It’s a good time to be Weird. Al Yankovic, now into his third decade of crafting perfect pop parodies, has just scored his first No. 1 album with Mandatory Fun. He’s also celebrating the 25th anniversary of his cult classic film UHF. So I decided to take on the near-impossible task of picking his top 10 songs. It’s a task made all the more difficult when you factor in not just his parodies, but his originals and polkas as well.
So let’s start with a bonus pick for his best polka, then do a Top 5 of each.
“Angry White Boy Polka” (Poodle Hat, 2003)
All his polkas are worthwhile, at least to hear his brilliant arrangements of popular songs he just couldn’t figure out how to turn into parodies. But this one is the best because it deflates so many nü-metal and “The” bands that ruled the early ’00s.
5. “The Night Santa Went Crazy” (Bad Hair Day, 1996) / “Christmas at Ground Zero” (Polka Party!, 1987)
So now I’m cheating. But it’s impossible to pick between these two great Christmas songs with hysterically violent overtones.
4. “Bob” (Poodle Hat, 2003)
Making a Bob Dylan parody is easy. Doing it all in palindromes? That’s the genius of “Weird Al.”
3. “One More Minute” (Dare to be Stupid, 1985)
As a genre, doo-wop is all but forgotten. But Al’s painful valentine brings back all those malt shop memories.
2. “Dare to be Stupid” (Dare to be Stupid, 1985)
It’s a once-in-a-lifetime event for Al to do your whole sound better than you ever did. And that’s exactly what happened with “Dare to be Stupid,” when he out-did DEVO in the weird department.
1. “Albuquerque” (Running with Scissors, 1999)
You either love or hate this song, but for me, this is Al at his absolute undistilled craziest.
5. “White and Nerdy” (Straight Outta Lynnwood, 2006)
Before Straight Outta Lynwood, it appeared Al was done for again. Poodle Hat, despite winning a Grammy, was one of his three lowest-selling albums. But then he turned it all around with this Chamillionaire parody, striking right as YouTube was taking off and geek culture began to rule the Internet. It’s perfect timing and an example of how well this guy can rap.
4. “Another One Rides the Bus” (“Weird Al” Yankovic, 1983)
As seen in his recent rash of TV interviews, Al is among the nicest musicians on the planet. But his first single reveals a small angry side, one that anyone can attest is easy to bring out while riding public transportation. Plus, it’s the only time all decided to attempt to take on the legendary Freddie Mercury.
3. “I Lost on Jeopardy!” (In 3-D, 1984)
I’m not just saying this because watching Jeopardy! is one of my favorite pastimes. And I’m not just saying this because my dad likes the Greg Kihn Band more than most people should. But I can’t help but love Al’s transformation of a soft-rock classic about a doomed relationship into a recollection of his doomed appearance on an ’80s game show.
2. “Smells Like Nirvana” (Off the Deep End, 1992)
One of the great things about Al’s longevity is how he’s always ready to swipe at the zeitgeist. So he took his vocal ax to Generation X, using Kurt Cobain’s half-awake delivery to subtly swipe at a whole group of people who would merely respond, “Whatever, man.”
1. “Eat It” (In 3-D, 1984)
It’s not surprising, given what we know about his own bizarre tastes (and no, I’m not talking criminally), that Michael Jackson loved Al. They both peaked right around the same time, and “Eat It” represents Al at the top of his game. It’s his best food song, his best parody, his best track period.