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And the winner of 'The Masked Singer' Season 5 is…

This season of The Masked Singer may as well have been called The Masked Boy Band. Past unmaskings included New Edition’s Bobby Brown, B2K’s Omarion, all three Hanson brothers, and even judge Jenny McCarthy’s husband, New Kids on the Block’s Donnie Wahlberg, who turned out to masquerading as behind-the-scenes poultry disruptor Cluedle-Doo. And throughout Season 5, there was even more ‘90s representation thanks to Mark “The Orca” McGrath, Tamera “The Seashell” Mowry, and Tyrese “The Robopine” Gibson. 

But the show saved the best ‘90s/boy-band reveal for last. On Wednesday’s grand finale, the Piglet won Season 5’s Golden Mask trophy and turned out to be 98 Degrees heartthrob Nick Lachey — not AJ McLean, Brian Littrell, JC Chasez, Lance Bass, or Zayn Malik, as the all of the judges (other than Jenny) had previously guessed before finally getting around to stating the obvious.

Lachey is no stranger to reality television, having hosted Love Is Blind and The Sing-Off and, of course, having had his tabloid marriage to first wife Jessica Simpson chronicled on three seasons of Newlyweds. But it wasn’t his reality résumé or this season’s many easily Google-able clues (the Bruce Willis fandom, the secret birthmark, the connection to the Miami Dolphins’ Dan Marino, the many mentions of a rocky romantic past) that immediately tipped off fans who grew up watching Lachey on MTV. It was just that voice. That porky body and dorky propeller-beanie couldn’t disguise what was left of Nick underneath, even if the panel played dumb for much of the season.

“What this show has done for me is once again remind me of how much I love music and how much we all need music right now,” declared the de-pigged Lachey, who said he’d signed up for this hog-wild show at the last minute because he knew it’d make his kids watching at home (with second wife Vanessa Lachey) squeal with delight.

Placing a somewhat surprising second was another star of the Total Request Live era with an unmistakable singing voice, pop diva JoJo, a.k.a. the Black Swan. I thought JoJo was the most consistent power-vocalist of the competition and had predicted she would win (and — gloating alert! — I’d clocked her as the “Too Little, Too Late” ex-teen star by episode two). I totally thought the Black Swan would follow in the costumed footsteps of last season’s former-teen-star champion, LeAnn “The Sun” Rimes — who, incidentally, was Wednesday’s guest judge and guessed that this was JoJo straight away. 

JoJo did soar during her Swan swan song, “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?” — judge Nicole Scherzinger even told her, “You took us to church for the finale!” — but when Lachey dared to take on the almighty Steve Perry on a cover of the Journey power ballad “Faithfully,” it became clear that JoJo’s journey would stop just short of the winner’s circle.

Making a respectable third-place showing was the charismatic Chameleon, a.k.a. Wiz Khalifa. Wiz was this season’s most fast and furious performer (and, according to fashion-plate host Nick Cannon, the best-dressed), but of course he wasn’t at JoJo and Lachey’s vocal level. Still, he made hip-hop history as the very first contestant who got all the way to the Masked Singer finals solely by rapping (something Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne were unable to do), in the process repping for “all the hip-hopheads out there” with his final performance, “Gangsta's Paradise.” Said Nicole, “You are a megastar, my friend. It’s just an honor to have you on this stage.”

As for the winner of Season 5’s Golden Ear — awarded to the judge with the best guessing track record — that honor once again went to Jenny, the only panelist to write down “Nick Lachey” as her first-impression guess for the Piglet. (Nicole’s first-impression guess was actually Masked Singer Australia winner Cody Simpson, Robin Thicke’s was Johnny Rzeznik, and Ken Jeong’s was, um, Adam Lambert.)

Tune in for Season 6 in the fall, when the judges name all the usual wrong suspects (Adam Lambert, Björk, Jamie Foxx) and the guessing game begins anew.

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