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Hung Out to Dry

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William Hung: Inspiration

Koch, 2004

Rating: 0.0 (for the finished product, but Hung deserves a 3.0 for effort)



Posted: April 20, 2004

By Christopher Roberts

Since I registered my opinion on the American Idol phenomenon awhile back, Shaking Through recently presented me with the opportunity to review Inspiration, the (hopefully one-off) offering from likable AI reject William Hung. I thought it would be an interesting experience to hear the "next level" in the musical evolution of Mr. Hung. It turns out I got far more than I ever bargained for; I was simply not prepared for an entire album of William Hung covering familiar pop hits.

There are two very powerful forces at work here. First, there's Hung's likeability factor; let's face it, it's hard not to root for the guy. In my Rox Populi on the rash of delusional bad singers on American Idol, I wrote about "healthy shame" and how low self-esteem can actually be a good thing. I stand by that, but nevertheless, it is hard not to dig the kid's uninhibited nature and good old-fashioned pluck. Heck, there are "words of inspiration" interspersed between the tracks, reaffirming William's genuinely positive and good-hearted nature.

Second, on the flip side, there is the melodic massacre that is Inspiration, which truly devastates one's senses and threatens to tear the very fabric of the soul. When I tell you that on some songs, I actually longed for the voice of Yoko Ono, I think that conveys the intensity of the situation. There's no two ways about it, this is terrible singing, and yet the constant reminders that this is a kid singing from the heart and urging everyone to follow their dreams temper the sonic agony. Somewhat. It's a lot like showing someone a picture of a puppy dog frolicking in a sunny meadow, and then showing them a picture of a baby seal being crushed by a tank. The serenity of the one does not adequately shield you from the utter horror of the other.

After a brief introduction, Hung kicks things off with the song that got him booted from American Idol in the first place, Ricky Martin's nails-across-backboard-grating "She Bangs." Those thinking Hung has peaked with this track, in terms of redefining what bad covers could sound like (William Shatner, you are officially off the hook), soon realize that the boy is just warming up. R. Kelly's "I Believe I Can Fly" is absolutely excruciating, from Hung's desperate grasping for notes forever beyond his reach to the cheesy karaoke music backing his time-space-continuum-rending attempt. But it's Hung's rendition of the Eagles classic "Hotel California" that takes the cake, and serves as an excellent example of why shower singing should be confined to the shower. At certain points, Hung inserts random syllables where actual lyrics should be. It truly has to be heard to be believed, but then I might get arrested for inciting violence on unsuspecting persons. Talk about checking out but never being able to leave -- even therapy won't get that song out of my head. A word to Don Henley, our own modern-day Thoreau and social better: Take the money you pocketed for authorizing the assassination of this great song and shut your sanctimonious trap forevermore.

So there it is in a nutshell. On one hand we have the wholesome image of William Hung and his sporadic Tony Robbins messages of self-deluded-belief and Sisyphean perseverance, versus the reality that is the brutal nightmare of his voice. Which one wins? Well, that is ultimately a personal choice. For me, I like the kid and think he has a great story. And look, let's not act like he's the only performer who can't sing attaining a degree of fame. If Hung looked like Britney Spears, no one would say a damn thing. So rock on, Willy! I feel ya! Now if only I can forget your music.

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 Ratings Key:
 5.0: A classic
 4.0-4.9: Stellar work
 3.0-3.9: Worthwhile effort
 2.0-2.9: Nothing special
 1.1-1.9: Pretty bad
 0.0-1.0: Total disaster

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