Saturday, March 07, 2015

Ranking Al #150-136

150. "Party in the CIA"
(Parody of "Party in the USA" by Miley Cyrus; from Alpocalypse, 2011)
I remain disappointed in this one. Being 100% subjective with this one, "Party in the USA" is a truly great pop song. But the way it was handled was disappointing to me; the accompanying music video, for instance, is generic and pointless, when I couldn't hear the song without imagining something much more colorful and splendid. I appreciate Al trying to parody what was a monster hit, but the parody doesn't really add anything. It's not that funny, and he doesn't even replicate the sound of the original very imaginatively. I guess you could argue that juxtaposing the bubblegum pop sound with serious subject matter is an attempt to be subversive, but the comedy itself is so lazy that it's like discovering an episode of Tiny Toon Adventures you've never seen before and then thinking "Huh. Why did I ever like that show?"

149. "Taco Grande"
(Parody of "Rico Suave" by Gerardo; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
These days, a debate rages on about whether or not this one is slightly racist. Al raps this in a cartoon Mexican accent as he sings about his love for Mexican food; it also features a break by Cheech Marin which had to be written out phonetically when Al discovered that Cheech didn't actually speak Spanish. At the time, it took the piss out of a song that was omnipresent, yet seemingly hated universally. Every time I ever saw that ridiculous "Rico Suave" video with another person, they would laugh and wonder out loud what the hell they were watching. There seemed to be an element of culture shock to that reaction, though, and maybe that's what people have seized on with this Weird Al parody: that it seems like a racist overreaction to the original. I always took it as just another of his food songs, but again I have to concede that it's not for me to say what's offensive to another group of people.

148. "The Night Santa Went Crazy"
(Original; from Bad Hair Day, 1996)
Apparently this borrows stylistically from Soul Asylum, but it reminds me more of those Christmas songs by Greg Lake and the Kinks. The music's kind of nice, but it just doesn't do anything for me, really. It hits a little too close to those country Christmas ballads that I hate so much, and, as weird as it seems like it would once have been to say this, a violent murder ballad about Santa Claus seems obvious and, well, old hat.

147. "Gump"
(Parody of "Lump" by The Presidents of the United States of America; from Bad Hair Day, 1996)
The problem with this one really is that there's just no joke beyond "Forrest Gump was a thing that existed and was very popular."

146. "The Plumbing Song"
(Parody of "Don't Forget My Number" and "Blame It on the Rain" by Milli Vanilli; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
There's also a little of "Girl You Know It's True" in there. Milli Vanilli were so huge in the late eighties that I thought they'd never go away until that technical error happened. Al gets their sound fine, but just turns it into a silly song about plumbing that's not particularly funny. Today it just sounds more nostalgic to me.

145. "Inactive"
(Parody of "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons; from Mandatory Fun, 2014)
The lyrics are pretty funny--a sort of grand meditation on the couch potato consciousness--but I hate the music. Not that Al doesn't replicate it very well, but I hate this modern alternative sound where flights of drum machines and insistent percussion are meant to make emotional statements. It just all sounds like tones to me. I appreciate that some people really dig it, but it's not my sound.

144. "Bedrock Anthem"
(Parody of "Under the Bridge" and "Give It Away" by the Red Hot Chili Peppers; from Alapalooza, 1993)
I suppose your mileage on this varies according to how much you like The Flintstones. I think it works, but only just. For what it's worth, I don't think "Give It Away" has really stood the test of time, and that kind of sinks this one a little bit.

143. "Ode to a Superhero"
(Parody of "Piano Man" by Billy Joel; from Poodle Hat, 2003)
I'm predisposed to like this song because it's a Billy Joel song and it's about Spider-Man. And I do like it. I don't think it's very fresh--a parody of "Piano Man" in 2003"?--and I don't think it does much more than tell the story of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, but I do think it's cute. I feel like he was sort of trying to replicate what he did with the far superior "Yoda."

142. "Angry White Boy Polka"
(Medley; from Poodle Hat, 2003)
Weird Al's polka medleys are something I love unequivocally and unironically. I'm not entirely sure why I found this to be my last favorite one. Possibly it's because, other than his usual vocal harmonies and additions of sound effects and horns, I don't think he does anything that interesting with the songs he puts together here (although I like the lounge thing he does to the Strokes' "Last Nite"). Perhaps it's because I don't think he had a strong set of songs to work with at all. (The list of songs is here.) It's a little sleepy, but even a sleepy Al polka is wonderful.

141. "Buckingham Blues"
(Original; from "Weird Al" Yankovic, 1983)
It's impossible to overstate just how much mania there was in the early 80s over Prince Charles and Princess Diana. One of my earlier memories is watching their wedding on television; everyone was watching the damn thing and talking about it. Yes, I grew up in a mainly white yuppie suburb during the Reagan years. This song always reminds me of the time they were breaking up and having affairs, right before the divorce, when they were on the cover of People almost constantly; I've always remembered a great letter from a reader begging for no more of them, saying "If I have to see them on the cover one more time, I'm going to up Chuck and Di." So I think song gets at the fatigue we all felt at their fame.

This song wins points for me simply for being a hard blues song with an accordion lead. Weird Al's first album has more accordion on it than there is flute on any Jethro Tull album.

140. "I Think I'm a Clone Now"
(Parody of Tiffany's cover of "I Think We're Alone Now" by Tommy James & the Shondells; from Even Worse, 1998)
I was all about Tiffany in 1987 and 1988. The intensity has dulled, but I continue to love her. I even got an email from her once that just set my heart on fire. I did that thing where I bought her 45s and hung the sleeves on my wall. She and Alyssa Milano were my big pre-adolescent crushes. So it was exciting for another of my favorite artists to cover her when I was 12. And what can I say? It's a cute song. It doesn't add much; it really just comes from a supposition that cloning is inherently hilarious. I think it's kind of too bad there was no video for this one with twin Als, playing out like the world's silliest sitcom opening sequence.

Interesting trivia: between this and "Alimony," Al's parody of Billy Idol's cover of Tommy James' "Mony, Mony," that makes Even Worse Al's only album with two parodies of two covers of one artist! Gloriously weird.

139. "When I Was Your Age"
(Original; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
It's an original, but I think the music owes something to an early 80s Don Henley kind of sound. You could almost pair this with "Dirty Laundry." The song's narrator is pulling one of those guilt trips that everyone's grandfather or great grandfather likes to pull, only taken to hilarious extremes. My Dad still does this, especially to my 20 year-old sister. And I'm sure his father did it to him, and so on. Certainly my Grandpa Davis and my Grandpa Miller (my maternal great grandfather) said stuff like this. The familiarity just makes it work. My favorite line: "If we were really good, we didn't get dessert."

138. "Germs"
(Style parody of Nine Inch Nails; from Running with Scissors, 1999)
Al gets the sound of industrial music quite right, but making it a song about a germophobe singing about his germophobia is pretty inspired. Industrial is somehow exactly the right kind of music for conveying that.

137. "Waffle King"
(Style parody of Peter Gabriel; from Alapalooza, 1993)
I don't have much to say about this one. The music is imaginative and well-constructed, but sounds a little locked in its time period. But the idea of a guy becoming full of hubris over making really good waffles is the kind of funny idea that only becomes funnier as this mundane accomplishment is launched to heights of glory. I love the sarcasm on display.

136. "Talk Soup"
(Original; from Alapalooza, 1993)
E! commissioned this from Weird Al, asking him to record a theme song for their show Talk Soup, and apparently they liked it, for whatever reason they ended up rejecting it and Al put it on an album instead. His fascination with TV, particularly the odd panoply of bizarro news, has long been documented on his albums. I don't necessarily find the oddities of talk shows that compelling, but I do remember that this was a time when those things were exploding (basic cable really just made everything louder). Interestingly, this one sounds a little Peter Gabriel-inspired, too. This song, "Waffle King," and "When I Was Your Age" all have similar, horn section-drive sounds with that little bit of 80s sleaze. They all sound like they could be on a hit Don Henley album in 1985. Sorry to use him as an example again, but here we are.

Until next time.


Roger Owen Green said...

I think I like Gump way more than you because I'm not that fond of the movie, Finding the storyline reduced to a 2-minute song - Jenny's a slut, he showed LBJ his butt - is oddly satisfying.

Roger Owen Green said...

Buckingham Blues is a worthy target but an uninspired musical background. I LOVED The Flintstones and actually thought that combo worked better; it made me laugh on first hearing. And I give a pass to the use of Piano Man for the Spider-Man movie because they're both retro.

SamuraiFrog said...

I'm not that fond of the film Forrest Gump, either, but I think I've told the story of going to see that movie more than any other, simply because the theater seat was one of the nicest I've ever been in. (I saw it at the Turner Building in Atlanta during a church trip.)