To some, no bad singer on American Idol has ever been as bad or endearing as William Hung. It's an American Idol tradition to load up the early weeks with singers who are clearly, hilariously bad. Sometimes, they make enough of an impact to stay around for a couple of weeks -- you'll remember that girl from the first season who was ubiquitous until the competition actually got underway and now you can barely remember her name -- but usually once the competition swings into high gear, most of the laughably bad singers are gone. William Hung, somehow, defied expectations and turned into a phenomenon. There were other singers who were worse -- how about the girl who tunelessly scatted through "Route 66" -- but Hung was special, probably because he had so little range and was maniacally driven, not even noticing when the judges had broken down in laughter. It also could have been due to his absurd choice of audition material, the atrocious fluff of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs," the flop sequel to "Living La Vida Loca." Hung sang it as if the song meant something to him even though he didn't understand the words, which gave the Berkley civil engineering student an aura of innocence. All of this fed the phenomenon as American Idol brought him back repeatedly on clip shows, and then he started appearing all over the place, most notably on Keith Olberman's Countdown on MSNBC, who plugged him incessantly. Koch leapt at the opportunity to sign Hung and quickly churned out an album, Inspiration, since a phenomenon like this is clearly short-lived, as are all novelty records. Another key to novelty records is that they're at their best when they are short, which is why they're usually singles, not full-length albums, and Inspiration would have been much better as a four-track single or EP since there are really only four tracks of note and that's about all that anybody could take of this anyway. That's not just because Hung is a terrible, terrible, terrible singer -- not only incapable of hitting notes, he can't stay in key within his own range and he mangles every word he sings -- but because this is nothing more than bad karaoke captured on record, from the instrumentals to the vocals. For those ready to laugh, this is still worth a chuckle or two since it has some of the worst singing ever captured on record. If you're one of those people, skip over "She Bangs," which has been polished a little bit and sounds conventional, and head right toward "Hotel California," fast forward to "Rocket Man," and then double back and end with "I Believe I Can Fly," easily the worst moment on the album, which means it's also the best; the wordless vocalizing on the last minute alone defies all expectations. Those three songs are so awful that they will indeed transcend Hung's brief moment in the spotlight to stand as novelty classics.
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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Track Listing - Disc 1