‘Weird Al’ Yankovic was an enormous star in the 80s, selling millions of albums. For me, it was a huge deal every time one of his videos showed up on telly. Then he became a bit of punch line for the 90s and early 00s. People either pretended they never liked him or laughed at his parodies, and wrote them off as cheap and hacky. But in the last decade or so, he’s had a bit of a credibility renaissance. As the childhood nerds of the 80s get more and more control over the comedy world, their nostalgic love for ‘Weird’ Al has given him a bit of a rebirth. And one album a lot of those childhood nerds of the 80s revere, is his debut, In 3-D.
It opens with Eat it
, his take on Michael Jackson’s Beat It,
which is up there with I Lost on Jeopardy
(also on In 3-D
and Like a Surgeon
as the first ‘Weird’ Al songs I can remember hearing. Like all of his faithful parodies, the musicality is so accurate and faithful to the original that his nasal vocals and little sound effect punch lines standout that much more.
The original songs on In 3-D take a little more listening to get into. Midnight Star is a funny enough take on cheap National Enquirer style tabloids and Buy Me a Condo is a funny reggae song about a Rasta succumbing to the most mundane of everything America, like Tupperware parties and the music of Jackson Brown .
Yankovic is clearly a talented song writer and his band are great musicians, so I feel a little guilty about not loving the original songs as much as the parodies straight of the bat. But not only do they not come with the familiar melodies and hooks of the parodies, the parodies also have another advantage. Their titles themselves are usually a big part of the joke, so you can be immediately on board with the premise.
Over the years, Yankovic has recorded a few medleys of whatever songs are popular at the time, or that he just feels like including, in a polka collection. This time it’s Polkas on 45 with nods to Devo, The Doors, The Beatles, Deep Purple, The Police, The Clash, The Who and others. No matter how many times he does these medleys or how many times I hear them, they never get old.
His spot on Fred Schneider impression on the B-52s inspired Mr Propiel shows the two vocalists are surprisingly similar. And with Theme from Rocky VIII he takes a shot at Eye of the Tiger. In 1984, three Rocky movies had been released, so ‘Weird Al’ probably thought that was a perfectly OK joke. The fact that we’re now in a world with six movies in the Rocky franchise makes it funnier and strangely prescient all these decades later.
Of course, In 3-D
does have the odd clunker though. “Rye or the Kaiser” is borderline being the kind of lazy parody someone would come up with to take a shot Yankovic.
No one does what ‘Werd Al’ Yankovic does as well as ‘Werd Al’ Yankovic does what ‘Werd Al’ Yankovic does. And with In 3-D ‘Werd Al’ Yankovic is doing what ‘Werd Al’ Yankovic does perfectly.
‘Weid Al’ Yankovic