The Weird Al Chronicles Part XIV: An Overview

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Weird Al Yankovic is an interesting figure in the world of pop culture. This is a good thing, as otherwise writing a series of essays cataloging his entire discography might have been viewed as a somewhat less than necessary quest. Perhaps more than any other musician, he personifies his medium. On the other hand, that medium is comedy songs, many of which are parodies of existing pop songs. He sings of food and TV shows and movies and, occasionally, Santa Claus going on a murderous rampage. Weird Al has always existed on the fringes of the music business, or at least he has since he released his first, eponymous, album in 1983. However, the key thing there may be that he has always existed. His most recent album, Alpocalypse, came out in 2011, and he fully intends to keep generating music. Not only that, his last album may very well be his best. Sure, Bruce Springsteen is still churning out material, but nobody thinks that his latest stuff is of the caliber of, say, Born in the USA, let alone Born to Run. Then again, nobody is comparing Al's stuff to Born to Run either. And with good cause.

When I began this project, it was not because I am a Weird Al diehard or anything like that. I would say I came into this as a fan of Weird Al Yankovic, but not necessarily his music. I mean, I enjoyed what I had heard of his music fine to some degree, but when you throw that on top of UHF and Al TV and his appearances on podcasts and television and the fact he did a RiffTrax on Jurassic Park I would say I was a fan. I just thought it would be interesting to delve deep into the work of Weird Al. To listen to the early stuff and the newer stuff, and then to revisit the couple of albums that I had actually heard in their entirety in my childhood.

Yankovic's early work, particularly the first album, is raw, and occasionally a bit too sophomoric. I mean, he's never been afraid of a goofy joke or some scatological humor, but back in the day he went to that well too often. Still, the potential was there, and in a couple of albums time the music was better and the comedy stronger. Then, things did begin to calcify a bit, and he started to cycle through a handful of song concepts. Within those concepts, he found success some of the time, but certainly Weird Al isn't looking to reinvent the wheel most of the time. Not that he needs to. He found what works for him and he sticks to it. Al and the band got better at reimagining the songs they were parodying as well, particularly Yankovic's rapping skills which, as time went on, became more important as hip hop, and hip hop influenced pop, became more and more prevalent in the zeitgeist.

I did not enjoy all of his albums, but a few of them were quite good, and I'd say Weird Al's hits outweigh his misses, although his hits and his "mehs" are probably about even. It's not all black and white. There is a shade of mediocre gray in between these two extremes. My favorite Weird Al songs still remain the ones that were my favorite before I began this endeavor. It just so happened I was already aware of little ditties such as "Amish Paradise," "Yoda," and "Christmas at Ground Zero." The only song that really sticks out to me off the top of my head is "Wanna B Ur Lovr" from Poodle Hat, which I had no awareness of beforehand. Weird Al does seductive R&B! Why are we not all celebrating this all the time? On the flip side, a Weird Al hit, "White & Nerdy" did nothing for me when I finally heard it.

Overall, I would certainly say this made my fandom of Weird Al Yankovic grow. What he has done is impressive. He and his band are talented musicians, nothing special but certainly more than capable, and I find a lot of what Al does funny. I don't know if I would ever consider any of his humor "brilliant." It never really made me laugh aloud to the degree that my favorite Simpsons writers or the MST3K guys or The Flophouse Podcast has. (Seriously check out The Flophouse. It's great stuff). It more just makes me chuckle or smile at its best. There are probably songs that I've laughed at more than many Weird Al songs. A couple Dead Milkmen offerings come to mind. However, I'm starting to feel like I'm arbitrarily stepping away from complimenting Weird Al for his work. He's been making music since before I was born. He'll be making it long after we are all dead. Weird Al Yankovic will outlive us all, even where there is no more pop music for him to riff on. And so end The Weird Al Chronicles. At least, until his next album comes out. Based on Alpocalypse, I look forward to it.