SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the two-hour Season 4 finale of “The Masked Singer,” which aired Dec. 17 on Fox.
LeAnn Rimes shouldn’t feel “Blue”: The singer shined on Wednesday night, as she was unmasked as “The Masked Singer” Season 4 winner — the Sun.
“I never thought I would do anything like this and I don’t think I’ll ever do anything like it again,” Rimes told Variety. “It’s such a unique show. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I’m so glad I did.”
Panelist Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg and Nicole Scherzinger got it right with LeAnn Rimes. Ken Jeong thought it was Mandy Moore, while Robin Thicke named Katharine McPhee.
Rimes said she was eager to appear on “The Masked Singer” after the COVID-19 pandemic left her without a stage to perform. “I haven’t been off the road and not performed live since I was 13,” she said. “I was really craving to be on stage. And then, when I thought of what I could bring to this dark moment in time, it felt like perfect timing. This show in itself is just so joyous, unlike really any show on television.”
“It was a million times better than anything I could have ever expected, and also way more challenging,” Rimes said. I never expected the costume to have that much weight. To perform in this costume, it was a workout. I went home every night so sore.” But, she added, “I started so young and I never really got a chance to play. And so for me part of this was like, ‘I get to go play in a costume? OK, cool.’”
Rimes just released the new song “Throw My Arms Around the World,” and also hosts the podcast “Wholly Human.” In performing disguised on “The Masked Singer,” Rimes said she embraced the anonymity.
“One of the beautiful things about being behind the mask was that people got to feel me without any preconceived storyline,” Rimes said. “This is the first time people got to feel my essence, and my voice and my gift where there was no story attached. Especially as a woman, in this business there’s so much [focus on] the way I look and what I’m wearing.”
For Mushroom, Scherzinger figured out it was Blacc, and Thicke piggybacked off that as well; McCarthy Wahlberg named Ne-Yo; and Jeong thought it was Pharrell Williams.
Like Rimes, Blacc told Variety that the pandemic and the forced break from touring gave him the opportunity to do “The Masked Singer.”
“Usually I’m on the road, traveling around the world,” he said. “This really gave me the opportunity to be home. Also, I feel like right now in the world, and especially in our country, where there’s so much trauma happening with a pandemic and where there’s so much political division, this show has been one of the moments where we all can come together and celebrate life through music.”
Blacc took the show’s secrecy so seriously that he didn’t tell his wife at first, and his kids were kept in the dark until Wednesday’s reveal.
“I didn’t tell [my wife] for weeks,” he said. “Eventually she was asking, ‘why aren’t you coming to hang out with the family? Why do you have to work, why can’t you cancel?’ And so I had to confide in her this very big secret to what was going on.”
Blacc also chose the Mushroom costume over Broccoli (another option for him), because he thought his first name, which is also a green plant, might be too obvious.
Like most of the performers on “The Masked Singer,” Blacc said the costume was tougher than expected to maneuver, but he figured out a way. “When I’m on stage I like to dance and I like to be physically active and groove with the audience and get them to sing along and clap,” he said. “But in this particular case, I was restricted by this Mushroom head, and the Mushroom has a stem so my legs weren’t free to move around. I had to kind of shuffle around in the skirt. And it definitely reduced my mobility. Plus, singing behind the mask was quite complicated. I’m used to having the mic much closer to my face.”
As for the songs he chose, Blacc went with female power ballads “just so that I could use a completely different part of my voice. Because if I just come out singing with the same tenor, with a little bit of that rasp in there, I think people would have guessed who I was right away.”
For Crocodile, McCarthy Wahlberg got it right with Carter. The panelists at least were all in the boy band mindset: Thicke came close with another Backstreet Boy, Howie D.; Jeong thought it was Nick Lachey; and Scherzinger went with Jordan Knight.
Carter told Variety that he had originally signed up to appear last season on “The Masked Singer” as the Turtle. But he then had to drop out, and the costume instead went to Jesse McCartney.
When COVID-19 forced the cancellation of the Backstreet Boys tour in South America, Carter decided it was time to revisit the show. He immediately gravitated to the Crocodile outfit.
“I just loved the character and what’s meant to be will be,” he said. “And that’s now set in stone. I will forever be known as the Croc. As to why I wanted to do it, it’s about leaning into the discomfort and leaning into a challenge.”
Carter said he was also eager to try something new on his own. “I’ve been in the Backstreet Boys since I was 11 years old. And I’ve been the younger brother of my group. I’m a team player and I love to be a part of a group. But I’ve always felt as if maybe I haven’t been really good on my own, haven’t come into my own as a solo artist. I tried to put some records out, they failed, and I just felt like it was a way to maybe grow a little bit more as an artist. For my group and also individually.”
Like Rimes, Carter said he also liked the idea of seeing how audiences would react when they didn’t know it was him. “There’s none of the other extra added noise. It’s just the performance itself and the voice. I was interested to see what people would think about that and I’m actually pleasantly surprised how far I went.”
Carter, who is releasing the new solo single “’80s Movie” on Friday, said the toughest part of the show was being away from his son and baby daughter. “I felt like maybe if there was anybody out there who is turning on the show and wants to escape a little bit from the reality of what everyone’s going through right now, if I could just be a little part of that story, to bring a little bit of joy, that would be the reason I’d want to do it,” he said.
This season’s costumes were Baby Alien, Crocodile, Broccoli, Gremlin, Mushroom, Jellyfish, Whatchamacalit, Lips, Squiggly Monster, Popcorn, Sun, Dragon, Giraffe, Seahorse, Snow Owls and Serpent.
Previously unmasked have been Tori Kelly (Seahorse), Taylor Dayne (Popcorn), Chloe Kim (Jellyfish) Paul Anka (Broccoli), Lonzo Ball (Whatchamacalit), “Dr. Elvis” Francois (Serpent), Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black (Snow Owls), Bob Saget (Squiggly Monster), Wendy Williams (Lips), Mark Sanchez (Baby Alien), Brian Austin Green (Giraffe), Mickey Rourke (Gremlin) and Busta Rhymes (Dragon).
New this season, the show’s panelists competed for a “Golden Ear” trophy based on their first impressions of each masked performer. Going into the finale, McCarthy Wahlberg was in the lead with three, while Thicke and Scherzinger had two points each, and Jeong had zero.
For Sun, at first McCarthy Wahlberg picked Demi Lovato; Jeong named Gwyneth Paltrow; Scherzinger thought it was Katharine McPhee; Thicke thought it was Natasha Beningfield.
For Mushroom, McCarthy Wahlberg named Maxwell; Jeong chose Justin Timberlake; Scherzinger’s was Donald Glover; Thicke named Billy Porter.
For Crocodile, McCarthy Wahlberg picked up another point with Nick Carter; Jeong’s first impression was Bradley Cooper; Scherzinger’s was Nick Lachey; and Thicke’s was Jordan Knight.
With four first impression wins, McCarthy Wahlberg was the clear winner for the “Golden Ear.”
Here’s a wrap on the three finalists’ last songs, as well as previous numbers and panel guesses.
Crocodile (Third Place)
Song: “Open Arms,” by Journey
Previous songs: “It’s My Life,” by Bon Jovi; “Toxic,” by Britney Spears; “Bleeding Love,” by Leona Lewis; “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” by Aerosmith
Previous panel guesses: Jon Hamm, Nick Lachey, Donnie Wahlberg, Adam Lambert, Lenny Kravitz, Harry Connick Jr., Jared Leto, Jordan Knight, Justin Guarini, AJ MacLean, Nick Carter
Mushroom (Second Place)
Song: “I Wish,” by Stevie Wonder
Previous songs: “This Woman’s Work” by Maxwell; “If I Could Turn Back Time,” by Cher; “Unconditionally,” by Katy Perry; “Valerie,” by Amy Winehouse
Previous panel guesses: Donald Glover, Usher, Frank Ocean, Adam Lambert, Jaden Smith, Jaden Smith, Taye Diggs, The Weeknd; Jordan Fisher, Leslie Odom Jr., Keegan Michael Key
The Sun (First Place)
Song: “The Story” by Brandi Carlile
Previous songs: “Cuz I Love You,” by Lizzo; “Praying,” by Kesha; “Piece of My Heat,” by Janis Joplin; “When the Party’s Over,” by Billie Eilish
Previous panel guesses: Katharine McPhee, Demi Lovato, Madonna, Mandy Moore, Carrie Underwood, Jewel, LeAnn Rimes, Brandi Carlisle, Kate Hudson, Emilia Clarke
“The Masked Singer” returns in the spring for Season 5. In the meantime, spinoff “The Masked Dancer” launches Dec. 27 on Fox.