Saturday, March 14, 2015

Ranking Al: #135-126

135. "TMZ"
(Parody of "You Belong with Me" by Taylor Swift; from Alpocalypse, 2011)
Another case where I love the original, but the parody doesn't really have much to say. It has less to say about why we're obsessed with celebrities, instead opting for just pointing out that we're obsessed with celebrities. (Or at least that TMZ is.) Who knows; in the future, maybe we'll look back on this time and be grateful celebrities were demystified. Either way, this one just sort of sits there with pleasant music. There's a bit where Tom Kenny does a bunch of soft news reporter voices, and I do like his manic "Everything celebrities do is fascinating!"

134. "Lame Claim to Fame"
(Style parody of Southern Culture on the Skids; from Mandatory Fun, 2014)
I take back what I said in the previous entry; even with the internet and the 24 hour news cycle demystifying celebs, it also sets them apart and tells us they're better than we are. So this song, about our obsessions with even the tiniest celebrity encounter, is sadly accurate. (As a teacher, I've had teenage girls say to me that if they could just be friends with [x celebrity] their life would be perfect.) I can't speak to the style of the song, not being familiar with the band he's interpreting, but the music's pretty good.

133. "Airline Amy"
(Original; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
One of the things Weird Al does consistently is puncture modern narcissism. I don't think he always pulls it off really well, and this song is a great example of that. This seems to be one of his more popular tunes, but I'm not really so into it. The music--which is "inspired by" the songs of Nick Lowe and Jonathan Richman, but not really a style parody exactly--is pretty good, but the lyrics--about a man who's obsessively in love with a flight attendant and thinks of their flights together as romantic dates--don't really do a ton for me. It's not a bad song, but it doesn't really light me up, either.

132. "Cavity Search"
(Parody of "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me" by U2; from Bad Hair Day, 1996)
I really did not like the original song when it was everywhere in 1995, but now I think it's okay. Al really gets the sound right, and it sounds different from a lot of the music in his catalog. Under his auspices, the song becomes a feverish nightmare about a trip to the dentist for a root canal. He ups the sonic ante here, too, by bringing in his actual dentist with a drill and a real human tooth and adding it to the mix. It's beautifully horrific.

131."Perform This Way"
(Parody of "Born This Way" by Lady Gaga; from Alpocalypse, 2011)
Hey, remember Lady Gaga? Okay, okay, that's not fair, but given how much attention she gets now versus how much attention she got when she was still ripping off Madonna and David Bowie, it almost seems like a waste for Al to parody someone with that little staying power. And for it to be that song, too, which was a hit but which also turns out to have not had much staying power. And I actually do like Lady Gaga--she shows a surprising self awareness that she seems to be able to turn on and off, I love a few of her songs, and I even liked that Muppet special everyone hated. Oh, and that album she did with Tony Bennett. I did, I liked it. It's just weird how she's in that zone where we can't decide as a culture if we still love her or only put up with her on special occasions.

Creative video, but even if it's only Al's face superimposed on a model, he looks much more like Jane Krakowski than I'm comfortable with.

130. "I Can't Watch This"
(Parody of "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
One of Al's TV songs where he lists/complains about stuff that's on TV. Sometimes these things really just become lists, but--spoken as someone who has watched way too much television in his life--sometimes they also become time capsules. Listening to it now, it's kind of funny how I recognize every single commercial sound bite he throws into the breakdown section. I never understood the popularity of the Hammer song. This one has a bit of a rote duty to it, like Hammer was just so popular that he had to parody the song. By that time, though, In Living Color had already done a funnier and more clever version that actually parodied Hammer.

129. "Couch Potato"
(Parody of "Lose Yourself" by Eminem; from Poodle Hat, 2003)
Most of the same criticisms as the previous entry, but with better music. One of the things I think Weird Al doesn't get enough credit for is rapping. He's pretty good. Part of his music mimicry skills.

128. "Mr. Popeil"
(Style parody of the B-52's; from "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D, 1984)
When I decided to make this list, I knew right away that this was going to be the song on the bottom. I've never liked it, I've always thought it was overlong even at four and a half minutes, and I couldn't think of one that annoyed me more. And then I listened to it again, divorced from the context of the album, and... well, I admired just how damned good a style parody of the B-52's it really is. And I love that Al would do a song extolling the virtues of Samuel Popeil's inventions, because it's absolutely fitting. (Trivia: Samuel's daughter Lisa Popeil is one of the backup singers here.) I'm just old enough to remember Ron Popeil, Samuel's son, and his "But wait--there's more!" commercials, even though by my childhood they were more widely parodied than actually on TV, but they were alive enough for me to recognize the products listed in this song.

You know, I like a lot of the songs on the In 3-D album individually, but that album can be a slog to get through on its own. That's one of the interesting things about doing this list. I initially felt that a lot of the songs off that album would end up pretty low.

127. "Pretty Fly for a Rabbi"
(Parody of "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" by The Offspring; from Running with Scissors, 2000)
When I hear this song, I think of Richard Lewis on The Simpsons explaining "That’s what we call Jewish humor. You don’t have to understand it, ‘cause the words sound funny. 'Meshuggeneh.' Hilarious!" The original song this is parodying was pretty stupid, but in that kind of "Can you believe they're doing this?" sort of way that made it seem more audacious than it was, but somehow more listenable every time you heard it. The parody has some of the same feel to it, a ribbing of Jewish culture and the idea of a hip rabbi. I think it's funny, anyway. And that's Tress MacNeille doing the yenta voice. And extra points for using the Jambi spell from Pee Wee's Playhouse.

126. "Don't Download This Song"
(Original; from Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
Done in the style of an 80s charity song, and with all of the self-serving, faux-sincerity of those big hits. Al has left his feelings about downloading pretty vague on purpose, and does so here, flippantly referencing some famous cases (such as the elderly woman who was sued after she died, and the 10 year-old girl who was sued by the RIAA) and being rather snotty about how rich a lot of the artists are, anyway. It just gets the tone so right, and the anger a lot of us have when recording artists start crying foul with us when they should be doing so with their labels, who cheat them just as badly.

It's going to be very interesting to see what Al does as an artist on the internet, now that he's apparently given up CDs.

Until next time!


Roger Owen Green said...

Your analysis of Rabbi is how I feel about a lot of Al's songs.

It's interesting, so far. There are some songs for which I don't know the original, and the experience loses something for me. Except the polkas, which have, I kid you not, introduced me to several songs. ESPECIALLY the one with Loser by Beck, and some Soundgarden song.

Roger Owen Green said...

3D was my first album, so most of those songs are among my favorites, not top 10 (except JEOPARDY), but surely top 25 (King of Suede, for sure.)

On the other hand, your description of Airline Amy is absolutely correct, and I'd have it much lower on this list than you did.

Roger Owen Green said...

Final JEOPARDY! Wednesday, March 11`, 2015.

Category: 2014 albums

With a new release & 8 viral videos to go with it, he had the first comedy album in 50 years to top the Billboard 200.

Ha! Possibly the ONLY 2014 album I bought!

Nathan said...

I've generally gotten the impression that "Airline Amy" isn't all that popular at all, but that probably depends on whom you're asking.