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Keep It Weird (Al)
Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Throughout the past 23 years a lot of artists have come and gone and some, the lucky ones at least, have been parodied by Weird Al Yankovic. It was nearly a quarter century ago that Weird Al first unleashed his brand of parody on the world with his self-titled debut album. The record featured “My Bologna,” Al’s take on The Knack’s “My Sharona,” and it quickly vaulted him to “quirky” status. That status rose from quirky to legendary with the advent of the music video and Al’s take on a number of Michael Jackson classics, the largest (pun fully intended) being Al’s version of “Bad,” “Fat.” Al’s latest effort, Straight Outta Lynwood, recently hit record stores and although popular music has changed greatly over the past 23 years Al’s ability to parody that music is still just as on point as it was back then. In fact, in my opinion, he’s even better today.

Before I even start talking about the music on Straight Outta Lynwood the cover needs to be addressed. Al’s latest album features him standing in a hood setting in front of a lowrider while holding a pit bull by a leash. He was obviously going for some cliché hilarity with this, but it was made doubly funny for me because Straight Outta Lynwood just happened to be sitting right next to C-Murder’s latest release which features C-Murder sitting in the hood holding two pit bulls by their leashes. Knowing it’s a cliché is one thing, but seeing it like that is another level of hilarious altogether.

Al’s lead single this time around is a parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’ Dirty” which Al has turned into “White and Nerdy.” The scary thing about this song is the way Al matches the flows of both Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone. Though I have no idea if he can freestyle, in a contest of writtens Al could probably smoke a large percentage of the rappers many hail as greats. Chamillionaire has reacted to his song being given the Al treatment in exactly the right way, by saying it’s an honor. Coolio and Eminem are the only artists to really act like idiots over their parodies, saying they didn’t want their serious songs to be altered. Chamillionaire noted that now that “Ridin Dirty” has been re-done by Weird Al it’s officially a mega-hit. Now that’s the right attitude!

In addition to the Chamillionaire parody Al takes on some R&B songs on Straight Outta Lynwood; Usher’s “Confessions Part II” and R. Kelly’s “Trapped In A Closet.” Al’s “Confessions Part III” involves some important, “FYI it was not a cold sore,” and some ridiculous, “when I’m kissing you I fantasize you’re a midget,” confessions, all the while uncannily matching Usher’s singing style. Of all the songs on the album, however, “Trapped In A Drive Through” will end up going down as one of the great Al songs of all time. Not only did he get R. Kelly’s singing style down pat, but he also managed to match his writing style perfectly. Al also took the over-dramatization that R. Kelly was using and turned it up to eleven. “Trapped In A Drive Through” clocks in at around ten minutes and forty five seconds and ends up, in the end, about very little, which is one of the reasons it’s so hilarious. Only a genius can make a song about nothing so funny. It is the Seinfeld of Al hits.

Even after the CD is done Straight Outta Lynwood provides more laughs on side two as the album is a dual-disc, so one side is a CD while the other side is a DVD. This is fantastic technology that should work to curb downloading as long as it’s done right and they can figure a way to make sure the CD’s work in every CD player (there’s a sticker on the back of the CD case warning that it might not). In Al’s case visuals have always been a big part of his work and for the seven non-parody songs on the album he enlisted some heavyweights to create videos for them, all of which are on the DVD side of the disc. The Robot Chicken team took on “Weasel Stomping Day” while Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi animated “Close But No Cigar.” Then there’s the video for “Pancreas,” which is something completely different from anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s extremely trippy, using some old black and white footage that looked odd enough but then mirrors were used to alter it, making it even stranger. It’s absolutely fantastic. There’s also an interesting segment on the DVD of Al in the studio and karaoke versions of all the songs on the album, all of which can be played in 5.1 surround sound. Yes, that’s right, It’s like being surrounded by Al.

Weird Al is not allowed to stop doing what he’s doing, he’s simply too good at it and there’s no one else who even comes close to him. 23 years after his first effort he’s as strong as ever while the vast majority of artists who were out when Al debuted are gone now, unable to keep up with the times. Although his genius is appreciated by many I can’t help but think he deserves more accolades for what he does. Yeah, maybe I am “White and Nerdy,” but you know deep down inside there’s a part of you that is, too, no matter what race, creed or color you are. Embrace your weirdness, embrace your inner Al!
posted by Adam Bernard @ 8:26 AM  
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