Hello one and all! This week is an eventful one for me, and especially my inner geek as I prepare for Halloween at work and at home, the arrival of Doc Brown and Marty McFly on Wednesday with considerably fewer hoverboards, and the upcoming birthday of one of my favorite musicians: Weird Al Yankovic!
Weird Al was the first musical artist who I truly immersed myself in the work of. This may seem to suggest that my maturity is low and musical taste is poor, yet Weird Al has spent almost 40 years making comedic parodies of specific songs, certain acts’ styles, and original compositions in just about every genre imaginable, so a fan of Weird Al is a fan of music across the board, as well as someone who loves to chuckle at silly sound effects. In honor of the goofy genius’ 56th birthday this Friday, I have compiled a list of his 14 studio released albums and included my personal favorite song off of each. I invite you to listen, watch when applicable, and laugh uproariously throughout. So grab your accordion and sing along!
“Weird Al” Yankovic (1983) – Weird Al’s first album contains songs such as “I Love Rocky Road” and “My Bologna” (his first released song), but my favorite is “Another One Rides the Bus” which was Weird Al’s first well-known parody. It serves as a narrative of a bus ride from hell to the tune of Queen’s classic “Another One Bites the Dust”. I don’t know what city Weird Al is rolling through in this song, but I do know I want to avoid the public transportation there.
“Weird Al” Yankovic in 3-D (1984) – Yankovic’s second effort added the pop of 3-D to its title and an overall greater completeness to the album. It features some of my favorite Weird Al originals like “Midnight Star” (about a tabloid of oddities Al finds at the grocery store) and “Nature Trail to Hell” (which played backwards reveals Satan’s love for cheese whiz), as well as the great parody “Jeopardy”, but the shining star on 3-D is “Eat It”. A perfect parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”, even the music video is hilariously on spot and contains many of the same actors and extras as the original video – a trend that would continue in Weird Al’s future videos along.
Dare to Be Stupid (1985) – The eponymous song is one of Weird Al’s more silly yet beloved hits. Done in the style of Devo, the song has fun by encouraging idioms to be taken idiotically. Dare to Be Stupid also has parodies of prominent acts like Madonna with “Like a Surgeon” and Huey Lewis and the News with “I Want a New Duck”. However, it is undeniably “Yoda”, the Star Wars themed parody of The Kinks classic “Lola”, with which the Force is most strong on the album.
Polka Party (1986) – This album was released on October 21st, but as no DeLoreans did anything notable on that day in that year I won’t focus too much on that. What I will focus on is some of the terrific songs like “Dog Eat Dog” (a Talking Heads style piece that is right on with its source material) and “Good Enough for Now” (a spoof of country love songs that offers little reason for the woman at the center of the song to stick around), and especially “Christmas At Ground Zero”, one of Weird Al’s great contributions to original Christmas music that, unlike other Christmas songs, can be enjoyed all year round.
Even Worse (1988) – If you liked “Eat It” as much as Michael Jackson did, then you’ll love “Fat”, Yankovic’s parody of MJ’s “Bad” and maybe his best video ever. For as excellent as the song is, it’s kind of the only memorable thing that Even Worse has going as an album, and while the other songs are still sure to crack a smile, the album seems to have been aptly named when compared to Al’s other work.
UHF (1989) – The soundtrack of Weird Al’s film of the same name that was also released in 1989, it is perhaps his weakest album as the focus was shifted toward humor onscreen. Nevertheless, “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” is a grand enough creation to fit on any of Weird Al’s albums.
Off the Deep End (1992) – After poor reviews for the film UHF, Weird Al sort of lost his mojo and had a hard time getting back into his groove. Fortunately, his natural talent to parody is not limited to any genre, and he was able to get into the grunge movement by making one of his best songs and videos in “Smells Like Nirvana”, the brilliant parody of Nirvana’s signature song “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Nirvana was still fairly new to the music business at the time and shared in Weird Al’s joy at coming back into the comedic music spotlight as they felt being made fun of by him was a tremendous honor and took it as a sign that they had “made it”. The album also contains the incredible “You Don’t Love Me Anymore”, the ultimate unrequited love anthem.
Alapalooza (1993) – Speaking of anthems, have we got a good one for you here. In addition to the fun “Jurassic Park” song and claymation video, and the unique take on “Bohemian Rhapsody” that is “Bohemian Polka”, Weird Al’s self=proclaimed palooza is at its best with the “Bedrock Anthem”, a combination of two Red Hot Chili Peppers songs and videos that tells of the livelihoods of the Flintsones and Rubbles in their wild world of dinosaurs and Water Buffalo bowling.
Bad Hair Day (1996) – This was one of the first CDs I ever owned, and I still listen to it fairly frequently. The variety of tracks includes the underrated “Everything You Know Is Wrong” (hooray for the shout out to my boy Jamie Farr in space aliens bearing his likeness), “Callin’ In Sick”, “Since You’ve Been Gone”, “Gump” (which has a great music video), “I Remember Larry” (by the sounds of things, Larry deserved it), and the other great Christmas hit, “The Night Santa Went Crazy”. Standing above all of these is the pièce de résistance of Bad Hair Day, “Amish Paradise”, a parody of Coolio’s “Gangsta Paradise” that he claimed he never gave Weird Al the okay to riff. However, Coolio has since apologized for hating on Weird Al and said he was stupid to do so and admits “Amish Paradise” is “funny as shit”.
Running with Scissors (1999) – Just before the turn of the millennium, Weird Al released one of his best regarded albums with hits like “The Saga Begins” (you know, the Star Wars song you always switch into when you sing along with “American Pie”), “Pretty Fly for a Rabbi”, “Jerry Springer”, “Truck Drivin’ Song”, and the epic “Albuquerque”. Yet for me, the best of them all is “Your Horoscope for Today”, the song that highlights how ridiculous astrology is and how fun it can be at its most ridiculous.
Poodle Hat (2003) – After another hiatus of sorts, Weird Al returned with more silly songs that were reflective of the growing rap movement like “Couch Potato” and “Trash Day”. Other hits were “It’s Complicated” and “Ode to a Superhero”. For me though, the real treasures are the songs with a little something extra to them, such as “Bob”, a Dylan-esque collage of rhyming palindromes, and “Party at the Leper Colony” which has a body part related pun in every line. However, none compare to the fast paced, out of breath delivery of the excellence that is “Hardware Store”.
Straight Outta Lynwood (2006) – Weird Al was straight outta-ing before it was cool (again). Fittingly, his best song on the album is a rap parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin'”: “White & Nerdy”. Also noteworthy is “Trapped in the Drive-Thru”.
Alpocalypse (2011) – Not as much of great regard from this album, yet there is one that stand out for good reason. “Perform This Way” is obviously and fantastically a send-up of all of Lady Gaga’s ridiculous outfits, but it truly excels as an anthem of free expression – much like its source material, Gaga’s “Born this Way” – with a humorous twist. Despite this, the song almost didn’t make it onto the album as Yankovic was initially denied permission to parody “Born This Way” by Gaga’s manager. Feeling that his version was the definitive song of the album, Weird Al was dejected but not deterred. He went ahead with the music video he was filming and released it online with the intent to donate all proceeds to human rights charity. Shortly after, Lady Gaga spoke up and revealed that her manager had never actually asked her about Weird Al’s request to include his parody on his album. She not only granted him permission, but went on to declare herself a “huge Weird Al fan” and said to be spoofed by him was a “rite of passage” for her career as a musician.
Mandatory Fun (2014) – Weird Al used the Internet to his advantage once again with his most recent album, this time better than many artists have before. Prior to the release of Mandatory Fun, Yankovic put a music video of eight of his songs online during the release week for the album. The interest level for Weird Al music was never higher, and he was trending ever skyward. Mandatory Fun would become Al’s first US #1 album, and with the single “Word Crimes” he joined the likes of Michael Jackson and Madonna in having a Top 40 song in every decade since the 1980s. So many songs stand out on this album, including “Handy”, “Lame Claim to Fame”, “Foil”, “First World Problems” and one of my personal favorites, “Sports Song”. The king of the album though, is definitely “Tacky”, the parody of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” and features an impressive one-take music video.
Whatever his next project may be, we can only hope that Weird Al continues to crack jokes at other musicians’ expense and that another album is not too far off!
Thanks for reading! Be sure to return next week for some Halloween preparation! As always, feel free to drop a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dare to Be Stupid,