Unmasking the masked singers
How will the judges tackle the ticklish task? Aga Muhlach
Unmasking the masked singers
FUNFARE - Ricky Lo (The Philippine Star) - October 23, 2020 - 12:00am

Can the four celebrity judges easily “unmask” the contestants who will be “hiding” behind lavish costumes complete with probably designer masks?

That’s the curious question that will tickle not only the judges’ minds but those of the viewers as The Masked Singer premieres tomorrow night (Saturday, Oct. 24) at 7 o’clock on the Kapatid Network TV5. The show that originated in South Korea and adapted in several countries (the USA, Thailand, Belgium, Australia, etc.) is produced by Viva according to the “new normal” protocols, with Aga Muhlach, Matteo Guidicelli, Kim Molina and Cristine Reyes as judges (no, they won’t be “masked”).

It must be exciting to watch the judges trying to assess the contestants’ performance and we’ll have as much fun as, if not more fun than, the judges who will, out of nowhere, draw clues who the unseen singers are. I bet you Aga can’t tell even if the singer is wearing a Charlene Gonzalez mask, or Matteo in a Sarah Geronimo mask, or Kim in a Jerald Napoles mask, or Cristine in an Ali Khatibi mask.

To find out how they would tackle the challenge, Funfare put the judges on the spot...unmasked!

Cristine Reyes

It’s not the first time you are acting as a judge in a singing contest, is it? What do you look for in a singer?

Aga: “Well, it’s not really my first time because I did Pinoy Big Band before, like two or three years ago. But this is something new because you’re not judging them by their voices but by their performances. And also at the same time, hindi mo rin alam kasi gusto mo ring may matalo para malaman kung sino ‘yung naka-mask na ‘yon. So, ganoon. You just have fun. That’s your ano dito sa Masked Singer...just having fun and trying your best to just guess the clues na binibigay sa performances at sa boses, although pinapalitan nila ‘yung boses nila so it can be hard.”

Matteo: “I’ve judged and hosted a performance show before and it has always been an exciting time but this one is different. It’s not just a ‘singing contest’ and we don’t have ‘contestants.’ They are performers, household names in the industry, singers covered in brilliantly-designed costumes. This show is a hit in the US and Korea. It’s finally here!”

Kim: “It’s my first time to judge on national television, yes. But first time as a judge for a singing competition, not really. I was able to sit on the judges’ chair a couple of times already overseas. In Saudi Arabia (where I grew up), I used to judge singing competitions for Filipino Community gatherings and was also part of the screening committee for the World Championships of the Performing Arts (WCOPA) Saudi Arabian Team. Aside from technique, what I usually look for in a contestant is his/her capability to connect with the audience.”

Cristine: “The unique selling proposition of The Masked Singer is trying to guess the celebrity behind the mask just by his/her voice. This takes away our biases. Given this challenge, I try to appreciate the performance and the singing style, while trying to guess the artist behind the mask.”

How challenging/difficult it is since you will know how effective a singer is by his/her facial expressions (if he/she is singing from the heart)?

Aga: “Well, you know, unfortunately, there’s no facial expression here; it’s all voice. At doon sa experience namin sa mga past episodes, talagang naiiba nila ang mga boses nila. So hindi mo talaga mahuhulaan. Parang feeling mo ang daling manghula sa clues na binibigay nila, but kapag lumabas na ‘yung performer at naka-costume na talaga, hindi mo talaga malalaman kung sino. Mahirap talaga!”

Matteo Guidicelli

Matteo: “Trust me, they will shock you!”

Kim: “As an artist honed in theater, I was also trained to embody a character through our silhouette. We don’t usually have cameras zooming in on us, so people from the back side of the audience don’t really see our faces and it’s a must for us to make them feel our characters’ stories even from afar. That’s how I see the performances of our masked singers, same as what we are in theater. The challenge, for me, in all honesty is not how I judge their performances, but guessing who they are in real life.”

Cristine: “Since we don’t get to see the facial expressions of the artists, we all judge based on what we hear. Their rendition of the cover song, the pronunciation, the singing style — all these elements help us narrow down the options of the artists behind the mask to a few names who we feel excel in the said genre (whether it be ballad, pop, love song, R&B, etc.).”

Have you seen the foreign versions of the show?

Aga: “No. Puro kuwento lang sa akin. I just always listen to mga kuwento para wala akong kinokopya talaga. Always, yes!”

Matteo: “Yes. Awesome shows! The Philippine version will be as awesome as the others, maybe even more so.”

Kim Molina

Kim: “Yes, I have. I’m actually a fan of both the Korean and American versions! It’s fun to watch superstars get crazy and turn into someone totally different from who they are in the eyes of the public.”

Cristine: “I’ve seen the Korean version but just a snippet of it. What appealed to me most, and which I watched a full episode, was the US version. Not only because it was in English but because the iteration from the original Masked Singer was more colorful (in terms of costumes) and because the unmasked singers are familiar to us. It was great seeing the likes of Gladys Knight, Donny Osmond and T. Pain (who won and had an amazing voice; I just knew him to be as rapper).”

Billy Crawford: The host, recognizably Masked

(E-mail reactions at rickylophilstar@gmail.com. For more updates, photos and videos, visit www.philstar.com/funfare or follow me on Instagram @therealrickylo.)

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