Wacky ‘Masked Singer’ double-elimination reveals Brit punk, pop royalty



It was a big pop/punk night on the Masked Singer Wednesday — when two celebrity cosplayers, the Pepper and Jester, were unmasked during the Group A semifinals and turned out to respectively be British songstress Natasha Bedingfield and, quite gob-smackingly, John Lydon, a.k.a. Johnny Rotten. Guest judge will.i.am was especially shocked and awed by the latter reveal, jumping out of his seat to salute the Sex Pistols legend who’d been rightfully hyped in a clues package as an “icon” that “changed the course of history” and is one of “the 100 most influential people of all time.”

“What the what? Johnny freakin’ Rotten?” gasped will.i.am. “You know, it’s very rare you meet people that have inspired generations, that gave liberty to people to express themselves and rebel. You mean so much to the world of music, and I just want to thank you for all that you’ve done for music.

Lydon’s unhinged performance of the Soggy Bottom Boys’ “Man of Constant Sorrow” this week was undoubtedly one the most bonkers moments in Masked Singer history — with the Jester, looking like Nip/Tuck’s Carver villain on steroids and/or acid, screeching in an exaggerated Hee-Haw accent before succumbing to giggle-fits halfway through, then toppling over to seemingly improvise a pretty-vacant Busby Berkeley/snow-angel floor routine that baffled judge Robin Thicke described as “interpretative dance.” Host Nick Cannon was at a rare loss for words, muttering, “That was…something.” It was all rather punk-rock, actually. And it was total anarchy. God save the Jester, indeed.

But as kooky and spooky as the Jester was, he had a serious reason for going on this show – to impress and cheer up his ailing wife. “We’ve been married 45 years, and — no sadness, you know — but she’s at a certain point now in her life where she’s suffering from Alzheimer’s. And it’s my job as her main protector of the love of my life to look after her. And she will love this.”

The judges had speculated that the Jester could be anyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea to even Elon Musk, but thankfully none of them were so convinced that they used this season’s new gimmick, the Take It Off Buzzer, in this instance. That buzzer, which can only be used by the panel once per group, allows a judge — if he or she is 100 percent sure of a contestant’s identity — to make an instant guess. If that judge is correct, the contestant must unmask and leave the competition immediately..But if the judge is wrong, humiliation and punishment will of course ensue.

And wow, did it ever ensue! Ken “I Know Exactly Who This Is” Jeong was actually so over-confident that the Pepper was Sara Bareilles, after hearing her Wednesday performance of Harry Styles’s “Sign of the Times,” that he whacked that wacky buzzer — only to be even more embarrassed than he was on the night of his most famous fail, when he thought Wendy “The Lips” Williams was Mariah Carey. But on this double-elimination semifinals night, Ken and his more sensible fellow panelists didn’t have to wait long to learn that the Pepper was in fact Bedingfield — which had been judge Nicole Scherzinger’s guess.

And then there were two: the Bull and the Skunk. They’ll be moving on to compete against the to-be-determined finalists from Group B, but before that, let’s check out their performances, and keep the guessing game going.

The Bull, “Rain on Me”

Despite being one of the greatest showmen of Season 6, the Bull confessed that his confident stage act is, well, all bull. Apparently he’s been nervous and intimidated all season — especially by the Skunk, who he suspects is one of his childhood vocal idols. (Spoiler alert: The Bull is right about Skunk. But I will get to that.) However, the Bull was his usual “true triple-threat” self during this week’s flamboyant Lady Gaga/Ariana Grande cover.

The clues: He’s used to being a solo performer (therefore he’s nota boy band star), and this week’s word-association clue was “ring.” He also has some sort of connection to will.i.am. In the past we’ve learned that before the Bull was famous, he quit his job to chase his dreams in a faraway city, where he ended up living in a flophouse apartment. We’ve also been (cow-)tipped off by comedy/tragedy theatrical masks, an old-school MacIntosh computer, a photo of Hall & Oates, “house parties,” Carnegie Hall, Broadway, Walt Disney Concert Hall, a “small town surrounded by cows,” and Forbes magazine.

Judges’ guesses: Billy Porter, Usher, Jason Derulo, Ne-Yo.

My guess: I am udderly convinced that this is small-town Texan, Disney obsessive, dynamite dancer, and Forbes“30 Under 30” honoree Todrick Hall, who moved to Hollywood shortly before competing on American Idol in 2010. (Hall! Get it?) Todrick has starred in Broadway productions (Kinky Boots, Chicago), and his last concert trek was called the “Haus Party Tour.” Nicole is clearly playing dumb, since she costarred in her pal Todrick’s musical film Straight Outta Oz not long ago.

The Skunk, “At Last”

Ramping up this season’s friendly rivalry, the Skunk revealed that she thinks the Bull is her “one to beat,” so she brought out “the big guns” with this Etta James classic. OK, now the Bull should really be skerred of the Skunk. This was sublime! “We are not worthy!” exclaimed Nick, as Robin excitedly jumped on top of the judges’ desk.

The clues: She was told that Etta James endorsed the idea of the Skunk portraying her in a movie, and she has a “love connection” with Nicole. Her life’s biggest regret was when she let her pride stop her from saying hello to a loved one when she still had the chance. Other clues have included a 1994 pager with the number “607” (code for “I Miss You”), glamorous lifestyle that she left behind for a “simpler and more positive life,” an “empire,” a boombox, gospel music, a career hiatus, a reputation for being volatile, and giving up a college scholarship to become a mother.

Judges’ guesses: Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, Jill Scott.

My guess: This absolutely is Todrick Hall’s hero, Faith Evans. She split from the Notorious B.I.G. in 1994, and he died in 1997 before she could say goodbye; later she sang on Diddy’s Biggie tribute song, “I’ll Be Missing You.” She also attended Fordham University on a scholarship, but dropped out after a year to have her daughter. Also, she takes years off between albums and hasn’t released a full studio LP since 2014; she once had a bad rep due to her peripheral involvement the 1990s’ East Coast/West Coast hip-hop feud; she once guest-judged an Empire-themed episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race; and she has roots in gospel. Plus, the Skunk sounds a lotlike her. I have total faith that this is Faith.

Think you know the Masked Singer? Test your at-home trivia chops in augmented reality with a round of ‘Who’s Behind the Mask?’

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