The Weird Al Chronicles Part IX: Bad Hair Day

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This is it. At least, for me this is it. When I begun this project, I talked about how everybody has that first Weird Al Yankovic album. The one that introduced you to him and his particular brand of comedy songs and what have you. Given how long Al has been around, and how many albums he's released, there are a lot of potential introductory albums for folks. This is the one for me. Bad Hair Day, released in 1996, three years after Alapalooza, is the first Weird Al album I heard. It's the one I owned. In fact, I suppose I still own it, presuming it is collecting dust in some forgotten corner of my parents' home. I listened to the album many times over, so heading into this particular article I had a ton of knowledge beforehand. I probably could have written this essay without listening to Bad Hair Day again. However, I didn't. I am nothing if not a man of integrity.

Speaking of which, given what I have said about this album, I want to point out that I hate nostalgia, and I also dislike when people hyperbolically use the word "hate." So, don't expect any childhood memories or any of that nonsense to color my opinion. I am approaching this as an adult human man of reason and logic... who is going through every Weird Al Yankovic album and writing about them in depth.

First, I just want to point out that Bad Hair Day has a funny cover featuring Weird Al in a suit but with ridiculous hair. This hair is in reference to the rapper and celebrity cooking show participant Coolio, which brings me to "Amish Paradise." This is the place to start, not just because it is the first song from the album, and not just because of the fact it is the most popular, best known song from the album either, but because of the (mild, so very, very mild) controversy around the song. Even though parody songs are covered by fair use laws, Yankovic always gets permission from artists before spoofing their works because he is nothing if not a gentleman. However, according to Coolio, he never gave Al the OK to parody "Gangsta's Paradise." Yankovic did get the go ahead from the record label, evidently, but what truly occurred we shall never know. Nowadays, if I recall correctly, Weird Al always gets direct permission from the musical artist, and in the end the two made amends and Coolio went on to voice Kwanzaabot on Futurama.

Now, let's put that tedious rigmarole behind us, perhaps pausing briefly to recall the musical video for "Gangsta's Paradise" wherein Michelle Pfeiffer sits down in a stern but caring manner, and move on to the song. "Amish Paradise" gets Bad Hair Day off to a rollicking start. As I have gone though this process, I have found that a lot of Yankovic's songs tend to end up falling into a few narrow categories. This album manages to expand Al's horizons a bit in terms of song fodder, even if a few of them do still play similar notes to prior tunes. That being said, Weird Al rapping as an Amish guy bragging about how great being Amish is makes for an original idea, and it is conducted in probably the best manner possible. I have mentioned Al's issues with flow when he tries to rap previously, but as time has gone on he seems to have gotten better at it, and he is more than acceptable in "Amish Paradise." This is, perhaps, owed to the fact that the beat to "Gangsta's Paradise" allows to talk-sing as much as rap, but he does it in an "Amish" voice as well, which adds to the humor.

This song has some really clever and funny lyrics. Sure, there are some easy jokes about the Amish lifestyle made, but even when doing so Al manages to be at least somewhat original in his word choice. This song more or less succeeds from beginning to end. Even with my extreme familiarity with the song, I still cracked a smile or two, if I didn't necessarily laugh. I was probably too familiar with it for that to be the case (although I did laugh uproariously at a rerun of The Simpsons I watched last night, but let us not hold others to the standards of The Simpsons, for we would all fall short). All in all, "Amish Paradise" is one of my favorite Weird Al parody songs, and a great way to start the album.

Speaking of The Simpsons, there is a sound clip from the show in the parody of TLC's "Waterfalls" entitled "Phony Calls." Man, Weird Al was really targeting songs with serious song matter for this album. I'm pretty sure somebody dies of AIDS in "Waterfalls," but I may be thinking of the musical Rent. Anyway, "Phony Calls" may feature a clip of Bart prank calling Moe, and it may be the greatest piece of art ever crafted by human hands, but that doesn't mean this song lives up to the lofty standards of "Amish Paradise." Oh, "Phony Calls" is fine, to be sure. In the song, Al warns an impish prankster about making prank phone calls, and how they could come back to bite him. Again, the song content is original for Yankovic, which is a plus, and when Al sings lines like "Listen to me" before busting out the chorus the tone of his voice alone makes me laugh. There are also a few funny lines, and like I said it is a good song.

You know what movie I can't stand? Forrest Gump. To me, it is a mawkish, heavy handed, inane piece of drivel with only a few redeeming moments. I think it is a truly awful movie, and one of the worst Best Picture winners of all-time. Give me Joe Versus the Volcano any day. Hell, give me Bosom Buddies. So, if I am going to have to absorb the plot of Forrest Gump, I want to do it via Weird Al's "Gump" done to the tune of "Lump" by The Presidents of the United States of America. If only Weird Al had done a parody of "Peaches" about Beaches. Oh well.

Quite literally, "Gump" is just Weird Al recounting the plot of Forrest Gump, but he actually does it in a way that is entertaining. "His buddy Bubba was a shrimp loving man/His friend with no legs he called Lieutenant Dan" is more entertaining than anything in the actual movie, and he's just describing two characters in the broadest of senses. I was also briefly taken aback when Al refers to Jenny as "kind of a slut." I know the whole notion that Weird Al is for kids or whatever is overblown, and frankly wholly untrue. Having said that, his stuff is usually friendly to a large audience, and this line skews a bit older than a lot of his stuff. Plus, I've heard enough of his polkas now to know that he gets a tinge adult at times (and I will get into that more later). I guess my point is that Weird Al Yankovic has never been, and never will be, Raffi. Anyway, this is a good song, and once again Yankovic and company nail the music of the original song they are playing off of instrumentally, but that's pretty much a given at this point.

There are a couple more parodies on this album. "Cavity Search" is a pun title for a song based off of U2's "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," which, as we all know, is on the Batman Forever soundtrack alongside Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" and The Flaming Lips' "Bad Days." Or something like that. The song should be called "In Your Dreams" because that's what it is about. Anywho, "Cavity Search" is a song about an unpleasant trip to the dentist. Yes, it's a topic that has been covered in comedy many times before, but rarely in song form, and it is also a fairly relatable thing. The last time I went to the dentist when my cleaning was done my face was covered in blood and water. Needless to say, I have not returned to that particular dentist. It's a good song, and it works in drill sounds and muzak well.

Lastly, there's "Syndicated Inc." which is a parody of "Misery" by Soul Asylum, which I have never heard. It's another Weird Al song about television and spending a lot of time watching it. As somebody who watches a ton of TV, it would seem to be playing to me, but this song isn't all that humorous. However, it does have a nice sound to it. There is a mellow, almost soothing quality that I enjoy. So, it's a pleasant listen even if it isn't as funny as the other song parodies on Bad Hair Day. Maybe I should check out "Misery" and see what it's all about.

On to the other stuff. First, "Alternative Polka" which is a polka medley of "alternative rock" songs from the early-to-mid-90s. It begins with Beck's "Loser" and ends with Green Day's "Basket Case." It also features "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails, which is a raunchy, aggressively sexual and sexually aggressive song. Sure, Weird Al bleeps out the word "fuck" in "I want to fuck you like an animal" but he still sings "I want to feel you from the inside." All I'm saying is, if you are buying a Weird Al album for your young child, maybe don't go with Bad Hair Day. Anyway, as far as medleys go, it works fine.

I mentioned previously how much I enjoy "Christmas at Ground Zero" which is one of Weird Al's happy sounding songs about serious stuff happening, and it throws the usually joyful Christmas holiday on top of it for added comedic effect. Well, "The Night Santa Went Crazy" does a similar thing. It doesn't have the same aural irony, it's a straight ahead rock song, but the subject is still some dark comedy. What the song posits is simply, "What if Santa Claus turned out to be a violent, unstable creep and one day he had enough and decided to torch the North Pole and go on a killing spree?" You know, traditional song fodder. Admittedly, the violence in the song is limited to reindeer being slaughtered, Al didn't go as far as to have and elves killed, but it is still dark, and sharp in its comedy. "Christmas at Ground Zero" is one of my favorite Weird Al originals, and "The Night Santa Went Crazy" is up there as well. Weird Al may be known as a chipper guy, which is why it was so sad when Huey Lewis split his head open with an axe, but he seems to excel at dark humor, way more than songs about food. Come at me, "Eat It" fans!

Speaking of dark, I remembered "The Night Santa Went Crazy" is detail, but I had forgotten how dark "I Remember Larry" is. I recalled it being a song about a guy named Larry who was a really jerk. At first, the singer is recalling all the "funny" pranks Larry pulled, which were really awful and mean-spirited, and it is the traditional Al song where he sings about grim things in a chipper tone. Then, it becomes a song about the singer kidnapping Larry and murdering him. It is genuinely jarring. Alas, it isn't a particularly funny song. I was honestly sort of bummed out by it. I know it is a comedy song, and I understood the irony that was driving the humor, but it could not overpower the content.

Since I am talking the lesser lights, I shall move on to the worst song on the album, "I'm So Sick of You." In the song, Weird Al just talks about all the awful things about his girlfriend he is inexplicably with. He just lists a ton of unpleasant facts about her. It's not that clever, and it feels way uglier than a Weird Al song normally does. Granted, Yankovic is entitled to go in any direction he wants for a song, but this did not feel like a "Weird Al song" if you are picking up what I'm laying down. Fortunately, the remaining songs on the album are better than these two, which are the only things close to misses on Bad Hair Day.

"Everything You Know Is Wrong" sees Al take his penchant for songs filled with absurd lyrics and cranks it up to eleven. Honestly, it is a bit much. It goes beyond what is necessary to merely stuff absurd notions into it. There isn't really a subject or a theme to the tune. It isn't even really about how everything you know is wrong, even if that is mentioned in the chorus. It's as much about aliens that look like Jamie Farr and rabid wolverines lodged in people's underpants as anything else. That being said, Weird Al has a knack for crafting humorous turns of phrase and for nailing details, even if they are abjectly absurd details. So, this song is still funny, and I still get some laughs. It also sounds good, but that can be said about every song on the album. Truly, musically there are no songs on this album I dislike. Some of them sound good, while others merely sound fine. However, there are no songs where the band brings it down with the music they are playing. Playing together for over a decade can do that, I suppose.

"Callin' In Sick" is a little light and doesn't do a ton for me, but it's fine. It's a song about calling in sick to work and then just sitting around doing nothing. Fair enough. Lastly, "Since You've Been Gone" is another Weird Al song in the barbershop quartet style. It's a short song at a mere 82 seconds, but it delivers in that time. The song starts off being about how unpleasant things have been since his (presumed) ex-lover has been gone. It's been like chewing on tin foil or getting a tetanus shot, but then the twist is "I feel almost as bad as I did when you were still here." Sure, it is built toward that one joke, but it's a solid joke, and the details of this song are quite strong. Weird Al's examples of unpleasant things are humorous, and this may be my favorite original on this album. Well, second to "The Night Santa Went Crazy" I suppose.

Given how I started this article, discussing how I hate nostalgia and such, it would perhaps make for a better essay in the abstract if I could be all like, "I really liked this album as a kid but now as an adult I though it sucked!" However, that would be a lie, because I really enjoy Bad Hair Day. It's my favorite Weird Al Yankovic album I have heard. There are no bad songs, although there are a few mediocre ones, but it has a few really good little ditties (none of which are about Jack and Diane) and a couple more good ones. It is musically Al's most successful album, and perhaps lyrically as well. "Amish Paradise" and "The Night Santa Went Crazy" remain top notch songs, for Weird Al and in general. I could listen through this album in its entirety and be fine with it. I'd prefer to skip a couple songs, but I wouldn't have to in order to enjoy myself. This was a very successful album. It went platinum and hit 14 on the Billboard Top 200 albums. "Amish Paradise" went to 53 on the hot 100. Perhaps this album helped to regenerate Weird Al's musical career. It certainly seemed a few years between albums helped. In the end, I may have gotten fortunate to have Bad Hair Day be my youthful introduction to Weird Al. It's a strong album to start off on.