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William Hung
孔慶翔
William Hung (cropped).jpg
Hung in St. Cloud, Minnesota in July 2008
Born January 13, 1983 (1983-01-13) (age 38)
Occupation Singer, actor, motivational speaker
Spouse(s) Jian Teng
William Hung
Traditional Chinese 孔慶翔
Simplified Chinese 孔庆翔
Musical career
Origin Van Nuys, California, U.S.
Genres Pop, outsider music
Years active 2004–2011
Labels Koch

William Hing Cheung Hung (Chinese: 孔慶翔; born January 13, 1983) is a Hong Kong-born American motivational speaker and former singer who gained fame in early 2004 as a result of his unsuccessful audition performance of Ricky Martin's hit song "She Bangs" on the third season of the television series American Idol.

At the time of his audition, Hung was a civil engineering student at UC Berkeley. After his spirited audition to be the next American Idol, he won the support of many fans, ironically, based on his perceived lack of musical talent. Hung voluntarily left university to pursue a music career. His recording career was marked by negative critical reaction.

He brought his own career as a musician to an end when in 2011 he accepted a job opportunity as a technical crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and decided to pursue law enforcement. Since then, Hung has reflected positively on his pop music career.

Personal life

Hung is a 73rd generation descendant of Confucius.

After growing up in the Sha Tin district of British Hong Kong, Hung moved with his family to the U.S. city of Van Nuys, California, at age 11. He was a civil engineering student at University of California, Berkeley, when he competed on the US television contest series American Idol. He exited college to pursue his music career and later graduated from California State University, Northridge with a degree in mathematics. Hung later completed an MBA from Marist College.

Hung was married to Jian Teng on June 18, 2014.

Career

Initial fame

While studying civil engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, Hung auditioned for the third season of American Idol in San Francisco in September 2003, becoming the final auditioner on the show of January 15, 2004.

"I want to make music my living," said Hung, before he started singing and dancing to Ricky Martin's "She Bangs". As judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul tried to restrain their laughter, judge Simon Cowell dismissed Hung's performance, remarking "You can't sing, you can't dance, so what do you want me to say?", to which Hung replied, "Um, I already gave my best, and I have no regrets at all." Jackson and Abdul applauded his positive attitude, with Abdul remarking, "That's the best attitude yet." Hung's response to Cowell's criticism starkly contrasts with the often confrontational rejoinders of other contestants. Hung added, "...you know, I have no professional training of singing and dancing," eliciting mock surprise from Cowell, who replied, "No? Well, this is the surprise of the century." Hung was not admitted through to the next round.

Cult following

Hung rapidly gained a cult following. A William Hung fan site, set up by realtor Don Chin and his wife Laura, recorded over four million hits within its first week. Remixes of Hung's audition performance topped song request lists at a number of radio stations.

Hung subsequently appeared on several television programs including Jimmy Kimmel Live!, On Air with Ryan Seacrest, Entertainment Tonight, George Lopez, the Late Show with David Letterman, Countdown with Keith Olbermann, The Howard Stern Radio Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dateline NBC, Arrested Development and CBS's The Early Show. Hung was featured in several national magazines and newspapers; he was parodied on Saturday Night Live and also Mad TV, and appeared on Celebrity Deathmatch. He was reportedly invited to perform at MTV's Asia Awards held in mid-February.

Willhunghaas
Hung performing at UC Berkeley's Haas Pavilion in 2004.

An online petition to bring Hung back to American Idol included more than 100,000 signatures by late February. Hung was brought back to American Idol as part of a mid-season special titled Uncut, Uncensored and Untalented, airing March 1, 2004. The special documented what it was like to experience the audition process and, in Hung's case, emerge as an inadvertent celebrity.

At the 2006 Artichoke Festival in Castroville, California, Hung was crowned the Artichoke King; Marilyn Monroe had previously received a similar honor.

Record deal

William Hung was offered a $25,000 advance on a record deal from Koch Entertainment in 2004, and released three albums on that label in 2004 and 2005. His first album was Inspiration. Produced by Giuseppe D, it was recorded over a March 2004 weekend with Hung singing vocals over karaoke music. To promote it, Hung performed before nearly 20,000 fans during half-time at a Golden State Warriors basketball game on April 6 and performed "She Bangs", included on the album, on such shows as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. The album received highly negative reviews, but ultimately went on to sell about 200,000 copies and reached Number One on Billboard's Top Independent Album Chart. His two follow-up albums were far less successful, as Hung for the Holidays (a Christmas album) only sold 35,000 copies, despite a national promotion campaign including appearances on The Howard Stern Show, and Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung (another karaoke cover album) only sold 7,000. In a February 2006 interview, he said he was working on a fourth album of 5 or 6 tracks, but none was released, and he retired in 2011.

Television, commercials and movies

Hung appeared in commercials for the search engine Ask.com, the Game Show Network (spoofing Freddie Mercury and singing an off-key "We Are the Champions"), as well as the mobile phone service provider Cingular Wireless. He also appeared to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" in May 2004 at the Rogers Centre for the Toronto Blue Jays.

His first movie, a low-budget Hong Kong period comedy called Where is Mama's Boy (2004), was released in January 2005. Hung played a good-natured village kid who sells Chinese pancakes to pay his mother's medical bills. His character gets discovered as a singer, and helps a woman protect her business from her jealous, conniving elder sister. In the film, Hung played opposite veteran Hong Kong actress Nancy Sit and parodied his own American Idol performance with the song "Siu Beng" (Cantonese) ("Chinese Pancake"), an allusion to his American Idol audition song, "She Bangs." Despite solid financial backing and the involvement of Nancy Sit, the film was a box office flop.

Lampooning his own career, Hung later made appearances in Airline, The Fairly OddParents, Arrested Development, Celebrity Deathmatch, and George Lopez.

Retirement from music

In 2011, Hung became a technical crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, and retired from music. Hung remains optimistic about his new career path, and states he does not regret that his music career has ended. "I showed that even the Average Joe could succeed," he remarked on his short-lived time as a pop star.

Hung later joined the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health around 2014. In 2017, Hung became a motivational speaker; he has been booked as a keynote speaker for groups such as the Asian Realtors Association of America.

On April 7, 2016, he made a surprise performance of "She Bangs" on the American Idol season 15 finale.

Discography

Albums

Studio albums

List of studio albums with chart positions and sales
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales
US
US
Indie
AUS
AUS Heat
Inspiration 34 1 89 4
  • US: 200,000
Miracle: Happy Summer From William Hung
  • Released: July 12, 2005
  • Label: Koch
  • Format: CD, digital download
  • US: 7,000
"—" denotes the album did not chart.

Extended plays

List of extended plays with chart positions and sales
Title Album details Peak chart positions Sales
US
Indie
Hung for the Holidays
  • Released: October 19, 2004
  • Label: Koch
  • Format: CD, digital download
22
  • US: 35,000

Singles

List of singles as lead artist showing year released and album name
Title Year Album
"We Are the Champions" 2004 Hung for the Holidays
"Achy Breaky Heart" 2005 Miracle: Happy Summer from William Hung

Music videos

Title Year
"She Bangs" 2004
"We Are the Champions"
"Achy Breaky Heart" 2005

Hung's music video, "She Bangs", has been viewed over 2 million times on YouTube.

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