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Hung's Jury 

William Hung is back, and here's what the artists whose songs he covered on his new CD have to say about it

Wednesday, Aug 3 2005
Sure, William Hung's "career" is parked in front of an expired meter, but until he's physically towed away to the pseudo-celebrity scrapheap, the infamous American Idol melody mangler (and Berkeley engineering student) will continue releasing the kind of talent-defying cover songs found on his latest album, Miracle: Happy Summer From William Hung. But perhaps we're being too hard on the Hung-man; after all, do you even remember the names of the last two American Idol winners? (Time's up -- they're Carrie Underwood and Fantasia Barrino.) And we'd certainly be happier if Willy sat next to us on a 15-hour flight to Hong Kong instead of Ruben Studdard. Anyhow, we caught up with some of the artists whose songs Hung clobbers, er ... covers on Miracle, to get their thoughts:

Billy Ray Cyrus: "First I heard this li'l Hung feller was gonna do 'Achy Breaky Heart,' my manager rang me up while I was judgin' a line-dancin' competition at Merv's Chicken Pit over in Munford, Tennessee. Now, I ain't never seen American Idol -- I lived it, son, even if those jagasses at Blender think 'Achy Breaky' is the second-worst song of all time. Anyways, I figgered Hung was another one of those city-dwellin' peckerheads like you see on I Love the Best Damn Week of the '90s, or whatever that show is, makin' fun of the song, my mullet, my stage moves ... but I'll tell you what -- he sings 'Achy Breaky' with conviction. You can really hear that he appreciates the meaning behind the words, you know? And that twang in his voice -- you sure he ain't from Kentucky?"

Brian Wilson: [not having heard Hung's version of "Surfin' U.S.A.," we played it for him over the phone] "Jesus goddamn Christ, those sounds in my head again! Wha-a-a ... what the hell is that crazy noise? Sandbox! Sandbox! Oh God, the paisley cows scraping at my eyes, I can't take it!!! I'm getting back in bed ...." [click]

Tony Bennett: "Over the years hundreds of people have done versions of my signature number, 'I Left My Heart in San Francisco.' I've heard Perry Como sing it, Sarah Vaughan, Sammy, Dean, and Frank, of course ... but I can honestly say I've never heard anyone interpret it quite like William Hung. That's a testament to the song's beauty, though -- doesn't matter if you're a trained vocalist, three sheets to the wind at a karaoke bar, or a retarded baboon, that tune puts a lump in everyone's throat. They say Mr. Hung is an underdog, a joke, a has-been, and I know how that feels. But if I can make a comeback, then this tone-deaf doofus can do it, too. I'm pullin' for ya, kid!"

Barry Manilow: "I should start off by saying that I have a very deep affection for American Idol. It's a brilliant show, an absolute phenomenon in the history of television, and I'm not just saying that because they had me on as a guest judge and performer last year -- I truly enjoy the show and would watch it even if the contestants didn't sing my songs as part of the competition and keep my music in the minds of the record-buying public. Now, William Hung ... well, he's certainly no Clay Aiken, my all-time favorite American Idol participant for obvious reasons. But I have a special fondness for William, too -- after all, when I was starting out, people said I was funny-looking and couldn't sing. And even when I became a gigantic pop star in the '70s, I had nearly as many people who hated me as adored me, and let me tell you, a lot of people adored me! Now, could William have done a better job singing my song 'It's a Miracle,' which you can find on several of my Greatest Hits albums? Probably. But if he keeps at it despite what the millions of people who despise him think, then perhaps one day he, too, will sign an eight-year deal to entertain at the Las Vegas Hilton on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, two shows on Saturday, senior citizen and group discounts available."

Randy Newman: "You know, 'I Love L.A.' is a complicated song. In some respects, sure, it critiques the phony aspects of the city, but in other ways it's a sincere homage to the things I truly like about L.A. I have a love-hate relationship with Los Angeles, and I feel much the same way about William Hung. On one level I'm fascinated by the intricacies of his very existence -- is he sincere, is he joking, is he ironic, is he meta, is he all of these things? But on another level, who really wants to hear that godawful singing?"

Jack Norworth IV: "When my great-grandfather, Jack Norworth, wrote 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game' on a piece of scrap paper while riding on the train to New York City in 1908, he probably never thought it would become an American classic sung by millions, if not billions, of people every single year. Most of those people can't carry a tune to save their lives, and this Hung kid is obviously one of those people. But I've heard worse. Way worse. I mean, have you ever been to Wrigley for the seventh inning stretch? I'm sure Great-Granddad was spinning in his grave when Ozzy Osbourne massacred the song like it was a damn vampire bat, and he's supposed to be a real singer, right? Don't even get me started on Jeff Gordon and Mike Ditka. Hell, those guys make William Hung sound like Pavarotti."

Richard Marx: "I've been fortunate to work with some of the greatest singers of our time -- Barbra Streisand, Josh Groban, Michael Bolton, 98 Degrees -- and quite frankly, William Hung is an embarrassment to the art of vocal performance. What the fuck is wrong with that guy? Well, whatever ... all I can tell you is this: If William Hung gets even one-thousandth of the pussy I got from 'Right Here Waiting,' you'll never knock that goofy grin off his face."

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Michael Alan Goldberg


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