the show’s producers probably thought it wouldn’t be a good look to crown a champion who frequently acknowledged that he wasn’t a proper singer.
It turned out this awesome amphibian was a rapper: Bow Wow. And he too seemed to have derived a confidence/career boost from his transformative Masked Singer experience.
“The first time I walked onto this stage I just remember feeling so lost,” said Bow Wow, who recently considered quitting the music business entirely. “I wasn’t a singer. I wasn’t a dancer. I felt like I couldn’t even compete. After years of people always having things to say about me on social media, I started to really doubt myself. But the more that I pushed myself, the more that I felt like I was exactly in the right place. I’ve proven that as a rapper, I’ve got just as much vocal chops as the singers. … This experience has allowed me to get back to my first love, which is music.” (No word yet on when Bow Wow’s post-Masked single comes out, but I’m sure it’s coming.)
So now Season 3 is over, and I must gloat and point out that I guessed all these contestants correctly. But moving on… Fox has already announced that Season 4 will premiere this fall. It’s unclear what that season will look like, since, as Cannon put it, “the world has turned upside-down” since Season 3 was taped earlier this year. But as Nick also said, The Masked Singer “has brightened us up in these uncertain times,” so I already eagerly await its return. Obviously a show as garish and glitzy as this wouldn’t be able to easily adapt to an at-home format like other talent shows (American Idol, The Voice), but The Masked Singer was already practicing masking and social-distancing (contestants are always completely covered and sequestered), so maybe it could work.
And heck, if the Season 4 celebrities have to perform from home in amateur costumes (the Ghost in an eye-holed bedsheet, the Unknown Comic with paper grocery bag over his head, whatever), singing into a home karaoke system through a Mr. Microphone, so be it. America needs this show. See you in the fall, when the guessing game begins again.