Weird Al's Top 21 Original Songs - From Best to also best, just slightly less best...
I make no secret about the fact that music AND comedy legend "Weird Al" Yankovic is one of my heroes. With the release of his epic "Squeeze Box" collection and his upcoming Ridiculously Self-Indulgent, Ill-Advised Vanity Tour, it's time to reflect on my personal journey with Al. Getting a new Al CD was always a special moment. And because there was no internet in the early days and I lived in Canada (so my knowledge of pop music was slightly skewed), I was never 100% sure what songs Mr. Yankovic was parodying in certain cases. Later, I would find out that in the cases of many of my favorite tracks, he wasn't parodying a specific song at all (though he might be doing a genre pastiche of particular artist or theme). Aside from writing the greatest song parodies of all time, Al wrote tons of fantastic original songs that showcase his (and his phenomenal band's) musicianship, as well as layers of musical satire and genius that I'm sure the average "Isn't he the food guy?" layman listener doesn't appreciate. With that, I give my definitive list of Al's 21 best original songs. Why 21? Well, I had 10. Couldn't settle on 10. Got to 20 and then forgot to include "This is the Life." Excluding a song that features one of my favorite Yankovic lyrics and a video featuring Michael Keaton seemed just wrong. I dedicate this entry to my dear friend, Alon who first played me the Dare to be Stupid album (which scores the most songs on this list) in his house while we played Nintendo's Base Wars for 12 straight hours. If you don't want the annotated list, feel free to just skip to the full YouTube playlist. Do you feel as strong as me about Al's original songs? Did I miss any of your favorites?
1. One More Minute (Dare to be Stupid, 1985)
Any one of the top 3 on my list could have taken this spot. "One More Minute" is the shining example of Al's dark humor when it comes to lost love - a theme he would tackle "again and again and again and again" (to quote the song). This one took the top spot because of its dead-on doo-wop style and the fact that when I first played it for my wife she loved the song, assuming it was by some indie artist an without even realizing I had just tricked her into becoming a "Weird Al" fan.
2. Dare to Be Stupid (Dare to be Stupid, 1985)
On this track, Al famously out-Devoed Devo. Admittedly, I love Mark Mothersbaugh (especially his work scoring films), but can't say I'm a huge Devo fan. One could say, my favorite Devo song is Dare to Be Stupid by "Weird Al" Yankovic. The lyrics are so awesomely bananas, the music is terrific and it holds the honor of playing a prominently role in Transformers: the Movie (1986 - not the Michael Bay garbage) as the theme song for the Junkions. Like "One More Minute," even if "Weird Al" wasn't a parody artist, this track could have easily been a huge new wave hit on its musical merits and lyrical absurdity. Is "Whip it" really any better?!1?
3. Dog Eat Dog (Polka Party, 1986)
Weird Al has done many genre parodies and artist pastiches, but to me, this one is perfection. Before I was even aware that Talking Heads existed, I was mesmerized by this bizarre story about a guy wasting time during his day at his monotonous office job (yet getting promoted without any explanation). Many years later, after hearing "Once in a Lifetime," "And She Was" and "Stay Up Late" on Talking Heads double CD set, "Sand in the Vaseline," I realized that not only had Al foreshadowed the brilliance of Office Space (one word: stapler), he managed to create a new wave masterpiece. If there is one song I'd want to hear Al play on his upcoming tour, it's this one.
4. Genius in France (Poodle Hat, 2003)
If anyone doubts Al and the band's musical prowess look no further than this track. They play Zappa. And when I say Zappa, I mean they cover about twelve different Zappa styles in one song.
5. Mission Statement (Mandatory Fun, 2014)
Mission Statement is one Al's latter day classics. Here, he sends up Crosby, Stills and Nash and business consultant buzz words at the same time. It also feature a masterful animated video. Now, if only I could figure out how to "monetize" my assets?
6. The Night Santa Went Crazy (Bad Hair Day, 1996)
Al has a dark sense of humor and it's on full display here. This song, like some of the other entries on the list, will be funny to those who like the Evil Dead movies, Stan Against Evil and other horror comedy classics.
7. Nature Trail to Hell (In 3-D, 1984)
Speaking of the Evil Dead movies... I first heard this song on the PA system before a performance of Evil Dead the Musical. Again, like Santa, you have to look at this as horror comedy and not any kind of endorsement of violence.
8. Frank’s 2000” TV (Alapalooza, 1993)
Al has so many songs about TV, but this is the one that celebrates the actual physical awesomeness of getting your first big screen TV. It has a great Tom Petty-esque break and one of my favorite lines of all time: "You can watch the Simpsons from thirty blocks away... on Frank's 2000" TV."
9. Wanna B Ur Lovr (Poodle Hat, 2003)
Al uses every punny pick-up line in the book (and few extra bizarre ones) in this lounge-style sleazy funk jam. To truly appreciate the song, you MUST see him perform it live. His in-the-crowd antics are priceless.
10. Don’t Download this Song (Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
Nobody is safe is in this tribute to 1980-something charity songs. A soaring chorus and some excellent horn arrangements drive this epic. Al takes shots at kids stealing music and then makes sure to poke fun at himself and other rock stars, notably, Metallica's Lars Ulrich (the self-appointed anti-Napster champion).
11. Horoscope (Running with Scissors, 1999)
In short, Al writes a better ska revival song than most songs from the ska rival. Verse by verse he your tells astrological fortune with hilarious results, backed by stellar horns and a particularly snappy drum performance from Bermuda Schwartz.
12. The Good Old Days (Even Worse, 1988)
A dark take on a James Taylor-style song that would easily be my favorite James Taylor song.
13. Since You’ve Been Gone (Bad Hair Day, 1996)
Al's vocal skill is terrific and this doo-wop break-up song shows you his beautiful range and arrangement skills. It also uses the imagery of chewing on tin foil, which is awesomely cringe-worthy.
14. Albuquerque (Running with Scissors, 1999)
This song is just bananas. There's no real way to describe it. But I've seen Albuquerque performed live (once) and it is definitely the holy grail of live Al original songs.
15. Bob (Poodle Hat, 2003)
Parodying Bob Dylan seems to be easy feat, especially if you go for the cheap laughs and copy his voice. But Al goes the extra mile by making every single line a palindrome in this dead-on satire of Subterranean Homesick Blues.
16. Why Does this Always Happen to Me? (Poodle Hat, 2003)
Weird Al has many famous friends among the respected mainstream music community and few more devoted than frequent collaborator, Ben Folds. In this ode to a selfish person's version of a bad day, Al is joined by Mr. Folds on keys. This song has great harmonies, darkly funny lyrics and a hook that could have easily made it a hit on a Ben Folds album.
17. Pancreas (Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006)
Al does all of Pet Sounds in one song. Yup, the Beach Boys' complex masterpiece Pet Sounds is the template of this elaborate description of an underrated internal organ.
18. If That Isn't Love (Alpocalypse, 2011)
This Hanson-style rock ballad gets you up out of your chair singing along to yet another selfish lover's narrative from a guy who leaves his love the last drop of milk in the fridge and holds the ladder when his spouse valiantly cleans the house's gutters.
19. You Don’t Love Me Anymore (Off the Deep End, 1992)
The 90s was a great time for hard rock bands slowing things down with a romantic ballad. In the spirit of Extreme's More than Words, Al once again writes a classic break-up song. The video also features Robert Goulet getting shot in the eye with an arrow.
20. This is the Life (Dare to Be Stupid, 1985)
This speakeasy-style tune channels the jazz greats and pokes great fun at rich people. Also, "I've got a million pairs of shoes" + Michael Keaton.
21. Happy Birthday (Weird Al Yankovic, 1983 & Medium Rarities, 2017)
One of Al's earliest tracks. I dare any parent to use this instead of the original during cake-time at your next kid's birthday party.