Who Is The Man Behind The Oyster Mask?

The man in the Oyster Mask stands imperiously, draped in silver-threaded cloak and black silken gloves. Festooned in an assortment of baubles and shimmery faux-pearls, he takes the stage as though it's his birthright, flanked by violinists wearing eerie Venetian masks. See him now, commandeering the room with those sweet dulcet tones and slinky vocal stylings. As he croons, the audience swoons, as though under the influence of some arcane aphrodisiac. The judges dance and bray. Though it's no song of woe, The Oyster Mask's ballad is both bittersweet and achingly beautiful: a heartfelt plea to stay at his side "Until We Will Become Dust."

Does this sound like a joke without a punchline? Well, Lady Gaga isn't laughing, even if she's taking copious notes towards her next stylistic reinvention. In 2017, more people viewed the Oyster Mask's performance on YouTube than Lady Gaga's Super Bowl LI Halftime Show

This begs the question: Who is the man in the Oyster Mask, and how did he warble his way into so many hearts? Let's get to the bottom of this.  

He's part of a long tradition of entertainers

The relationship between masks and music goes way back. With their exaggerated expressions and facial features, masks made of linen, cork, and wood played a pivotal role in ancient Greek theater, allowing actors to play more than one character (including monsters, gods, and demigods) while dissuading audience members from speculating about a performer's social status, age, or gender.

Just as they were an essential component in the orgiastic cult of Dionysus, masks continue to play an important role in contemporary music (particularly electronic acts.) In fact, masks are experiencing something of a Renaissance. A 2012 article published in The Washington Post argues that concealing one's identity is the "new" cool, now that Facebook has made oversharing obligatory and privacy nearly impossible. "As the hyper-connectivity of social media pulls our planet into a tighter huddle ... a growing number of vanguard pop artists [flirt] with the idea of anonymity. They often wear masks. Some conceal their names." In this regard, the man in the Oyster Mask is a product of the times.

Avant-garde musical pranksters The Residents have been performing in eyeball masks, top hats, and tuxedos since 1974. Swedish brother-sister duo The Knife always went the extra mile to conceal its identity with creepy disguises. Insane Clown Posse, Clinic, Deadmau5, Daft Punk (pictured), Ghost B.C., and Slipknot all became famous while keeping their faces hidden.

At the very least, the man in the Oyster Mask is in some very good company.

His performance was YouTube's top trending video in 2017

Did the man in the Oyster Mask ever suspect he'd become an internet sensation when he took that stage? After his performance was uploaded to YouTube on June 1, 2017, the world officially became his oyster. 

"Until We Will Become Dust" was officially YouTube's top trending video in 2017, ranked by its unbelievably high number of shares, views, likes, and comments. It easily beat out a rousing dance routine set to Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" by Kyle Hanagami Choreography, which came in at No. 2, followed by a video featuring next-level ping pong tricks. Hell, the man in the Oyster Mask even managed to trounce a 12-year-old singing ventriloquist getting the golden buzzer on America's Got Talent. That's no small feat by any standard.

As of this writing, the video has amassed over 230 million views and counting. That's an awful lot of eyeballs poring over one bedazzled oyster mask. It begs the question: How the heck did he do it?

His song has touched millions of people

The YouTube clip that introduced the world to the man behind the Oyster Mask has amassed over 60,000 comments to date. The vast majority are written in Thai. Many are effusive to the point of satire: 

"I actually enjoyed this song despite not knowing the language. I think I'll stream this for a week now. I'm actually obsessed."

"There is something in his voice that just makes you want to dance, I don't even know that language but I am here trying to sing along and dancing to the beats."

"The song is so catchy and the lyrics are really meaningful ... I love it!"

Even if you can't quite tell what he's singing about, you can start to understand the appeal by giving the song a listen. In its own subterranean, schmaltzy, herky-jerky way, it's something of a catchy tune. The chorus swells dramatically, and there's even some sort of hip-hop interlude to keep everybody on their feet. But is that really enough to beat out Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, and an insultingly cute 12-year-old ventriloquist?

Maybe if we knew what the Oyster Mask is singing about, we could begin to understand his massive appeal.

His lyrical vision is even more mysterious than his mask

Search for "Oyster Mask" on YouTube, and you'll be privy to dozens of reaction videos, with fans excitedly hopping up and down and clapping — dazzled, delighted, mystified. "I'm completely and utterly in love!" yelps one fan. "This is friggin' awesome!" cries another. "He got me dancing all over the place ... that was just wonderful!"

The epic ballad definitely strikes a nerve. As one commenter pointed out beneath an article in Boing Boing, the song is "a truly beautiful sentiment that transcends cultural and oyster-suit boundaries! Surprisingly touching. I can see why it is getting so much attention."

Perhaps some of that attention can be chalked up to the gutsiness of the chorus? After scanning several clumsy translations, we've discovered the gist: "Will you stay with me, and let us grow old together? At the end of our lives, we will live closely and fade into dust. Return to the Earth, bury our bodies together..."

The second verse criticizes "women who only love their husbands because they're rich" and "ladyboys" who only love men because of the size of their...

Ok, we get it. Sort of. But so far, the lyrics only compound the mystery of the Oyster Mask's rousing success. Perhaps if we dig deeper into the verses, we'll find a clue as to his identity.

He comes with a message of love

It seems the lyrical thrust of this message is universal enough, even if parading around in an Oyster Mask is not.

The song is preoccupied with the notion of eternal love and how it's vastly superior to, say, living a life of crass materialism and superficiality. "I don't have a lot like others have," intones the Oyster Mask. Then, he offers up a peculiar laundry list of all the things he doesn't have. For example, he doesn't have a crown. He doesn't own a fancy headdress. And he's not like any of those fancy celebrities you see in clubs. He does happen to have an old pickup truck, but that pickup truck has some serious issues, including a frustratingly loud exhaust pipe. But he has love and he has loyalty, and that should be enough for you, shouldn't it?

We still need to know: how did the man in an Oyster Mask — who's singing about exhaust pipes, ladyboys, and dust — become the top trending YouTube video of 2017? 

Let's investigate where the Oyster Mask performed to look for answers.

He's participating in a mysterious reality competition

A bit of internet sleuthing provides some solid breaks in the mysterious case of the man behind the Oyster Mask.

According to CNBC, his famous performance is culled from a televised singing competition called The Mask Singer that is popular throughout Asia, with Thai, Korean, Vietnamese, and Chinese versions all massive hits in their respective countries. (Incidentally, the Man Behind the Oyster Mask appeared on the Thai version of the program.) A 2017 article on Thai news site The Nation claims each episode garners more than 500,000 views. Individual clips can earn about 3 million hits or more. 

The show features entertainers of every stripe pitted against each other in a series of rapid-fire singing competitions. Meanwhile, a panel of judges rates each song. Oh, but there's a twist: Every competitor is a celebrity wearing a mask. As they're voted off, every performer is stripped of his disguise until only one masked singer remains. The show ends with the big reveal of his or her identity.

The Mask Singer has proven such a success, FOX is developing its own version for America. (It's tentatively titled The Masked Singer.) Soon, we may all be gathered around our TVs wondering if that's Adam Lambert singing "Chandelier" under the fuzzy giraffe mask.

The man behind the Oyster Mask is not Adam Lambert. But who is he?

His mask isn't even the most bizarre one on the show

Google Image search reveals the Oyster Mask is relatively subdued compared to others featured on The Mask Singer. Over the years, the menagerie of masked melodists has included a clearly ill-intentioned Rubik's Cube, a sentient and highly ornate rotary telephone, and a unicorn that evidently took a break from grazing to dabble in black magic. That's to say nothing of the evil clown singing "Bad Romance," the malevolent duck with the voice of gold, the sightlessly staring porcelain doll, and all the other masks we dare not describe, lest we unleash an ancient curse upon the world. 

According to Boing Boing, the man in the Oyster Mask chose what song to sing. He also had lots of creative input when it came to his costume and mask. In order for the magic to work, his regalia had to cover every inch of his body. (After all, some obsessive fans can recognize their favorite stars from a mile away.) Imagine the sweaty discomfort he endured while negotiating those blaring footlights through tiny eye-holes ... all while singing his little masked heart out.

And he had a lot of hoops to leap through before getting onstage.

He's an enigma wrapped in a really smart gimmick

The day he arrived at the studio, staffers reportedly ran up to the man behind the Oyster Mask and immediately thrust a cloak at him, demanding he conceal his body. Next, he had to sign a contract promising to keep his identity a secret. During dress rehearsals, his voice was tweaked and pitch-shifted so stagehands wouldn't figure out his identity. All competitors go through the same rigorous process as they rehearse.

Producers know the mystery of the mask is their bread and butter. It's the gimmick that makes The Mask Singer a sensation. "Because the participants hide their identities behind masks, I can focus on the person's singing skills alone," a fan told Nikkei Asian Review. "It strips away biases — who the person is or what backgrounds the contestants may have."

Throughout the run of the show, only makeup artists, costume designers, and the show's director knew who was behind the Oyster Mask — and they signed contracts promising not to reveal the secret. After his performance, when it came time to edit Oyster Mask's performance, studio doors were locked and curtains drawn. Producers apparently stopped just short of heat sensors and armed guards.

And not for nothing. Without these efforts, the man behind the Oyster Mask would just be some schlub in an oyster mask singing plaintively about love. This way, he's a ready-made pop mystery for the internet age.

He's already big in Thailand — and he's gonna get bigger

When the man in the Oyster Mask took the stage, judges were particularly stymied: That voice... Those clothes... Who is he...? According to unverified internet hearsay, they were reportedly convinced it wasn't a man at all, but rather some long-forgotten '80s chanteuse poised to make a comeback.

They were wrong. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Pandavaram Prasarnmitr (pictured), the handsome frontman for Cocktail, a popular Thai rock n' roll band. Prior to his performance on The Mask Singer, Prasarnmitr's band had enjoyed success with its hit track "Never Mind." (You can watch the moody music video here.) Now, following his viral video coup, Prasarnmitr's music career is about to go next-level.

While we doubt he looks familiar to most of you, this is indeed the man behind the Oyster Mask ... the man who will love you until you're a clump of dust in the ground. The man who outdid Lady Gaga, Ed Sheeran, and prepubescent ventriloquism all in one fell swoop. The man responsible for YouTube's top trending video of 2017.

And what's next for this young artist? It's very difficult to say. Right now, the sky's the limit, and we have no doubt Pandavaram Prasarnmitr is going places.

Remember his name.