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Series / The Masked Singer

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The Masked Singer is an American reality singing competition Talent Show that began airing on Fox in January 2019. It is based on the South Korean series King of Mask Singer.

Like many other series of its ilk, the premise involves a total of 12-18 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 an occasional 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 is currenly on its third season, which premiered after the Super Bowl in February 2020.

After the smash success of the first season, the format of the U.S. version has been picked up by multiple international networks.

    International versions of The Masked Singer 
  • Argentina (Quien es la Mascara Argentina)
  • Australia (The Masked Singer Australia)
  • Austria (The Masked Singer Austria)
  • Bulgaria (Маскираният певец)
  • China (King of Mask Singer)
  • Finland (Masked Singer Suomi)
  • France (Mask Singer)
  • Germany (The Masked Singer Germany)
  • Greece (Masked Singer Greece)
  • Hungary (A maszkos énekes)
  • Indonesia (The Mask Singer Indonesia)
  • Italy (Il Cantante Mascherato)
  • Mexico (¿Quién es la máscara?)
  • Myanmar (The Masked Singer Myanmar)
  • Netherlands (The Masked Singer Netherlands)
  • Panama (¿Quien es la Mascara?)
  • Peru (¿Quien es la Mascara?)
  • Portugal (A Máscara)
  • Romania (The Masked Singer Romania)
  • Russia (Маска)
  • Slovakia (Zlatá maska)
  • South Africa (The Masked Singer South Africa)
  • South Korea (King Of Mask Singer, The original version.)
  • Spain (Mask Singer: Adivina quién canta)
  • Thailand (The Mask Singer Thailand)
  • United Kingdom (The Masked Singer UK)
  • Vietnam (The Mask Singer Vietnam)


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.)
    • On the judges' side, Nick Cannon often refers to Ken Jeong as Dr. Ken.
  • Adaptation Distillation: The U.S. version of the format features a number of differences in comparison to the original Korean version (and versions patterned off it), including replacing the Korean version's returning champion model (with two new contestants weekly, competing for a chance to dethrone the existing "mask king") with weekly eliminations (akin to other music competition series), and a larger emphasis on hints and speculation towards the contestants' identities.
  • Bait-and-Switch: With Jamie Foxx brought on to promote Beat Shazam, they do their own take on the game by playing part of a song and making everyone guess the title - and the song is quite clearly Beethoven's 5th Symphony. It's actually a sampling of that tune for the intro of "When I Get You Alone" by Robin Thicke.
  • Bling of War: One of the strongest contenders, the Lion, is 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.
    • "Stay With Me" was one of the first songs heard due to being featured prominently in the earliest trailers - upon winning season 1, Monster opted to sing "Stay With Me" instead of an encore of his last song as per the usual practice, making "Stay With Me" the last song of season 1.
  • Brick Joke: The Cold Open of season 3 episode 14 has some much needed Lampshade Hanging when the Night Angel complains that her odd gaping mouth design means she's swallowed several bugs. During the competition, every singer has a edible dish for a physical clue, and the Night Angel brings out a plate of fried bugs. (Also a bit of Bait-and-Switch if you were expecting the Frog to be the one with a bug dish.)
  • Call-Back: Crossing with Bait-and-Switch, as some popular guesses during the first season show up for real as second season contestants.
  • The Cameo: Starting with Season 3, some of the contestants from past seasons make brief appearances in some way.
    • Miss Monster's debut performance includes a surprise appearance from the original Monster (fully-suited though, no indication if T-Pain is involved at all). Monster also appears in a couple of her clue packages, as well.
    • The Alien appears in a couple of Astronaut's performances.
    • Episode 10 has every singer deliver an additional "super clue" in the form of some item—for Kitty it's an appearance by the Tree.
    • The Eagle appears in the Cold Open for Episode 14.
  • Catchphrase: Ken Jeong: "I know EXACTLY who this is..." As early as Season 2, the audience anticipated it coming and said it along with him once. The catchphrase seems to be retired by the start of Season 3, although it came back in Episodes 6 and 15 of that season.
    Jenny: [to the audience] Don't encourage this behavior!
    • On a lesser note, Ken tends to say "Let me finish!" and "Hear me out!" as he talks about his guesses.
  • Christmas Episode: Season 2, a week ahead of the Finale, had a two night "Holiday Event", the second part featuring Christmas (and other December Holiday themed) music, decorations, and costuming galore.
  • Clip Show: Season 3 episode 12, basically a greatest hits compilation of all the remaining singers, turned into karaoke videos to boot.
  • Clueless Detective: Ken often comes off as one, partly because of his over-the-top predictions and partly because he's gone zero-for-three at identifying people he's personally worked with. But he’ll occasionally make some educational guesses, and has been spot on once per season in the first three seasons and notably was the only one to correctly guess that person in the first two seasons.
  • 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 reasoon.
  • 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.
  • Exact Words: Season 2's cast was boasted as having, among other things, "7 Super Bowl appearances". None of the stars revealed that season were football players, so this actually referred to their halftime/national anthem performances.
  • 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.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: One during the Frog's first clue package. It's not a hint towards his identity, but a paragraph lampshading how some people will look for clues everywhere.
  • From a Certain Point of View: Some clues are deliberately broad.
    • 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.
    • In a similar misdirect, the Flamingo claimed to have been baptized in Israel. Israel is her husband's name.
    • Also in Season 2 Thingamajig talks about spending time in rehab. Physical rehab, for his knee.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: The smackdown, introduced in season 2, allows the bottom 2 singers of the week another chance to stay in the competition. Both get approximately a minute to sing another song and the panel will vote and decide who stays.
  • 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 in Season One (Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown, comedian Tommy Chong, quarterback-turned-NFL announcer Terry Bradshaw and comedian Margaret Cho) aren't singers at all note  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:
    • One recurring guest panelist is Joel McHale, Ken Jeong's co-star from Community. In season 3 they add Yvette Nicole Brown, who's not just from Community, but appeared with Ken in Avengers: Endgame!
    • 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.
    • Season 2 has Anthony Anderson as the guest panelist and the Black Widow is revealed to be Raven-Symoné who plays his sister on Black-ish. He also dismissed other judges' guesses that it was her.
      • Speaking of whom, Flamingo was later revealed to be Adrienne Bailon. Yes, two of The Cheetah Girls were competing against each other the whole time, and they never even knew!note 
    • An episode of Season 2 had the singers state something they had in common with the judges. The Tree said she received a standing ovation alongside one of the judges, Flamingo "shared some couch time" with one of them in 2013, and Fox claimed to spend one of the best weekends of his life with a judge. Only the Tree's was openly explained: Ana Gasteyer was in A Christmas Story Live! with Ken.
      • They repeat this in season 3 - the first episode had Robin's past collaborator Lil Wayne, and episode 3, the Valentine's Day special, had all the remaining singers write valentines for certain judges, revealing something they did together once.
    • Fox also claimed in one clue to be friends with the Rabbit (Joey Fatone) from the previous season.
    • From season 3, Taco is Tom Bergeron, who's worked with all the judges except Ken to some degree. Which is just taco sauce in the wounds considering none of them guessed right.
    • Another failed guess for Ken in season 3 when the Swan turned out to be Bella Thorne, one of his co-stars in The Duff.
    • T-Rex turns out to be JoJo Siwa, who worked with Nick Cannon before as co-host on the Nick show Lip Sync Battle Shorties.
    • Episode 13 has Sharon Osbourne, who previously worked with Nick Cannon on America's Got Talent, as a guest panelist. Later in the episode, Banana is revealed to be Bret Michaels, who competed with Osbourne on Season 3 of Celebrity Apprentice.
    • Season 3's quarter-finals reveal Kitty to be Jackie Evancho, who rose to fame on America's Got Talent while Nick Cannon was still hosting.
  • 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.
    • Apparently the second season took inspiration from popular guesses from the first, with the addition of Patti Labelle.
    • Season 3 doubled down with Chaka Khan and Dionne Warwick.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Played for laughs in season 2.
    • Guest judge Triumph the Insult Comic Dog "confessed" to walking out on Rottweiler's mom, and they're both coincidentally the same breed, which only deepens it.
    • The Monster got to be guest judge due to winning season 1, whereupon he outright addressed Thingamajig as "son". Granted he was out of costume and judging as T-Pain, but still.
  • Mask of Confidence: Many singers have commented on how liberating it is to perform anonymously and get away from their existing reputations.
  • The Men in Black: The show started out by selling its heavily-guarded nature, with bodyguards in the appropriate black suits and shades - who just goof around during clue packages and act as living props during the whole show, while certain behind-the-scenes videos show that the actual security is a lot more mundane and less obtrusive.
  • Mythology Gag: In the final episode of each season, Nick Cannon proudly declares each winner as the "king/queen 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.
  • Once a Season:
    • Ken Jeong making a spot-on guess, as well as being unable to guess when it's someone he actually knows personally. For the former, he managed to sniff out Unicorn, Thingamajig, and Rhino. For the latter, he failed to identify Poodle, Tree, and Swan.
    • At least one Living Legend is hidden among the singers. We've had Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle and two for season 3, Chaka Khan and Dionne Warwick.
  • Pre Cap: Every episode has at least one of them, at the beginning and before/after the commercial breaks.
  • 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". It's become more common in Season 2, with titles like "Mask Us Anything", "Mask-ish", "Mask and You Shall Receive", and "A Pain in the Mask".
  • Pungeon Master:
    • Robin Thicke, in spades.
    • Nick often gets up to this as the host, and in episode 10 he earns some kind of gold medal with this one:
    (re: Frog) Did you find our judges' guesses a tad pole-arising?
  • A Rare Sentence: Episode 6.
    Nick: Up next, the Raven and the Monster... On what other show can you say that?
  • Refuge in Audacity: The Masked Singer, the only show where you can see Sarah Palin in a bear costume rapping "Baby Got Back"!
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: In the Season 3 semifinals, Ken Jeong, who had been adamant for a while that Rhino was once on the show JAG, deduces that the globes shown in one of Rhino's clues refers to JAG being the best show in the world at that time. Not surprisingly no one takes it seriously. While the globes refer to baseball pitcher Barry Zito going to the World Series, Ken not only correctly guessed it was him but Zito had in fact guest-starred once on JAG.
    • Along those lines, right afterwards Nicole dismisses Ken's Rhino guess, saying he has to be a singer with his vocal skills. Zito is more widely known for baseball, but also began a music career, having released a few recordings and written multiple song tracks.
  • Running Gag:
    • Ken hamming up his predictions.
    • Nick's former marriage to Mariah Carey comes up a lot, especially in the second season.
    • Nick getting swatted by some of the more elaborate costumes.
    • Robin's puns.
    • During the Championships of each group in Season 3, the four contestants from each group give three of the judges and the guest judge something (a Valentine, a friendship bracelet, and a LEGO model) that connects them to their identity. Ken Jeong is left out for all twelve of these gifts.
  • Secret Identity Vocal Shift: When not actively singing, each of the contestants speak with an electronic voice filter.
  • Serial Escalation: The number of masks involved in each season keeps getting bigger. Season one started with 12, season two featured 16, and season three boasts a whopping 18 singers.
  • Shipping: Comes up In-Universe.
    • Several contestants have jokingly flirted with Nick, but none more so than the Leopard (who, it should be noted, is a male in drag), who claimed that they'd gotten married and presented house plans for their new "dream home" as a clue one week. Nick gleefully plays along with this.
    • Upon hearing his gorgeous singing voice, Nicole immediately tells the Thingamajig that she'd gladly date him, even in the mask. Cue the two flirting for several episodes, including Thingamajig singing "I Just Haven't Met You Yet" and dedicating it to her, and her referring to him as her "future husband." When he's unmasked, Thing's secret identity, Victor Oladipo, is quick to say that, on the off-chance she was serious, he'd be happy to go out with her.
  • Small Reference Pools: Season 3. Rhino's Navy-related clues led to Ken guessing that he was somehow connected to JAG, a show that nobody else on the panel seemed to remember - which bites them in their collective asses when Rhino is revealed as Barry Zito, who had a guest appearance in that show.
  • 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.
  • Spin-Off: In January 2020, Fox announced that it had ordered a dance-centric spin-off, which will be executive produced by Ellen DeGeneres. Ellen had already done The Masked Dancer as a segment on her talk show to parody the series, always noting that Fox hadn't sued them yet.
  • 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.
  • 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:
  • The Unmasking: The contestant who receives the least votes is eliminated, and gets to take off their mask to reveal their identity.
  • Waxing Lyrical: At some point the song choices were confirmed before the clue packages were filmed, allowing for this.
    Peacock: I want this [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.


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