Panther Talks Elimination of ‘Masked Singer’ and Why Big-Cat Costume Was a ‘No-Brainer’

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 revelations, thanks to this season’s latest format changes.

The Vegas-themed second episode kicked off with a fitting appearance by guest judge Donny Osmond, who also appeared in the show’s first season, finishing as 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 after 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 returned to defend her first-week crown for another crush via a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” which nearly brought Osmond to tears.

When it came to the eliminations, it was Panther who really blew the judges away. 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 said he chose to open with Simone’s soulful “Feeling Good,” leaving behind Michael Bublé’s newer version, to honor the jazz spirit of Vegas. His performance truly epitomized Simone’s soulful crescendo and sultry tone, earning him comparisons ranging from Billy Porter to the Jackson 5.

The panther’s staggering height also took focus. Jordan, who stands at a striking 6-foot-8, was considered an NBA star like Andre Drummond or Dwight Howard, with Thicke joking that Tito Jackson could never measure up.

Panther’s classic rendition of “Born to Be Wild” blew the judges away with his roaring rock voice, in stark contrast to his earlier tribute to Simone. Jordan, who has 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 led to comparisons to ventriloquist Terry Fator, comedian Dana Carvey and even The office star Steve Carell.

Jordan’s characteristic claim that he was able to attend his own funeral stood out as a clue: He was notably the victim of a celebrity death hoax in 2012. While that was a unique experience, it wasn’t enough for judges to reveal the real man behind the mask. Jordan spoke up Billboard before the episode airs 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 if I could hide 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 to fool the judges and let the world be able to see that there is so much more than what they thought was in my greatest song, “This Is How We Do It.”

I noticed you threw us off with a completely different vocal tone in the last battle royale. So do you plan to perform with a different tone?

Absolutely. In the R&B world and in “This Is How We Do It” there’s a very nasal tone and people joke about it. But as my music evolved over the years, my tone and R&B style changed. Even with my love for jazz, I have different styles that I can use. And then in ministry, when I lead worship for people, I have something I call “rock voice.” It’s this “growl” type of really big, pitched rock sound that comes out of me, an R&B singer. So when I got the opportunity to do “Born to Be Wild,” I was like, “I’m bringing out my rock voice,” because no one would know my rock voice unless they’ve heard it before, and that has a lot of the world ‘t ‘t . It’s great for people to be able to see that I can sound jazzy on a Nina Simone/Michael Bublé remake, but also sound like a rock singer on a rock song. I just try to give them [my vocal diversity].

It is true, there is so much musical diversity in the church. And are you a Nina Simone fan?

I am! It was funny because when the show offered me song suggestions, it was listed as a Michael Bublé song. When I looked at it, I thought: “This is not Bublé. He did, 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 he was doing. I wanted to make sure I brought the dark, sultry jazz of Nina Simone’s version and married the two.

Yes, I think you did it perfectly.

You’ve seen more than I have. I was there and experienced it, but I haven’t seen it. I’m watching it for the first time tonight as it airs.

It will be fun! And how did you choose the Panther’s costume and its clues?

They presented the Panther as being the strength of a family and as a protector. For me it was a no-brainer.

Now with Battle Royale I felt like I really had a chance to advance. Had it been an earlier season, I think I definitely could have gone further. But with only one person able to move on… 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?

These guesses didn’t really surprise me just because Panther is tall – it’s a big costume. Naturally, people automatically think it must be an athlete. But I hope that when the voice came out of Panther, people [realized] if you’re an athlete and you sing that well, you’re probably in the wrong profession.

Well, speaking of athletes, you’ll be competing with some athletes in Fox’s upcoming reality competition Special forces. How did it go from this competitive-but-very-musical show to that?

Musical competition and physical and mental competition are very different. This show was in my wheelhouse as a singer. … When it comes to Special forces, that’s the pinnacle or top of the limits I’ve ever pushed myself to. I’ve pledged a national fraternity and I’ve done things that I thought kind of pushed 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 have ever done in my life. It’s also the most rewarding thing I think I’ve done because I’ve made some new friends and we’ve created a brotherhood and a sisterhood that I get to keep now.

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