SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the Season 9, episode 13 of “The Masked Singer,” which aired May 11 on Fox.
Pentatonix is pretty easy to recognize, as perhaps the best-known a cappella group performing today. So from the start, it was pretty easy to tell it was them on “The Masked Singer” – and indeed, the five-person group was unmasked as California Roll on Thursday’s show, which also doubled as the Season 9 semifinals.
For their first song, “Paparazzi,” group member Scott Hoying said they tried to avoid doing any harmonies at first, “so we could hide the iconic Pentatonix harmony sound for at least a minute. For the first minute, I was trying to really change my voice. But it didn’t work, because every comment on every video was like, ‘I knew from the beginning it was Pentatonix and I was confirmed as soon as they all came in. We know that sound so much.’ But it honestly it was a compliment. It was very flattering to know that we can’t even hide our voice because it’s become part of what people have heard so many years.”
Hoying, Kristin Maldonado, Mitch Grassi, Avi Kaplan, Kevin Olusola and Matt Sallee all make up the group and participated. Olusola said the choice of California Roll even fit perfectly for them.
“We love sushi, absolutely love it, and e eat it very often on tour,” he said. “And we just felt that one long piece of sushi that everybody loves, but to cut it up into five pieces that you want the whole and you can enjoy the individual parts as well. That’s very much a theme within our band.”
Sallee said the costume was challenging, and it required two people each to help them walk around. “But it honestly didn’t make the singing challenging,” he said. “You would think it would, because we wouldn’t be able to see each other. But because we’re so used to seeing with each other and closing our eyes and just listening to each other, wewere able to really lockstep and sing in tune together and blend together.”
For California Roll, it was hard not to get it right, as it seemed pretty obvious from the beginning it was Pentatonix. Panelist Robin Thicke indeed got it right with Pentatonix. Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg agreed. Ken Jeong picked the cast of “In the Heights.” Nicole Scherzinger thought it was the cast of “Pitch Perfect.” “When you know, you know. And tonight, we know,” said McCarthy Wahlberg.
Pentatonix as California Roll sang “Breakaway,” by Kelly Clarkson, for their first number of the night. Before the final vote, the three semi-finals faced off in a battle royale, starting with California Roll, then Macaw and Medusa, all performing their version of “Runaway Baby,” by Bruno Mars.
Like last season, “The Masked Singer” has once again adopted a “Champion of Masked Singer” format during the regular season. Each episode, three costumed celebrities performed, but only one would win and move on to compete again the following week.
New this season was “Ding Dong Keep It On.” In the new twist to the competition, panelists had the opportunity to save a singer from looming elimination, but the bell can only be rung three times during the first three rounds. Those three singers then faced off on a special episode in a battle to rejoin the competition — which wound up being Medusa.
Pentatonix as California Roll joins Olivia Culpo as UFO, Lou Diamond Phillips as Mantis, Keenan Allen as Gargoyle, Melissa Joan Hart as Lamp, Alicia Witt as Dandelion, Dee Snider as the Doll, Christine Quinn as Scorpio, George Wendt as Moose, Holly Robinson Peete as Fairy, Alexa Bliss as Axolotl, Lele Pons as Jackalope, Malin Akerman as Squirrel, Michael Bolton as the Wolf, Grandmaster Flash as Polar Bear, Debbie Gibson as Night Owl, Howie Mandel as Rock Lobster, Sara Evans as Mustang and Dick Van Dyke as Gnome as the celebrities unmasked this season.
“The Masked Singer” entered Season 9 with 21 contestants include “Mustang,” “Axolotl,” “California Roll,” “Dandelion,” “Moose,” “Gargoyle,” “Jackalope,” “Doll,” Polar Bear,” “Night Owl,” “Rock Lobster,” “Gnome,” “Macaw,” “Squirrel,” “Wolf” and more. Tim Chappel is this season’s costume designer.
The Season 9 contestants “boast a combined 28 Emmy nominations, six Grammy wins, 10 gold albums, four Golden Globe nominations, five medals, 26 books, two Tony Award nominations, five Lifetime Achievement Awards, four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and a combined 95,231,000 records sold.” Season nine will introduce all-new themed episodes, including “ABBA Night,” “New York Night,” “DC Superheroes Night,” “Sesame Street Night,” “80s Night,” “Movie Night” and more.
Here were the rest of the contestants and their performances on night thirteen:
California Roll (PENTATONIX)
Song: “Breakaway,” by Kelly Clarkson
Panel guesses: Pentatonix, “Dear Evan Hansen” cast, “Hamilton” cast, “Spring Awakening” cast, “In the Heights” cast
Panelist connection: Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg. “Dear Jenny, I know you’ve enjoyed us on the stage. But I think it’s our time on Broadway that you may remember us from.”
Package voiceover: “I think I speak for all of us that it’s really exciting to be here in the semi-finals. Because we love a little friendly competition, and it’s really nice to flex that creative muscle right now. It’s definitely a full-circle moment. While we were rehearsing and filming, I felt like we were having flashbacks to the first time we performed together. I’m even having some of the same anxiety as before. I remember being so nervous I literally was backstage for ‘Uptown Girl’ just singing it over and over. I was like, am I 19 again? But it’s making us realize how far we’ve come as a group. And as musicians individually. And I think we’re really stretching ourselves creatively. One of the things I love about what we’re doing is we’ve really taken the reins of the creative process. We make it something very much us, but present it to the world as something innovative and creative. Hopefully that will impress the judges and audience and take us to the final round.”
Previous songs: “Creep,” by Radiohead; “Paparazzi,” by Lady Gaga
Previous panel guesses: Cast of “The Lion King”, Pentatonix, “Pitch Perfect” cast, “High School Musical” cast, “Hamilton” cast, Miami Sound Machine
Song: “Take Me to Church,” by Hozier
Panel guesses: Elle Goulding, Grimes, Natalie Merchant, Paula Cole, Lorde, Hailee Steinfeld, Dove Cameron, Dido
Panelist connection: Robin Thicke. “Both of our voices have taken us on a journey. One that put platinum on our walls.”
Package voiceover: “Making it into the semi-finals means so much to me. The coolest part of all is this is a show that the person closest to me would have 100% been a fan of. She was a really colorful, vibrant person and was my biggest cheerleader. In 2020, I lost her. She was really young and it was really sudden. When you lose your heart, it’s hard to see what your future could look like. So it felt like the biggest blessing ever when I found out I was pregnant with my son. It felt like a gift from her. She and my son are a big part of my soul and my spirit. So it really makes my heart soar when the judges are emotionally attached to what I’m singing about. And I always attribute it to them. I’ll be channeling them tonight as always with a song that had me tearing up even at soundcheck. I hope that energy comes across and will push me ahead to the finale.”
Previous songs: “Someone Like You,” by Adele; “Happier Than Ever,” by Billie Eilish; “Dancing Queen,” by ABBA; “New York, New York,” by Frank Sinatra; “Mercy,” by Shawn Mendes
Previous panel guesses: Elle Goulding, Megan Markle, Jessie J, Charli XCX, Dua Lipa, Lorde, Tove Lo, Apple Martin, Dakota Johnson, Florence Welch, Shirley Manson, Susan Boyle, Kesha, Imogen Heap, Regina Spektor, Bishop Briggs, Amy Lee, Halsey, Ashlee Simpson. And when she was about to be voted off: Ken Jeong picked Susan Boyle, Robin Thicke went with Kesha, Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg said it was Halsey, Nicole Scherzinger guessed Lorde.
Song: “What Makes You Beautiful,” by One Direction
Panel guesses: Darren Criss, David Archuleta, Daniel Bedingfield, Daniel Radcliffe
Panelist connection: Nicole Scherzinger. “Not only do we both love to travel but we both a special love for the Philippines.”
Package voiceover: “When I first started in my career, I was a lot more reserved. I was young and I wasn’t quite sure who I was or who I was supposed to be. But as I was getting to know myself, I was also afraid of who I was. I thought if I told the truth, I was afraid I was going to lose everyone. But when I did, it changed my life in such a beautiful way. It felt like I didn’t have to hide anything anymore. I always avoided love songs because I didn’t like what they were talking about because I couldn’t relate to it. But now I know what it’s talking about because I’ve experienced it. I’m really excited about tonight’s performance because while I know people are still going through what I went through, to come back on TV and point right at the camera and say ‘you’re enough,’ it means everything. It’s so beautiful and why did I keep this from myself for all this time?”
Previous songs: “Your Song,” by Elton John; “Live Like You’re Dying,” by Tim McGraw
Previous panel guesses: Elijah Wood, Zayn Malik, Doug Robb, Macaulay Culkin, Gavin McGraw, Ryan Cabrera, Darren Criss, David Archuleta