Even crooning clowns can use character

By Raymond Zhou ( China Daily ) Updated: 2015-01-24 06:45:54

The touting of a dissembling, no-talent and self-hating singer wannabe is a disgrace to the spirit of grassroots creativity.

Can someone who sings off-key become a pop singer? William Hung proved the trick could be pulled off if you gain a large enough following. It does not matter, it seems, if a crowd is there to cheer you for your chutzpah or jeer at you for singing badly.

Hung, a Chinese American originally from Hong Kong, found his notoriety after he appeared in a 2004 audition performance of the hit series American Idol, butchering Ricky Martin's song She Bangs. He later secured a record contract and made appearances in Hong Kong movies. Because of his obvious lack of musical talent, his "success" was perceived by some as perpetuating racial stereotypes against Asians.

This is an old story: Hung ended his entertainment pursuits in 2011 when he switched to a technical job. (He was trained as a civil engineer at the University of California at Berkeley.)

Now just imagine how you would perceive him if he, at the peak of his "fame", had declared that he was not Asian after all, but Caucasian.

Pang Mailang is essentially William Hung with a dollop of self-denial and self-hatred. He grew up on a Shaanxi farm, but claims to be from Taiwan even though he has a strong Shaanxi accent and cannot find Taipei on the map. He has a few hit songs under his belt, popular because he is so off-pitch throughout that it elicits giggles or squirming from listeners. For me, he sounds like the scratching of fingernails on a chalkboard.

Even crooning clowns can use character

The Internet is fertile ground for 15-minute celebrities. They come and go, but Pang is deemed to embody the spirit of the underachiever and, as such, has ban exempt from criticism. Anyone who says he is a terrible singer may be accused of elitism and discrimination against the underdog.

The tendency to categorize artists by their social status can be traced to the 1930s, when the proletariat movement was in full swing. But sympathy for the underprivileged should not be translated into the embrace of everything produced by the lower social classes or the automatic rejection of all art and literature from the privileged. It would be the natural extension of prejudice against the poor because it applies the same logic.

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