Weezy, we hardly knew ye. Hip-hop superstar Lil Wayne became the first celebrity to be unmasked on Season 3 of “The Masked Season,” which aired on Sunday night immediately following the Super Bowl on Fox.
If it’s any consolation for Wayne, who wore the show’s Robot costume, what will likely be the largest audience in the show’s history saw the big reveal at the end of the episode. Timing is everything, and Lil Wayne’s appearance — and unmasking — coincides with the release of “Funeral,” his new album and follow-up to 2018’s “Tha Carter V.”
On “The Masked Singer,” Wayne-as-the-Robot performed Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way.”
“What makes the perfect Masked Singer? One part creativity and one part drive,” he said, voice disguised, in the show’s pre-taped package introducing Robot. “I relate to Robot because I’ve always felt the need to put on a tough outer shell. I think that makes me come across as inhuman, and that’s stunted my potential. I’ve had my fair share of fame in certain circles. But I’m here to tip the scales and show I can be relatable to everyone. I really do have a heart and love to give.”
Why did he choose the Robot as his character? “For kids, man, my kids. My kids watch the show with me and I know they’ll like the Robot costume.” The periodic table was featured in the clue package because of Wayne’s multitude of platinum albums, he added.
None of the “Masked Singer” panelists guessed Lil Wayne’s identity, including guest Jamie Foxx, who thought it might be former “Jackass” star Steve-O. Nicole Scherzinger guessed boxer Floyd Mayweather, while Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg thought it was another “Jackass” star, Johnny Knoxville. Robin Thicke thought it was snowboarding champ Shaun White, while Ken Jeong perhaps came the closest, guessing another hip-hop icon: Flavor Flav.
In the end, Lil Wayne didn’t go nearly as far as his pal and occasional collaborator T-Pain, who won the show’s first season last year. Lil Wayne was a huge get for “The Masked Singer,” having sold over 100 million records worldwide and and five Grammy Awards. Producers and Fox execs have promised “bigger stars” in Season 3, and Wayne indeed lived up to that hype.
“This is the most shocked I’ve ever been on this show,” Thicke said after the unmasking. Added Jeong: “This is the best reveal ever.” Said Foxx: “We had no idea… I named some white guy!”
For the plum post-Super Bowl slot, Fox and the “Masked Singer” producers opted to kick off the show’s third season, and introduce its 18 contestants, rather than produce a special with one-time only stars.
“We could have just done a special version behind the Super Bowl and maybe get celebrities in there and promise them a one-time only performance, and do some sub-section special of the format,” said Fox alternative series president Rob Wade. “But we felt that would lose an opportunity. So in the end we decided to do a launch show and keep the integrity of the format there. It is a regular show with six of the 18 contestants who are actually in the series. It’s super sized in the sense we have a big opening, we have Jamie, and we obviously have an opportunity to have a bit more fun with it.”
Opening the pre-taped show right after the big game, host Nick Cannon quipped, “We’ve got to thank the Super Bowl for being one amazing pre-show!”
As for the competition itself, to manage the increased number of players, the show will now be divided into three segments of six contestants. After three of the first six singers are voted off, the second six will be whittled down to tree and so on, until there are nine players left at the end of the first set of rounds.
While previewing the show last week with Variety, executive producer Craig Plestis compared it to March Madness brackets: “It’s almost like a sports event.”
Here’s how the groups will be broken down: Group A, as revealed on Sunday, includes White Tiger, Turtle, Miss Monster, Llama, Kangaroo and the just-unmasked Robot. Group B will feature Banana, Frog, Taco, Elephant, Mouse and Kitty. Group C has T-Rex, Astronaut, Swan, Bear, Night Angel and Rhino.
Per Fox, “the Season 3 contestants have amassed a combined 69 Grammy Award nominations, 88 Gold records, 11 Super Bowl appearances, three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, more than 160 tattoos and one title in the Guinness Book of World Records.” And specific to the post-Super Bowl episode, Cannon revealed that the Group A roster has appeared, combined, in nine Super Bowls.
Here’s a recap of the other contestants and their performances on night one:
Song: “Ice Ice Baby,” by Vanilla Ice
Strength: “Extremely rare”
Voice-over: “Choosing a mask with unlimited power like the White Tiger was a no-brainer. I’ve had a giant career full of accomplishments, but when I imagine being on stage singing, I’m a big old scaredy cat. I’m here to conquer yet another challenge. I’m ready to get in the ring and smash the competition. Let’s party!”
Panel guesses: Jason Momoa, Rob Gronkowski, John Cena
Song: “Kiss From a Rose,” by Seal
Strength: “Tough exterior”
Voice-over: “At the starting line of my career, I was surrounded by other hungry newcomers. It felt like everyone around me was fighting tooth and nail for the dream. But I watched as many of those stars burned too brightly too quickly and then fizzled out. I’m the Turtle because I’ve always taken it step by step. Slow and steady wins the race. Now I feel like I’m ready to break out of my shell. After years of preparation I’d love to make a big splash. I don’t want anyone to cross that finish line but me.”
Panel guesses: Joey McIntyre, Zac Efron, Donnie Wahlberg
Song: “She Bangs,” by Ricky Martin
Strength: “Spitting game”
Weakness: “Tongue twisters”
Voice-over: ” “I’m here for one reason, to have a laugh. And what’s funnier than a llama. You may call me a joker, but I like to get serious for a minute. The song I’m singing tonight is my favorite track. Celebrating love with that special someone. There’s nothing like being swept up in its profound lyrics. It’s a tune that really gets me in the mood for romance.”
Panel guesses: David Spade, Joel McHale, Howard Stern
Song: “Something to Talk About,” by Bonnie Raitt
Strength: “Eye contact”
Weakness: “Peripheral vision”
Voice-over: “When you become famous, people want you to look or act in a certain way. You started shy little monster; it didn’t take long for me to be misunderstood. So I’m here to set the record straight.
He made me feel. This performer wants to follow in his footsteps. But darlin’ I feel nervous. Will you still love me without knowing my name?”
Panel guesses: Dolly Parton, Mary J. Blige, Dionne Warwick
Song: “Dancing on My Own,” by Robyn
Strength: “Bounces back”
Weakness: “Comes with baggage”
Voice-over: “Like most of you watching, I’m a survivor. I recently lost a person who held my family’s heart together. Then, by my own admission, I found myself in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. But I’m here to do what kangaroos do best: Bounce back. I have to fight for my family and show them that bullies never win. I’m not about to lose a chance to realize a dream I’ve always had. To all you survivors out there, this one’s for you.”
Panel guesses: Jordin Sparks, Kelly Rowland, Iggy Azalea
Did the panelists get the other masked singers right? Foxx, guesting on the episode, noted that last year, everyone assumed that he was actually the Fox on the show. The Fox won last season, but it turned out to be Wayne Brady.
Said Foxx: “Everybody, gangstas on the street were like, ‘yo homey I know that’s you!’ My mom, she comes in my room, ‘I need you to wake up. I need information. I’ve got $200 on you. Are you the Masked Singer or not?'”
Below, watch the Robot unmasking: