It’s week two of auditions, and American Idol‘s Farewell Season has already discovered talent the viewers can root for.
However, there was only one semi-memorable joke contestant by our count in front of the judges — tone-deaf opera singer Joseph Kohlruss — prompting season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken to take to Twitter to bemoan how boring he believes the judges’ panel has become.
It wasn’t always this way: Bad singers have been a time-honored tradition in Idol-land. With that in mind, Billboard salutes the delusional standouts as we look back at some of the worst auditions to grace our television screens.
Tynisha Roches, season 10
Season 10 was a virtual treasure trove of bad, but one city, Los Angeles, had the mother lode. It begins with Victoria Garrett, who judge Steven Tyler jokes just earned a ticket to Siberia. One guy is so bad, Jennifer Lopez responds, “You have a nice smile.” But who can forget Hoboken’s Tynisha Roches chasing Randy Jackson out of the room with her own lyrics to “And I’m Telling You I’m not Going”? “Why must we do this?” Jackson asks as she brags she has three albums waiting “to be composed.”
Isadora Furman, season 6
Palm reader and psychic Isadora Furman should have read the tea leaves the morning of her New York audition. Once you hear her “Lady Marmalade,” it’s impossible to unhear it. To quote Simon Cowell, “It was fantastically terrible.”
Vanessa Johnstone, season 9
The season 9 auditions in Dallas discovered Tim Urban — and this audition from perpetually happy Vanessa Johnstone, who Cowell described as his “worst nightmare.” She even got a a laugh out of guest judge Joe Jonas.
Trista Giese, season 6
Trista Giese channels the Cowardly Lion from The Wizard of Oz in what Cowell dubbed the “strangest audition” he ever heard. They could have taken her poster, though. That would have been nice of them.
Renaldo Lupoz, season 7
Season 7 was memorable for many reasons; Renaldo Lupoz is one of them. Who can forget his Simon Cowell-inspired hat? Or his inspirational original song “We’re Brothers Forever” — which went on forever. And ever. Until the end of time. And inspired Paula Abdul to join in and dance.
Aven Moore, season 3
Simon Cowell compared Aven Moore’s audition to American Idol joining a musical and a horror movie. His version of “Tomorrow” was more than a day away — it seemed to take a week to get to the end.
Nick Zitzman, season 6
Season 6 gave us Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis and… Nick Zitzman, an engineer from Utah who made the mistake of auditioning with Cowell’s favorite song, “Unchained Melody.” Zitzman later explained he was trying to re-create Bono’s version of the song, but it failed to impress the salty Brit, who asked “what the bloody hell was that?”
James Lewis, season 7
James Lewis compared his singing style to Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder because of his low vocals. The judges couldn’t even look him in the eye as he sang “Go Down Moses.” “This is not your thing, dawg,” Jackson said as he tried to let him down easy. Let my people go!
Ian Bernardo, season 5
Ian Bernardo didn’t make So You Think You Can Dance, so he tried American Idol instead. “When America sees this, they will forget about Taylor who?” he said with New York swagger, before he unleashed his version of Laura Branigan’s “Gloria.” Maybe the voices in his head (or his two therapists) told him he was a superstar, but Cowell was unimpressed. “This was a very hammy, bad audition for you,” he said. “You’re not good at anything.” Bernardo demanded to see Cowell’s work visa, and it just went on from there, until Bernardo later sued the show.
Mary Roach, season 4
What’s wrong with being confident? Mary Roach had tons of self-confidence as she waltzed into her audition with dreams of pop stardom. Roach wanted to make the judges feel the earth move under their feet and rated her own performance as an 8. Cowell told her “you have one of the weirdest voices I ever heard in my life.”
General Larry Platt, season 9
Season 9 was memorable as America saluted General Larry Platt, whose original song “Pants on the Ground” bemoaned men wearing saggy jeans. “I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit,” Cowell said. At 62, Platt was too old to audition, but he will forever be remembered for inspiring the country — including Jimmy Fallon — to sing along, and keep your pants off the ground.
Keith Beukelaer, season 2
Do you remember where you were the very first time you saw Keith Beukelaer sing “Like a Virgin”? His iconic audition earned him the moniker of being the “worst singer in the world.” Oh, he showed up later on X Factor, but we will always remember this.
Steven Thoen, season 6
Is it possible Queen picked the wrong singer from American Idol to lead them on tour? Nah! Red-haired Steven Thoen from Seattle was all seriousness with his “Bohemian Rhapsody,” but Cowell compared it to a “1-year old.” “It was weird,” he said. Thoen — in a strange exchange — may have invented the concept of The Voice when he asked Cowell to be his coach.
William Hung, season 3
No list would be complete without William Hung, the patron saint of bad auditions. “I only gave my best, and I have no regrets at all,” he said, before shocking Cowell by admitting he had “no professional training at all.” He had the last laugh, however, releasing three albums, including the holiday favorite Hung for the Holidays.
What are your favorite bad moments, Idol Worshippers? Hit us up in the comments, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter at @Idol_Worship for American Idol tonight (Jan. 13) on Fox at 8 p.m. for live-tweeting fun.