April 4th, 2012

Ranking Even Worse

One week shy of 24 years ago, Weird Al released this album, which featured a parody of another huge (pun intended, as you’ll see) Michael Jackson song. The title of the album and even the album cover are also spoofs – MJ’s album was “Bad,” this one is “Even Worse.” The album went certified platinum (over a million sold), Al’s first.

11. Lasagna – A parody of “La Bamba” that’s all about Italian food and the tendency for those who usually serve it to try to get you to eat more of it. It’s okay, but I skip this one a lot.

10. Alimony – Parody of “Mony Mony,” about a fellow who feels he is getting the raw end of the deal in a divorce settlement.

9. Melanie – Could also be called “The Stalker Song.” He wonders why Melanie won’t go out with him, and as the song progresses, we find out why. “Are you still mad I gave a Mohawk to your cat?” This song definitely goes on the “Dark List,” as the main character commits suicide because she won’t go out with him.  Doesn’t sound funny, I know.  But it somehow still is!

8. I Think I’m a Clone Now – “…there’s always two of me just a-hangin’ around.” A lot of great puns about being cloned, with the best one being “Every pair of genes is a hand-me-down.”

7. You Make Me – Another song about a girl, this one about a girl who makes him want to do weird things, like slam his head against a wall and buy a Slurpee at the mall. Pure silliness.

6. Stuck in a Closet with Vanna White – A song about recurring dreams, where no matter how his dream starts out, he always ends up as the title would suggest.

5. (This Song’s Just) Six Words Long – This song is the first one I noticed in his collection that makes fun of the actual song it’s a parody of. Most of his parodies are the tune with word changes, but this one makes fun of the fact that George Harrison’s original “(Got My Mind) Set On You” pretty much had the hook of those words and not much else to it. Poking fun at a Beatle! But he asked for and received permission, so George must have been amused by it.

4. Velvet Elvis – In the style of  The Police, about a painting bought at a garage sale. I love love love the “He’s so fuzzy / He’s so great” lines near the end.

3. Good Old Days – If you’re making a list of Al’s darkest songs, this one would have to be at the top.  I’ll let Al himself explain it: “I wanted to see if I could write a song as if Charlie Manson and James Taylor were collaborating.” He pretty much succeeded, and this one is twisted, twisted, twisted.  Speaking of twisted…

2. Twister – A rap song about the board game that is just so smile-inducing. It’s in the style of The Beastie Boys, in case you were wondering. I always thought it was a Run DMC-type thing, but Wikipedia has corrected me.

1. Fat – Parody of MJ’s “Bad,” won Al a Grammy. It’s another food song – well, more of a “result of food” song, with every pun about being large that you’ve ever heard. The video for this one was just fantastic, and to this day, Al ends his live concerts wearing the fat suit from it.

I’m very excited about the next album, as it contains my very favorite Weird Al song. Stay tuned!

March 22nd, 2012

Ranking Polka Party

In October of 1986 I was just a couple of months into being a freshman in high school and I didn’t have any idea who Weird Al Yankovic was.  That didn’t stop him from releasing this album on the 21st day of that month.

This is actually a hard album to write about. There are no really big break-out songs, and the album itself was not received well and didn’t sell very well. I remember reading somewhere that Al wondered if this was it, if he was done.  I’m sure that anyone who has chosen to reflect popular culture as his job would always have in the back of his mind “This can’t last forever.”  I don’t know Al personally, but I can guess this was a difficult time for him.  Of course, 26 years later we can see his fears were unfounded, but at the time I’m sure it wasn’t easy.

9. Toothless People – A parody of the Mick Jagger song, “Ruthless People,” the theme song for a movie by the same name. Never heard of it? I’m not surprised. This song is about people who’ve lost their teeth, whether through age or neglect.

8. Living with a Hernia – A parody of the James Brown song “Living in America,” which was on the Rocky IV soundtrack. I credit this song for fully 90% of my medical knowledge about hernias, including the names of several different types.

7. Dog Eat Dog – A style parody (sometimes called a “pastiche”)  of the Talking Heads. This one’s set in an office and talks about office politics.

6. Here’s Johnny – The third parody based off a song from a movie soundtrack on this album!  This one’s based on the El DeBarge song “Who’s Johnny?” but, as usual, this song supersedes that one. This one pokes a little fun at Johnny Carson’s sidekick Ed McMahon, while at the same time celebrating him.

5. Addicted to Spuds – Also better than the Robert Palmer song it spoofs, mostly because I, too, love potatoes.

4. One of Those Days – A series of unfortunate events befall Al throughout the day, with each next one getting worse and worse. Particularly bad? “I left my Beatles records out in the sun.” …though I guess the bomb being dropped and Nazis tying you up and covering you with ants would also be pretty bad.

3. Good Enough for Now – The following year after I did “One More Minute” for a talent show, I did this one.  I couldn’t find someone to accompany me, so I borrowed a guitar and learned one chord that I randomly strummed at various times throughout the song. This one was not as well received – I think people thought I was talking about a particular person and took it as misogynistic or something.  The chorus goes “You’re sort of everything I ever wanted / You’re not perfect, but I love you anyhow / You’re the woman that I’ve always dreamed of / Well not really, but you’re good enough for now.”

I think I was just ahead of my time, though, because a few years later (when I was overseeing the talent show), a couple of guys did this song again and it went over very well.

2. Polka Party! – If you’re a fan of 80s music, this is the polka for you: Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, Madonna, Lionel Richie, Falco, and Tears for Fears. It’s a perfect summation of the decade!

1. Christmas at Ground Zero – You forget just how incredibly dark this song is because it’s sung in such a light and cheerful way. “Everywhere the atom bombs are droppin’ / It’s the end of all humanity / No more time for last-minute shoppin’ / It’s time to face your final destiny.”  It’s pretty grim, and plays on the fears of a generation raised during the Cold War when the threat of nuclear war served as a backdrop to pretty much everything else.  For all its grimness and darkness, though, I absolutely love this one, and I know I’m not alone.

We’re about 30% of the way through, folks! Nine more albums to do – but 10 or 11 if we count side projects and other things!  I don’t know if we’ll handle those, but I can’t imagine not at least mentioning his version of “Peter and the Wolf.”


March 15th, 2012

Ranking Dare To Be Stupid

This album was released on June 18, 1985 and was the first album of musical comedy released on compact disc.

11. Slime Creatures from Outer Space – A love letter to scifi films of the 50s and 60s. Includes these great lyrics: “They’ll rip your head off just for fun, they’ll paralyze your mind / They’re wearing out their welcome I don’t think I like their kind.”

10. Girls Just Want to Have Lunch – Another food-related song! Producers made Al include a parody of a Cyndi Lauper, against his wishes. Apparently this song is one of his least favorite, but I’ve always enjoyed it.

9. George of the Jungle – One of the oddest songs in Al’s oeuvre, it’s a cover of a theme song for a cartoon. It did end up in the 1997 movie, though.

8. Cable TV – Al’s TV songs always do a great job of walking the line between showing how ridiculous TV is and how much he loves it. When you put this song in the context of cable being a relatively new thing that was really starting to take off, it becomes a fascinating snapshot of the era, I think.

7. This Is the Life – The theme song to Johnny Dangerously. “I eat filet mignon seven times a day, my bathtub’s filled with Perrier – what can I say? This is the life!”

6. Dare to Be Stupid – In some ways this is the quintessential Weird Al song. You can tell he’s having fun with this parody of DEVO.

5. Like a Surgeon – Al famously does not accept parody ideas from anyone…except for here.  The idea for this spoof of a Madonna song came from Madonna herself, who asked a friend how long it would be before Al did it.  Word got back to Al and he felt he needed to write it.

4. I Want a New Duck – I love this song simply because there are more duck puns per minute in this song than you’ll get anywhere else. My favorite is that Al wants a new duck so the duck can show him how “to get down.”

3. Hooked on Polkas – Again, I pretty much love every polka medley.

2. Yoda – The Empire Strikes Back came out in 1980. This song got held up because (surprise) it was difficult for Al to get permission from George Lucas (and also the original song’s writer, but we know who the real bad guy is). Throughout the years Al does several “movies in song form” songs, and I love pretty much every one. This one holds a special place in most everyone’s heart, though, because it’s Yoda and Yoda is awesome.

1. One More Minute – This song is in my All Time Top Ten of Al songs.  A doo-wop song about breaking up with a girl that starts out tenderly and ends up, well, weirdly.  I sang a slightly-modified version of this song for a talent show in college, and it was the best-received comedic thing I ever did on stage there.  (Thanks, Al!) I had to modify it because the guy in charge thought the line “I’d rather clean every toilet in Grand Central Station with my tongue than spend one more minute with you” was “too gross.”  I’m inclined to agree with him.

This series is turning out to be one of the most fun things I’ve ever undertaken. I can’t really tell if anyone else in enjoying it, but I’m enjoying it enough personally that it honestly doesn’t matter – and for a guy that really, really wants an audience, that’s saying something!