Lions and hippos and peacocks, oh my! 'The Masked Singer' is the most brilliantly bonkers singing competition ever

(Stefon from Saturday Night Live voice) Television’s hottest new musical competition is called The Masked Singer. This show has ev-er-y-thing: More entertaining blind auditions than The Voice, wilder costumes than RuPaul’s Drag Race, bigger “big reveals” than The Swan, prettier livestock than anything on Animal Planet, more C-list celebrities than a ’70s Game Show Network rerun of Match Game PM, and more so-bad-it’s-good taste than Eurovision … and exiled America’s Got Talent host Nick Cannon, of course.

It also has controversial NFL star Antonio Brown cosplaying as a hippity-hoppin’ Hippo, singing Bobby Brown’s bad-boy anthem “My Prerogative.” The footballer came out New Jack Swinging on Wednesday’s Masked Singer premiere, but he quickly proved, as judge Ken Jeong put it, that “as a singer, he’s a superb athlete.” So he was the first elimination, and the first unmasking, of the season.

Brown (Antonio, that is, not Bobby) has been having a tough time of late. The Pittsburgh Steelers star athlete, known for being difficult and for loving the spotlight, missed last week’s game for reportedly arguing with a teammate and missing team meetings. And now we know that he doesn’t have a singing career to fall back on, either.

Anyway, for those of you not already utterly fascinated by the bizarre promos that Fox has been posting on social media for months — or by Ryan Reynolds’s unicorn-headed viral performance of the Annie ballad “Tomorrow” on the original Korean version of this game show — allow me to break down The Masked Singer‘s bonkers AF premise:

A dozen mystery celebs, their faces shielded by giant masks that make Slipknot look like amateurs who shop at the Halloween Superstore, sing karaoke for fallen pop star/Duets judge Robin Thicke, Community comedy doctor Jeong, former Singled Out sidekick Jenny McCarthy, and onetime Pussycat Doll/Popstars contestant/X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger. These esteemed judges watch an hour of what basically looks like Eurotrash band’s Alacazar’s infamous “Crying at the Discotheque” music video and then make terribly uninformed and almost always incorrect guesstimates about these masked men’s and women’s true identities. (The judges blithely ignored the Hippo’s clues — the $10,000 bill that represented the fine Brown received for dancing in the end zone, Brown’s trademark huge pancake breakfast — guessing that the Hippo was Odell Beckham Jr., Deion Sanders, or Allen Iverson.)

And, at the end of each episode, one contestant is unmasked — and the internet predictably breaks.

On Wednesday’s hourlong Fox premiere, we already got to witness the unmasking of the first eliminated contestant, the Antonio the Hippo. Below, let’s look at the premiere’s other five contestants, and try to guess the famous faces behind the façades. Next week, six other mystery singers — the Raven, Alien, Bee, Poodle, Pineapple and Rabbit — will rock the mic and boggle our minds.


Clues: This gruff-voiced showman — whose splashy, flashy Vegas revue was the perfect kickoff to this ridiculous series — said he’d been performing since age 5, revealed he was “dear friends” with Michael Jackson back in the day and admitted, “It’s probably been a while since your mom had a poster of me on your bedroom wall.” He also stressed that it’s “never too late for a comeback.” He’s also been part of a magic act, apparently.

Judges’ guesses: Johnny Weir, Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Jimmy Kimmel and Teller of Penn & Teller. Huh?

My guesses: The clues add up to disgraced ’70s teen idol Leif Garrett, who knew Jackson and whose rocked-up vocals sort of sounded like that weird “Smells Like Teen Spirit” novelty cover he did with Melvins. Garrett certainly could use a comeback, too. My second guess is Donny Osmond (in “Crazy Horses” rock ‘n’ roll mode, that is). Osmond knew Michael well (and has even expressed a desire to duet with Janet Jackson!); he plays Vegas all the time; and as a former Dancing With the Stars champ, he, like DWTS alumnus Antonio Brown, clearly isn’t averse to appearing on cheesy reality shows.


Clues: After “the world labeled him a monster” and “the game turned on him,” this tough guy took a break from the public eye and “retreated to his cave.” Now he is back to “rewrite his mixtape” and prove he’s “more than just puff and fluff.” His voice on a Queen classic sounded “mature,” as Thicke put it, so this isn’t some kid. But the Monster was surprisingly capable of handling this octave-climbing monster anthem — even if he admitted that “not everyone” considers him a professional singer.

Judges’ guesses: Puff Daddy, Gucci Mane, Justin Bieber. (Again: Huh?)

My guesses: At first I thought it was Ron Isley, who spent three years in prison (i.e., a “cave”) for tax evasion, or the reclusive D’Angelo, whose drug problems led to rehab and a 2005 arrest. But everyone considers those guys to be total singing pros. So I’m going with rapper Ja Rule, since his feud with 50 Cent nearly ruined his career, and his attempt to reinvent himself as a concert promoter with the Fyre Festival resulted in a whole other backlash. Plus, this clip of Rule singing sort of sounds like his Masked Singer number. All I ask is that this “monster” not be Chris Brown or R. Kelly; this is supposed to be a feel-good show!


This sweet, shy girl in the glamorous, wedding-worthy white gown “grew up in one of richest neighborhoods” and dreamt of singing but was discouraged by her famous family — even though, ironically, her nickname is “Bird.” With her thin and wobbly voice, she didn’t sound like a trained vocalist, as Thicke pointed out, and she definitely sounded nervous. But she wasn’t as “tone-deaf” as her nasty family had once claimed.

Judges’ guesses: Meghan Markle (WHAT?), Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Ireland Baldwin.

My guess: Tori Spelling. I feel pretty confident about this prediction. She’s sung passably before, and the Japanese meaning of the word “Torii” is “bird abode.” Also, all the tabloid stories about various Spelling family feuds align with the Unicorn’s sad backstory.


Clues: This tall, macho competitor gave off an athlete vibe (taping up his antlers, referring to being “knocked down many times”). He also shouted the warning “Ravens, beware!” — prompting Thicke to suspect that the Deer may also have ties to the Ravens’ football rivals, the aforementioned Pittsburgh Steelers. (When the judges later asked the Deer if he’d ever played in the NFL, the Deer “took the Fifth.” So, that meant yes.) Also notable: The Deer said he “loves horses” and mentioned something about the “wild, wild West.”

Judges’ guesses: Stone Cold Steve Austin, Chuck Liddell, Peyton Manning.

My guess: Former Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw. He’s sung country-western music semiprofessionally (hence the “west” clue), he breeds quarter horses, and at 6’3”, he fits the Deer’s suit. He also has ties to the Fox network as a sportscaster.


Clues: This is the impressive mystery diva who’s been featured in all of Fox’s promos, leading fans to already speculate that the lioness behind the gilt headdress is Lady Gaga, Sia, Ariana Grande or Christina Aguilera. Jeong called her “hella legit” and “probably the most famous of all” the contestants. The Lion definitely was golden-maned head and shoulders above the rest, and she described herself as “Hollywood royalty.” Her hints about wanting to break away from her “pride” of “lots of women” had the judges thinking she might be a former girl-group member hoping to establish herself as a solo star.

Judges’ guesses: Lady Gaga, Destiny’s Child’s Michelle Williams or Kelly Rowland, the Spice Girls’ Mel B, or some non-Camila member of Fifth Harmony. OK, then.

My guess: I highly doubt this is an A-list belter, since the Lion repeatedly said she wanted to “perform without preconceived notions” and display who she really is. Sia, Xtina, Ariana and Gaga have absolutely nothing to prove, and they regularly wear outfits as wacky as this feline costume. So, I’m guessing it’s Aubrey O’Day. The woman, who often rocks a leonine head of golden hair extensions, can really sing, but few people realize that, since she’s more known for her Trump-related personal scandals these days. Perhaps this is Aubrey’s time to roar.

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