Celebrity contestants get into the Thicke of it on ‘The Masked Singer’
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,” set to debut Jan. 2. Like so many other music competition programs, 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 multiplatinum 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 12-week 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 nervous- ness some of the contestants felt about going in front of an audience.
“I started out as a studio musician, songwriter and producer. I did that for 10 years before I ever performed live. It was definitely nerve-wracking,” 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 cycloped-ic blue ball of fur.
Another way the contestants try to fool the panel is by performing music in a genre different than what they normally 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.”
From left, Ken Jeong, Nicole Scherzinger, Nick Cannon, Jenny McCarthy and Robin Thicke appear on Fox’s new variety show “The Masked Singer,” premiering Jan. 2.