My Top 10 “Weird Al” Yankovic Albums

For the past two April Fools’ Day, I devoted my Top 10 list “Weird Al” Yankovic, counting down his best parodies in 2016 and his best original songs in 2017. This year, I decided to count down his best albums, particularly the 14 studio albums (no compilations) he has released in his glorious Rock-and-Roll-Hall-of-Fame-worthy career. Seriously, why isn’t he in the Rock Hall yet?

Instead of just going with my gut, as I usually do when I make my Top 10 lists, I decided to try something a little more quantitative to compare the albums. I looked at the parodies on each album, and for each one that I really liked, I gave the album a point. I did the same for the original songs. If a song made either of my previous lists, I gave them the following bonus points: an additional half-point if the song made the Honorable Mention list, an additional full point if the song made the Top 10, and an additional 1.5 points if the song topped the list. I also gave a point if the album contained a polka medley because, let’s face it, those always kick butt. Two albums received an additional half-point for other tracks included on the album.

Some results fell as I expected. I figured Polka Party! would be near the bottom, having only one song (Dog Eat Dog) appear on the two previous lists combined. However, I didn’t expect it not to be the very bottom, which went to Even Worse, one of two albums that didn’t receive the polka point. And his biggest selling song—White and Nerdy—wasn’t enough to get Straight Outta Lynwood into this list. A bigger surprise is that the album that I expected to be at the top of this list based on bonus points didn’t end up there.

No spoilers, but before we count down, just a disclaimer that I don’t own any of the cover artwork. The images are linked from Wikipedia pages. Now onto the Top 10:

 

#10 – Bad Hair Day

Based on the strength of the parodies Amish Paradise (Coolio’s Gangsta’s Paradise), Cavity Search (U2’s Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me), and Gump (The Presidents of the United States of America’s Lump), and the original songs Callin’ in Sick and The Night That Santa Went Crazy, I thought this album from 1996 was going to place higher on the list. Turns out that I’m not as much of a fan of everything else on the album. Nothing is wrong with the parody Phony Calls (TLC’s Waterfalls), but Syndicated, Inc. (Soul Asylum’s Misery) is nowhere near as strong as some of Al’s other TV-themed songs. Like most albums, it has a great polka, and this one—The Alternative Polka—covers some great alternative songs from the mid-90s.

 

#9 – Mandatory Fun

This is Al’s final studio album, which is bittersweet for me, but I understand his rationale. His albums usually came out every few years while he waited for just the right songs to parody, but then by the time the album was released, the parodied songs aren’t in the current spotlight. Al is still recording, but he’s releasing direct to digital sales now. Still, this 2014 release contains five excellent parodies: Handy (Iggy Azalea’s Fancy), Foil (Lorde’s Royals), Word Crimes (Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines), Inactive (Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive), and Tacky (Pharrell’s Happy), and an absolutely fantastic polka (Now That’s What I Call Polka!). Unfortunately, the original songs, though clever, aren’t as memorable for me—with the exception of Lame Claim to Fame because I love the Kevin Bacon line in the song.

 

#8 – UHF – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff

I absolutely adore his 1989 movie UHF, a spoof of cheesy television shows and movies and an underdog story between a struggling independent TV station and a moneygrubbing corporate major network. There are only a few songs in the film, most notably Beverly Hillbillies (Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing) and its awesome parody video. Al filled out the album with other great parodies like the Gilligan’s-Island-inspired Isle Thing (Tone Loc’s Wild Thing), She Drives Like Crazy (Fine Young Cannibals’ She Drives Me Crazy), and Spam (R.E.M.’s Stand). There’s also a polka filled only with Rolling Stones songs. I really like the original Generic Blues, but for me, the standout song is The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota, about a family on a road trip. And I gave the album a bonus half-point for including the audio from the Spatula City and Ghandi II clips from the movie.

 

#7 – Dare To Be Stupid

Before I started calculating scores for this list, I thought his 1985 release was going to be one of the albums that missed the cut. After Like a Surgeon (Madonna’s Like a Virgin) and Yoda (The Kinks’ Lola), the parodies aren’t as strong. How it placed this high is on the list is due to Hooked on Polkas covering great mid-80s rock, and one of the best collections of original songs among his albums. The title track is a beautiful homage to Devo, One More Minute is among the best of his ended-relationship songs, This is the Life was a perfect addition to the soundtrack of the Michael Keaton film Johnny Dangerously, and I have a special place in my heart for Slime Creatures from Outer Space because I had used it in a silly video I had made with friends of mine in college about killer Koosh Balls from outer space. Yeah, I know the song is about slime creatures, but those would have been messy to produce.

 

#6 – “Weird Al” Yankovic

Back in his 1983 self-titled debut, Al relied far more on the accordion than he does now. It was also before he truly started mimicking the vocal sounds of the artists he parodied. Still, this album boasts an impressive collection of Al’s early parodies such as the I-Love­-Lucy-inspired Ricky (Toni Basil’s Mickey), I Love Rocky Road (Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ I Love Rock and Roll), Stop Draggin’ My Car Around (Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty’s Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around), My Bologna (The Knack’s My Sharona), and the exceptional Another One Rides the Bus (Queen’s Another One Bites the Dust), which placed at #2 on my Top 10 “Weird Al” Parodies list two years ago. The original songs are solid too, particularly I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead, Gotta Boogie (about an actual boogie stuck on a disco dancer’s finger), and Happy Birthday with the awesome proclamation about eating lots of broccoli and drinking beer to celebrate. In the tallying of these albums, it tied with the next entry on the list, but I placed it lower because of the more raw sound and the lack of a polka.

 

#5 – In 3-D

Al’s sophomore album in 1984 also has an exceptional list of parodies, including the single that I think really propelled him from novelty act to cultural force: Eat It (Michael Jackson’s Beat It). The remaining four parodies are also amazing: The Brady Bunch (Men Without Hats’ The Safety Dance), King of Suede (The Police’s King of Pain), Theme from Rocky XIII: The Rye or the Kaiser (Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger), and the brilliant I Lost on Jeopardy (Greg Kihn’s Jeopardy). The polka (Polkas on 45) is his first featured on an album, and it includes an interesting array of 60s through 80s artists and songs. But the standout song is the original Midnight Star, a fun and upbeat song about supermarket tabloid magazines. During my freshman year of college, my roommate asked to borrow this album to arrange Midnight Star for the a cappella group he was in. It was cool not only that the song was appreciated but that Al as an artist was back then—before he was eligible for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

 

#4 – Off the Deep End

In spring 1992, the night before this album was released, a friend of mine in college—and fellow “Weird Al” fan—walked from MIT across the Charles River to Tower Records on the corner of Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue to buy our copies at midnight. Then we went back to our dorm and listened to it. I vividly remember laughing loudly. It’s got some great parodies: I Can’t Watch This (MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This), the Oreo-cookie-inspired The White Stuff (New Kids on the Block’s The Right Stuff), The Plumbing Song (Milli Vanilli’s Baby, Don’t Forget My Number and Blame It On the Rain), and the CLASSIC Smells Like Nirvana. The originals are top-notch as well, particularly You Don’t Love Me Anymore, When I Was Your Age, and I Was Only Kidding—the latter starting off as a love song until he gets to the first mention of the title. My friend and I really cracked up when he first sang that. Polka Your Eyes Out is solid, and I gave it a bonus half-point for the hidden track as an extra parody to Nirvana’s Nevermind album, along with that cover photo.

 

#3 – Poodle Hat

I honestly thought this 2003 album was going to come out on top, only because it gained a total of FOUR bonus points—it had two honorable mentions and both #1 songs from the previous lists. Had it not been for those bonus points, this album wouldn’t even appear this high; it would be up at #10. Its polka—The Angry White Boy Polka—is an outstanding mix of the alternative rock of the time (The White Stripes, Rage Against the Machine, The Hives, and so on), but only two of the originals stand out: Wanna Be Ur Lovr (enhanced because of how funny he is when he performs it live), and the palindromic Bob Dylan style parody Bob—my favorite of his original songs. Great parodies save the album, such as Couch Potato (Eminem’s Lose Yourself), Trash Day (Nelly’s Hot in Herre), the Spiderman-inspired Ode to a Superhero (Billy Joel’s Piano Man), and my all-time favorite parody eBay (Backstreet Boys’ I Want It That Way).

 

#2 – Running with Scissors

His 1999 release looked weird because he had shaved his signature mustache. But it sounded incredible from the first song, The Saga Begins (Don McLean’s American Pie), where he sings the plot of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, which he pieced together from internet spoilers. The other parodies—Pretty Fly for a Rabbi (Offspring’s Pretty Fly for a White Guy), Jerry Springer (Barenaked Ladies’ One Week), and It’s All About the Pentiums (Puff Daddy’s It’s All About the Benjamins)—are fantastic. Polka Power! is a great line-up of songs. But the original songs on this album are worth it. Germs is a spot-on Nine Inch Nails style parody, and Truck Drivin’ Song has a great twang and an unexpected direction. Al had started including long, rambling final tracks, and though I didn’t care for Albuquerque when I first heard it, I appreciate its genius now. But the standout song is Your Horoscope for Today, juxtaposing generic and brutally silly predictions.

 

And finally, MY FAVORITE “WEIRD AL” ALBUM…

#1 – ALPOCALYPSE

There was a big gap between 2006’s Straight Outta Lynwood and 2011’s Alpocalypse, but it was clearly worth the wait. Al actually released an EP called Internet Leaks in the interim, and half the songs on this album debuted there. Why it supposedly took so long to release a new album is because he was waiting for the right song to kick it off with. He found that in Perform This Way (Lady Gaga’s Born This Way). The other parodies are great: TMZ (Taylor Swift’s You Belong to Me), Party in the C.I.A. (Miley Cyrus’s Party in the U.S.A.), and my favorite, Another Tattoo (B.o.B./Bruno Mars’s Nothin’ on You). Polka Face (another Gaga reference) is among his catchiest polkas, but it’s the outstanding collection of original songs that make this album so transcendent. I didn’t like Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me when I first heard it, but now I use it as a reply when people forward crap to me. CNR hysterically posits Charles Nelson Reilly as a Chuck Norris type who can do anything. And Craigslist (a kick-ass Doors style parody) and Skipper Dan (about a once-awesome actor now working on an amusement park jungle cruise ride) are two of his best-ever parodies, the latter one managing to create genuine pathos for a genuinely sympathetic character. As I was doing the tally, I wasn’t surprised that this album came out on top. After all, it’s is Alpocalyptic!

 

Agree? Disagree? Comments, compliments, complaints? Send them along!

 

Comments

  1. Vanna White says:

    I noticed you said that you didn’t like the Al-riginals on Mandatory Fun. I don’t like most of them, but you included Mission Statement. It’s absolutely brilliant because it combines a dated sound similar to Crosby, Stills, and Nash with ultra-modern obfuscated tech language. I think it’s kind of rude that you don’t appreciate that song. It is one of his best Al-riginals.

    • Thank you for the comment. However, I never mention “Mission Statement” by name. Like I said in the little write-up, his original songs on the album are clever–particularly the construction of “Mission Statement”–but it’s just not as memorable for me compared to some Al-riginals (great terminology, btw) from other albums.

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