Spoiler alert: This story contains information about contestants eliminated on Wednesday’s (Sept. 28) episode of The Masked Singer.
This week’s episode of The Masked Singer delivered three more shocking reveals, thanks to this season’s latest format changes.
The Vegas-themed second episode kicked off with a fitting performance by guest judge Donny Osmond, who also starred in the show’s first season, ending as the runner-up against eventual winner T-Pain. Osmond then joined judges Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke on the panel.
Before this week’s performances, Hummingbird got the boot following last week’s cover of Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to Be.” (Click here to learn Hummingbird’s identity and read his exit interview.)
Then the regal Panther came out and blew the panel away with his silky falsetto on Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” He was followed by Pi-Rat, who tried his best on Elton John’s “Crocodile Rock,” which only seemed to confuse Osmond, as the singer stayed consistently behind the beat. And then there was Harp, who came back to defend her first-week crown for another crusher via a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” which nearly brought Osmond to tears.
When it came to the eliminations, it was the Panther who truly stumped the judges. After crowd-pleasing performances of “Feeling Good” and “Born to Be Wild,” the big cat was revealed to be “This Is How We Do It” singer Montell Jordan. (The episode’s other elimination, Pi-Rat, turned out to be comedian Jeff Dunham.)
Jordan shared that he chose to begin with Simone’s soulful “Feeling Good,” forgoing Michael Bublé’s more recent version, to honor Vegas’ jazz spirit. His performance was indeed evocative of Simone’s soulful crescendo and sultry tone, earning him comparisons ranging from Billy Porter to the Jackson 5.
The Panther’s staggering height took the spotlight as well. Jordan, who stands at a striking 6-foot-8, was thought to be an NBA star like Andre Drummond or Dwight Howard, with Thicke joking that Tito Jackson could never measure up in height.
Panther’s classic execution of “Born to Be Wild” threw the judges off with his bellowing rock voice, in stark contrast to his prior homage to Simone. Jordan, who’s dedicated himself to ministry and recently launched his virtual “Victory World Church,” left behind his R&B style for a chest-heavy tone he attributes to his time and work in the church. The shift prompted comparisons to ventriloquist Terry Fator, comedian Dana Carvey, and even The Office star Steve Carell.
Jordan’s distinctive claim that he was able to attend his own funeral stood out as clue: He was notably the victim of a celebrity death hoax in 2012. While a unique experience, it wasn’t enough for judges to uncover the real man behind the mask. Jordan spoke to Billboard ahead of the episode airing about his experience on The Masked Singer.
What inspired you to go on the show?
People have thought it was me on many different occasions, so I thought that if I could disguise my voice and who I am enough for people to see more sides, styles and sounds of me, it would be a great opportunity to fool the judges and allow the world to be able to see that there’s so much more than what they thought was in my biggest song, “This Is How We Do It.”
I noticed that you did threw us off with a completely different vocal tone in that final battle royale. So did you enter planning to execute with a different tone?
Absolutely. In the world of R&B and in “This Is How We Do It,” there’s a very nasal tone, and people joke with that. But as my music progressed throughout the years, my tone and R&B stylings changed. Even with my love for jazz , I have different stylings that I’m able to use. And then in ministry, when I lead worship for people, I have something that I call “rock voice.” It’s this “growl” type of real big, toned, rock sound that comes out of me, an R&B singer. So when I got the opportunity to do “Born to Be Wild,” I thought, “I’m bringing my rock voice out,” because nobody would know my rock voice unless they’ve heard it before, and much of the world hasn’t. It’s great for people to be able to see I can sound jazzy on a Nina Simone/Michael Bublé re-record but then also can sound like a rock singer on a rock song. I’m just trying to give them [my vocal diversity].
It’s true, there’s so much musical diversity in the church. And are you a Nina Simone fan?
I am! That was funny, because when the show offered me suggestions of songs, it was listed as a Michael Bublé song. When I looked at it, I thought, “This isn’t Bublé. He did it, but this is Nina Simone.” I wanted to make sure that when I performed the song, it wasn’t just the Vegas-style showman or Sinatra-feeling version that he did. I wanted to make sure that I brought the dark, sultry jazz of Nina Simone’s version, and marry those two together.
Yeah, I think you did that perfectly.
You’ve seen more than I have. I was there experiencing it, but I haven’t seen it. I’m watching it for the first time tonight as it airs.
That’ll be fun! And how’d you choose the Panther’s costume and its clues?
They presented Panther as being the strength of a family and being a protector. For me, it was a no-brainer.
Now with the battle royale, I felt like I really had a chance to to move on. Had it been a previous season, I think I could have definitely gone further. But with only one person able to move forward … I gave my best.
I know you received a lot of basketball players as guesses — Andre Drummond, for example. Did these guesses surprise you at all?
Those guesses didn’t really surprise me just because Panther is tall — it’s a big costume. Naturally, people automatically think it’s got to be an athlete. But I’m hoping that when the voice came out of Panther, people [realized] if you’re an athlete, and you’re singing that well, you’re probably in the wrong profession.
Well, speaking of athletes, you’re competing with some athletes in Fox’s upcoming reality competition Special Forces. How was it going from this competitive-but-very-musical show to that one?
Musically competitive and physically and mentally competitive are very different. This show was in my wheelhouse as a singer. … When it comes to Special Forces, that is the peak or the pinnacle of the limits that I’ve ever pushed myself to. I’ve pledged a national fraternity and I’ve done stuff that I thought was kind of pushing me to the limit of what I thought I was capable of, and the Ultimate Test literally blew that out of the water. It was the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. It’s also the most rewarding thing I think I’ve done because I got some new friends, and we forged a brother and a sisterhood that I get to keep now.