The 10 Worst American Idol Auditions that Went Viral

Shows such as American Idol always generate thousands of applicants because of the chances and hopes of breaking into a tough industry. Even with formidable competition and stressful elimination rounds, aspiring singers can, at the very least, get more exposure and interest in their careers. Although most take it seriously and do everything they can to impress judges, others seem to just seize the moment to get their 15 minutes of fame while they can. Here are ten of the worst American Idol auditions that prove anything can happen when you give someone a microphone and an audience.

Keith Beukelaer (season 2)

Although Keith admitted to being nervous standing before Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, he also professed that he deserved Idol because he was “interesting and unique.” Surprisingly, after a minute or so of a disastrous rendition of Madonna's Like a Virgin, Simon actually gave him another chance to show off his potential skill. However, Keith didn't fare any better trying out Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance with Somebody. He afterward acknowledged that Cowell's brash honesty was appreciated, but still didn't like being called “the worst in the world.” His candid on-camera response was for the judge to kiss his butt for failing to recognize talent.

William Hung (season 3)

This civil engineering student definitely did “sing from his heart,” and was praised by Paula Abdul for doing so. Unfortunately, William's version of Ricky Martin's She Bangs fell flat, to put it mildly, and was considered “grotesque,” by Simon Cowell. Oddly enough, Hung did become a bit of a star due to the YouTube replays of this awful audition. He made several TV show appearances and even recorded three albums before giving up fame to work as a Los Angeles technical crime analyst for the sheriff's department.

Leroy Wells (season 4)

If ever there was a contestant who oozed self-confidence, it was Leroy Wells. True, it was difficult to understand a lot of what he was chattering about, but his frenetic dance moves had all the judges but Cowell up and grooving. A short bit of James Brown's I Feel Good didn't impress, though, nor did his frequent “Can you dig it?” attempts at fully winning the panel over. Leroy had several run-ins with the law after his disastrous audition, including charges for attempted murder (reduced in a plea deal), and possession of firearms, but still kept an eye on Idol. He auditioned again in season 13, but once again went home without a golden ticket.

Rhonetta Johnson (season 5)

Rhonetta Johnson is remembered just as much, if not more, for her profanity-laden rants against Paula and Simon as she is for her botched audition. The then 24-year-old boasted she would be bigger than Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, and Janet Jackson. However, her non-sense banter and flighty lines from Britney Spears’ Oops...I Did it Again! just resulted in Simon's declaration of “absolutely never.” Post-Idol, Rhonetta released an extended-mix recording and accumulated a few arrests, mostly for drinking and drinking violations.

Ian Benardo (season 6)

Also booted from season 2 of So You Think You Can Dance, Ian Benardo didn't sway the judges into believing in his “superstar” status. His attempt at Laura Branigan's Gloria is cringe-worthy, made all the more amusing by Benardo's huffy rant challenging Simon Cowell's work visa. It seems that Ian's “Won't stop until I'm a household name” attitude may be working, though--just not in the positive way he was going for.

Martik Manoukian (season 6)

Contestants are welcome to sing their own songs on American Idol, which is what Martik did when he performed Sweetest Princess under his stage name, Eccentric. The name was certainly fitting as his Michael Jackson moves and ‘panther spirit’ were certainly a jumbled mix that resulted in an unforgettable audition.

Steve Thoen (season 6)

Despite admitting to not really being a fan of the show, Thoen mistakenly thought his red hair would help garner victory since there weren't enough winners with flame-colored tresses. Unfortunately, his hair may have been more appealing than his actual audition. Even though he compared himself to Freddie Mercury, his Bohemian Rhapsody was not a tribute to the legendary singer.

Nick Zitzmann (season 6)

It's not uncommon for artistic people to have other jobs, hence Nick Zitzmann's career as a software engineer. But it is unusual to try out for a vocal competition based on co-workers’ praise of your instrumental work. Nick chose Simon's favorite song, the Righteous Brothers' Unchained Melody, and his terrible attempt goes on seemingly forever. Not only did it fail to appeal to any of the judges, it also made Nick wonder if he would scare himself upon reviewing the tape.

James Lewis (season 7)

James Lewis looked dapper in his suit and decided on Go Down Moses as his audition song. The next couple of minutes resulted in Randy Jackson burying his face in his arms with laughter, Paula Abdul struggling to hold back giggles, and Simon Cowell left momentarily speechless. It took a few seconds for the judges to compose themselves and apologize for their reactions, but that doesn't change Lewis' status as giving one of the worst American Idol auditions ever taped.

General Larry Platt (season 9)

General Larry Platt would have been ineligible to win American Idol because, at the age of 62, he was over 30 years older than the cut-off. His Pants on the Ground, however, is priceless and a huge viral fan favorite. His chutzpah continued when he performed it for the finale, and with William Hung in tow, no less, as seen in this video clip.

Honorable Mentions:

Trista Giese (season 6)

Performing as The Wizard of Oz's Cowardly Lion, Trista Giese made her name with a very brief audition that certainly supported her claim of being “unique.” Simon didn't even blink during this experience, and why would he? No one wanted to miss a moment of this hilarious trainwreck.

Isadora Furman (season 6)

Season 6 again proved popular for strange try-outs, as evidenced by another one-of-a-kind performer. Isadora Furman, the palm-reading clairvoyant, compared herself to Stevie Nicks and Janis Joplin, but her Lady Marmalade wasn't going beyond the audition room. It didn't surprise the panel when she told them her singing sometimes gets her arrested.

As we approach the new season of American Idol that premieres March 11th, it’s always fun to look back on the biggest Idol fails. Season 16 will undoubtedly bring more viral-worthy auditions as well as shine the light on some true singing talent.