October 23rd, 2012

Ranking Poodle Hat

Weird Al turned 53 years old today, and what better way to say Happy Birthday than picking up the threads of a long-abandoned series?  Nothing!  There is no better way!

Poodle Hat was released in May 2003. It ended up being the first album Al released without an accompanying video, but we’ll get to that in a little bit.

Here’s my ranking of the songs:

12. “Party at the Leper Colony” – This is probably my least favorite Al song of all time, for two reasons: it’s gross and it’s recycled leprosy jokes from when I was a kid.  I didn’t feel it was up to Al’s usual standards.

11. “Trash Day” – Another song I dislike, mostly because it’s gross. It’s about the singer letting trash pile up in his house and it is described in great disgusting detail.  Blech.

10. “Wanna B Ur Lovr” – Another song I’m not a huge fan of, made up of a bunch of cheesy pickup lines.  Just not my type of humor.  I will say, though, that I enjoyed this song a lot more when I saw him perform it live.

9. “Genius in France” – I guess this one’s a style parody of Frank Zappa, but I wouldn’t have known that without being told. It’s a long-form song about a fellow who is not popular anywhere in the world except for France. I have to think it’s inspired a bit by the old story of how Jerry Lewis is loved over there, but I don’t have any inside knowledge on that.

8. “A Complicated Song” – A parody of Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” talking about some awkward situations the singer has gotten himself into.

7. “Bob” – Style parody of Bob Dylan, but the mind-blowing thing is that the song is made completely of anagrams. Just crazy.

6. “Why Does This Always Happen to Me?” – Terrible, terrible things happen in the world, but right as they are happening, the singer gets irritated by some other smaller thing that has happened directly to him. One of Al’s darker songs, for sure.  He sees a friend has gotten killed in a car wreck, and that’s a bummer, but what really gets him is that the friend owed him money!  Jerk!  Hilariously dark.

5. “Hardware Store” – I worked at a hardware store when I was a teenager, so maybe this one appeals to me more than it would you.  But that middle part where he lists a bunch of stuff the store has without taking a breath?  I think that appeals to everyone.  “Wouldja look at all this stuff,” indeed.

4.  “Angry White Boy Polka” – I just really enjoy his polkas!  This one’s got Eminem, the White Stripes, Kid Rock — the polka is aptly named, I’m saying.

3. “eBay” – I’m not a Backstreet Boys fan necessarily, but there’s no denying the catchiness, so having an Al version of one of their songs is totally boss. Plus, it mentions ALF, so that’s bonus points.

2. “Ode to a Superhero” – A story-of-the-movie-in-song-form about Spider-Man, set to the tune of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.” Listen, that’s just genius on a level no one else is operating on.  “Sling us a web, you’re the Spider-Man!”

1. “Couch Potato” – A TV song to the tune of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.” Eminem’s one of those guys who’s got catchy beats and amazing wordplay, but it loses a little something when it’s so cussful. This is one of my all-time favorite Al songs, and I think a lot of it is because of the flow and sound of the song.  This song was set to be the lead single and have an accompanying video, but Eminem put the kibosh on it when the video was already in pre-production. Al was “devastated,” but (in true Al fashion) expressed thankfulness that they were still allowed to have the song on the album. Artists should just learn that having Al parody one of your songs is another path to longevity.  Let him do his thing, people!

One of my all-time favorites on an album with some of my all-time least favorites.  Can’t have light with some darkness, I guess.

July 3rd, 2012

Ranking Running With Scissors

Some of these albums I have not had to re-listen to in order to rank them This album I actually had to listen to a couple of times to reacquire a feel for it.  It’s “so 90s” in a way, but not more pidgeonholed to a time than any of his other albums.  I’m not sure how to explain my feelings on it other than to say this album felt like a turning point for Al, but maybe the turning point was mine.  This seems to be about the time that Weird Al started transitioning from “offbeat comedy songs guy” into “representative of geek/nerd culture icon.”  I don’t know, maybe that’s just my perception.  I was 27 when it came out, a number that Al has used in several songs. Maybe it’s that intersection that makes me confused about this album.

11. Jerry Springer – A song about the Jerry Springer show. I feel like we already had this song, in “Talk Soup” on Alapalooza, and it wasn’t my favorite then.

10. Pretty Fly for a Rabbi – Parody of “Pretty Fly (For a White Guy), and pretty much a lot of Jewish jokes. It’s catchy, but… it’s pretty much a lot of Jewish jokes.

9. My Baby’s in Love with Eddie Vedder – An original, about how his girlfriend loves 90s darling Eddie Vedder, to the point where she’s “knitting him a sweater,” even.

8. Truck Drivin’ Song – Our church had a couple of long-haul truck drivers when I was growing up. I even went on a trip once, down to Georgia and back. That was enough for me to know I’d never be a truck driver. They’re a unique breed, and I heard plenty of truck drivin’ songs (like “Convoy” and “Gimme 40 Acres”), but none of them were ever about a cross-dressing truck driver. Weird Al saw a gap in the trucker musical library and he filled it. No other truck drivin’ song has the phrase “darling little rhinestone pumps” in it, I’ll wager.  He really nails the feel and sound of those old songs, while giving them an update no one knew they needed.

7 Albuquerque – A long-form exercise in randomness and absurdity. I enjoy this one, but can’t listen to it very often.  It’s a little too random and goofy for my tastes most days.  I am a little jealous that Brian got to hear him sing “Albuquerque” while in Albuquerque, though.

6 Polka Power! – Here’s this album’s polka, featuring songs by the Spice Girls, the Beastie Boys, and Chumbawamba. Again, I feel Al improves on the originals in most cases.

5 Grapefruit Diet – A swing (ska?) song about food, based on “Zoot Suit Riot.” Lots of fun.

4 Your Horoscope for Today – Al runs through each of the Zodiacal signs and gives you the horoscopes for each of them. The highlight of this song is the bridge, which I’m still trying to learn all the words to.

3 The Weird Al Show Theme – Exactly what it says. I loved the show, and I loved the theme song opening. Here it is so you can enjoy the many different kinds of animations to go along with it.

2 The Saga Begins – The story of Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, told in song form from Obi-Wan’s point of view. This song, based on Don MacLean’s “American Pie,” is so much better than the movie it’s based on, but wouldn’t exist without the movie, so… yeah. That’ll make your brain hurt.  If you haven’t seen the movie but want to know what happens in it, just listen to this song.

1 It’s All About the Pentiums – Not only is this my favorite song on the album, it’s one of my favorite songs of Al’s in general. Lots of computer terms, used correctly, and in humorous ways.  I absolutely love this song.  It contains such wonderful insults as “you’re waxing your modem trying to make it go faster” and “in a 32-bit world you’re a 2-bit user.” Yes, the references are a bit long-in-the-tooth now, but they’re still fantastic.

Not too many albums left, though I’ve considered going on after the albums with my Top 10 of all his songs, the Top Ten Food Songs, the Top Ten TV songs… I’m not sure how much Weird Al this blog can take!

May 22nd, 2012

Ranking Bad Hair Day

This album was released on March 12, 1996. If I’m remembering correctly, this was the year I was working full-time at Walmart, in the electronics department. If so, this would be the first Weird Al album I bought on the day of its release.  I don’t think I’ve missed a day of release since.

Normally I’d put this next to the song it’s about, but this is kind of a big deal and I want to highlight it.  The song “Amish Paradise” on this album is a spoof of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” a song featured on the soundtrack of Dangerous Minds. Al, as is his wont, sought permission from the artist before doing it, and was told by his record label that permission had been granted – Al even spoofed Coolio’s hair on the cover of this album.  At the Grammys, Coolio said he had never given permission and was mad that Al had used his song. Al wrote a letter of apology to Coolio but never heard back from him.  It was a bigger flap than it sounds like here, but it ends up okay.  At the 2006 Consumer Electronics Show, Coolio came over to Al and they made up. The funniest part to me is… when’s the last time you thought or heard about Coolio?  I wonder just how many acts Al has parodied that he has outlasted, career-wise. I’m guessing a lot.

12. Cavity Search – A song about dentists, parodying a U2 song. This song has two strikes against it for me: I’m not a huge fan of dentists and I’m not a huge fan of the original song.

11. I’m So Sick of You – Another relationship song, but this one seems more mean-spirited than usual.

10. I Remember Larry – He reminisces about an old friend that used to play practical jokes on everyone all the time. Like, all the time. Enough so that in the end he and his friends take Larry out to the woods and leave him in a shallow grave. This song would fit in the “dark humor” category, by the way. And while I certainly don’t condone kidnapping and murder, I also think that people who play practical jokes deserve some sort of special punishment, so… yeah.

9. Everything You Know Is Wrong – This song is a puzzle. On the one hand, it’s sort of a typical “nonsense” song, stringing together Golden Grahams, wolverines, Jamie Farr, aliens, and papercuts.  On the other hand, the chorus has a philosophy to it that’s easy to miss in the ridiculousness of the verses:

And everything you thought was just so
Important doesn’t matter
Everything you know is wrong
Just forget the words and sing along

There are two things there – the idea that the stuff we think is important isn’t, and the follow-up that we should take things as they come (“forget the words and sing along”). Maybe I’m reading into it too much, but that’s a little deeper than I’m expecting out of a Weird Al song.

8. Phony Calls – A song about prank phone calls, with a special guest appearances by one of Bart Simpson’s many prank calls to Moe. The song is a parody of TLC’s “Waterfalls.”

7. Syndicated Inc. – A spoof of “Misery” by Soul Asylum, one of many songs I’ve come to enjoy after hearing Al’s version first. This is another TV song.

6. The Alternative Polka – Songs by Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, The Smashing Pumpkins, Foo Fighters, Green Day, and a few others.

5. Callin’ in Sick – I haven’t been tallying them, but Weird Al has many songs that have the number 27 in them. In this song about calling in sick to work in order to have a day off, Al says he “hits the snooze alarm for the 27th time.” I’ll let you figure out why I like this song.

4. The Night Santa Went Crazy- Another dark Christmas song. Santa snaps and goes on a killing spree at the North Pole. My favorite line is probably “He took a flamethrower and barbecued Vixen / And took a big bite and said, ‘It tastes just like chicken’.”

3. Gump – Movie in song form! Love these. This one takes “Lump” by The Presidents of the United States of America and turns it into a much better song, telling the story of “Forrest Gump.”

2. Amish Paradise – I love this song, one of Al’s most famous ones, except for one line. You’ll probably roll your eyes at me, but if you know me, I also think you’ll understand. The song is about Amish life (“raise a barn on Monday, soon I’ll raise [another]”), and at one point, the main character goes into town and a local boy kicks him in the butt. The main character says “I just smiled at him and I turned the other cheek” (ha ha) “I really don’t mind, in fact, I wish him well / I’ll be laughing my head off when he’s burning in hell.” Here’s my problem: no one who truly believes in a literal hell would ever laugh at the idea of someone having to spend eternity there. If you find a Christian/Amish/Whatever that would laugh at that, you’ve met a Christian/Amish/Whatever that has a completely wrong outlook on a lot of things.

Sorry. A little more serious than this write-ups tend to be, but that’s always bugged me about that song, enough that I don’t sing that line when I sing along to the song.

1. Since You’ve Been Gone – Another relationship song in a doo-wop style that is just fantastic. He talks about just how awful he’s feeling since his girl left him – horrible, horrible stuff. And at the end, he says he feels “almost as bad as I did when you were still here.” Ya burnt!

Only four albums left!