"Weird Al" Yankovic has been releasing parody videos since people have been releasing actual videos. He's made fun of decade-defining artists for four decades running. Through all that -- while one-hit wonders fall out of view and genres and styles are declared officially over -- he's remained a timeless figure.
Which doesn't mean his parodies have always been timeless. In honor of his Sunday visit to Mesa Arts Center, we've put together a list of 10 hilariously dated videos Weird Al has parodied. (And any Weird Al fan knows we could have come up with 10 different but equally dated ones.)
Dated doesn't mean bad -- if the songs weren't enjoyable, it'd be tough to get much out of the parodies. This is just a tribute to the increasingly ridiculous way in which Weird Al has avoided getting stuck inside any of the time periods he's committed himself totally to mocking.
1. "Mickey" - Toni Basil - 1983
This is how crucial Weird Al has been to post-MTV pop culture: His first video was a parody of "Mickey," one of the first MTV touchstones.
A you're-very-old reference point: I Love Lucy, the subject of this parody, had been off the air 26 years when "Ricky" came out. This parody is now 30 years old.
2. "Jeopardy" - The Greg Kihn Band - 1984
How long has Weird Al been doing the parody thing? So long that "I Lost on Jeopardy," his ode to game shows with suspiciously dramatic titles, came outbefore
the Alex Trebek version ofJeopardy
everybody's familiar with. When he wrote and performed the parody,Jeopardy
was just the name of aformer
The Greg Kihn Band, incidentally, is still around -- they haven't charted since 1986, but Kihn himself has a surprisingly active, engaging blog and some tour dates across the country.
3. "Beat It" - Michael Jackson - 1984
This might be the hardest Weird Al video to contextualize in 2013, because it was released when Michael Jackson was incontestablycool
. Not cool-in-spite-of-his-baroque-tendenciesBad
cool, or dead-legend 2009 cool, but cutting-edgeThriller-
releasing cool. Eddie Van Halen did the solo, man! And this was whensolos
Which is not to say he wasn't already Michael Jackson -- just that people weren't quite aware of how bemusedly history would remember "The Girl Is Mine" and those photos of him with the baby tiger. Weird Al's especially close video parody was an early chance to consider the possibility that Michael Jackson didn't actually know what '80s street toughs looked like.
4. "Like a Virgin" - Madonna - 1984
I am 26 years old, and I cannot gyrate effectively on a hospital gurney. (Note: I haven't actually tried this, but I trust my judgment here.) Weird Al's Madonna parody is 29 years old, and he has no trouble recreating the video in live performances, or at least he didn't when last I saw him at the Illinois State Fair.
Weird Al has parodied Madonna and Lady Gaga, The Next Madonna. He was here when this video -- and the idea that Madonna might not be a virgin? -- was especially risqué, and he'll probably be around when The Next Lady Gaga rolls around naked in embalming fluid in 2040 for her breakthrough holo-video, "I Like Being Penetrated by Multiple Guys (In Embalming Fluid) (I Don't Care What You Think.)"
5. "Money for Nothing" - Dire Straits - 1985
Is this even a parody? The Dire Straits original is already a satire of the music video culture where Weird Al had been making his living (and already features a CG guy who looks unnervingly like Weird Al.)
It is -- and I can't believe there's a job in which I'm allowed to say this, and that I have it -- helpful to look at the video within the context of UHF, the greatest movie ever made if you are or have been an eighth-grade boy. In the movie it's a dream sequence, with down-on-his-luck TV station owner "Weird George" Newman synthesizing the least-cool thing on TV (syndicated Beverly Hillbillies reruns on local TV) with the coolest thing, which at some point really was Dire Straits.
6. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" - Nirvana - 1992
You're Getting Old, Take 2: Weird Al's first impressive career reinvention came when he threw off the weight of a decade of MTV-video-superstar parodies and nailed the faux-disaffection that would lead directly from Kurt Cobain's earnest detachment to Nickelback and Hinder's fusion of hard-partyin'-rock-star with self-professed-social-outcast.
And also, that was 21 years ago, and August's incoming college students wearing Nirvana t-shirts were born after Kurt Cobain killed himself.
7. "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" - Crash Test Dummies - 1993
Now we've reached the Terrifying Dated Nexus: Weird Al's Crash Test Dummies parody, a contractually obligated throw-in for his Greatest Hits album, is even more dated than the song it's parodying, which is itself incredibly 1994.
In case you aren't paying attention, he's talking about: the Signapore caning incident; Tonya Harding taking out Nancy Kerrigan; and the Lorena Bobbitt case. ("Once there was this guy who / made his wife so mad one night that she cut off his weiner" is a keeper.) Just to keep it timeless: There's an armpit-fart solo in there, too.
If there were any justice in this world, Norm MacDonald's post-Weekend-Update career would have been this successful.
8. "Gangsta's Paradise" - Coolio - 1996
Dear My Parents,
I used to look back on the time in junior high when I wasn't allowed to listen to Coolio and think you were a little ridiculous, because who could be threatened by Coolio? Now I realize that it is a parent's job to be threatened by things that are inherently unthreatening, on account of dubstep happening last year. All is forgiven.
9. "It's All About the Benjamins" - Puff Daddy - 1997
Current Mac Pro Specs vs. Specs Referenced in Weird Al's "It's All About the Pentiums," Which, Also, Drew Carey Is In It
|Weird Al||Mac Pro|
|Internet Connectivity||1.5 Mbps||150 Mbps*|
|CPU||1-core Pentium III||12-core Xeon E5|
|Screen||40 inches, flat||4k-ready|
|RAM||100 GB||64 GB|
The 40-inch monitor and 100 GB of RAM are a good example of future-proofing too much.
10. "Ridin'" - Chamillionaire - 2006
Vol. 3, You're A Big Fat Old Guy: Weird Al's most recent career-reinventing hit is now seven years old, and mentions MySpace in the first verse.
This is what makes Weird Al such a lasting figure: He can escape his own past, because he's always a couple of months away from parodying whatever's going on right now. What's equally important is that he's never once acted as though the current pop scene is more ridiculous, or somehow more deserving of ridicule, than the one he came up through.
Sometimes parodists, in their dotage, get a little mean and (as a result) out of touch. Weird Al has just gotten even more like himself.
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