So I’m cooking dinner with Pandora providing the soundtrack, and The Police’s “King of Pain” comes on. I start singing as I’m chopping up the scallions, “There’s a sale on our gabardine suits today, they’re all thirty percent off from yesterday…”
I get about two stanzas in before I realize I’m crooning Weird Al’s “King of Suede”. I haven’t listened to Weird Al regularly in fifteen years. This still happens all the time.
When I went through my Weird Al phase, I went through it hard. My brother and I bought every album, and wouldn’t let anything else touch the stereo. We wore out the Weird Al In 3D cassette, somehow destroyed our Off the Deep End CD, and had Even Worse and his first album on heavy, heavy rotation. I can’t remember if our phase lasted six months or four years- or maybe it just cycled back with each new album. Regardless, we devoured a lot of Albert Yankovic, much to the chagrin of our parents.
The thing is, as all die hard fans know, Weird Al is a damn good musician and fantastic lyricist. Though I’ve always found the food songs a bit lame (with a few notable exceptions) most Weird Al parodies are improvements on the original songs (a bold statement, to be sure). It’s not like he’s giving us epiphanies with each refrain- and I rarely even chuckle at his lyrics. It’s that he finds lyrics that work perfectly with the melody and rhythm of the song- often better than the original musicians did.
And now I have an excuse to listen to a bunch of songs I haven’t heard since the early 90s. Thanks, PopTen.
Here are ten cases where W.A. Yankovic’s version trumped the originals, imho.
[Pardon the weird videos, I’m not allowed to embed the real ones! In some cases- you’re welcome.]
10. I Lost on Jeopardy
This might’ve been further up if I’d actually heard the original song before this version. Still, getting Don Pardo in on the song is pretty brilliant, as was Stella’s hysterical use of this song in their Christmas Caroling short.
9. I Think I’m a Clone Now
“Part of some geneticist’s plan, born to be a carbon copy man.” I think if Tiffany (or Tommy James & the Shondells) were asked, they’d agree that these lyrics blow theirs out of the water. Who needs sexual innuendo lite when you can hear the chronicle of a man discovering that he’s a genetic experiment? Phantasmagorical, existential, hardcore sci-fi genius.
8. This Song Is Just Six Words Long
How many other Weird Al fans were kept up nights trying to figure this one out?
One day I’ll understand… Regardless, the song just sounds so much more fun when it’s obsessed with itself, and not whoever George had his mind set on. And the entire stanza that’s just “Over and over and over…” is a nice touch.
7. White n Nerdy
You’ve gotta give props to a musician who has his most successful record and single almost three decades into his career. Yeah, the lyrics are a little too obvious, and maybe even outdated, but I’ve heard so many people actually laugh out loud when they first hear it (myself included) that it deserves a spot on the list.
6. Theme From Rocky XIII (Rye or the Kaiser)
A reimagined Rocky movie where Balboa’s given up the boxing ring and instead works in a deli, with this as the rocking soundtrack. Come to think of it, the new Rocky movie isn’t really that far off- doesn’t he work in a restaurant? Somewhere, Al was laughing…
5. Taco Grande
I mostly love this song to hear Al pronouncing all those Mexican foods. The guy really revels in language- he’s doing some neat verbal acrobatics throughout this ditty- no fooling.
4. Smells Like Nirvana
Cobain once said that he realized he was famous when he heard this song. Oddly, I kind of agree. Making a parody that was entirely about Nirvana- wow, not only are you big enough to command a parody, but it’s all about your cult of personality and music? I guess these Seattle guys are pretty huge…
3. King of Suede
This song has a lot of wistful, nostalgic energy that I feel is wasted on Sting’s lyrics (brilliant as they may be). I always preferred hearing about a salesman who became the King of Suede, tucked away in some corner of suburbia, part of bygone age.
2. I Want a New Duck
I can’t put my finger on what I find so out-and-out hilarious about a guy wanting a new duck, but it cracks my shit up. This guy bought a duck, has buyer’s remorse, and dreams about the duck he’d rather have. I can’t spell out why it’s genius, but somehow it just is.
I need not preface this one- it stands alone, as the best biographical song of all time.
Wow, it was great revisiting this guy- I just realized I have no Weird Al songs on my iTunes! What happened? Ah well, I’ll have to follow this up someday with the Top Ten Original Weird Al Songs, as all of his best songs are originals. (Franks 2000 Inch TV, I’m looking at you…)