THE MASKED SINGER

THE NEW FOX SE­RIES, ‘THE MASKED SINGER,’ WHICH STARTED ON JAN. 2, FEA­TURES CON­TES­TANTS WHO WILL BE COV­ERED FROM HEAD TO TOE WITH AN ELAB­O­RATE COS­TUME.

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Robin Thicke calls it the eas­i­est job he has ever had and the most fun. What the Grammy Award-nom­i­nated mu­si­cian and com­poser is talk­ing about is the new Fox se­ries, “The Masked Singer,” started on Jan. 2. Like so many other mu­sic com­pe­ti­tion pro­grammes, each week singers will go voice-to-voice against each other. What makes this dif­fer­ent from “Amer­i­can Idol” or “The Voice” is that the celebrity con­tes­tants will be cov­ered from head to toe with an elab­o­rate cos­tume. Their iden­tity won’t be re­vealed un­til they have been elim­i­nated.

Thicke joins Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy and Nicole Scherzinger to make up the show’s panel of judges. Nick Can­non is the host.

“What at­tracted me to the show right away was the hu­mor as­pect. A lot of th­ese shows are based on sen­ti­men­tal­i­ties or some­body com­ing from nowhere and mak­ing their dreams come true,” Thicke says. “But the cos­tumes in some of the per­for­mances are equally funny to watch _ a mon­ster jump­ing around the stage do­ing th­ese songs. That’s what in­trigued me.

“We’re not there to crit­i­cize. We’re not there to judge. We’re there to en­cour­age, to sup­port and then to hope­fully fig­ure out on our own who it is.”

And the pos­si­bil­i­ties aren’t con­fined to those who sing for a liv­ing. The celebrity com­peti­tors have col­lected 65 Grammy nom­i­na­tions and earned 16 multi-plat­inum al­bums but they have also picked up 16 Emmy nom­i­na­tions and have four Su­per Bowl ti­tles.

One thing Thicke dis­cov­ered as the iden­ti­ties were re­vealed was that a lot of the per­form­ers were more com­fort­able singing be­hind the masks. Some of that was be­ing a lit­tle shy about singing in front of an au­di­ence while oth­ers wanted to be judged on their voices and not on the fame they have amassed.

Thicke’s well-known for his per­form­ing with five gold- and plat­inum-sell­ing al­bum re­leases, in­clud­ing his sixth stu­dio al­bum, “Blurred Lines,” which earned him three Grammy nom­i­na­tions. The sin­gle “Blurred Lines” had a 12week reign on the Bill­board Top 100, scor­ing the high­est au­di­ence ever recorded and break­ing records by climb­ing to No. 1 on five ra­dio charts si­mul­ta­ne­ously. But he can un­der­stand the ner­vous­ness some of the con­tes­tants felt about go­ing in front of an au­di­ence.

“I started out as a stu­dio mu­si­cian, song writer and pro­ducer. I did that for 10 years be­fore I ever per­formed live. It was def­i­nitely nerve-rack­ing,” Thicke says. “It took me about 10 years of per­form­ing to get com­pletely com­fort­able.”

Thicke praises the com­peti­tors for be­ing so will­ing to work un­der very un­com­fort­able con­di­tions. To in­sure as much mys­tery as pos­si­ble, the com­peti­tors would ar­rive by them­selves in full cos­tume and wear the mas­sive out­fits all day long. The elab­o­rate cos­tumes ranged from a post-apoc­a­lyp­tic moose to a gi­ant cy­clo­pe­dic blue ball of fur.

An­other way the con­tes­tants try to fool the panel is by per­form­ing mu­sic in a genre dif­fer­ent than what they nor­mal do. If Thicke had to take on a mu­si­cal for­mat that was dif­fer­ent to him, he would tackle coun­try mu­sic but in a slightly dif­fer­ent way.

“The base of coun­try mu­sic is soul and rock ‘n’ roll. You can take a great coun­try song and turn it into soul mu­sic the same way you can take a great soul song and put a coun­try twang on it,” Thicke says.

If Thicke had been a con­tes­tant, his choice of cos­tume would have been a killer whale. But the odds are high he would never slip into one of the cos­tumes as Thicke is gen­er­ally very claus­tro­pho­bic.

Since the death of his fa­ther, ac­tor Alan Thicke, in 2016, Thicke said he has found a real com­fort in just be­ing him­self whether it is on stage or on a TV show. Be­ing him­self means not want­ing to be cruel in judg­ment so that’s why he likes the for­mat of “The Masked Singer” be­cause it feels to him like go­ing to a Las Ve­gas show a cou­ple of times each week and then get­ting to guess who was per­form­ing.

In the end, it is the vo­cal skills that move a con­tes­tant through to the next round. But the cos­tumes are so mas­sive, they are the first thing about the per­for­mances that will be no­ticed. Thicke stresses that it’s very im­por­tant to look past the vis­ual to see what is at the core of “The Masked Singer.”

“What is most im­por­tant about this is that the peo­ple them­selves are over­com­ing fears, tak­ing chances and – for some – try­ing to re-en­er­gize their ca­reers,” Thicke says. “Ev­ery episode is ei­ther us laugh­ing or we are get­ting emo­tional over the jour­neys th­ese celebri­ties are go­ing through once they re­veal them­selves and say why they are go­ing through it.”

The Pea­cock is one of the mys­tery singers

Ken Jeong, (left), Nicole Scherzinger, Nick Can­non, Jenny McCarthy and Robin Thicke ap­pear on Fox’s new va­ri­ety show

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