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A few names are synonymous with American Idol‘s cultural impact: Clarkson, Cowell, Underwood, and, of course, Hung.
Thursday night, American Idol welcomed back some of its top talent to send the 15-year-old show out to pasture in the series finale, including viral sensation William Hung.
It’s been 12 years since Hung’s 2004 audition sent ripples throughout the media landscape. His version of “She Bangs” is perhaps more memorable than Ricky Martin’s, and for a moment Hung was everywhere: parodying himself, appearing in commercials, and getting movie cameos. Hung’s debut album even sold 200,000 copies.
His finale performance—a few lines sung in a ruffled shirt as they cut to break—is still not great, but there’s marked improvement from 2004.
He’s no Kelly Clarkson, but his contribution to the Idol machine at the other end of the spectrum was just as valuable. He’s the poster child for all wannabe contestants. Someone had to be their champion, the one who had the last laugh all the way to the bank.
Hung’s happy ending isn’t musical. In 2011, he said goodbye to music and began working for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department as technical crime analyst. America’s just lucky he could find the time to bang one last time and say goodbye.
A former YouTube reporter for the Daily Dot, Rae Votta has more than a decade of experience in the digital and entertainment industries. Her work has appeared on AOL, Huffington Post, Out Magazine, Logo, VH1, Current TV, Billboard, and NYMag. She joined Netflix in 2016.