Weird Al Yankovic’s best original songs, ranked

“Weird Al” Yankovic has by no means gotten sufficient credit score for his original, non-parody songs. That’s a truism that’s come up continually all through his 40-year profession, and it’s a serious plot level within the parody documentary Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, starring Daniel Radcliffe as an exaggerated model of Al who turns into wealthy and world-famous for the Knack parody “My Bologna,” then vows to solely write original songs for the remainder of his life.

“That was always a struggle, throughout my entire career, to get recognition for my original musical work,” Yankovic advised Polygon in an interview forward of Weird’s launch. “To this day, even after 40 years, I have people going, ‘Oh, Al writes original music?’ Half my albums are comprised of original songs. I mean, they’re pastiches and style parodies, but they’re original work. […] I’m not ashamed of doing parodies, but the originals thing has always gnawed at me a little bit, because it’s been a constant fight to make people even aware of that.”

Digging into Yankovic’s original songs makes it adamantly clear why he’s had such an enduring and profitable profession. The distinctive model of humor is a part of the equation — the way in which it mixes up whimsy, faux-sentiment, and darkish and murky feelings, all hidden underneath a vibrant pop floor. But on high of that, he’s a ridiculously proficient wordsmith and musical chameleon. His songs in any style — from rap to nation to pop to steel to homicide ballad — are sometimes phenomenally sticky earworms that linger at the back of the mind.

It’s arduous to decide on between his 80-plus original works (extra like 100, if you happen to depend unreleased and live-concert-only songs), however we rose to the problem. Here’s our rating of the best of Weird Al’s original songs.

Honorable point out: Yoda Chant

Not actually a “song” a lot as a startling efficiency expertise, the “Yoda Chant” isn’t on any of Yankovic’s albums, so it isn’t on playlists or obtainable for buy. But you could find variations of it on YouTube, recorded on folks’s telephones at his stay concert events. It’s a continually mutating string of snippets and fragments of different songs, delivered in fervent unison by Weird Al and his band, full with coordinated arm gestures, hissing and hooting and chanting. It’s an odd, mesmerizing act of unison efficiency and artistic cultural crate-digging (the references vary from Spike Jones to “Frère Jacques”), and the unpredictability is a part of the enjoyable.

15. “Mission Statement” (2014)

This lulling Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young pastiche, closely impressed by “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” layers candy, dense harmonies over a litany of ridiculous corporation-speak. For anybody who’s ever labored in an organization the place the management was obsessive about nigh-meaningless phrases like “leverage our core competencies” or “scalable synergies,” this tune could also be a little bit of a PTSD set off, however the ironic distinction between the cliche ’90s business-babble and the lulling ’60s vocals is hilarious and subversive all by itself.

14. “Don’t Wear Those Shoes” (1986)

“Don’t Wear Those Shoes” underlines one in every of Yankovic’s greatest comedy instruments: characters who’re so fixated on one object or concept that they take it to ridiculous, outsized extremes. Here, in an upbeat, catchy ditty with a little bit of a Kinks riff, it’s somebody who can put up with something in a relationship besides one particular set of footwear. It’s notably humorous that the tune by no means even barely suggests what’s improper with the sneakers that make them worse than murdering the household canine, or killing the narrator himself.

13. “Frank’s 2000” TV” (1993)

This lyrical takeoff on R.E.M.’s light suburban songs particularly (“Near Wild Heaven” involves thoughts) is a type of Weird Al songs that begins with a banal idea — on this case, a person who buys a giant new TV that the neighborhood envies — and blows it as much as wild proportions. (A 2000-inch TV would rival an IMAX display for dimension. “It’s like having a drive-in movie in your own living room,” the lyrics clarify, purposefully ignoring the logistics.) This one’s notably dreamy in a nice kind of approach: The opening, through which the newly put in TV is “risin’ above the city, blocking out the noonday sun / It dwarfs the mighty redwoods,” is especially poetic.

12. “Hardware Store” (2003)

“Hardware Store” channels among the identical easy American acquisitiveness and obsession over mundane objects, however stylistically, it’s the polar reverse of the light balladeering of “Frank’s 2000” TV.” This one’s a gleefully frantic, revved-up speed-metal jam that feels ecstatic in its sheer density. The identical individuals who obsessed over studying all of the lyrics to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” so they may sing them flawlessly at events through the tune’s heyday must be simply as obsessive about making an attempt to reel off this tune’s intimidatingly zippy bridge, a rundown of things you’ll be able to purchase on the native ironmongery store.

11. “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead” (1983)

Quite a lot of Weird Al’s original songs are clearly from the standpoint of invented characters he’s channeling for comedian impact. This early tune, although, is one in every of a handful that feels prefer it got here straight from Yankovic’s personal id, like he’s speaking on to the entire world (and to ’80s-era California neo-hippie tradition particularly) about his persona and his intentions. It’s less complicated and extra repetitive than quite a lot of the songs on this listing, as a result of it’s extra about emphasis than nuance. But it’s additionally infectious as hell, and gleeful in a approach that’s fairly distinctive in comparison with his different early work.

10. “Stuck in a Closet With Vanna White” (1988)

Listening to folks speaking about their desires is boring. Listening to Weird Al describe a recurring dream to a health care provider is much more enjoyable as a result of he will get to play in an open-world sandbox that makes enjoyable of the unpredictable, shifting, grab-bag nature of desires. The premise lets him fully interact his creativeness and embody completely any clashing story components he needs, giving followers some of the imagistically unusual songs in his library: “Now I’m bein’ followed by these Russian spies / They give me some velcro, and an order of fries / Suddenly I’m bowling on the Starship Enterprise…”

9. “I Remember Larry” (1996)

A gratifying antidote to each annoying prankster who’s ever stated “Can’t you take a joke?” (see additionally Al’s tune “I Was Only Kidding”), “I Remember Larry” is one in every of a number of Al songs that feels warmly nostalgic and constructive till the lethal punchline kicks in. But of all his songs on this specific subgenre, “I Remember Larry” is essentially the most lyrically and musically refined, and essentially the most satisfying. Larry had it coming.

8. “Nature Trail to Hell” (1984)

A enjoyable factor about Weird Al’s original songs is that he will get to placed on original voices, too — as an alternative of imitating the vocal type of David Byrne or Chamillionaire or Kurt Cobain, he will get to match the vocals to the subject material. That’s true with “Nature Trail to Hell,” a tune that’s successfully a trailer for a gory horror film, delivered within the deep, chesty tones of an old-school horror-trailer voice-over artist. It’s kinda pleasant the way it reveals that some issues about moviegoing haven’t modified since this tune got here out in 1984 (like spoiler tradition: “Please don’t reveal the secret ending to your friends / Don’t spoil the big surprise,” Weird Al sings). But this one additionally seems like a giant nostalgic throwback to the primary 3D horror increase, when it didn’t a lot matter if a film was any good so long as it had results coming straight on the viewers’s eyeballs.

7. “Melanie” (1988)

Looking again on Weird Al’s profession with 2022 eyes, it’s truly kinda disturbing what number of of his songs mine comedy out of males stalking ladies, relentlessly hitting on them, or each, all as a result of it’s meant to be humorous that they take their obsessions to date. (Especially in “Good Old Days,” the place that extends to the narrator torturing his highschool sweetheart, amongst different sadistic acts.) It is smart {that a} profession so based mostly on pop music would characteristic quite a lot of songs popping out of the pop thought of romance, which is commonly fairly obsessive and one-note itself, however it’s a little dispiriting generally.

And but there’s “Melanie.” It’s much more unsettling and ironic than the remainder of them, because the singer describes the crush he developed on an unwitting neighbor he spied on whereas she was showering, then particulars the assorted creeper actions he will get as much as whereas complaining that she’s “too dumb” to just accept his love, then lastly killing himself over her. And but it’s one in every of his most inescapable and beautiful tunes, a plaintively fake-sincere tune that’s actually designed to get underneath the pores and skin and stay there, whether or not you need it there or not.

6. “Slime Creatures From Outer Space” (1985)

Featuring among the weirdest manufacturing in Weird Al’s complete catalog (courtesy of Thomas Dolby, who impressed this type parody), plus a few of his oddest rhymes (pairing “sewers” with “manicures”???) “Slime Creatures From Outer Space” seems like nothing else, which is a part of the enjoyable. It’s additionally the uncommon Weird Al tune that’s authentically creepy with out getting there by sarcastically clashing nostalgia or sentiment with darkish deeds. Nope, it’s simply all due to ’50s sci-fi type: There are aliens who suck folks’s brains out via straws (“You just can’t trust those guys!”) and a narrator taking all of it type of personally. It’s playful within the best sorts of how, channeling all that fulfilling ’50s sci-fi xenophobia and paranoia, and it beat Tim Burton’s Mars Attacks! to the punch by a full decade.

5. “That Boy Could Dance” (1984)

An upbeat anthem for everyone on the market who felt unloved or unseen in junior excessive or highschool, “That Boy Could Dance” is slightly basic rock, slightly basic affirmation, and an entire lot of that basic Weird Al vein of drilling in on an oddball element and making it the entire story. It’s actually unbelievable how extremely incompetent “that boy” is, and hilarious how a lot element about his failings the tune piles on earlier than admitting that his one expertise rocked him to wealth, fame, and admiration. It’s a successful fantasy for any of us, however particularly for teenagers slogging via faculty and dreaming of in the future displaying them, displaying all of them.

4. “Virus Alert” (2006)

One of the best examples each of the way in which Weird Al scales up a minor, acquainted subject to ludicrous proportions and the way in which he makes these subjects much more fascinating with fantastically dense lyrics and high-energy efficiency. “Virus Alert” was impressed by the music of Sparks, however is possibly a wee bit extra accessible than that eclectic art-band ever will get. It’s a caffeine rush of a tune, a giant thrilling vitality increase that whips by so quick, you’re more likely to hear various things each time you hear.

3. “Dare To Be Stupid” (1985)

Up there with “I’ll Be Mellow When I’m Dead” as a private, defining assertion of a tune, the Devo-style “Dare To Be Stupid” is important, bedrock Weird Al. It’s a validation and mission assertion aimed squarely at youngsters and early teenagers who haven’t retreated behind “too cool for this” partitions but, however it’s additionally message for all ages. And it’s delivered in a approach that’s too foolish and oddball to really feel preachy or teach-y.

2. “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota” (1989)

Every at times, Weird Al pulls out all of the stops on an epic-length narrative tune like “Albuquerque,” “Jackson Park Express,” or the R. Kelly parody “Trapped in the Drive-Thru,” the place it seems like the purpose may be simply to see how far he can stretch the story. But all of them fall earlier than “The Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota,” a loving ode to a foolish Midwestern vacationer entice that doubles as a loving ode to household street journeys and triples as a joke about kitsch and the people who like it.

Featuring a few of Al’s cleverest lyrics and possibly his best bridge ever (the place his narrator, slightly drunk and overwhelmed with sentiment, reels over his large philosophical questions in regards to the twine ball), it’s a singalong the entire household can get pleasure from, as a result of it makes enjoyable of all of them. But it’s additionally one in every of Al’s happiest songs, with nothing comedically darkish or deranged lurking underneath the floor — everybody right here is pleased, together with the hitchhiker who steals the narrator’s new digicam.

1. “Everything You Know Is Wrong” (1996)

It’s inconceivable to actually do a mode parody of They Might Be Giants, which is itself a long-running, shapeshifting band that’s labored in each conceivable type and tone. So this try at a TMBG type riff actually simply comes throughout as an amiably wacky nonsense story with a banger of a refrain and a ton of giddy dreamlike vitality — and like one in every of Al’s most original songs of all time. Try singing it to your self within the automobile when the bastards of the world get you down, assuming you’ll be able to sustain with its leaping tempo — it’s a surefire mood-booster, but additionally the cheeriest conceivable approach of claiming “Everything’s all screwed up, and that’s OK, because the world is a silly place anyway.”

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