Dare to be Stupid …

So, a local radio station decided to have a “Weird Al Weekend”, where about every hour they played a song by “Weird Al” Yankovic. And I’ve recalled his parodies fondly, and so was looking forward to it … but for various reasons wasn’t going to be able to listen to the radio all day to get the music. So I decided to go out and just buy a CD of his or two, and then I’d be able to listen to it as much or as little as I wanted. So, I did. I picked up the “Essential” collection, and also “Dare to be Stupid”, because as someone who was a fan of Huey Lewis and the News I simply had to have “I Want a New Duck” … and it wasn’t included on the Essential CD. And so I was listening to them while trying to fix my computer-type problems at work.

Stephen Thompson opines in the cover to the Essential version:

… the music keeps getting more accomplished, even symphonic. Listen to “Another One Rides the Bus” on this collection, skip ahead eight years to the infectious original “Melanie” … and the difference is jarring.

Part of this is, as Thompson was trying to get at, that the band got together and improved their music. But I also think that it reflects a difference in his comedy. Early, it seemed that thought that in order to be funny you had to sound funny, and so you had to insert all sorts of funny sounds. And “Another One Rides the Bus” gets a lot of its fun from, in fact, the funny tone of the music. This carries on clearly into “Eat it”. But by “Melanie” even in the parodies the music sticks closer to the actual music used (see, for example, “Amish Paradise” and “Lump”; there’s not much difference between Al’s version and the originals musically). The humour relies far more on tone and discordance and actual jokes than it does on simple oddity.

I think part of this might be the influence of songs like “One More Minute” and “You Don’t Love Me Anymore” and in general his transpositions of the tone of a love or sad song with utterly ridiculous lyrics and situations. Those demonstrated that you can be really strong musically and have a song that can still carry the comedic payload, because in large part you need to be strong musically to carry off the joke. “One More Minute” wouldn’t be funny if it didn’t sound exactly like that sort of song, with the odder and more ironic lyrics (I think it would have been stronger if it have been even more ironic and he had never commented on it hurting him to see her with other guys; a full tone of relief would have been even funnier). The same thing applies to “Melanie”. But in doing that, you end up with a song that you can indeed listen to as well as laugh at, putting him in the rare company of groups like Moxy Fruvous who could do that.

This isn’t saying that funny noises doesn’t work. It does, as “Smells Like Nirvana” proves. But that song is ideal because the noises add to the humour, and support the jokes. They no longer are just the jokes. And that’s a big improvement, and might explain why he’s still around (as the clerk mentioned, he has a new CD).

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