Best Male Performer: Inspirer of chin-stroking cultural debate

William Hung

No-talent reality TV laughingstock? Toxic racial stereotype sprung to life? Sign of the apocalypse? Or heartwarming inspiration to millions of lousy shower singers nationwide? Sneer at this infamous “She Bangs”-destroying American Idol reject all you like, but you drop us an e-mail when an East Bay artist of any stripe generates a tenth as much controversy and fascination. Since utterly humiliating himself on national television, the UC Berkeley civil engineering student has triumphantly bounced from The Today Show to The Tonight Show and released a that’s-the-point-awful karaoke-caliber CD, Inspiration, that cracked the Billboard Top 40 and has not yet plummeted back to the cutout bins of Earth. But far more important, Hung inspired thousands of rock critics, blog denizens, and amateur sociologists nationwide to weigh in on everything from his anything-to-be-famous enthusiasm to his perpetuation of the “wacky Asian-American” stereotype in the classic Long Duk Dong tradition. The last Radiohead album didn’t inspire half as much earnest cultural debate. As an actual vocal artist, Hung remains absolutely mortifying, but as high-concept, debate-inducing performance art, he is a genius of the highest order. But don’t trust us: Check out his Web site.

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