Top 10 Weird Al Parodies That Outlived Their Targets | One of Us

Top 10 Weird Al Parodies That Outlived Their Targets

6 Submitted by on Tue, 22 July 2014, 07:01

Alfred “Weird  Al” Yankovic has been skewering popular music in his own unique fashion for quite some time. His career spans from his 1979 parody of “My Sharona” ever so brilliantly titled “My Bologna” to his recently released fourteenth album Mandatory Fun that features parodies of Robin Thicke & Iggy Azalea. In the 35 years that Weird Al has been releasing music, he’s done parodies of so many genres, including (but not limited to) rock & roll , rap, grunge & alternative rock.

 

Many of his biggest parodies are of songs that were hits at the time and still remain classic well recognized tunes to this day, like “Eat It” or “Smells Like Nirvana.” Yet, at the same time, there are plenty of songs that Weird Al has parodied that don’t remain popular enduring hits, whether they be products of one hit wonders or artists that were very much of their time. Despite this, Al’s parodies of these songs usually manage to outlive their targets and entertain younger audiences despite their lack of knowledge on the original ditty, a phenomenon TVTropes.org refers to as The Weird Al Effect. For a few examples of said effect, I offer my humble list based on my own skewed perspective below.

10. I Lost On Jeopardy

Year of Release: 1984
Album: Weird Al Yankovic in 3-D
Parody of: “Our Love’s In Jeopardy” by The Greg Kihn Band

Are you aware of the game show Jeopardy? Of course you are, but probably not in it’s initial form. Yes, three short months before we were blessed with the more modern version of the hit game show featuring Alex Trebeck’s gorgeous ‘stache, Weird Al assembled a tribute to the classic 60s/70s version of the game show out of The Greg Kihn Band’s now forgotten 1983 hit “Jeopardy.”

The song has a ear worm of a beat, which Al twists from being a generically written song about a man pleading with his lady to work out their relationship into a contestant groaning over his recent failure on the hit game show. Al’s regrets over his loss and nervous tension over the categories are cartoonishly funny, made even more so by the visuals of his over the top reactions in the music video. The only thing that keeps this from going higher is the fact that it explicitly references elements from the long gone version of the show that date it, right down to having the show’s former host Art Fleming and former announcer Don Pardo in the video. Still, it gave us Don Pardo loudly announcing “Rice-A-Roni,” which never gets old.

 

9. I Think I’m A Clone Now

Year of Release: 1988
Album: Even Worse
Parody of: “I Think We’re Alone Now” by Tiffany (originally by Tommy James and the Shondells)

80s teen idol hit turned existential sci-fi crisis? Why not? Yes, former mall touring teen idol/current Syfy Original Movie actress Tiffany’s hit cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now” was transformed into the story of Weird Al realizing that he’s just “Part of Some Geneticist’s Plan/Born To Be A Carbon Copy Man.” This may be one of the bigger leaps that Weird Al has done in terms of subject to parody, but it still manages to outlive it’s predecessor mainly thanks to the ever curious premise of cloning technology. Also, it’s interesting to note that “Clone” sort of has this paranoid tone to it as Weird Al realizes the crisis of his existence, mirroring how “I Think We’re Alone Now” has become an unintentional stalker anthem in the wake of the documentary of the same name. A Weird Al Nostradamus moment of sorts.

 

8. Do I Creep You Out

Year of Release: 2006
Album: Straight Outta Lynwood
Parody of: “Do I Make You Proud” by Taylor Hicks

Do you remember Taylor Hicks? Of course you don’t. It feels a bit like cheating to pick on an American Idol winner for a lack of longevity at this point, but it can’t be denied that Hicks and his songs have gone much the way of his fellow reality show winning brethren. However, Mr. Yankvoic managed to squeeze out a humorous little ditty about the creepy behavior of an obsessive stalker type. “Do I Creep You Out” is one of Weird Al’s darker songs, making a love ballad out of stalker tendencies. This could easily be far less funny given the subject matter, but it helps that the song he’s lampooning is a rather bland and self absorbed pat on the back of a song about self pride. The arrogance translates well to delusional feelings of love in the form of self-serving creeping.

 

7. You’re Pitiful

Year of Release: 2006
Album: N/A, online single release on Weird Al’s website
Parody of: “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt

Here is an interesting case, in that the backstory for the song had a sort of self fulfilling prophecy on longevity. Yankovic, who likes to secure permission from the artist before parodying their songs as a courtesy, asked and got the blessing of James Blunt to do his parody of “You’re Beautiful.” However, Atlantic Records (Blunt’s record company) denied Al permission to release the song after he had already recorded it, saying that a parody could give Blunt the stigma of a “one hit wonder” far too early in his career.

Despite Atlantic being technically right in hindsight, it still doesn’t excuse their behavior. So now, along with the lyrics being a darkly fun jab at the more unmotivated slobs of the world, the live performances of the song feature a giant middle finger to the record label itself, which can be seen in the above video of his live performance from 2011. Guess it’s both a parody of Blunt’s aggressively cloying song and the douchebag behavior of the music business now, isn’t it?

 

6. The Saga Begins

Year of Release: 1999
Album: Running With Scissors
Parody of: “American Pie” by Don McLean & Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Now before I get comments about “How dare you say American Pie isn’t an enduring classic”, let me assure you; this song isn’t on here because of “American Pie”, which is still a fantastic song that people of any age can at least remember the tune of. No, the reason “The Saga Begins” is on here is because of other big source of parody, The Phantom Menace. True, the fourth entry in the Star Wars franchise may still be in our minds, but not in the way it was meant to be. So, one of the most disappointing subjects of nerd culture was turned into a jaunty adventure thanks to Weird Al’s lyrical description of the plot over a tweaked version of McLean’s beat. I still can’t help but sing along every time Al sings “Well, I Know He Built C-3PO/And I’ve Heard How Fast His Parts Can Go”, transforming a George Lucas blunder into an unbelievably catchy hook. Plus, is there no better a visual for that music video than Weird Al as Obi-Wan crooning in the Mos Eisley Cantina? No. There really isn’t.

 

5. eBay

Year of Release: 2003
Album: Poodle Hat
Parody of: “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys

Unless it’s in the room of a nostalgic early 20 something or This Is The End, not many  songs from The Backstreet Boys’ catalogue have been played in recent years. Yet, “eBay” still manages to stay entertaining. Much of this obviously has to do with the still popular online consumer-to-consumer site it’s titled after, but there’s also Al’s undeniable ability to capture the obsessive nature of people searching for cheap tchotchkes they can bid on. The items themselves are all so ridiculous, yet not all that out of the question for anyone who’s done their fair share of eBay searches, from a Dukes of Hazard ashtray to an Alf alarm clock. Plus, the boy band style over-processed passion of the tune manages to make Al’s fixation with the “worldwide garage sale” all the more funny.

 

4. Gump

Year of Release: 1996
Album: Bad Hair Day
Parody of: “Lump” by Presidents of the United States of America and Forrest Gump

Presidents of the United States of America isn’t a band that I’ve admittingly followed that much, but I think it’s clear to see that Weird Al’s song as endured for audiences like myself mainly due to the popularity of it’s other parody source; 1994’s Forrest Gump. Yes, in an exact opposite effect of “The Saga Begins”, the film the song is parodying has managed to keep it alive. The combination of an alternative rock song and a very mainstream Hollywood film like Gump is a bit of an odd match in concept, but Weird Al manages to explore the oddball charm of the then beloved/now divisive 1994 hit with the manic energy of the PUSA song. That being said, it’s also just fun to see Yankvoic hop around with that bald cap in the video.

 

3. Albuquerque

Year of Release: 1999
Album: Running With Scissors
Parody of: “Dick’s Automotive” by The Rugburns

Few other artists can pack so much damn silliness into 11 minutes. The original song, a cowpunk stream of consciousness narrative where a man gets a job at an auto mechanic shop that takes very dark turns, has elements of a Weird Al song, especially the general wackiness of it. Al, however, tops all of that with an elaborate exercise in stream of consciousness absurdity. The song is more than worthy of Al’s Weird moniker, as it’s so packed with a variety of Weird Al-isms that it may be the definitive Yankovic song, adding the zaniness of sauerkraut and glow in the dark snorkels to a song about one man’s search to find himself in the world. Plus, it feeds off the universal desire we all have to find a place where “the sun is always shining and the air smells like warm root beer and the towels are oh-so-fluffy.”

 

2. The Night Santa Went Crazy

Year of Release: 1996
Album: Bad Hair Day
Parody of: “Black Gold” by Soul Asylum

Weird Al turns 90s alternative rock into a Christmas novelty classic that should have knocked Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer out of the holiday rotation ages ago. While Soul Asylum was definitely a band of it’s time, Santa Went Crazy is an immortal classic. The image of Santa going postal and destroying his North Pole workplace never really gets tiring. It’s a typical move of comedy: take long thriving icon of international legend and turn him into a darker being with homicidal tendencies in a way that fits the very bleak original tune by Asylum. It helps that Weird Al’s elaborate descriptions of Santa’s rampage manage to be as over the top violent as the usually clean Yankovic will allow… which includes mowing down Dancer and Prancer with an old German luger.

 

1. White & Nerdy

Year of Release: 2006
Album: Straight Outta Lynwood
Parody of: “Ridin'” by Chamillionaire

Aside from the occasional Mario Kart 8 Luigi death stare compilation video,  Chamillionaire’s “Ridin'” really hasn’t been on the mind of many since it’s release in  2006. Naturally, this song about the practice of driving while holding illegal contraband would be ripe for an anthem for very white and very nerdy activities like knowing every line from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and the eternal quarry of whether Kirk or Picard was the better captain. In fact, it was so ripe for parody that the song managed to be Weird Al Yankovic’s first top 10 hit on the Billboard Charts, peaking at #9.

And why not? It’s one of Al’s best songs, turning the lamest activities into proud declarations of identity. It helps that Yankovic does such a damn good job of rapping his lyrics in rapid fire succession, to the point where Chamillionaire himself even commended him. It’s songs like this that prove Weird Al’s repertoire is more diverse than just accordion based tributes to food. He listens to the songs of the times and adapts them to his own offbeat style in absurdly clever ways. And that’s why we love him.
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Written by

Thomas Mariani is a born geek, with a bit of nerd mixed in here & there. A native of the (less) swampy parts of Florida, Thomas has always been a fan of films, television & other sources of media ever since he was a child, having been raised on Jim Henson, Star Wars and the basic cable cartoons of the ’90s & ’00s. He already has experience writing and podcasting about pop culture, which you can read/listen to on sites like Widescreen Warrior, TvTalk, Horrornews.net and Doc Rotten or on Twitter as @NotTheWhosTommy