Monday, August 04, 2014

Dueling "Weird Al" Lists

 As you know by now, "Weird Al" Yankovic released his 14th studio album, Mandatory Fun, a few weeks ago and for the first time in Al's 30 year career, he has the #1 album in the country. I thought it would be a good time to finally make a "Weird Al" list here on WWoB and I asked my good friend Brian From CA to come up with a list of his own. Brian is the only other true Al aficionado that I have ever met. Funny side story, both Brian and I had the same first concert experience when our dads took us to see Weird Al and The Monkeys at Meriwether Post Pavilion in 1987...10 years before Brian and I ever met! Good times!

So here's a list from me and then from Brian of our Top 10 Favorite Weird Al Songs! Brian is a professional writer in the video game industry and his list is written better than mine, so I'll dump mine on you first!

Ed's List:
10.  “Eat It”
As with most people, this is where it all started for me! I was in the 5th grade when “Eat It” became the hit that it was. I had always loved the little parody songs that would play on the wacky morning shows on the radio, but here was somebody doing a whole album of crazy songs. I got the record album and just about wore the grooves out in the thing listening to it over and over again!  Every time I hear this song, it takes me right back to the center of my childhood and the beginning of my life-long love of Weird Al.
9.  “Amish Paradise”
I think “Amish Paradise” (a parody of Coolio’s Gangster’s Paradise) is Al’s most well crafted parody. Contrasting the original song’s lyrics about growing up on the city streets with the trails and tribulations of raising a barn and making butter in the Amish community is nothing short of brilliant. The song also packs a joke into just about every line of the lyrics.
8. “Mr. Frump In The Iron Lung”
Going all the back to the closing track of Al’s very first album, there’s just something in the simplicity of this little ditty that has always amused me. An ode to a dying friend lying in a iron lung, the sound of the iron lung played by the air release valve on Al’s accordion. Any use of the accordion in any song gets points in my book, perhaps this is the most ingenious use of the instrument – ever! 
7. “This Is The Life”
From Weird Al’s third album, Dare to be Stupid, is this ode to greed, success and self-worship all set to the tune of a 1930’s speakeasy piano. It also helps that the song served as the theme song to the 1984 film “Johnny Dangerously” – a hilarious & forgotten gangster comedy.

6. “Albuquerque”
I get the feeling that if Al were to just put out an album of music that he wanted to make, and didn’t worry about parodying popular songs or hitting on certain trends, this is the kind of music we would get – a rollicking, all-over-the-place, high energy music extravaganza that just pushes on for way longer than the average song.

5. “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”
One of the few songs in the world that really speaks to me, this rambling ballad is a tribute to all the tacky road side attractions that I begged my parents to stop at on family vacations. 
4. “Good Old Days”
Instead of packing in as many jokes as possible into a song, it also pays off the have a slow build. There’s only maybe three or four jokes in this song but the way it’s structured and layed out has always left me in stitches. I actually have always wished I could play guitar just so I could go to a coffee house and perform this song.
 3. “Your Horoscope For The Day”

A series of tragic events awaits each and everyone of us, no matter what month you were born in. Another example of Al just letting loose and doing what he wants to do.
2. “Happy Birthday”
What separates a true Weird Al fan from the casual listener is having all the lyrics to a punk rock parody, like this classic,  firmly cemented into your brain since you were 10 years old.
1. “Bedrock Anthem”
I’m a huge Flintstones fan!  When Al’s 1993 album Alapalooza came out, my friend that worked at a record store was so excited to break the news to me that Al did a song about the Flintstones.  The tune is actually a duel parody of Red Hot Chili Peppers hits starting with a few seconds of Under The Bridge and then quickly moving into Give It Away. Gotta be honest with ya, never heard the original Give It Away but I sure love what Al has done with it. With audio clips from the original television series and cringe worthy puns, this a perfect song in my universe. The song is also featured on the soundtrack to the 1994 live action Flintstones film, however it is not actually heard in the movie.
Brian’s Top Ten Al Hits

10. “You’re Pitiful”

This song was only released online back when that was still a pretty novel thing to do. According to the internet, James Blunt gave his blessing for Al to use the parody on his Straight Outta Lynwood album but then Blunt’s record label refused. The intro to this song makes me laugh every single time I hear it, but I mainly chose it because I knew Ed was going to throw at least one “non-album” song on his list.

9. “Word Crimes”

I’m doing my best not to weight this list too heavily toward Mandatory Fun, which only released a few days ago. However, as a writer I have to admire a song about common grammar blunders, and it is an excellent example of Al taking a song that is basically unlistenable and turning it into something that I play regularly.

8. “Yoda”

As a kid I didn’t even realize this was a parody. I guess at age 8 I just wasn’t that into The Kinks?? I had to include a Star Wars song on my list, and since “The Saga Begins” is all about Episode I and “Yoda” is primarily about Empire, it wins. Also, props to Weird Al for suggesting that Luke will still be making these movies when he’s “old and grey.” Those lyrics were kind of sad through the 90’s and 00’s, but now have turned out to be completely accurate!

7. “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota”

Every now and then Al includes a 7 to 9-minute-long, random, rambling, epic song on his album, and they’re usually pretty great. This one, “Albuquerque,” and the new “Jackson Park Express” are a few examples. When my daughter was a baby and I was searching my brain for songs I actually knew the words to so I could sing her to sleep, I was surprised to discover “Biggest Ball of Twine” was on the list. Especially since the whole list was only like four songs. So it gets the nod.

6. “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead”

Al has always kept his material pretty clean and family-friendly, while maybe inching into PG-13 territory here and there. Occasionally, though, he is capable of razor-sharp satire, and this song is the best example. This is young, angry Al eviscerating California hippie and yuppie culture. I reached all the way back to Al’s first album for this one, in 1983. And to this day I’d still rather have a Big Mac or a Jumbo Jack than all the bean sprouts in Japan.

5. “My Own Eyes”

In case you’re someone who has far more of a life than me or Ed, which is entirely possible, let me explain the many sub-genres of Al’s music. There’s the Parody (obviously), the Polkas, which mash up several songs with (mostly) their original lyrics, Al’s own Original Songs… and then there’s the Style Tribute. That’s where Al writes all the music and lyrics, but the entire song is presented as if it was written by an established band. I had to include at least one on the list, and this tribute to the Foo Fighters is my absolute favorite. As a Foo Fighters fan, I can hear their DNA all up in this song. Great driving music!

4. “UHF”

Possibly the best “end-credits” song ever written, “UHF” was the theme for Weird Al’s movie of the same name. As kids, my brother and I were delirious with excitement to see Weird Al on the big screen. Pretty sure my mom wanted to claw her eyes out the whole time. Luckily the running time was only 97 minutes! I can’t wait to play this rocking tribute to the UHF dial for my daughter someday, so I can then try to explain to her what “UHF” is. …Also what a “dial” is.

3. “NOW That’s What I Call Polka”

Had to include a polka on the list, and while there are many excellent choices, ultimately I had to go with his latest effort. Even though it’s a little on the short side, this was the first time in three decades of dedicated Al listening that I knew 100% of the songs in the polka. Seriously! I recognized every single song!

2. “White and Nerdy”

I was already a big fan of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’,” and Al’s take on the hip-hop instant classic did not disappoint. Not only did he squeeze every ounce of comedy potential out of the white and nerdy concept, but Al also released an amazing video with even more jokes in it! It also proved once and for all, and I say this without an ounce of irony, that “Weird Al” Yankovic can spit mad fire on the mic.

1. “Dare to be Stupid”

Even though this always felt like an original to me, it’s actually a Style Tribute to Devo. In fact, Al recreates Devo’s style so well I think he actually surpasses the original artists! Even Mark Mothersbaugh admitted that Al’s song was so beautifully executed that “I hate him for it, basically.” While it has its roots in the 80’s, it always sounded timeless to me and it sort of feels more like Al’s official theme song than any of his other work. And, of course, and I know Ed’s been waiting for this, “Dare to be Stupid” gets the number one spot on my list because of its inclusion in the 1986 animated masterpiece “The Transformers: The Movie.”

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