Weird Al Yankovic

The Essential “Weird Al” Yankovic


Dec 08, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

If you're inclined to look down on the concept of "essential" "Weird Al," don't. In a career spanning nearly 30 years, Weird Al has surpassed the Dr. Demento show that spawned him as a cultural institution; survived and thrived while the artists he's parodied have faded to obscurity; stayed consistently funny while SNL continues to tank; and become a modern musical icon to rival just about any other of his time, so widely recognized that even your mom knows who he is.

So why not an Essential collection, then? The two-disc setselected entirely by the man himselfcomprises 38 tracks from across Weird Al's career, wisely splitting the difference between straight-up parodies ("Another One Rides the Bus," "Fat," "Canadian Idiot" and more), originals, and style-parodies. It's a smart move, since two discs of non-stop parodies would quickly grow stale. The chronological sequencing also gives a fairly nice overview of the past 30 years of popular music (filtered through Al's distinct sensibility, of course).

There's certainly some notable omissions here, but mostly on the early end of his career-it's disappointing not to see "Ricky" (originally Toni Basil's "Hey Mickey") and slasher movie tribute "Nature Trail to Hell" left off, while tracks such as "Bedrock Anthem" (originally Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Give It Away") and "The Saga Begins" (Star Wars, to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie") made the cut.

Among the standouts, however, is "Don't Download This Song"a "We Are The World"-style screed against file-sharing that serves as essential listening for anyone who thought Weird Al may have jumped the shark. Nice to see that three decades into his career he hasn't much changed the formula. Then again, there's little need to reinvent yourself when mocking the changes in popular music is your job description. (

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