Saturday, May 20, 2006

I Believe I Can Fly (2004) – William Hung

99.9% of the world thinks William Hung is a horrible singer. Well, yes—but that kind of misses the point. The other 0.1% knows that he is a horrible singer, but tries to find some redeeming qualities. One such quality often cited is that he is sincere and tries his best—such folderol is in fact regurgitated by the Hungster himself on spoken interludes interspersed throughout his debut album Inspiration. Utter misguided nonsense. The true redemptive trait is that he is a modern day jester. And—let’s face it—as far as singing ability goes, Pavement’s Steven Malkmus is a Chinese accent away from being William Hung. For that matter, William Hung is an indie rock band away from being an indie rock icon. Is his voice really any less grating than Clap Your Hands Say Yeah’s Alec Ounsworth’s? Wouldn’t he complement the quirkiness of Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki? Is his tortured wailing any less earnest than Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart?

Throughout “I Believe I Can Fly,” Hung’s voice usually wavers within a semitone of the correct note; he attempts to impart undulations unto sustained notes, which end up sounding like his testicles are slowly being stretched in a mini torture rack. Subtle delay and double-tracking bestow an air of mock seriousness that belies this endeavor’s jocular motives. Okay, so it’s obvious the producers are making him the butt of a cruel joke, as is evidenced by the fact that a false start 2:52 into the song was not edited out. This is Mrs. Miller for the 00’s, even down to the probability that Hung was unaware of the irony in singing, “and life was nothing but an awful song.”

Actually, Willy handles the song’s key change with aplomb and there’s something absurdly artful about his attempts to randomly stumble upon the correct note. In fact, he sings the chorus in tune, so one has to believe he was instructed to sound clueless during the verses. The fact that he complied is evidence that he is willing to be a stooge for the sake of entertaining people. Unfortunately for Hung, I’ve personally observed patrons in Tower Records become so annoyed that they’ve demanded that the clerk turn off this song. Bravo, clerk. A song with this potent an impact is a song worth having in one’s arsenal to notify guests who have overstayed their welcome that it’s time to leave.

With reckless abandon, Hung reaches for the high notes without regard for the likelihood of actually hitting them. The true reward is revealed at 3:55 into the song where he unleashes his falsetto in shades of Peter Brady singing “Time To Change”: one pictures him with eyes closed, fists clenched with arms rigidly at his side, body in stiff paroxysms as he takes his voice on a rollercoaster ride—“I can flyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy uhhhhhyyyyyyyyyy.” Rather than soar on wings of eagles, however, Hung hangs stagnant in the air like a stale fart, a sitting duck for critics and detractors waiting to take potshots. She bang, indeed.

  • Listen to "I Believe I Can Fly" and purchase from iTunes Music Store.
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