I think that every music fan goes through a Weird Al phase. Mine began in middle school, around the time of Bad Hair Day and peaking with the release of Running With Scissors. Oh man, Running With Scissors. That was the summer of the first Star Wars prequel, and also the summer that I took a trip back to the USA without my parents. I was excited to see Episode I, but I was almost as excited to get Weird Al’s newest opus. I listened to it so many times that I think I had memorized “Albuquerque” by the time I made it home. It was also around this time that I discovered UHF, which became a permanent fixture at every sleep over and youth group event.
But every Weird Al phase ends eventually, and mine was basically done by the time Poodle Hat came out in 2003. At the time I thought I had just outgrown him. I listened to the album mostly in disappointment. The parodies didn’t hit that middle school sense of humor like they used to, and even the original songs, usually my favorite part, mostly landed with a shrug. (Poodle Hat does contain one of my favorite Weird Al songs ever, “Hardware Store.”) Of course by this time I was in college, so I assumed that Al just wasn’t very funny to me anymore. In hindsight I think the real problem was that Poodle Hat simply wasn’t a very good album. It went for a lot of low-hanging fruit, even by the wonderfully juvenile standards of Mr. Yankovic. But one way or the other I figured I was done.
And yet here I am at age 31, and I’ve been listening to Al’s newest album Mandatory Fun all week. It’s not like the new album is uncharted territory for Al. It’s basically just 12 more songs, studiously divided into five parodies, six original songs, and one polka medley. It’s a better-than-average Weird Al album though. “Word Crimes” serves the duel purpose of being one of his best parodies, and of letting people enjoy the catchy tune of “Blurred Lines” without hearing the date-rape lyrics. Not only that, but “Jackson Park Express” might rank among the funniest original Al songs of all time.
But even if I had gotten another Poodle Hat, I would still buy anything Weird Al released. He’s one of the constants in the world of pop culture. Trends have come and gone, but there’s always been Weird Al. He’ll release a new album every three or four years, and it’ll make me feel like a twelve-year-old all over again. A big part of this is pure old-manism. I had never actually heard Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” until the day before I heard Al’s version, “Handy.” And of course, because I’m a 31-year-old guy, I kind of hated it. There are a shocking number of songs that I was introduced to by Weird Al, and several that I still only know in polka-medley form.
More than that, I just like him. I like his hammy stage presence whenever he does a music video. I like his stupid Hawaiian shirts and ridiculous hair. And he doesn’t just seem like a nice guy, he seems to back it up from every aspect. He works hard to maintain good faith with the people he parodies, even donating money to a charity of Billy Ray Cyrus’s choosing because he felt like “Achey Breaky Song” was a little too mean. He’s on the short list of celebrities I would genuinely love to meet someday.
There’s nothing remotely cool about liking Weird Al, and that’s how it will stay. No joke is funny to everyone, and he’s not a very edgy or mean-spirited kind of funny besides that. But I genuinely think that he’s going to keep going for a long time, at least if my own son is any indication. He asks to hear “Taco Grande” in the car on the way to work every morning. So weird on, Al. You will always be loved in this house at least.