Mystery achievement: How 'The Masked Singer' took over the planet in 2019

Lyndsey Parker
Editor-in-Chief, Music

In case you needed any more evidence that 2019 was the most Bonkers. Year. Ever.... please note that (Stefon from Saturday Night Live voice) television’s hottest new musical competition was The Masked Singer

(Stefon from Saturday Night Live voice, still) This magical mystery show had ev-er-y-thing. More entertaining blind auditions than The Voice; wackier and Bob Mackier 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 Game Show Network late-night rerun of Match Game PM; a greater break with reality/good taste than Eurovision; giant masks that made Slipknot look like amateurs who shop the Nov. 1 clearance rack at the Spirit of Halloween superstore; Tommy Chong warbling “I Will Survive” in a pineapple head; Joey Fatone hopping around in bunny ears and a straitjacket; disgraced NFL star Antonio Brown moonlighting as a hungry, hungry hippo; LaToya Jackson cosplaying as a red latex S&M alien; 10-time Grammy-winner Gladys Knight stalling in third place (two spots behind T-Pain!); and ousted America’s Got Talent host Nick Cannon, making his weekly grand entrance through the gaping mouth of a wall-sized Mr. Roboto/Hanacare mask while dressed like Morris Day attending an Eyes Wide Shut masquerade ball.

It even had Seal dressed as a leopard. You know, next season, it’d be really cool to see someone from Def Leppard dressed as a seal.

The Masked Singer was basically a series-length adaptation of Eurotrash band’s Alacazar’s infamous “Crying at the Discotheque” music video, and it was one of the few awesome and genuinely smile-inducing things that actually happened in 2019. While the entire country was otherwise bitterly divided, this great American guessing game united us all. (Case in point: The Season 2 finale coincided with the House’s impeachment vote, and #TheMaskedSinger was still in Twitter’s top three trending topics that night.)

But The Masked Singer actually set its anime-eyed sights on global domination in 2019, thanks to Ryan Reynolds’s unicorn-headed viral performance of the Annie ballad “Tomorrow,” which took place on the original Korean version of this internet-breaking game show the year before.

And did you know that in the year 2019, in a parallel universe — or, more specifically, in a kangaroo court way down in the Southern Hemisphere — a possibly even more cerebellum-scrambling Masked Singer took place? Yes, the Australian edition of the show (Stefon from Saturday Night Live voice, again) had ev-er-y-thing… including Lindsay Lohan as the star judge, and Aussie musician/actor Cody Simpson as the Transformers-like champion, the Robot in disguise. There truly was more than met the eye! And The Masked Singer Australia made Lindsay’s other 2019 reality-television endeavor, Lindsay Lohan’s Beach Club on MTV, positively look like Meet the Press.

Interestingly, these days Cody Simpson is best known on this side of the equator for dating the newly single Miley Cyrus… and on The Masked Singer Australia, he actually sang a classic Cyrus has famously covered, “Jolene” (by Cyrus’s godmother, Dolly Parton), mashed up with Cyrus’s own Mark Ronson single “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart.” Coincidence? We think not.

Simpson in fact spent much of his glorious season interpreting the hits of A-list pop ladies, taking on Lady Gaga’s “Edge of Glory” and “Can’t You Out of My Head” by Kylie Minogue (the elder sister of Lohan’s fellow Masked Singer judge, Dannii Minogue). And you won’t be able to get this wizard of Oz’s unseeable performances out of your head. The Robot even covered Rickie Lee Jones!

As for the year ahead, multiple international Maskeds are in the works (including The Masked Singer U.K., with judges Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross and probably some EastEnders also-ran dressed as the Octopus). And a third American season, starring an American Robot and an Andy Warhol-esque banana (who really ought to cover the Velvet Underground’s “Heroin,” since watching this show feels like doing drugs anyway), will air right after the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.

Without a doubt, that U.S. premiere will indeed be bananas, and it’s not out of the question that another mystery celebrity contestant might be disguised as onetime Super Bowl superstar Left Shark, since The Masked Singer’s Emmy-nominated costume designer, Marina Toybina, actually won an Emmy for designing the viral dancing sharks that accompanied (and upstaged) Katy Perry at the Super Bowl XLIX halftime show.

So, it’s The Masked Singer’s planet now. We just live on it. Get ready to get weird all over again in 2020.

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