Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Album Review: Weird Al Yankovic's Alpocalypse (2011)

I’ve been a fan of Weird Al Yankovic since the Doctor Demento days, but I’ve noticed that as I’ve grown older, I’ve been becoming more disaffected with his pop music parodies, since I don’t listen to much of that type of music anymore. Alpocalypse is the first album that I believe I have no real investment in, as none of the out-and-out parodies are songs that I’ve ever even listened to all the way through, even once. I’m definitely not an ardent fan of Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, or Taylor Swift. However, I think Weird Al has improved his work immensely with his musical style parodies.
The album has five out-and-out parodies of actual songs: “Perform This Way”, a parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”; “TMZ”, which uses Taylor Swift’s “You Belong to Me”; “Party in the CIA”, after Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”; “Another Tattoo”, a parody of “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B. with Bruno Mars; and “Whatever You Like”, a parody of the same song by T. I. They’re all pretty engaging as parodies, particularly “Party in the CIA” and “TMZ”, but as I've mentioned, I don't think I've ever listened to any of those original songs all the way through.
“Polka Face” is the album’s requisite polka medley, and it is pretty good, though it does have two too many songs in it that originally featured Kesha, who I think most people realize is the Avatar of the End of Days.
The rest of the album features songs that are stylistic parodies of various bands. “CNR” is both a celebration of many somewhat-impossible feats attributed to the late Charles Nelson Reilly and a parody of the White Stripes. It’s also my personal favorite cut on the whole album. “Craigslist” is sung in the style of the Doors, and features Ray Manzarek on keyboards. “Ringtone” parodies the layered studio sound of the glam rock band Queen, as the singer bemoans the fact his ringtone is making the entire world hate him. The group Hanson is riffed on in “If That Isn’t Love”, about a guy who’s way too-good of a boyfriend, with Taylor Hanson providing back-up vocals. And “Stop Forwarding That Crap to Me” is a parody of Jim Steinman’s near-orchestral rock opus sound, as the singer pleads with people to stop forwarding emails to him. Weird Al hit all of these styles dead on. Any one of those songs could’ve been snuck into one of the “victims” albums and would’ve fit in quite nicely. Each one made me think as I was initially listening to it “oh wow, that’s a parody of Queen” or “Huh? He’s doing Jim Steinman? Way cool!”
Comedy acts in the recording business, particularly musical comedy acts, are very hard to maintain over a long period of time.  Alpocalypse shows that Weird Al Yankovic has managed to enter his fourth decade of parodying popular music, and shown he still has a level of freshness and inventiveness that warrants people buying his music. And he’s still pretty damn funny, too.

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