April 7, 2004 4:03 PM   Subscribe

William Hung, my american idol After being kicked off the popular "talent" show, the snaggle-toothed Cal math major's debut cd is ranked #3 in Amazon music sales after just two days of being released, despite not being able to sing, dance, or even speak well. somewhere rob (or was it fab) from milli vanilli is doing the running man in his grave.
posted by tsarfan (29 comments total)
wow. i thought this was a joke at first.
posted by jcruelty at 4:23 PM on April 7, 2004

his album is currently #14 on itunes as well.
posted by jcruelty at 4:26 PM on April 7, 2004

This is a good article to go along with this: Racism or Magic?

Personally, I'm a fan of badly done covers. I have a gaggle of bad karaoke mp3s I've found online and I frequently look for music projects involving non-professionals.

But when I heard he was some huge phenomena, I started thinking that maybe the racism angle in that article could be some of his draw. You have to admit, he's pretty close to the outrageous character in Breakfast at Tiffanys.
posted by mathowie at 4:27 PM on April 7, 2004

Also, I downloaded a copy of the album last night, and without his dancing or on-stage goofiness, it's kind of pointless. I'll say that rocket man was so awful it's almost good, but the rest are pretty terrible, and without seeing him dance to them, they're kind of pointless to listen to.
posted by mathowie at 4:29 PM on April 7, 2004

Interestingly, the CD is not selling well in Hung's (semi) home turf of Berkeley. Meanwhile, across the water from the campus, Emil Guillermo is attributing Hung's popularity to racism:
Intentionally or not, Koch and Fuse are updating a classic anti-Asian image -- that of the Mickey Rooney character in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," complete with buck teeth, bad hair and bad accent. Rent the movie and cringe.

If they wanted to do a remake, they could just hire William Hung.
Guillermo contends that Hung would not be popular were he not Asian. That neither a caucasion nor an African-American would have captured the public's attention.

I don't think I agree, he was so spectacularly bad that it transcended race or gender. But it's an interesting argument.

On preview: You're wrong, mathowie. Wrong!
posted by emptyage at 4:37 PM on April 7, 2004

Aren't Amazon's "bestselling" lists self-perpetuatingly based on page views, and not, y'know, actual sales?
posted by John Shaft at 4:41 PM on April 7, 2004

He's certainly worth one listen, but when 30 years later people still can pull Cream off their shelves and rock out, does anyone really think they'll want this where their friends can see it two months from now?
posted by John Kenneth Fisher at 4:42 PM on April 7, 2004

I'm an Asian-American and I enjoy watching William do his thing. I think if you replaced him with some dorky white geek wearing the same dorky outfit and singing and dancing to Ricky Martin, we'd get just as much enjoyment out of it. Remember the Star Wars kid? I think people are laughing at his geekiness, out-of-tune singing, and dancing, and not so much his FOB-ness or his race. I give him props for being shrewed enough to take advantage of his 15 minutes in the spotlight and make some money along the way.
posted by gyc at 4:42 PM on April 7, 2004

On Preview: Deleted what I said because I went and made dinner and came back and gyc had said what I wanted to say already.
posted by SpecialK at 5:30 PM on April 7, 2004

From the article Matt linked: As Asian Americans, we look through this racial lens, and we see this guy who embodies all the stereotypes we're trying to escape from...

Hung looks how he looks and talks how he talks, he's not putting it on to make fun of his race, that's how he is, how can it be racist for someone to look the way they look and talk the way they talk? Isn't it more racist to say what this guy is saying, which is basically "you're too stereotypically Asian"?

I mean, I guess I somewhat understand the thinking behind the racism angle, but I don't really see how it's truly racist when he just happens to look the way he does and sing/talk the way he does (he's not trying to be a stereotype, that's just how he is), and he's doing this all himself (nobody's exploiting him). For it to be truly racist, doesn't someone have to be being discriminated against somehow? I mean, it may "play to a racist image", but I don't normally hear people complaining about racism when the object of the supposed racism is the one making the joke in the first place (is it racist when Margaret Cho makes Asian jokes? Is it racist when Dave Chappelle makes African American jokes?). I dunno...I think the racism is in assuming that race has any part of this, why can't it just be that the guy's managed to make some money out of being awful at what he does?

And what gyc said: I think what's funny here is that the guy's a hopeless dork who can't sing or dance, but does so anyway, not that he's Asian. It would have been just as funny if he were white, Hispanic or any other race. I found it amusing the first time, but now it's just annoying. But hey, more power to him. The guy last season who told Simon he was an "asshole" before shrieking "I'm spent!" and flouncing he was entertaining.
posted by biscotti at 5:39 PM on April 7, 2004

Is it possible to buy/download an album in a racist manner? Please to explain.
posted by gottabefunky at 5:44 PM on April 7, 2004

gottabefunky: Maybe if one buys it from iWhitePowerTunes or something...

Honestly, gyc's right: William Hung would be just as funny if he was white, black, Asian, Latino -- whatever. It's the fact that he sings so badly and he was on American Idol that makes this sell so well.

Though I do agree that in 30 years, he will be forgotten. Hell, he'll probably be forgotten in 30 days.
posted by armage at 6:23 PM on April 7, 2004

>Remember the Star Wars kid?
We laughed at him because he was french-canadian. Duh.

Personally, I thought it was maybe worth one laugh.
Not 47,402,390,292
posted by cinderful at 6:27 PM on April 7, 2004

He's a civil engineering major, not a math major.
posted by calwatch at 6:45 PM on April 7, 2004

So the current culture of America is listening to this guy and ocular jewelry implants.

Can we give up SOME of our excess money that we don't know what to do with? Please? Maybe just a little? People needing water and stuff? Eh? Eh?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:00 PM on April 7, 2004

another relevant essay, this from the village voice: Hung Out to Dry
posted by chl at 7:28 PM on April 7, 2004

People like him for (a) his seemlingly silly dancing, (b) his mangled vocals, (c) his choice of referenced above, but also because he is jaw-droppingly innocent/naive -- and passionate about wanting to sing.

I don't particularly care for it, but my wife & daughters just adore him.
posted by davidmsc at 7:46 PM on April 7, 2004

Cries of black face are weak, as I think William Hung is really sticking it to the Man.
posted by the fire you left me at 7:57 PM on April 7, 2004

She Bangs!
posted by obloquy at 9:20 PM on April 7, 2004

William Hung doesn't care what you think. William Hung's getting PAID.
posted by vito90 at 9:21 PM on April 7, 2004

[this is dumb]
posted by glenwood at 5:46 AM on April 8, 2004

I'm only 30, but I pine for a simpler time...when you at least had to have a *semblance* of talent to become famous. William Hung and Paris Hilton and their ilk are the products of a sick and tired popular culture. Why anyone would spend one red cent on this tripe, even as a joke, is beyond me.

I'm not saying that there weren't untalented hacks making a buck off of the public's stupidity back in the 1980s, '50s, '20s, whenever. It just seems more prevalent these days, and I hope it's a trend that doesn't continue to its (il)logical conclusion, where everyone truly does have their 15 minutes of fame, and very few people actually deserve it.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:00 AM on April 8, 2004

Does he still qualify as "outsider art" if his entire popularity is based on network television's endless repetition. I ask because he's been treated (at least as far as I've noticed) in much the same way morning drive time DJs (at least here in Detroit) treated Wesley Willis. That is, exactly on the line between "laughing at him, not with him". And he seems to have that same attitude that Willis displayed in that he's complicit in his own "exploitation" and (hopefully) making some form of cash doing it.
posted by chandy72 at 7:30 AM on April 8, 2004

Card Cheat, was Tiny Tim talented?
posted by smackfu at 8:43 AM on April 8, 2004

So the current culture of America is listening to this guy and ocular jewelry implants.

The article was not about American's implanting jewelry in their eyes (yet).

somewhere rob (or was it fab) from milli vanilli is doing the running man in his grave.

Girl, you know it's true.
posted by archimago at 10:12 AM on April 8, 2004

It seems that has disabled customer reviews for this particular disc, and removed all those that were there (as of last night, anyway).
posted by Prospero at 10:21 AM on April 8, 2004

I suspect that those who are already bigoted will look at William Hung and think that he justifies their ideas, and that those who are open-minded will look at him and think that he justifies their ideas (i.e., he's a kid with a lot of passion that got lucky and famous). I think that any spin, so far, is in the eye of the beholder. But I'm cheering for the good kind of spin, of course.
posted by halonine at 1:54 PM on April 8, 2004

Here are my reasons for liking the guy.

1) He's an engineer and a nerd living in the Bay Area. Sounds like me and many people I know.

2) He didn't seem very vain or pretentious at all (rumors are that this has changed, though)

3) A reaction against all the crappy pop culture icons we're told to follow and pay attention to. I'll take Family Guy and Wesley Willis, with all their flaws, over Friends and Britney.
posted by kurumi at 3:23 PM on April 8, 2004

The album's on eMusic now.

(Signing him doesn't seem so odd once you look at the rest of Koch's catalog, which includes two Hampsterdance albums.)
posted by donth at 6:22 PM on April 21, 2004

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