Fox's new reality competition "actually feels overdue," says Cat Zhang. "The past year and a half has shown us that IRL appearances are no longer necessary for a good concert. Travis Scott and J Balvin materialized as life-like avatars of themselves in Fortnite and staged opulent extravaganzas. A pixelated version of 100 gecs headlined a Minecraft music festival. Virtual reality aside, popular musicians have long fashioned personas that are more extravagant than their private selves (see: Little Richard, Bowie, Gaga). But there’s a disconnect between Alter Ego’s avant-garde fantasies and the inherent conservatism of its format. If I were interested in middling Michael Bublé covers, I’d simply go browse for winter candles at Bath & Body Works. Part of the issue is that Alter Ego is intent on being serious. Like many other competitive singing programs, it presents itself as a meritocracy that’ll miraculously upend the life of its winner. The award is $100,000 and the opportunity for mentorship from the celebrity judges, who lavish the contestants with inflationary praise. ('I felt like I was watching Rihanna or something,' Grimes commends one contestant, the 'or something' grunting under the weight of such a claim.) But at this point, after umpteen seasons of American Idol, The Voice, and its ilk, we know winning singing competitions doesn’t meaningfully translate to fame. It’s a fact acknowledged by The Masked Singer, which scrapped the typical promise of the American Dream in favor of absolute absurdity. On that show, which airs right before Alter Ego on the same channel, every contestant is (or was) some kind of celebrity, so viewers can simply indulge in its Furby-on-drugs fever dream where the cotton candy-colored bear growling through 'Baby Got Back' is former Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin."