Tag Archives: Weird Al Yankovic

“Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me” by “Weird Al” Yankovic (Amazon Advent Calendar day 19)

Album Art

Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me

“Weird Al” Yankovic

Alpocalypse

Genre: Pop

Last time, I talked about novelty versions of pop songs. I believe (checks notes) ah! Yes, as I suspected: I said critical, sweeping things about an entire genre, and dismissed it out of hand mostly because I, personally, have no taste for it.

This statement is by no means invalidated by my lifelong appreciation for the work of Sir Alfred Yankovic (I know the New Year’s Honours List won’t be announced for another week yet, but look, who are we trying to kid?). I honestly think he’s the present-day successor to Gilbert & Sullivan. Like W.S. Gilbert, he’s a deft lyricist who often composes songs that point out the foibles of current society. Like Arthur Sullivan, he freely, but not exclusively, bases his music on familiar tunes.

“Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me” works great at face value. It’s every frank conversation you’ve ever wanted to have with That Guy in your address book after his forwards have finally exhausted your last scrap of patience. But do take a moment to really listen to it as a piece of music. Appreciate the agility of the lyrics and don’t ignore that it’s been set to a lovely little tune with a graceful structure.

I’d pegged this song as a wAG original. But no less an authority than Wikipedia informs me that it’s an style parody of the music of Jim Steinman, who (ibid) is a songwriter best known for passionate first-person anthems like “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” and most of the music from Meat Loaf’s “Bat Out Of Hell.” I suppose the common thread to Steinman’s most familiar songs is that they’re being sung by characters who really, really want you to know how much they’re feeling what they’re singing.

Sir Al made a shrewd choice in singing “Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me” with more of a plaintive tone than an aggressive one. Think of the context: as with many of Steinman’s signature songs, the singer is speaking directly to one person. As with none of them, however, the singer knows he has the option of just creating a new filter that automatically routes everything from that address to the Junk folder.

It’s been noted that Lord Al’s career has far, far exceeded those of the performers he’s parodied. It’s easy to see why: by definition, he’s always learning new styles of music. Thus, his act has never atrophied, grown stale and irrelevant, or resigned itself to the dustbin of nostalgia and PBS concert specials.

Plus, it forces him to keep working at it. Over the course of three decades he’s gone from figuring out the chords to “Another One Bites The Dust” to acquiring a vast portfolio of skills as a performer, composer, and arranger. I would be very, very interested in seeing a musical or a movie with an original Yankovic score. I can’t imagine it being anything less than good.

Try or buy “Stop Forwarding That Crap To Me” on the Amazon MP3 Store. Anything you buy on Amazon after clicking that link will result in my getting a small kickback in the form of Amazon store credits…which I will spend on gloriously silly things.

“Genius In France” by “Weird Al” Yankovic – Amazon Advent Calendar day 17

Album Art

Genius In France

“Weird Al” Yankovic

Poodle Hat

Genre: Comedy

Today’s artiste is a callback to two previous Advent Calendar selections.

I’m seriously convinced that at some point, “Weird Al” Yankovic talents will be fully appreciated. He’s most famous for his straightforward song parodies and he’s so successful at it that when choosing an example, I immediately think “No, not that one; everyone’s heard of it. Not this one, either” before settling on “Trapped At The Drive-Thru.”

As terrific as his song parodies are, nobody can build a successful 35-career in music just by piggybacking onto current hits. He’s a legitimately talented musician and performer. Long, long ago, my favorite tracks on every “Weird Al” album stopped being the song parodies: instead, I look forward to the style parodies.

Like this one. I’ll get the crass part of out the way first: this is a nine-minute song and in terms of metric tonnage per dollar, there are few greater values on the Amazon MP3 Store. The true selling point, though, is that it’s a masterful attempt to write a new song based on Frank Zappa’s musical DNA.

It sends you scrambling to see if the song is actually based on a Zappa original. I can easily be fooled like that. Even when I was 18, I wasn’t really plugged into what 18-year-olds were listening to at the time. When “Straight Outta Lynwod” was released, I didn’t even recognize “Trapped At The Drive-Thru” as an R. Kelly parody until months later.

What marks “Genius In France” so immediately and unmistakably as a Zappa style parody? Hell if I know. I lack the music geek’s vocabulary as well as the musicalolologist’s suede elbow patches. I can’t do anything more than cite the heavily-layered melodies and the sudden downshifts in tempo.

More than anything, though, it has Zappa’s sense of play. The song isn’t out to tell a story or establish a mood so much as it wants to bat around an idea for several minutes.

Here’s the thing, though: Yankovic does this on every album. DEVO frontman (callback #2) Mark Mothersbaugh once claimed that Yankovic recorded the best DEVO song ever: “Dare To Be Stupid,” from the album of the same name.

Just as with “Genius In France,” this is a clean hit. It seems like it’d be cheap to even call it a “parody.” Yankovic lifts nothing — it kind of evokes the back-melody of “Big Mess” — and exaggerates nothing. Yankovic just has a highly-refined ear for a band or composer’s signature elements, and enough chops as a composer and an arranger to articulate those concepts into brand-new pieces.

He’s as legit as they come. I’m tempted to compare him to a Brill Building composer. He’s definitely capable of hearing during breakfast that Phil Spector was looking for an uptempo number for the Ronettes and then writing something perfect for that group by lunch. Or maybe he’s like Sir Arthur Sullivan (of “Gilbert And…”) fame. Sullivan would be staring at the libretto for “Iolanthe” in front of him and think “You know, this score could really use something sort of Mendelssohn-ey right about here.” And off he’d go.

But “Weird Al” Yankovic’s true musical ancestor is Carl Stalling. He scored nearly every cartoon that Warner Brothers produced during its Golden Age. Every seven-minute opus had to mix original themes, popular melodies of the day, and flatly functional phrases to underscore that Wile E. Coyote has just spotted the Rocket Boomerang circling back towards him.

I’ve always wanted to see what Yankovic would do with a movie score. I bet he’d be excellent at it because the task seems to call for the same unique talents he puts into play on all of his original composition. Writing music that’s both Original and Evokes A Familiar Tone is like holding both Tea and No Tea at the same time…but that’s how you win the game.

Above and beyond all of that: I just flat-out love this song. If I didn’t know who Zappa was, I’d still be humming “If I were any dumber/They’d have to water me twice a weeeeek” after fishing crushed-up iPhone parts out of the garbage disposal.

“Weird Al” Yankovic: a real goddamn musician. So long as he keeps making albums, I’ll always find money to buy them. That’s been the case since way back when I bought cassettes with paper-route money. I don’t think any other performer has maintained that position in my musical tastes even half that long.

Listen to “Genius In France” on the Amazon MP3 Store.

As always, this link is embedded with my Amazon Associates code. If you click it, anything you buy during that Amazon session will result in my receiving a kickback in the form of Amazon gift credits…which I shall spend foolishly and extravagantly on fun things.