10 No-Skip Albums: Alpocalypse
Sometimes you just need a good laugh. 'Weird' Al Yankovic has been a regular artist on my listening cycle since "Eat It" launched him from obscure parodist to a reknowned stardom. He has grown as an artist, too. The scope of his satire has expanded and the musicianship and production value of each album hasa evolved. He is a song parodist, sure, but he is also a humorist and commentator on all things pop culture. Like all those who earn their keep by making comedy, not every joke lands. But, 'Weird' Al is so much more than just a guy who turns pop songs into food parodies.
Case in point: Alpocalypse, his 2011 release. This mix contains parodies of songs by Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, B.o.B., and T.I. There are also six original compositions that spoof the styles of Queen, Hanson, The Doors, The White Stripes, Weezer, and Jim Steinman. And, no 'Weird' Al album would be complete without a polka medley of pop hit. The one here is called simply "Polka Face."
FUN FACT: In 1997, I directed Neil Simon's Fools, a comedy about a Russian village under a curse that has left its citizens stupid. I used 'Weird' Al's polka medleys as pre-show music.
What I find interesting about this album is every song works even if I'm not a fan of the source material. For instance, T.I.'s "Whatever You Like." I much prefer his "Dead And Gone." The "Whatever You Like" parody, though, is funny and actually helps me appreciate the original more. The first track, "Perform This Way," is based Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" and pokes fun at her fashion style and penchant for grandiose performances. "Party in the C.I.A." takes Miley Cyrus's "Party in the U.S.A." and gives its peppy bubblegum medley a story about international espionage. My favorite parody is easily "TMZ," a goof on Taylor Swift's "You Belong to Me" about paparazzi and the unhealthy fascination we have with celebrities.
The original tracks are very strong. "Skipper Dan" tells the story of a failed actor now working the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland. It's a light rock diddy in the vein of Weezer with some dark lyrics about failed dreams. I laugh everytime I listen to it. "Craigslist" applies the style of The Doors to a goofy song about all the things you can buy off Craigslist. This song feels dated now and it's a theme 'Weird' Al has explored before in "eBay," a spoof of "I Want It That Way." But, he's an artist that has always commented on what's current.
'Weird' Al's love songs are always among my favorites. The one on Alpocalypse is titled "If This Isn't Love," a Hanson-esque confection about all the ways a guy shows his girl he truly cares:
There's a microscopic bit of milk left in the refrigerator
I could've finished it off, but I quit in case you wanted a tiny sip for later
And if you cut the cheese, maybe we can say the dog's to blame
And I'll make sure to call you "baby" every time I forget your name
I'll even tell ya, girl, when you start looking fat
'Cuz all your so-called friends will probably neglect to mention that
And if that isn't love
If that isn't love
If that isn't love, I don't know what love is
Then, we have "CNR," a White Stripes inspired on all those memes about the amazing feats of Chuck Norris. Only the song is about the actor and game show panelist Charles Nelson Reilly. It's the type of song of his that I'm drawn to because of its absurdity and the semi-obscure subject. I mean, a song about the supernatural feats of Charles Nelson Reilly? Bring it.
My favorite song, though, is one that has resonated with me more with each listen. "Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me," the album's final track, parodies the lyrical and musical production style of Jim Steinman, the man behind such noted '80s songs "Total Eclipse of the Heart," "Making Love Out of Nothing at All," and "Holding Out For a Hero," as well as almost the entire musical catalog of Meat Loaf.
"Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me" is a lament, a nearly 6-minute plea to everyone who uses email to spread consipracy theories, urban legends, hoaxes, and anything else that clogs up your inbox. The song doesn't address social media per se, but it's certainly application. The proliferation of bad information on Facebook is an epidemic. Even though this song is nearly a decade old, its relevance to internet culture is significant.
You're sending virus-laden, bandwidth-hogging attachments
To every single person you know
You pass around the link to some dumb thing on YouTube
That everybody else already saw three years ago
And wacky badly photoshopped billboards
Were never that amusing to me
And I just can't believe you believe those urban legends
But I have high hopes someone'll point you toward Snops
And debunk that crazy junk you're spewing constantly
Facebook in particular has frustrating for me because i get tired of seeing the same old memes using a Sam Elliot photo to complain about how sensitive we've all become or passing off some supposed news story that a simple Google search would've debunked. Some of the videos that land in my messenger inbox I don't even watch unless it's from somebody I know is sending me something they know I'll enjoy. And lest anyone think i'm being judgmental (which I totally am), I've been guilty of some of this myself. Facebook memories has taught me a few lessons about the things I used to post and I'm embarrassed.
"Stop Forward That Crap to Me" has become a catharsis for me. Whenever Facebook or Twitter starts to get too much for me, I'll play this song and sing at the top of my lungs. It's cleansing and therapeutic. Now, you might think I'm getting hyper serious about a piece of comedy, but good satire makes you think. It also forces you to realize that you're a target of the joke, too. And good satire makes you laugh. There is not one song on Alpocalypse that doesn't make me laugh.