Since I did get a request for it, I’m taking a step back to look more closely at “Weird Al” Yankovic’s 2011 album, Alpocalypse. This is the second album title to play on Al’s name, and the cover shows him riding with three of the Horsemen of the Apocalypse. It doesn’t relate to any of the songs, though. A significant number of the songs on the record were released online some time before the album went into production. I wrote a brief review of this one when it came out, but since I haven’t done a song-by-song take on it yet, here it is.
Perform This Way – Not long before the release of the album, Al announced on the Internet that Lady Gaga’s management wanted to hear the finished song before giving permission, and when they did they denied it. After this, they apparently changed their minds. I think Gaga claimed she hadn’t been asked, but there’s no way of knowing whether that’s true. Although this was the lead single, it might actually be the least funny song on the record. That said, it does make a few amusing observations, including Gaga’s tendency to suddenly sing in French for no apparent reason (the bit Al says translates as “excuse me, who farted?”) and the fact that “Born This Way” is very similar to Madonna’s “Express Yourself.” The parody definitely seems to have been written with the video in mind, and said video has Al’s face superimposed on a woman’s body, which is kind of disturbing. Since it’s hard to get more bizarre than Gaga’s actual outfits, a lot of the costumes mentioned in the lyrics and shown in the video are ones she’s actually worn, although a few are Al’s own ideas.
CNR – This song is basically the spawn of all those intentionally ridiculous Chuck Norris Facts, although I personally don’t know that any of them are quite as ridiculous as how he apparently thinks he needs to pay less in taxes and minimum wage workers should pay more. Anyway, Al continues his interest in somewhat campy celebrities by making the facts about Charles Nelson Reilly of Match Game fame. Musically, it’s a style parody of the White Stripes, although the main riff very much reminds me of “Iron Man.”
TMZ – Hey, two songs in a row that use a set of three initials. This one makes Taylor Swift’s “You Belong with Me” into a song about the celebrity gossip website. While mostly making fun of the tabloids, it does mention a few genuinely bad things celebrities have done (“It’s getting to the point where a famous person can’t even get a DUI or go on a racist rant”). The spoken part really gets to some of the most annoying things on tabloids, like the weird obsession with how much celebrities weigh and the term “baby bump.” (Have I mentioned how much I hate that term?) They sometimes have the TMZ television show on when I’m on break at work, and a story not too long ago mentioned Al “ambushing” Iggy Azalea. They discussed whether she even knew who he was and talked about his past hits, but for some reason didn’t even mention that he had a song CALLED “TMZ,” maybe because it doesn’t present them in a very good light.
Skipper Dan – Al has said he intended this one to be funny (well, obviously) but also kind of sad, as you can sympathize with the promising young actor who could only find work on the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. I went on that ride at Walt Disney World and thought it was pretty amusing, but I can only imagine how much it would suck to have to do that spiel over and over again.
Polka Face – This one is unusual among Al’s polka medleys in that it starts and ends with the same song. Al mentioned that he thought the title might be a little too obvious, but he went with it anyway. Apparently Lady Gaga’s management was okay with one of her songs being polkafied even when they didn’t want a parody of her work. Also worthy of note are that this was the first time Al did anything with a Britney Spears song (although he had done a fake interview with her before) and that the tune he plays right before Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok” is called “Tick Tock Polka.”
Craigslist – A Doors style parody with organ work by Ray Manzarek, addressing a topic that Jim Morrison obviously couldn’t have known about. The anachronism inherent there is part of the joke. It’s sort of a combination of Doors songs, and comes off as more rambling than I usually think of them as being, although admittedly I’ve really only heard their radio hits. Each verse is in the form of a Craigslist posting, taking on some of the more absurd things you can find there, like missed connections between people who only ever glanced at each other, totally unreasonable complaints about alleged bad service, and offering a trash can of Styrofoam peanuts without the trash can.
Party in the CIA – I think this is the only time Al has parodied the child of an artist he’d previously parodied. Here, Miley Cyrus’ rather cloying “Party in the USA” becomes a cheerful song about torture and assassination. It was very apt for the time in which it was released, particularly the line “We only torture the folks we don’t like/You’re probably going to be okay.”
Ringtone – Like “Craigslist,” this is another one that uses the style of a band from yesteryear when joking about a current topic, in this case Queen (particularly “Don’t Stop Me Now”) and cell phone ringtones. There’s another variation of the obsession over a paltry amount of money here, as the narrator refuses to give up his ringtone that everybody in the world hates because he paid $1.99 for it. I’m not entirely sure why, but I find it particularly funny that the list of people who hate the ringtone includes “all the Wayans Brothers.” I believe the song is available as an actual ringtone, but it presumably isn’t the one everybody hates. THAT tune is best left to the imagination.
Another Tattoo – I don’t think I’d heard the song this was parodying, “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars, before hearing Al’s version (I’ve heard it since then), but I still found it really funny. I guess it helps that I’ve never been a big fan of tattoos. I guess I’ve come to accept them more as I’ve gotten older and generally more tolerant, but there are just so many terrible ones. I like the lines about how some of the narrator’s tattoos are misspelled (you’d think that would be something you’d be really careful about before getting a permanent marking, but apparently not for some people) and the shopping list tattoos (shades of Memento, perhaps?), but I think my favorite part is when the line “At job interviews they’re just so impressed” is followed by the backing vocal “Really?” I wonder if any of Al’s tattoo ideas have (ironically?) inspired any actual ink. Boba Fett playing clarinet sounds pretty cool, for instance.
If That Isn’t Love – I believe Al has said this is intended as a style parody of Hanson, with whom he’s worked on a few occasions. You wouldn’t think Al would have anywhere else to go when mocking love songs, but he managed to find a new twist by having the narrator profess his love in ways that are well-meaning but totally clueless. It might be my least favorite of the originals on here, but that’s more because it has tough competition than because there’s anything wrong with it.
Whatever You Like – This is the only Weird Al parody to use the same title as the original song, and I’m really not sure why. Seems like he could have at least called it “Whatever You Like (Recession Version)” or something. It was almost three years after this song was first released on the Internet that it appeared on an album, during which time T.I. served all of one prison term and most of another. Al spoofs the original’s theme of a guy willing to buy his girlfriend expensive things by downgrading it for the poor economy. The fact that it was still relevant three years later is rather depressing, but it’s still hilarious. I especially like the way he says, “My wallet’s fat and full of ones.”
Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me – Another Internet-themed song, this time addressing all the stupid e-mail forwards that most of us have seen at one time or another. Actually, I’m pretty sure it’s been a long time since I received one of these, but people who are new to the Internet and/or particularly gullible probably still send them. I think a lot of that kind of stuff has moved to Facebook, however. This song is the album’s epic, and while it’s really not that long compared to stuff like “Albuquerque” and “Genius in France,” the Jim Steinman style of production gives it the right feel. I had thought that “Mr. Rogers never fought the Vietcong” was just a bit of nonsense on Al’s part, but apparently that’s actually a quite persistent online rumor. I appreciate how over-the-top the anger is in the lyrics, particularly with “Send me more top ten lists and I’ll slash my wrists.”
I suppose that’s it as far as Al-bums go, and from what Al has said there might not be any more in the future, but I’m sure I’ll be addressing his work in the future. I’m quite pleasantly surprised by how well he’s managed to stay relevant throughout the years, and I hope he continues for many more.