“Weird Al” Yankovic is the greatest at what he does ever. He’s the funniest comedy musician ever and by far the most musically gifted. We all know this. There’s no need to explain it. It’s the mass held view and I see not one reason to disagree. He is the best of the best. So let’s not waste time. This is my top 10 list.
First though, a backup list of 5 great songs.
*Amish Paradise. The proto White and Nerdy. It works.
*Christmas at Ground Zero. The perfect dark Christmas song.
*Captain Underpants Theme. In the canon of Weird Al theme songs, usually the song is better than the film. In this case, it’s the perfect punctuation to a film that oozes his influence.
*Young, Dumb, and Ugly. Yankovic crushing it riffing on AC/DC and like AC/DC, it kicks hard ass.
*Do I Creep You Out? The very last cut and it was close.
10/Everything You Know is Wrong. Pure infinite wackiness. There’s just so much silliness that it must make the list. I put this over Dare to be Stupid because I connect more with the 90s vibe he taps here. It’s goofy. It’s silly. It makes no sense. And it’s therapy to blast.
9/Good Enough For Now. Country has a long tradition of tongue in cheek songs. Ray Stevens was immensely successful in that realm and no we will never cover his work. Country loves corniness. So getting a country riff isn’t shocking. And this honestly feels earnestly of that tradition. It’s not too weird next to Elvira. It’s just so toxic depicting someone proudly settling. At least for now.
8/Stop Forwarding That Crap. There are few songs where I cheer like I cheer here. With this, Yankovic gets angry. And it’s blissful. The song feels like a cry from a man frustrated at something we can relate to. Even his gentle tone that builds to rage feels right. An honest declaration of rage.
7/Foil. This is almost so short it shouldn’t fit. Epics like The Largest Ball of Twine in Minnesota are off here. But there isn’t a single missed second. The first half is vintage “Weird Al” food parody then with a single sip of tea he goes into his wildest rants ever. Wedded to a just perfect song to riff on, the song becomes a twisted rant just perfect for the rising conspiracy age. Every detail is precise.
6/White and Nerdy. I feel like the power of this parody is wholly an accident. Ridin’ is about police badgering innocent black men while White and Nerdy is about the people the cops don’t go near. There was no thought on the connection. It’s simply a funny song that happened because White and Nerdy and ridin’ dirty rhyme. But it does give it an undercurrent of strength. That said, this is why I like Yankovic touching rap. He never laughs at the form, doing extra work to match the flow of the performers. He doesn’t miss a single beat here. He uses it to play up his extreme whiteness but it’s so gentle and genuinely hysterical. And in a way this song is a nice moment, the last time this was our image or nerds and not reddit fueled bigots.
5/Nature Trail to Hell. Yes, I definitely gravitate towards the darker “Weird Al.” For all his image as a light, goofy guy, and I’ve never heard any evidence he’s not, his work often reflects the sense of humor of such men and it’s gleefully black. Or is it? Because no matter how dark or gory things get in a song like this love letter to slasher films, it’s really ultimately the innocent humor of 10 year olds trying to top each other. There’s no punching down when you describe a crazed killer murdering 2-3 cub scouts in every scene of a film. It’s just silly absurdist humor. And man do I get the impression Yankovic loves these films. He got to play such a killer in Batman vs Robin, playing it so straight he’s credited as Alfred Yankovic, and he was great in it.
4/Word Crimes. Yankovic mined two Pharrell Williams beats for Mandatory Fun and both are so good I put almost both here. I’m going with Word Crimes because I think it gets at the essence of his comedy. The man loves words. He loves the sound of them. He loves how they word. So much of his comedy is just word play. And on a track entirely devoted to grammar rules, he reigns. The song is nothing more than a long list of common grammar errors people make. It shouldn’t be hysterical. But there is such energy and such perfect word choice in laying everything out that it becomes that. Taking a song with a great beat but lyrics about coercing a woman into sex and letting us enjoy the good cleanly was a gift.
3/Skipper Dan. There has always been an edge of fatalism to Yankovic’s career. Most comedy musicians get a novelty song and vanish. Spinal Tap had one soundtrack worth of good music and the magic was never repeated. At any moment it could have gone away. Now of course we’re long past that. He’s a legend. But I think the what if haunts him and bleeds into this song. It’s actually a tremendous track musically, a Weezer pastiche that’s better than anything they’ve done past 2002. But the lyrics are where it shines, a dark study of a would be acting god reduced to working on the Jungle Cruise ride. It’s a profoundly sobering study of how chasing your dreams can yes be a mistake and if you are lucky, to celebrate that luck.
2/Why Does This Always Happen To Me? I’m almost cheating to put this on here because it’s not really a style parody but more a collaboration on the level of Under Pressure. “Weird Al” doing the vocals and Ben Folds delivering his trademark piano riffs. The result is something that has the best of two legends. And the lyrics are the funniest Yankovic has ever pulled off. Sheer sociopathy.
1/ Hardware Store. What is it that makes this song Yankovic’s grand magnum opus? Is it the shamelessly silly subject matter or the epic breakdown where he rattles off an endless list seemingly in one breath? I think it comes down to what makes the man the American icon he is. He’s fascinated by American culture with not one trace of condescension. Like David Lynch or John Waters, he soaks it all up and sees what we see as bland as incredibly weird then points it out. This song is an ode to a very common experience we’ve all had, being excited by an ordinary business, and makes us notice it. It’s tight musically, wall to wall odd details, and impossible not to grin ear to ear at. His best song.
So there you have it. My list.