If I told you there exists a pop star who recorded their first album in 1978, just released a recorded that is as relevant as their first record, and still gets play on the radio, would you believe me?
If you don’t believe me, here’s the name of the artist: “Weird Al” Yankovic. I’m certain that I heard many of his song satires before I heard the originals, including “Yoda” and “My Bologna.” He released Mandatory Fun, his fourteenth studio album, on July 15th, 2014.
Each song is solid, though some stand out as long-term hits while others may be quickly forgotten. A strength of the album is Yankovic’s style parodies, which include send-ups of college fight songs, the Foo Fighters, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Southern Culture on the Skids, the Pixies, and Cat Stevens. I liked his Pixies sound the best! As he does on all his albums, Yankovic includes a polka medley.
I think what makes Yankovic successful is his genuine love for music. I also find that his music cheers me up when I need it, and I can look back fondly on my memories associated with his songs. Below are my five favorite “Weird Al” Yankovic songs.
1. “Dare to be Stupid”
The title track of Weird Al’s third album always makes me think of Transformers:The Movie. As a kid, I loved Transformers and this movie much formed some of my earliest pop culture moments. As I matured musically, I began to appreciate the musical pastiche of the band Devo that Yankovic creates for this song. I think this song works so well because the members of Devo are students of music, which makes the fraternal nature of Devo’s music and this song very evident. “Dare to be Stupid” has all the hallmarks of early electronica, nerd music, and rock-and-roll.
2. “Smells like Nirvana”
As an unabashed Kurt Cobain lover, I was immediately taken with this song. Yankovic captured the frenetic energy and incomprehensible lyrics of Kurt Cobain. It is telling that Nirvana absolutely loved this version of their song. Dave Grohl has been on record saying they knew they had made it when Yankovic came calling, asking to do a parody. The song and album Off The Deep End were cathartic for Yankovic because he had just come off the failure of UHF, which was his baby.
I loved “Lump” and the Presidents of the United States of America. I love weird music. Forrest Gump was an OK movie. I know that “Amish Paradise” is everyone’s favorite of this album, but there is something awesome about “Gump.”
4. “Angry White Boy Polka”
As someone who used to listen to a lot of the trash contained within this song, I was able to laugh at myself upon hearing this song. The White Stripes, the Strokes, and Rage are excluded from being called trash. The Vines and the Hives are maybe just too cookie cutter garage rock to be excluded from the likes of Staind and Kid Rock.
5. “White and Nerdy”
This song introduced a whole new age of pop music fans to “Weird Al” Yankovic. I just rewatched this the other day and realized Key and Peele are in the very beginning of the video. Any song that references MC Escher and the X-Men has to be in my favorites, right?
I had a chance to see Yankovic live during the Running with Scissors era. He put on one of the best concerts I have ever been to. He goes beyond musician into being a solid entertainer. I am glad he continues to put out music on a consistent basis. With his record deal ending after this newest release, he plans on releasing more music as singles or EPs. He has embraced the Internet and gets that the studio album may be going the way of the dodo.