'Idol' reject William Hung's CD 'Inspiration' debuts at #34 in U.S. sales charts
By Wade Paulsen, 04/14/2004
Some jokes just keep going and going and going...
WIlliam Hung, the American Idol 3 contestant whose awful rendition of 'She Bangs' during the show's auditions has sparked a national craze, released his first CD, entitled Inspiration, on Koch Records this week ... and it debuted on the Nielsen SoundScan U.S. Album Sales chart (also known as the Billboard 200) at #34, with sales of over 37,600 copies. According to MTV, its surprising debut was driven by strong sales at a few major chains, such as Trans World (Coconuts, FYE), where it placed 5th chain-wide, and Tower Records.
William's first-week sales thus exceed the sales of Bachelor 4 star -- and professional singer -- Bob Guiney's first "solo" CD 3 Sides, which sold about 30,000 copies in its first two weeks combined and peaked at #114 on the U.S. Sales charts despite the support of the well-regarded Wind-up Records label. In fact, William's sales are over half of the opening week sales of American Idol 1 runner-up Justin Guarini's self-titled debut album (which sold 54,000 copies to open at #20) ... and at a much lower production cost.
Why is William Hung's bad music so popular? Some people think all current pop music is bad, so William fits in; as a Trans World VP cynically said, "Compared to some of the other crap on the radio, it's no better or no worse." Having listened to William's singing, we disagree. Others think it's just a joke; as a Tower Records manager said, "I can't really see people playing it more than once."
A more interesting theory is that novelty records come along every few years for their comedy value, and it was time for another one. Geoff Mayfield, chart director of Billboard Magazine, cited the success of Mrs. Miller, who had a #15 hit in 1966 with her album Mrs. Miller's Greatest Hits, which even charted a single (albeit at #82) -- her off-key warbling of 'Downtown,' a former #1 hit for Petula Clark. Ultimately, her album sold over 250,000 copies. Looks like WIlliam Hung has a target to shoot for...
Other examples of atrocious novelty acts include William Shatner (whose version of 'Rocket Man' is linked here) and Tiny Tim (who ultimately got married on live TV in a bid to extend his 15 minutes of fame), plus such intentionally bad artists as Ross Bagdasarian (the "voice" of Alvin & the Chipmunks). We look for William to be featured in future versions of Jim Nayder's The Annoying Music Show ... perhaps right next to the gospel stylings of current U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, from his album Truth (by Ashcroft & Bacon), which clearly shows why Ashcroft went into politics.