Thursday, July 09, 2015

Ranking Al: #40-31

40. "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me"
(Style parody of Jim Steinman; from Alpocalypse, 2011)
Al rails against all of those junk emails people used to send us. Now that our mothers and crazy aunts and gun nut uncles all have Facebook pages, that's really died down, hasn't it? I am a huge fan of Jim Steinman to the point where almost everyone has questioned my music taste, but I like his bombastic, overdramatic, teenager-in-lust production. Al gets the spirit of it, though I think he could have gone bigger (and longer) with this one.

(Note: I made a mistake back in the #70-61 post; when I included "Here's Johnny," I stated that it was the last song I hadn't listed from Polka Party!, which made Polka Party! the first album to be completed from this list. That was incorrect; I have one more song from Polka Party! that I've still not included. So, actually, listing "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me" at number 40 makes Alpocalypse the actual first of Al's albums that I've completed on this list. I know this is all really important to the archivists of the future, so I need them to be aware that I know I made a mistake. Yes, I am being silly.)

39. "Do I Creep You Out"
(Parody of "Do I Make You Proud" by Taylor Hicks; from Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
Weird Al is no stranger to stalking songs, and this one makes me laugh especially because it's just so crazily passionate. Of course, it's built around one of those prepackaged, overly earnest, phony-sounding songs they give the American Idol winner to sing to christen their victories, so of course it's straight-faced and unintentionally silly. Al's lyrics arguably fit the arch tone of the song better than the original's.

38. "George of the Jungle"
(Cover; from Dare to Be Stupid, 1985)
Just a straight cover of the theme from the old Jay Ward/Bill Scott cartoon, a favorite of mine in childhood. Thanks to this version being smack dab in the middle of the album, I've always known this song by heart. I mention that because, for some reason, Chicago radio personality Jonathan Brandmeier was having a contest where, if you called in and sang the whole song, you could win tickets to see Jimmy Buffett in concert. Seeing Jimmy Buffett in concert seems like my idea of hell, honestly, but a guy I worked with (who was my roommate in a shitty apartment in Villa Park at the time) got really, really mad at me for not offering to call and do it so that he--a big Buffett fan--could win. Because he knew I loved the cartoon, loved Weird Al, even loved the Brendan Fraser movie, and knew the song. Guy never actually asked me to do it, just got huffy about it.

37. "Now That's What I Call Polka!"
(Medley; from Mandatory Fun, 2014)
I can't really explain why, but this is my favorite polka in years. Maybe pop music just sounds a little fresher to me these days, and the songs he's using lend themselves better to a smooth medley. Love the horns on "Somebody That I Used to Know" and "Timber." (List of songs here.) I also love the callback bits for "Thrift Shop." ("It's large!" always makes me laugh.) And it begins and ends with two of my favorite singles of their respective years: "Wrecking Ball" and "Get Lucky." I could just listen to Al do "Wrecking Ball" straight through in that style, honestly.

36. "Since You've Been Gone"
(Original; from Bad Hair Day, 1996)
Just a fun bit of doo-wop nonsense that's really quite catchy.

35. "Spy Hard"
(Parody of James Bond theme songs; from the motion picture Spy Hard, 1996)
I've never seen the movie, but I feel confident calling this my favorite scene. You miss some of the gags in the video because it doesn't have the opening credits in it, but otherwise it perfectly nails the tone of the classic Bond openings, and Al nails the tone of those songs.

34. "Polka Your Eyes Out"
(Medley; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
The polkas are, of course, totally subjective placings. I think this one just hits me the most (minus one other yet to appear) because it's from the time period just before I stopped paying attention to what was popular in current music. So it's like some kind of a bookend on an era for me. Or something like that. List of songs here. My favorite bit? The drum solo.

33. "Genius in France"
(Style parody of Frank Zappa; from Poodle Hat, 2003)
This thing is a musical tour-de-force, a style mash-up of several types of Zappa sounds and several types of Al jokes (including poodle references and the idea that French people revere things that Americans find bizarre and mundane). It just impresses the heck out of me, and is one of Weird Al's most fun songs to listen to for me, just because as someone with ADHD I love all of the sudden musical changes. Bonus points: Dweezil Zappa performs the opening guitar solo.

(Note: I triple-checked, since I messed up once already, but this is indeed the last song I had to list from Poodle Hat, so that album is also now completed. It's the best song on the album by far.)

32. "I Lost on Jeopardy"
(Parody of "Jeopardy" by Greg Kihn Band; from "Weird Al" Yankovic in 3-D, 1984)
Something about the drumming and the almost oppressive guitars in this song building and building the way they do always managed to sound like worsening tension and pressure to me, so this has always seemed like an aural version of how it feels when I'm trying to pass some kind of test. (Al's lyrics kind of say it all, too.) I have to tell you to watch the video here for the answer clues alone (the complex mathematical one kills me), and cameos by Kihn himself, plus Dr. Demento, Art Fleming, and Don Pardo. Classic Al.

31. "Jurassic Park"
(Parody of "MacArthur Park" by Richard Harris; from Alapalooza, 1993)
Here's an admission that will get my cool card revoked forever: I love "MacArthur Park." In fact, I have the Richard Harris album it's on, A Tramp Shining, on both vinyl and CD. This is what Al did with both "Yoda" and "Ode to a Superhero": taking a big special effects movie and singing about it to the tune of a classic rock song. This one just makes me weirdly happy, maybe because it's based on that original song. Hell, anything with a Jimmy Webb tune makes me weirdly happy. The middle section of the video, where the animation gets really wild, is fantastic.

Only 30 left. Until next time!


Roger Owen Green said...

JEOPARDY! made my Top 10, but 1) I actually DID lose on JEOPARDY! and 2) Don Pardo is God, and 3) Art Fleming!
Genius in France may be Top 25 for me. It's SO Zappa, as much as the Devo, Talking Heads parodies are those artists.

Roger Owen Green said...

I suppose this is obvious, but I think Weird Al resonates based on a combo of how much you or I relate to the original song and the topic. Some of the medleys miss for me because I DON'T particularly know, or like, the original songs. Although the one with Loser and Black Hole Sun actually INTRODUCED me to those songs. Seriously.

Ode to a Superhero works better for me because it allows me to take the overworked Piano Man and give it new life. But I DO like MacArthur Park, especially the finale.

SamuraiFrog said...

I suppose part of my thing with "Ode to a Superhero" is that I really love "Piano Man" and have never gotten tired of it. But I think that's mainly a function of my social awkwardness; I haven't really interacted with those people who are responsible for it being overworked. I'm aware of it, but Billy Joel's Greatest Hits was my go-to cassette for when I was feeling bad through a long stretch of my adolescence, so nothing of his really sounds tired to me. I've given it a lot of my own personal meaning. Some kids got depressed and listened to the Smiths; for me it was, weirdly, Billy Joel.

Al's polkas from about 1996 on are the way I first discovered a lot of songs, too. The one that has "Ghetto Supastar" confused me for a long time, because I didn't realize someone (Pras) had taken "Islands in the Stream" and given it new lyrics, so I was really confused as to why I knew the music and not the words.

SamuraiFrog said...

I should've mentioned about "Jeopardy," also, that I love that Weird Al just did a song about a game show. It fits in perfectly with this sort of "celebration of the mundane" theme I've been sort of stumbling over regarding the entire In 3-D album. That really turned out, analyzing it piece by piece, to be a better album than I'd always thought.

Roger Owen Green said...

When I say Piano Man's overworked, I don't mean it's a bad song. And indeed, I love it when he performs it, e.g., at some White House event.
It's more like why it didn't show up on your Top 10 Joel songs.

SamuraiFrog said...

It can be a cliche, though, and over-familiar. Certainly everyone I know who's played the piano has had to show off by playing it.

Nathan said...

I did see Spy Hard (at the theater, actually), and you're not missing anything.

From what I've heard, Jeopardy! wasn't on the air at the time Al did the song, and he might have had something to do with its return. His parents also appear in the video.

While it definitely helps to like the original songs, it isn't always necessary. I like "You're Pitiful," for instance, but I don't care for the James Blunt song at all.

SamuraiFrog said...

I don't like the Blunt song, either. I know I mentioned at some point (regarding "A Complicated Song," maybe) that in some cases removing the song from its original singer/context has allowed me to appreciate the actual music better than I would have.

For some reason, the only thing about Spy Hard I remember (because I remember seeing a lot of commercials for it) is Andy Griffith saying "I'm back, big as life and twice as ugly," which for some reason I occasionally say.

Roger Owen Green said...

It IS true that JEOPARDY! was not on the air when the 3D album came out in Feb 1984, but the series DID restart in Sept 1984. Whether casual or coincidence, I do not know. Seems like a short window, given the way these things tended to be decided.