Thursday, September 10, 2015

Ranking Al: #10-6

10. "White & Nerdy"
(Parody of "Ridin'" by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone; from Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
I was really surprised by the popularity of this single and video when they came out. Again, it's because Weird Al was one of those things that I always used to get made fun of for liking, and whenever those things are popular when I'm adult, I just have a weird time with it.

Don't get me wrong, it's a great song, but why did it hit so hard when it came out? This was Weird Al's biggest hit in the 23 years of his career to that point, even bigger than his previous biggest hit, "Eat It." Finally, Al cracked the Billboard Top 10. I guess it must be that it really reflected the white guy zeitgeist when it cam out, ticking off a bunch of stereotypical nerd behaviors and likes, exaggerating them, and making them "cool." Basically what "Fat" did for me as an angry fat kid. But, once again, it's important to me that Al does this without being mean-spirited, condescending, shaming, or--unlike a lot of the commenters on the video's YouTube page--racist.

The video is almost like an updating of "It's All About the Pentiums," but with Donny Osmond in place of Drew Carey. What I thought was so funny about that song is that it took coders and hackers and IT guys and made fun of how puffed-up computer culture had made them. Exaggerating those guys into superstars was funny because it wasn't that far off from how some of them seemed to regard themselves. This song is like the same thing but for collectors, gamers and neatniks.

One thing Weird Al doesn't get enough credit for--and I'm sure I mentioned this on a previous post--is his rapping. He's really, really good at it.

This song hit less than a month after I graduated college. It was nice to begin my delayed entrance into "the adult world" with a reminder not to take myself too seriously. Looking at my old blog posts, I'm not sure that I took that to heart enough.

9. "You Don't Love Me Anymore"
(Original; from Off the Deep End, 1992)
The video, however, is a parody of Extreme's soppy come-hither-and-get-on-your-knees-if-you-really-love-me ballad "More Than Words." Al's label Scotti Brothers wouldn't release an original as a single unless the video was a parody. (And the video is quite funny.)

Weird Al writes laments really well, here softly lamenting the deterioration of a relationship with a woman to the point where she is literally, repeatedly trying to murder him. It's a pretty hilarious juxtaposition of pretty music/earnest, emotionally naked vocal performance with details of cartoonish violence in the lyrics. It's always made me laugh. Look, I've got mental and emotional problems, and I take rejection (and, let's be honest, imagined rejection) pretty hard, so sadness and disappointment can be dramatic and intense for me, much like it is for a teenager. So this song, taking it to a much bigger, ridiculously dramatic place just works for me. It's always been one of my favorite of Al's songs.

Also, it's my favorite from Off the Deep End, which is not one of my favorite albums. So that's one more album all checked off.

8. "The Saga Begins"
(Parody of "American Pie" by Don McLean; from Running with Scissors, 1999)
I know the main criticism of this song is that it basically just tells the plot of The Phantom Menace without really adding any jokes or satire. And, well... what can I say, that's true. But I still like it, anyway. It's a catchy song and, yes, it reminds me of a time in my life when I was actually happy.

I've talked before at length--depending on your disposition, possibly at tiresome length--about what The Phantom Menace means to me and the whole experience of the marketing and etc. I consider this part of that. In fact, it gave me something to enjoy while I was driving a delivery truck for a living with no cassette or CD player, because this song got a lot of play on Radio Disney. (Hey, when your options are severely limited, you will scan through every channel looking for something to listen to.) So I heard this song every day in the summer of '99, and it just helped foster my Star Wars enthusiasm. And, of course, my Weird Al enthusiasm.

See, this bookended the "Yoda" phenomenon nicely. I say phenomenon because I was in 3rd grade when Al's "Yoda" came out, so it was the biggest thing on the playground for a short amount of time. So "The Saga Begins" is also something that put me in touch with that sense of excitement about Star Wars that I had when I was a kid. And the crown on this is that it's set to the tune of "American Pie," one of the most fun songs to sing along with whenever it showed up on the radio.

Damn, I just love this song. Maybe for totally esoteric reasons, but what are you gonna do? It's too late to renumber anything, and I really don't want to.

And that's the end of Running with Scissors.

7. "Yoda"
(Parody of "Lola" by The Kinks; from Dare to Be Stupid, 1985)
All due respect to the Kinks and one of their best songs, but those opening notes are always going to make me think of my favorite part of the original trilogy: Yoda. Like I said, I was in 3rd grade, and it's just indelibly stamped on me. All these years later, this song still fills me with a powerful excitement and enthusiasm that I can't quite explain.

This song originates in 1980, but it took five years to get permission from Ray Davies to record the song (apparently because his label never conveyed Al's request). I'm sure it would have been a bigger hit if it had come out in the same year as The Empire Strikes Back, but I'm selfishly glad it didn't, because I would have missed out on the playground popularity of it. It's just one of those childhood things.

Now I just want to watch Empire again...

6. "Melanie"
(Original; from Even Worse, 1988)
A little bit of Marshall Crenshaw, a little bit of the Hollies, but not a specific style parody. This is another one of Weird Al's stalker songs, which I'm on record as not loving, but this one somehow works perfectly for me. The melody is great, it doesn't overstay its welcome, and the lyrics are just so exaggerated into ridiculousness that it's impossible to take seriously. (Of course, I say that as someone who's only been slightly stalked in his life; usually I'm just terrorized.)

My favorite lyric is the culmination of the whole song: "Now I may be dead, but I still love you." It's the way the line is delivered. I can't describe it. It's just so earnestly matter-of-fact. Which might not make sense.

This is the kind of song that reminds me that when it came out I was 12 years old and madly, undyingly in love with Christina Padgett, and would rack my brains trying to figure out the exact combination of words or the specific gesture that would serve as a declaration of love so pure and powerful that she would realize how perfect my love was and be unable to stop herself from loving me back. Yeah, I know. But that's how it felt to my pre-adolescent heart. You're supposed to grow out of it, gentlemen.

So this song takes that false sense of deep devotion and just makes it as overtly ridiculous as it is when you're 12 and just makes it easier to laugh at how ridiculous you were.

And that's the end of Even Worse.

And the end of this entry.

Top five awaits. Until next time!

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Marvels: Strange Tales #122

"3 Against the Torch!" by Stan Lee, Dick Ayers & George Roussos
(July 1964)

Do you guys realize it's been almost half a year since we've seen Doctor Doom? I miss that guy. I'd much rather have him come back than waste an entire issue convincing us the X-Men are awesome. (They're not.)

When we last left Doom, he was hurtling through the cosmos. If you remember that story ("The Master Plan of Doctor Doom!"), he had the Terrible Trio, three enhanced henchmen--Handsome Harry Phillips, Yogi Dakor and Bull Brogin--that helped him capture the FF. He stored them in a pocket dimension afterwards, but according to this story, once Doom disappeared into space, he lost his power over the three, and now they're just hanging out, waiting for Doom's return. I guess they must be bored waiting, because now they get the idea to go ahead and attack the FF on their own to pave the way for when Doom gets back to Earth.

I'm sorry that Stan decided here to bring back the least interesting element of that story: the Terrible Trio. But that's the kind of softball villain we get more often than not in the Human Torch stories and... look, how much longer does this go on? I've made no secret of this in the past, but I really am burned out on these stories. They're just filler. There was one great story where the Torch fought Namor, but otherwise it's just been varying degrees of filler. I will not miss these stories when they eventually go away.

Anyway, the Terrible Trio try to take Johnny Storm in his home, he fights back, they douse him with water a couple of times, the last time apparently doesn't take (whatever, dude), and he defeats them. Oh, and he manages to not destroy his souped-up Stingray when Handsome Harry uses it as a getaway car.

So all's well that ends.

No, that's not a typo.

Stray observations:

:: "The doorbell! No matter who it is, it'll be better than watching another TV commercial!"

:: Johnny's shower sprays out concentrated steam heat instead of water. He uses it to dry off after the first time he's doused. The second time is a total cheat. "Oh, uh, you didn't give me enough of a soaking." Total bullshit. It's so lazy and ineffectual because this story just doesn't matter.

"The World Beyond" by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko

Maybe it's an off month, because this story feels a little weak, too, I'm always up for the weirdness of Doctor Strange, but the way he faces off against Nightmare in this story feels a little bit... well, not like a cheat, exactly, but a little too much like one of those stories that's just a lead-up to a punchline.

While poring over mystic tomes, Doctor Strange falls asleep without saying the protective chant that keeps him safe while he's sleeping. Now caught in the Nightmare World with none of his powers, he becomes the eternal prisoner of Nightmare, who taunts him.

But then a demon called the Gulgol shows up; Nightmare describes him as "my mortal enemy from the netherworld!" Nightmare can never defeat the Gugol, for the Gulgol never sleeps.

Strange agrees to banish the Gulgol if Nightmare restores his freedom and his powers, which Nightmare desperately does. Then Strange simply snaps his fingers and the Gulgol disappears. See, one thing Strange could do was hypnotize Nightmare into seeing his enemy, and with his powers restored, Strange escapes back to his own chambers.

It's not an incredibly satisfying story, and some of the weirdness of the visuals is dialed down to blank white backgrounds, but I generally like the Doctor Strange stories so much that even an off one is better than, say, a Johnny Storm story. I chalk it up to Stan and Steve being overworked.

I would love it if we could just get two Doctor Strange stories an issue, really.

Next Marvels: Inside info about Iron Man.

Monday, September 07, 2015

Muppet Monday

Beaker takes on a favorite song of mine in the new video from the Muppets. Loving the uptick in Muppet videos.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Song of the Week: "Margarita"

Feeling a bit unfocused this morning, so I guess this fits right in. Just woke up with it in my head. Roy Orbison, George Harrison, Jeff Lynne, Bob Dylan and Tom Petty as the Traveling Wilburys, from one of my all time favorite albums by anyone, Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1. Petty is the main author of this song, but it plays like a jam session, with nonsense lyrics and Harrison's slide guitar. A side project finding its sound.