I have a confession to make. I am a closet Weird Al Yankovic fan. I first discovered Yankovic’s song parodies at the wee age of eight; I became a huge fan, saved my allowance to buy his cassette tapes, and even saw him in concert on three separate occasions. Admittedly, my love for Yankovic has subsided a bit in adulthood, but one of the signs that my boyfriend and I were meant to be together was when we realized we both had a past love affair with Yankovic’s music and he shared his collection of the albums I missed since my fandom began to subside.
Straight Outta Lynwood (released in 2006) is one of Yankovic’s most recent albums, and it’s one of my favourites, thanks to hilarious parodies of R. Kelly, Chamillionaire and Green Day songs. The album was Yankovic’s first top ten album (despite most of his success occurring in the late 80’s/early 90’s), and he manages to turn out several side-splittingly funny tracks, making fun of the music and pop culture of 2006.
The album begins with a parody of hip/hop one-hit-wonder, Chamillionaire. The original track, “Ridin’ Dirty” was EVERYWHERE in 2005/2006, and just about everyone knew the lyrics in the chorus, “They see me rollin’, they hatin’, patrollin’ they tryin’ to catch me ridin’ dirty.” Yankovic’s version stays true to the rap sound, but he changes the song to White & Nerdy, rapping as a white guy who wants to “roll with the gangstas” but is just too much of a nerd to really fit in. Yankovic’s description of a stereotypical nerd (“My MySpace page is all totally pimped out/I got people begging for my top 8 spaces/Yo, I know Pi out to a thousand places/Ain’t got no grills but I still wear braces”) is not only funny, but he actually pulls of the rap quite well and perfectly describes a guy I knew in high school who wore thick-rimmed glasses, was the stereotypical nerd, but for some reason, wanted to be a legitimate rapper. Just like Yankovic’s character, he got laughed at, but that’s another story, I suppose.
Canadian Idiot is an obvious parody of Green Day’s “American Idiot”, and again, Yankovic keeps up the punk style, this time spouting off various insults to Canadian citizens and their culture (“They all live on donuts and moose meat/And they leave the house without packin’ heat/Never even bring their guns to the mall/And you know what else is too funny/Their stupid monopoly money/Can’t take ’em seriously at all”). The lines are worth a few chuckles, particularly since I just realized that Canadians reallydo“eat their weight in Kraft macaroni”, as it’s apparently one of their national foods. Oh, those crazy Canucks.
Not all of the songs are direct parodies, however. Tracks like Pancreas and I’ll Sue Ya aren’t parodies of particular songs, but rather “style parodies” of a band’s style of music. The first of the two is a spin on the music of The Beach Boys, with the opening verse sounding incredibly similar to “God Only Knows”. The song itself is a bit weak (singing about how Yankovic needs and depends on his pancreas doesn’t inspire much laughter), but the tribute to the Beach Boys’ sound is impressive. The better of the two is easily I’ll Sue Ya, which sounds a lot like rap metal band, Rage Against The Machine’s, “Killing In The Name Of…” Yankovic even does the trademark grunting from the original song during the choruses and ends the track screaming “I’ll sue ya…I’ll take all your money…I’ll sue ya even if you look at me funny!”, paralleling the outro of Killing In The Name Of. This time around, Yankovic spends the song humorously telling different people and companies how he’ll sue them for absurd reasons (“I sued Taco Bell’/Cause I ate half a million Chalupas/And I got fat!”) and the song is a tongue-in-cheek look at America’s sue-happy culture.
Because Yankovic truly is white and a bit nerdy, he includes his favourite instrument (the accordion) on every one of his albums, and uses it specifically in a series of polka medleys. The medleys include the hit songs of the time, and Yankovic sings lines of them over polka music. Though the idea of polka music sounds like something I’d never enjoy, the polka medleys are always fun and Polkarama! is no exception. Yankovic manages to throw in numerous songs, from “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand to “Candy Shop” by 50 Cent. The eclectic range of songs and the geeky voice that Yankovic puts on for the track makes it a clear highlight.
Not everything on the album is a hit, however. Do I Creep You Out is a parody of American Idol winner, Taylor Hick’s song, “Do I Make You Proud” and while the song is worth a few chuckles, it’s ultimately forgettable. Don’t Download This Song draws inspiration from gospel and fundraiser songs (ala We Are The World), but the lyrics about file-sharing only manage a few grins, with no laugh-out-loud moments. Yankovic makes fun of Usher on Confessions Part III, and while some of the lines are funny, most of the humour is just too amateurish to actually make me laugh.
The best song on the album is easily Trapped In The Drive-Thru, an eleven minute parody of R. Kelly’s R&B epic, “Trapped In The Closet”. The first five chapters of Kelly’s original song (which he classified as a hip hopera) is unintentionally funny, as he sings about a ridiculous story of cheating, lies, sex and deceit, all with plenty of melodramatic twists and turns. The song was begging to be parodied (especially since R. Kelly doesn’t seem to realize how ridiculous it is and expected people to take it seriously. Really, though, how could anyone take a song seriously that has 33 chapters to it, one involving midget sex?!) and Yankovic does an amazing job at it. Trapped In The Drive-Thru is sung over the same cheap backing music, and Yankovic sings about a ludicrous evening of getting hamburgers for dinner with his wife. He stays extremely true to the original, even to the point of including unnecessary exchanges of dialogue and over dramatic incidents in the drive-thru (And then she says, ’Baby, can’t we just go out to dinner, please?’/I says no, she says yes, I says no, she says yes/I says no, she says yes, oh, here’s your keys…/Now we’re at the pay window/Or whatever you call it/Put my hand in my pocket/I can’t believe there’s no wallet!”). Really, the song is hilarious as is, but it’s even better after hearing Kelly’s original- even the most over-the-top moments of Trapped In The Drive-Thru still aren’t as absurd as the sincere parts of Trapped In The Closet. The whole thing is pure hilarity.
Weird Al Yankovic has been in the music business for years now, but he still manages to stay fresh and relevant with Straight Outta Lynwood. It’s a bit amazing to realize that Yankovic has had such a long lasting career, simply out of making parodies, but when you hear his songs, it’s easy to see why: he writes hilarious, clever lyrics, and does the parodies in the same exact style of the songs you loved, which is obviously a winning formula.
1. White & Nerdy
3. Canadian Idiot
4. I’ll Sue Ya’
6. Virus Alert
7. Confessions Part III
8. Weasel Stomping Day
9. Close But No Cigar
10. Do I Creep You Out
11. Trapped In The Drive-Thru
12. Don’t Download This Song