June 21st was a red-letter day for new music in the Seibold home. Three of my favorite artists – Nikka Costa, Gomez and Liam Finn – released albums that day. The hubby waited with bated breath for just one, though: Alpocalypse, the latest CD from “Weird Al” Yankovic.
I come to praise Weird Al, not to bury him. Mainly because he’s not dead.
Mr. Seibold wasn’t the only one waiting for Yankovic’s new one, his first since 2006’s Straight Outta Lynwood. Alpocalypse debuted on the Billboard charts at #9 – remarkably, the highest-charting debut of a career that’s been going since the late-70s heyday of Dr. Demento. (“White and Nerdy”, from Straight Outta Lynwood, was Al’s first single to chart in the top 10.)
How the heck does this guy still have a career, much less one that’s gaining momentum?! You would think the appetite for parody songs would diminish over time. Al seems to be doing many, many things right, such as…
A Weird Al album does what it says on the tin. Want a good laugh at the pop stars of the day? Buy a Weird Al album. Over decades worth of albums, the formula hasn’t changed. Parodies of current hits? Check. Funny pastiches of other artists? Check. A twisted love song or two? Check. One massive polka medley of still more current hits? Check. (Hell, the polka is quite often my favorite part of any given Yankovic release. He should make a mega-mix of all those.)
He stays in tune with the zeitgeist. “Weird Al” Yankovic is 51 years old. How many 51-year olds do you know who could tell you who Ke$ha, Bruno Mars and Miley Cyrus are? OK, maybe I know a few, but still. To parody the hits of the day, you have to know the hits of the day, be they rap, tweener pop or hip-hop. He’s more on top of it than I am: thanks to his latest polka, I now know who does that “Chinese like a melody” song. (That would be “Replay” by Iyaz.)
He sticks to his principles. Remember how all of his early hits were about food? “My Bologna”. “Eat It”. “Fat”. Once Weird Al became a vegan, he vowed not to record any more songs about stuffing your face, and he’s held to it. You won’t find politics, religion, or anything unfit for Junior’s ears on a Weird Al record.
He kicks ass live. I am not kidding about this. As tightly choreographed as any Katy Perry show, he brings the hits, the deep cuts, and even unreleased songs. No banter, just song after song after song. To my delight, during his many costume changes, they play bits of the old “Al TV” fake celeb interviews from MTV. He plays the OC Fair in Costa Mesa on Saturday, 7/9; catch it if you can!
He’s a video pioneer. Speaking of MTV, he rose to prominence just as the channel did, thanks to vids that were slavishly goofy recreations of their inspirations. Prior to Alpocalype‘s release, Yankovic posted a series of “Internet Leaks” videos on YouTube of album tracks. The deluxe edition of Alpocalypse (which, of course, Witney purchased) comes with a bonus DVD of videos of every track on the album, save current single (and Lady Gaga parody) “Perform This Way”.
Perhaps most importantly, Other artists respect him. When Gaga heard that her label turned down Al’s request to release “Perform This Way” without consulting her, she reached out personally and righted the wrong. To be parodied by Weird Al is a badge of honor in the music community. Famously, Kurt Cobain remarked that he knew he’d made it once Yankovic decided to parody a Nirvana song.
A respected, dedicated artist who makes great videos, is awesome live, and consistently puts out solid albums that stay in step with the times? I could have been describing U2, Bjork or Foo Fighters there. So, respect to “Weird Al” Yankovic. Comedy is serious business, and he continues to kill.
Kurt Cobain’s pride and joy – “Smells Like Nirvana”:
Al’s latest single (and sort of disturbing video), Lady Gaga parody “Perform This Way”:
My favorite Al TV segment, for obvious reasons. We all have cell phones, so come on, let’s get real: