Weird Al in the 21st Century

Maybe it’s harder to parody when pop stars are smaller than they used to be? Weird Al did parody a Lady Gaga song; it’s not bad but for someone who has recently refreshed his memory of Al’s whole career — Al’s parody of Lady Gaga is more similar to his parody of Madonna than… well you get the point.

But he’s had a string of songs over the last decade that are more broadly aimed at problems; annoyances of society; technology run amok.

The problem with email

The problem with cell phones

The problem with the war on terror (it’s subtext!)

The problem with Craigslist (not so much problem as useful service for buying and selling goods and services)

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Weird Al Raps… Really!

I don’t know how much credit is given to him, but Weird Al basically inspired a whole musical subgenre, Nerdcore, with his parodies of rap music that focused on suburban, middle class, well nerdy, subjects.

He’s had three fairly large hit songs parodying rap songs and his last one, White & Nerdy was a top ten hit, a Platinum single according to the RIAA.

Amish Paradise

All About the Pentiums

White & Nerdy

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Weird Memories of Weird Al

As a kid and than a teenager I loved Weird Al songs and most of the time I felt largely embarrassed by my love of Weird Al songs. I still would probably be reticent to bring up all of my pop culture enthusiasms with everyone I know. I had these pockets of compartmentalization in my life even then – things I liked where I just knew a bunch of people I otherwise liked (or were trying hard to get to like me) would not “get it” or even worse think less of me (or at least that was my fear).  Still I played some of the early albums a bunch in my walkman; and I even lip-synched Weird Al songs several times at talent shows (not sure how many; I do remember at least one at a church event).  That’s some serious pop culture love isn’t it? I lip-synched his songs in public! And then all the same I’m just as sure I must have dismissed him to other friends in high school.

Anyhow, Weird Al went to Cal Poly, the same college I went on to — I worked at the same college radio station, KCPR, that he did.  But despite that weird coincidence it had nothing to do with me wanting to do those things and in fact by college I had mostly pushed Weird Al to the sidelines of my musical interests.

This burst of writing about Weird Al was prompted by reading Weird Al: The Book which is a fun, lightweight overview of his career Al collaborated with Nathan Rabin on.  In it there is a recollection of his first appearance on national television when Tom Snyder invited on three musical parody acts to his show.  (Incidentally, Weird Al recorded his first “hit” My Balogna in the bathroom across from the college radio station studio).

His first three albums were a hit with me and at least a subset of my friends in high school.  Weird Al and Weird Al in 3D are a mix of song parody, pop culture send-up and very very twisted songs.  Plus polka medleys — the guy does play an accordion after all.  Dare to Be Stupid though was probably the one that really sealed the deal.   The title track is a Devo parody and loving tribute all together. Just really smart stuff.

Somewhere someone might have footage of me and some other kids making our own video for Dare To Be Stupid. Technology being what it was in the 1980s the video cameras were at least as big as woman’s shoulder pads.  Computer effects were zilch — we mostly came up with stupid set pieces to illustrate the silly lyrics of the song.

Ricky (to the tune of Mickey)

I Lost on Jeopardy

This Is the Life

One More Minute

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