The best and worst of Weird Al's one-word-title parody songs

The Internet is knee-deep in Weird Al week, in which the universe’s preeminent song parody artist is deploying a new video every day to celebrate the release of his latest (and possibly last) album, Mandatory Fun. EW spoke to Weird Al about the origins of some of his classics a few weeks back, but as the new songs roll out , it’s tough not to notice the proliferation of the one-word pop song—both in our culture at large and in Weird Al’s prism view of it. There’s “Tacky” (a play on Pharrell’s “Happy”), “Foil” (off Lorde’s “Royals”), and today, “Handy” (riffing on Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”).

Whatever you’re feeling about this crop of Weird Al tunes, there’s no denying that Mr. Yankovic loves a nice, simple pop platform, and that, historically speaking, we love him for it. For the most part, his songs generate richness in a manner inversely proportionate to the simplicity of the original. Put another way: Weird Al tends to make maximum hay when given minimal concepts.

But does using this style of song also hamstring Weird Al at times? After all, the simpler the structure of the original, the easier it is for us to compare it and its parody side-by-side. How often does a one-word pop song help Al, and how often does it hurt him? Let’s look.

“Fat,” from 1988’s Even Worse

The gold standard in this category, “Fat” not only made great use of the musicality of Michael Jackson’s “Bad” with all of its exclamations (“shyamon” becomes “ham on… whole wheat”), it also takes a fairly vague source concept—that MJ is generally “bad”—and makes it specific—Al is “fat” in a number of precise ways, handily elucidated in the song.

One-word verdict: Helps.

“Gump” from 1996’s Bad Hair Day

Taking on the Presidents of the United States of America’s alternative classic “Lump,” Weird Al takes a song about an off-kilter girl and pivots to a retelling of the plot of Forrest Gump. It’s a fair bet that most people hearing “Gump” knew the film, since it won the Best Picture Oscar in 1995; the song reminded listeners both of the beloved movie and how good Weird Al can be at turning a phrase (“His buddy Bubba was a shrimp lovin’ man/His friend with no legs he called Lieutenant Dan”).

One-word verdict: Helps.

“Yoda” from 1985’s Dare to Be Stupid

Like “Gump,” this one takes on the plot of Star Wars: Episode V, told from the point of view of Luke Skywalker. While a pretty spot-on parody of the Kinks’ “Lola,” it’s not nearly as zeitgeist-y in its song choice or its subject. Still fun, but not as fun—or as smart—as his later take on Star Wars, “The Saga Begins.” It also lacks a video, which is where Weird Al can really shine—it was only 1985, after all, and, you know, Lucasfilm and rights and whatnot.

One-word verdict: Hurts.

“Foil” from 2014’s Mandatory Fun

At his best, Weird Al squeezes satire juice from the cultural stone, indicting our culture in a cheeky way while still making his own hits. It’s admittedly difficult to rhyme something with the word “royal” but it’s even more difficult to write an entire song about tinfoil. Still: pretty happy to see you, Patton Oswalt, Lizard Person.

One-word verdict: Hurts.

“Tacky,” and “Handy” from 2014’s Mandatory Fun

Like “Fat,” both of these capitalize on their sources’ dead-simple concepts (being fancy and happy, respectively) and blow out the detail to maximal proportions. Sure, Iggy Azalea is “Fancy” and Pharrell is “Happy” but Weird Al is really tacky, and really handy. Allow him to tell you the many reasons why, in that Weird Al-at-his-Weird-Al-iest way: voluminous in detail, effortless in execution.

One-word verdict: Helps.




Latest Videos in Music

Advertisement

From Our Partners

TV Recaps

Powered by WordPress.com VIP