My Top 10 “Weird Al” Yankovic Song Parodies

I’m doing another music related Top 10 list this month, and I figured April Fools’ Day would be the perfect day to celebrate one of my all-time favorite musical heroes.

“Weird Al” Yankovic.

I’ve seen him twice in concert, and I own all fourteen of his studio albums. Honestly, I think he deserves to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of the longevity of his recording career and the cultural significance of it. Many artists have claimed that they knew that they had made it in the business once Al asked permission to parody their songs. Yes, he gives fellow artists the professional courtesy to ask before recording a parody, even though it’s not required by law. Add that to his creative lyricism and the amazing ability to sound like the targets of his parodies, and he’s just all around awesome.

So this month’s Top 10 list will be a countdown of my favorite SONG parodies of his (not his style parodies or original songs—saving those later lists, maybe?). I’ll state the song/artist being parodied and explain why I like the song. Note that some of these weren’t released as singles, so if there are any you don’t know, then click on the image and it will take you somewhere on YouTube to listen to it. Also, I made a concerted effort to include at least one from each of his 14 albums (I have five honorable mention songs), but I didn’t pick one from Polka Party! because there are too many stronger ones than the ones on that album. Sorry, Al.

But let’s start the list…

 


#10 – Like a Surgeon

Parody of Like a Virgin by Madonna

One of his earlier big parodies, from his third album Dare To Be Stupid, is on this list because of story of how the idea came about in the first place. Supposedly, Madonna asked a friend how long it would take Al to parody her song, replacing virgin for surgeon. The friend was also a friend of Al’s manager, and this became the only known time Al took an idea from the original artist. But its inclusion on this list is also because of the hysterical video. There are wonderful sight gags throughout, but seeing Al do the Madonna moves on the operating room floor and a moving gurney are priceless.

 

#9 – Another Tattoo

Parody of Nothin’ On You by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars

This appeared on Alpocalypse, an album that took some time before it was released, as Al was waiting for the right parody to be the lead single. That turned out to be Perform This Way (Lady Gaga’s Born This Way). Yeah, that’s a good song with a good, albeit kinda creepy, video, but when I first heard this song much later in the album, I declared it the best of the parodies. (My favorite song on that album, by the way, is the excellent original song Skipper Dan about an out-of-work actor working as a tour guide on an amusement park adventure cruise ride.) Anyway, this catchy song about excessive body art juxtaposes funny images, animated nicely in the video. Check out the bizarre images, his ex-wives, and his shopping list (Crystal Pepsi?!).

 

#8 – Amish Paradise

Parody of Gangsta’s Paradise by Coolio

I’m not going to go into the details about the supposed miscommunication between Al and Coolio regarding the permission to record this parody. Instead, I’m going to go into the brilliance of the lead single from his album Bad Hair Day. What makes this song and video work so well is the complete upturning of expectations given the original song. Is Amish culture the exact opposite of Gangsta culture? Who knows, but they’re nowhere near the same. There are similar images in the two videos as well but with the appropriate props to match the lyrics. But the absolute ringer is Florence Henderson as a stand-in for Michelle Pfeiffer. Mrs. Brady is totally bad ass here!

 

#7 – Smells Like Nirvana

Parody of Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana

I remember walking across the Mass. Avenue bridge from MIT to Tower Records in Boston and walking back after midnight with a friend to buy copies of Al’s Off the Deep End album on its release date. We immediately listened to the album, and Smells Like Nirvana was the first song. I was in college when Nirvana’s Nevermind came out, so I know how culturally significant that was then. Al brilliantly captured the sound of grunge and poked just the right amount of fun at Nirvana’s incomprehensible lyrics (bargle nawdle zouss??). The video is a shot-for-shot homage to Nirvana’s original (but with added sight gags), and it included many of the same extras! Oh, and Dick Van Patten too.

 

#6 – (This Song’s Just) Six Words Long

Parody of (Got My Mind) Set on You by George Harrison

When Al’s Even Worse album came out, the lead single Fat (Michael Jackson’s Bad) was the hit song. He had already parodied the King of Pop before with a food-themed song, and even though both videos effectively recreate the originals, they effectively cancel each other out for me. Food is one of his go-to themes. Then I heard this song, which wasn’t released as a single, and it’s absolutely hysterical, and I wish there was an official Al video (the link is to a fan-made video). I wasn’t that big a fan of Harrison’s original song because I thought it was too repetitive. Apparently, Al thought so too. But there’s a counting issue here. Even though the title of the song is six words long, the song isn’t. That’s not the problem since it’s a song about there being so many repeated words, but the repeated line in the chorus is actually seven words long. But who cares? It’s funny, and I probably could have ranked it higher, but it fits best at spot number six.

 

#5 – White and Nerdy

Parody of Ridin’ by Chamillionare

Another great rap parody that takes the original song and upturns it completely. The first song released from the album Straight Outta Lynwood is the only single of his ever to go platinum (sell over a million copies). Even sales of Chamillionare’s song got a boost from this release. In this current era where nerd culture is embraced, it doesn’t feel like he’s poking fun at their likes at all. The “narrator” of the song is completely proud of who he is and what he likes, although the “gangstas” won’t let him bowl with them. The video is quick paced and funny, with special guest star Donny Osmond nerding out in the background. But this song has a special place in my heart—and not just because I’m a nerd too. In a karaoke contest one of the classes at my school held as a fundraiser, I won the “Most Entertaining” award by singing this. Because the deejay that was hired didn’t have this song (or Chamillionare’s) in his library, I had to provide my own music, and thus, I didn’t have the lyrics on the screen so I had to memorize them. Not an easy task, which makes Al’s performance even more amazing.

 

#4 – The Saga Begins

Parody of American Pie by Don McLean

Al has written parodies about popular movies many times, and he’s covered the Star Wars universe once before (Yoda, a parody of Lola, by the Kinks). For his Running with Scissors album, he took on the long-awaited release of Star Wars Episode I—The Phantom Menace. Now if you’re going to take on something epic like that, you have to go with an epic song, and Don McLean’s American Pie is simply the perfect song—after all, the opening line of the song is “A long, long time ago.” Could it be a better Star Wars fit? But what’s most impressive about the song is that Al wrote a majority of the song BEFORE THE MOVIE CAME OUT! He pieced together enough of the plot from Internet spoilers. That’s amazing, isn’t it? Al must have been channeling the Force there.

 

#3 – I Lost on Jeopardy

Parody of Jeopardy by Greg Kihn Band

Al has written parodies about popular television shows many times, but there’s something so fantastic about his take on the game show Jeopardy! Often overshadowed on the In 3-D album by Eat It, this song is one of my early Al favorites. First off, I love Jeopardy!, though the song was written before the Alex Trebek-hosted edition premiered. Pre-teen me had never seen the show as hosted by Art Fleming, and I certainly didn’t know that you had to phrase your answer in the form of a question, so I didn’t really understand those references then. But I got the idea of your brain freezing up on a tricky game show, and that anxiety matches the source material of Greg Kihn’s relationship-ending song. Even thirty years later, there’s no question that this song’s theme is as fresh as potpourri.

 

#2 – Another One Rides the Bus

Parody of Another One Bites the Dust by Queen

This is a sentimental favorite of mine, as I think it’s the very first Al parody I ever heard. My When I was a pre-teen, my uncle introduced me to the Doctor Demento radio show and all the novelty comedy records on it, and it was about the time that Al first broke onto the scene. Over the years, Al would refine his craft and imitate the vocal and instrumental stylings of the artists he parodied. This is BEFORE that. The primary instrument is Al’s beloved accordion, and he certainly doesn’t sound like Freddie Mercury from Queen, but it’s clever and funny. He so accurately describes a crowded bus down to the sights, sounds, and smells. No produced video exists for the song, but he performed it live on the Tom Snyder show.

 

Before I get to MY FAVORITE “WEIRD AL” PARODY, here are five Honorable Mentions:

Money for Nothing/Beverly Hillbillies – Mark Knopfler from Dire Straits joins Al on guitar for this parody (from the UHF soundtrack) with the long title. I love it when Al matches a TV theme song’s lyrics to the right song.

Trapped in the Drive-Thru – R. Kelly’s 33-chapter Trapped in the Closet was so out there and crazy that a parody was inevitable, but replacing the one night stand and its consequences with something as mundane as a trip to the drive-thru is brilliant. Another highlight from the Straight Outta Lynwood album.

Jurassic Park – As I said before, if you’re going to poke fun at an epic movie plot, you’ve got to use an epic song. MacArthur Park, despite its loopy cake in the rain metaphor, has a great epic sound that fits dinosaurs on the loose. And the Claymation video is fantastic.

Couch Potato – Al has written several parodies about watching too much TV, almost to the point that they should all cancel each other out. But using Eminem’s Academy Award-winning anthem Lose Yourself to do it is utter comedic brilliance. It was supposed to be the lead single from the album Poodle Hat, but Eminem feared it would hurt his career. Too bad, because a video for this would’ve been awesome. Instead, the link goes to fan-made animation.

Handy – The newest song featured here, from his most recent album Mandatory Fun. Turning Iggy Azalea’s Fancy into an advertisement for services from a general contractor is really funny, and the video is perfect. He totally nails it! (See what I did there?) Check it out and watch his background dancers.

 

And finally…

#1 – EBAY

Parody of I Want It That Way by Backstreet Boys

Yeah, this is my favorite of Al’s parodies. It’s just a perfect fusion of the chosen song, the parody targets (Backstreet Boys and eBay), and the pop-culture of collectibles. So perfect that eBay itself has featured it at company events. It’s from the underrated Poodle Hat album, which suffered from not having a true lead single (see Couch Potato in the Honorable Mentions). Even eBay was the last parody on the album (track 11 of 12), which is often a weaker parody on the album. But this song isn’t weak; it’s wonderful! If Al had made a video for the song, what would it have looked like? Who knows? But thanks to YouTube, there are many fan-made videos, and I linked to one with the most hits. I believe most of the items referenced in the song were at one point available on eBay—and I’m sure many of them were bid on. Weird.

 

Agree? Disagree? Comments, compliments, complaints? Fire away!

Comments

  1. Good list. I’d have gone with “Tacky” from Mandatory Fun, and moved Amish Paradise to top three, but other than that our lists are pretty well aligned. I guess that’s not surprising. :-)

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