Last week we crowned former American Idol contestant William Hung the greatest musician of all time, in any genre, beating out luminaries including Beethoven, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Guido D'Arezzo, the guy who invented sheet music. “It's great, thank you,” Hung said, upon being told of his victory. “It is an honor and proves that an Average Joe can make it in the music world, no matter what the odds are.”
The odds were certainly great — many of our readers felt that folks like Bob Dylan and Mozart deserved to be ranked higher — but everything about Hung's success has been dazzling. And now he's entered a new chapter in his life, as a statistical analyst for the Los Angeles County's Sheriff Department. We caught up with him to talk about his life these days. (This is not a joke. We really interviewed William Hung.)
“My passion has always been math,” he tells us, adding that his new line of work brings him great joy. “It just took a while to end up as my career.” His day-to-day responsibilities include calculating the probability of crimes and attacks occurring in particular neighborhoods.
Ironically, some accused him of committing crimes against humanity during his American Idol audition in 2003. Then 20 years old, he sang what folks initially believed to be a tone-deaf rendition of Ricky Martin's “She Bangs.” But his performance became the most talked about of the season, and before long Hung was more beloved in certain segments of society than Martin himself.
At the time enrolled at UC-Berkeley, he was soon hobnobbing with A-listers like Paris Hilton, Usher and Sylvester Stallone. (Remember, 2003 was almost a decade ago, so they had different A-listers then.) Though deep down he understood his fame wasn't going to last forever, he says he enjoyed every moment. “I showed that even the Average Joe could succeed,” he reminisced. “Though I may not have won Idol, I somehow made it and that's something I'm very grateful for.”
The next five years were a whirlwind. He sang the national anthem at sporting events, appeared in several films, and appeared on shows like George Lopez and Arrested Development. (Who could forget William Hung And His Hung Jury?)
But after signing to Koch and releasing three albums of pop covers and standards, Hung decided it was time to give up and head back to school to finish his degree in Civil Engineering, this time at CSUN. He says he promptly became a BMOC. “It was really cool to be recognized,” he says. “I was able to make more friends than my first two years in school.”
With the pressures of the Sheriff's Department taking up his time, Hung says he doesn't have plans to record new music anytime soon. Part of the problem is that he's known for underestimating himself. “Had I known then that I wouldn't make it to Hollywood, then I would have never tried out and my life would have been very different,” he says.
This logic is crazy. What if the greatest football player of all time were to retire in the prime of his career, or the greatest television star? Come back, Hung, come back! A talent like yours comes along only once in history.