We could watch history repeat itself on The Masked Singer season 4. Last season, Night Angel was introduced in Group C and quickly became the one to watch. Well, The Masked Singer's Mushroom just made their debut in the final group and they delivered an equally impressive, showstopping performance. The panel immediately labeled them as a front runner, but they all struggled to pin down even a single guess. Mushroom’s voice is so distinct and clear yet he is one of the most challenging musicians to guess this season. Since the panel was so off, let’s see if we can do a better job sifting through these complex clues...
The panel guessed three R&B singers who could be behind the mask: Usher, Donald Glover, and Frank Ocean. However, I think there is another major musician who dabbles in R&B and could also be Mushroom: Pharrell Williams. His song “Happy” proves he has a strong falsetto that could compare to Mushroom’s breathtaking performance of Maxwell’s "Woman’s World."
One standout moment in the clue package that none of the panelists noticed was a giant brown hat. The accessory almost perfectly matched the showpiece Williams wore to the 2014 Grammys. He followed up that controversial fashion choice by sporting the same headgear in multiple colors. He also experiments with his fashion, so Mushroom’s extravagant costume is definitely something Williams would wear.
The clue package was overflowing with Hamilton references. I already think Serpent is someone from the hit Broadway musical, so I highly doubt that another cast member is on this season. The Masked Singer is trying to misdirect us. However, Williams does have a loose connection to the play. Hamilton’s musical director Alex Lacamoire said in a 2015 interview with Vulture that he originally intended for the Act 1 song “The Schuyler Sisters” to resemble a Pharrell and Daft Punk track.
Another clue that somewhat links to Williams’ career was the clip of Mushroom singing on a stage in the package. Panelist Ken Jeong noted that it looked like the Star Search stage. Williams was not on that reality competition show, but he did step in to be a judge on The Voice for four seasons. Mushroom also said he was “able to rise up and help others grow.” The Voice is all about accomplished singers helping aspiring artists get better. And Williams is a major music producer who's worked with countless other artists.
Mushroom’s quiet confidence on stage aligns with Williams' demeanor. But I’ll need more clues next week to really be convinced the “Happy” singer is masquerading as the fungus.
The package was filled with Mean Girls references. Williams is the only person on this list who is somewhat linked to the film. His song with N.O.R. E. called “Put ‘Em Up” is on the soundtrack. However, I am leaning toward Mean Girls, just like Hamilton, being a red herring. I think the details in the scenes Mushroom recreated from the Lindsay Lohan flick are more helpful in solving Mushroom’s identity.
In the second clue package, Mushroom is holding a version of the “Burn Book” from Mean Girls. In this book, there are photos of a deer and Kangaroo from last season, who was revealed to be Jordyn Woods. When these pictures are put together, they could translate to “dear girl.” When Williams released his second album titled Girl, the tour for that record was called the Dear Girl Tour.
When Mushroom was in the cafeteria, he was holding a tray with two black beetles. In 2014, Williams (wearing his signature brown hat from the first clue package) performed a tribute to The Beatles with fellow musician Brad Paisley. The two insects could have represented Williams and Paisley dueting for this performance.
Mushroom wore a tiara and spoke about embracing being a “nerd.” Scherzinger thought the crown was a nod to Queen the band, but it could be a reference to another queen: Queen Bey. Williams made a cameo in her latest visual album Black Is King. He also produced five songs for the 2019 remake of The Lion King, which starred Beyoncé. That definitely makes Williams fit to wear a crown. The most important part of this clue was the subtle inclusion of the word “nerd.” Williams has been the lead vocalist of the band N.E.R.D. since 1999.
For the special clue segment this week, each contestant had an item “magically” appear after host Nick Cannon rubbed a lamp. Mushroom’s magical clue was a red brain. Williams is the executive producer of an education documentary show on Netflix called Brainchild.
The final significant clue was revealed after Mushroom sang Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time.” The panel is not any closer to figuring out Mushroom’s identity, so Scherzinger asked Cannon for a hint. He said he couldn’t, but he technically helped her. He told her that he was “surprised” the panel had not guessed correctly. Williams’ voice is pretty recognizable, considering “Happy” was played constantly in 2013 — and is still played constantly at every wedding and baseball game. So, Cannon could be baffled that none of the panelists have placed his voice or pointed out clues like the brown hat and nerd.
Billy Porter is my strongest and most obvious guess, so I was a little surprised that his name did not pop up during this episode. Mushroom is so elegant that I would have suggested Porter without hearing their voice. But now that I have seen Mushroom perform, I am more confident about this theory.
There was a scene in the clue package with a bunch of random items thrown together. One object that stood out was a hot dog stand. In 2004, Porter played one of the main characters in a Pittsburgh production of Topdog/Underdog. Porter has been in multiple plays but this one would be particularly special because he was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. That could explain why certain show was referenced in the clue package.
The massive brown hat could also connect to Porter. Like Williams, Porter makes a fashion statement every time he steps on a red carpet. While he did not wear this exact hat, he rocked a motorized blue lampshade hat at the Grammys earlier this year. He has a bold sense of fashion and has worn designs similar to Mushroom’s silhouette.
Hamilton is actually one of the few musicals Porter did not have a role in but he still has ties to the cast. So, the clues could apply to him. He released an album in 2017 titled Billy Porter Presents the Soul of Richard Rodgers. The record featured multiple Tony and Grammy winners including Hamilton’s Renée Elise Goldsberry, Leslie Odom Jr., and Christopher Jackson. Also, the Hamilton clues could just be a sign that Mushroom is a Broadway star. Porter won a Tony award in 2013 for Best Actor for one of his biggest roles as Lola in Kinky Boots.
Jeong thought Mushroom was Usher because of the Star Search hint. Well, Porter also competed on the show and actually walked away with the title of best male vocalist in 1992. This fun fact is not widely known so The Masked Singer likely snuck it in the package and predicted the panel would not link it to Porter.
Like most of the incredibly talented musicians on this show, the most compelling evidence about Mushroom’s identity is his voice. Porter has the same effortless, strong falsetto as Mushroom. His gliding hand mannerisms also mirror Porter’s movements on stage. Unless Mushroom’s voice drastically changes for his next performance, I am going to stick with this theory.
Mushroom’s second clue package swapped the Hamilton clues for Mean Girls references. The package was overflowing with iconic images and lines from the film like “you can’t sit with us,” “fetch,” and the “Burn Book.” But just like the previous set of clues, this new information could be misleading. As Scherzinger pointed out, Mean Girls is also a Tony-nominated musical. So, this could be another signal that the person is a Broadway star. Plus, the themes of Mean Girls, both the movie and musical, are a clever nod to Porter’s background.
One of the main messages Mean Girls depicts is the loneliness that comes from being an outsider. In the package, Mushroom says “Once I embraced being a nerd, an outcast, I could proudly share my unique gifts.” When Porter was profiled as one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020, the article mentions him not fitting in and then learning to showcase his individuality and talents. Cannon said during the series premiere that one of the contests was this Time’s 100 list. He could have been referring to Porter.
The feeling of being isolated is also present in Kinky Boots. Porter’s character Lola struggled with being misunderstood by the public and her family. So, the unwelcome feeling Mushroom portrays applies to Porter in multiple ways.
There was also a quick shot in the clue package of large pink sunglasses. In addition to his love of hats, Porter usually completes his looks with a pair of colorful spectacles. He has worn multiple pink glasses that are almost identical to the frames in the package.
Cannon’s reply to Scherzinger could be in response to the panel not recognizing Porter’s voice and I agree with him. Porter’s name has been tossed around on multiple seasons and now that he is possibly in front of the panelists, no one has entertained the idea that he is Mushroom. This is a frequent trend on the show, so I feel pretty confident with this one.
Okay, so my Tituss Burgess guess is a bit of a stretch. But stay with me because some clues make the actor and singer a plausible option.
Mushroom alluded to Hamilton constantly during his clue package. He asked, “How does a mushroom grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” He then called himself “young scrappy fungi” and spoke about rising up. These are all playful references to lines in Hamilton songs. Burgess currently works with well-known members of the Hamilton cast. He plays a character in a musical cartoon show called Central Park and his co-stars are Daveed Diggs and Leslie Odom Jr.
Toward the end of the clue package, Mushroom said he kept “growing and grinding” until he achieved his dreams. Burgess has performed in multiple Broadway productions in his career, but his breakout role came in 2015 playing Titus Andromedon in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The “grinding” could refer to the parts he played before becoming a household name.
Finally, Burgess is one of the few men who could execute the high notes Mushroom hit. Burgess comes from a musical theatre background and has released albums. He also has a four octave vocal range and Nicole Scherzinger noted that Mushroom seemed like his first performance just scratched the surface of his talent. Regardless of whether Williams, Porter, Burgess or someone else is behind the mask, I expect Mushroom to be on this season for a long time.
If the Mean Girls references are substantial, then they would point to one person who is connected to both the film and musical: Tina Fey. She also created Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The first clue package did not hint at Burgess’ breakthrough role, but this second set of clues casually hinted at the show. Burgess originally worked with Fey in 2011 when he had a guest arc on 30 Rock. The two have been connected for almost a decade. So, the Mean Girls clues indirectly lead to Burgess just like the Hamilton references.
Mushroom spoke about feeling like he did not belong in the clue package. A major storyline for Burgess’ Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt character, also named Tituss, focused on him not adjusting to his small hometown. In the show, he felt like no one understood him, so he fled to New York where he could be himself.
Burgess’ character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was also known to have the most hilarious lines and scenes. One of the best moments on the show was when Tituss, the character, put his spin on Beyonce’s Lemonade. This crown Mushroom wore could have been a nod to Queen B. The Masked Singer does not directly mention titles of movies or shows, so the entire package could have been a roundabout way to feature Burgess’ most known role.