Like many other series of its ilk, the premise involves a total of 12 singers going head to head with each other in each episode, with a panel of judges (Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger, Ken Jeong, and a rotating guest panelist) and the studio audience voting on which ones are best. The losers of each match-up then congregate at the end of each episode, with the one with the lowest votes being selected for unmasking — and elimination.
The twist here comes from the contestants all being known celebrities performing anonymously, wearing elaborate costumes and only being referred to as their persona: the identity of the contestant is only revealed after they are eliminated. Their non-singing voices are also synthesized to further obfuscate them. Viewers and the judges are given clues (primarily in the form of a short video introducing the contestant and alluding to their personal life), and the judges are encouraged to share their speculation on who each contestant might be.
Its premiere was an unexpected hit, with Fox claiming it to be their biggest non-scripted premiere (without an NFL game as a lead-in) since The X Factor. Fox scheduled season 2 to premiere in the fall of 2019, and has already ordered a third season (which will begin after the Super Bowl in February 2020).
Note: the Thailand version of the show has its own page.
This show provides examples of:
- Actor Allusion: Invoked and enforced, with videos known as "clue packages" dropping all sorts of hints as to who the singers really are, from obscure to rather blatant.Pineapple: Life is short, man. You gotta seize the day before your dreams go up in smoke. (The last three words are a movie title. It stars Cheech and Chong.)
- Bling of War: One of the strongest contenders, the Lion, is very, very gold.JB Smoove: If I was a rapper I would be wearing that around my damn neck.
- Book-Ends: Peacock delivers the first song in the first episode, and thanks to making it to the finals, the first song of the last episode.
- Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Often done to delay the results of the individual matchups.
- Confusion Fu: The Rabbit claims to be deliberately switching his song styles, from Latin pop to country rock to old school hiphop, for this very reason.
- Costume Porn: The costumes for this show are gorgeous, each being detailed and eye-catching, reflecting the contestant's chosen persona while still allowing for a lot of showmanship. The designer, Marina Toybina, has done costumes for superstars such as Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, Ariana Grande, and Britney Spears in the past.
- Cryptically Unhelpful Answer: When pressed for clues by the judges, a few contestants give these — for example, the Poodle stating "I'm here for your honor." Turns out that "your honor" is said a lot in courtroom scenes on Drop Dead Diva, featuring Margaret Cho.
- Dramatic Unmask: One of these concludes every episode, with the eliminated contestant having their identity revealed.
- Foreshadowing: Notice how the Peacock quietly laughs every time Jenny McCarthy suggests that Donny Osmond Is his true identity? The first time it happens, everyone assumes that her guess is way off and he just found it amusing. Turns out, he was laughing because she was 100% right.
- From a Certain Point of View: When all the masked singers presented physical items with some meaning to their real identities, Peacock presented a shaggy wig and claimed that it got him thrown into prison. Which was part of the plot of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, known for once having Donny Osmond in the title role.
- Hidden Depths: The premise leads to this, with several celebrities involved saying that they're not known for their singing prowess. Indeed, three of the first four to be revealed (Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, comedian Tommy Chong, quarterback-turned-NFL announcer Terry Bradshaw and comedian Margaret Cho) aren't singers at all, and Bradshaw's musical days were long behind him until he signed on for the show.
- The Host: Nick Cannon, formerly of America's Got Talent, and now with more hair.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: Episode 6.Nicole: Dr. Reigning Champ... I'm gonna need you to reign it in.
- In-Series Nickname: Ken Jeong is not just the star of Dr. Ken but actually a qualified doctor, which has led to Nick Cannon calling him "Dr. J".
- I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine:
- The guest panelist from eps 3-4 is Ken Jeong's co-star from Community, Joel McHale.
- In Episode 4, the Poodle is revealed to be Margaret Cho, who plays Ken Jeong's sister in Dr. Ken.
- In episode 8 the guest panelist is Kenan Thompson, who may be known for Saturday Night Live now (on a rival network!), but worked with host Nick Cannon long ago in their Nickelodeon days.
- Living Legend: A few of the contestants are this, fitting with the show's premise. After hearing the Bee sing, Nicole even comments, "We are in the presence of a legend." She was right — the Bee is Gladys Knight. The Peacock (Donny Osmond) qualifies as well.
- Mythology Gag: In the final episode Nick Cannon proudly declares Monster aka T-Pain as the champion and "king of the Masked Singers", alluding to the original show title.
- Nice Hat: Their budget is a mile above the Korean version and it shows — the "masks" tend to be massive headgear.
- Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: "New Masks on the Block" and "Another Mask Bites the Dust".
- Pun-Based Title: The fifth episode, "Mix and Masks".
- A Rare Sentence: Episode 6.Nick: Up next, the Raven and the Monster... On what other show can you say that?
- Secret Identity Vocal Shift: Done with an electronic voice filter for each of the contestants (only after the performance).
- Something Completely Different: Episode 5. With the head count down by 4, they fill up time by bringing all the singers for that night on at once for a non-scoring opening number.
- Tempting Fate: One week after Ken Jeong managed to guess who was the Unicorn, he's strutting around proudly with a gold crown and shades, and insisting on being called "Dr Reigning Champ". To nobody's surprise, he guesses wrong at the end and Robin Thicke, who makes the one right guess this time, seizes the crown.Ken: I demand a recount!
- Thematic Theme Tune: The Who's "Who Are You", fitting for a series where the identity of each contestant is concealed until their elimination. (To drive this home further, it's also played during each unmasking.)
- Un-Entendre: Host Nick Cannon has been encouraging the audience to loudly chant "TAKE IT OFF!" at the unmasking stage.
- Waxing Lyrical: At some point the song choices were confirmed before the clue packages were filmed, allowing for this.Peacock: I want this (the Masked Singer trophy) so much I can't feel my face.
- Widget Series: It's often described as surreal, what with all the fanciful costumes and all.