Straight Outta Lynwood
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Straight Outta Lynwood
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If Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, then Weird Al Yankovic must be the Court Jester. For the past 25 years, Weird Al has been simultaneously entertaining and annoying millions of music fans around the world. He's set to do it again with a new album later this month (Straight Outta Lynnwood).
All hail the return of novelty music's reigning king! Straight Outta Lynwood easily bests 2003's Poodle Hat and shows that Yankovic does know what he does best. Part of the secret to Weird Al's success is that he's never been very weird at all, and very rarely are his satires in any way "biting"--or even satires, really. The 11-minute parody of R. Kelly's "Trapped in the Closet" is funny at least for the first listen, but it's hard to ridicule something so largely ridiculous in the first place (plus Jimmy Kimmel totally got the jump on him). The best thing Mr. Yankovic has always done is to take some decent pop tune, change a word or phrase, invent an entirely new premise for the tune, and make an inspired video to go along with it. He does that several times here; Green Day's "American Idiot" becomes the hockey-obsessed "Canadian Idiot," and "White & Nerdy" is a truly inspired take on Chamillionaire's "Ridin'." That song is breakneck-paced and so funny it's a disservice to quote from it at all. "Polkarama!" is a return to W.A.'s novelty roots: a handful of mildly dated hit songs (50 Cent to Modest Mouse!) delivered in straight-ahead, sped-up polka style. It's toe-tapping and sweet. Hopefully we'll not have to wait three years for another Weird Al record. --Mike McGonigal
Top customer reviews
Sure Al's parodies are all great fun, but that's not why I bought this album. Sure this whole album is fraught with hilarity, but that's not why a bought this album. I didn't even buy this album because of all the cool video's included. IT'S THE MUSIC, MAN. That's why I bought this album. Can this Al guy sing or what - even if he is a little weird. (Although, I'm not too sure about the weird part, but that's what Al keeps telling everyone so I'll go along with it.)
Case in point; So there I was, sitting in my mini van at a red light, jamming to the music, not really paying any attention to the lyrics, just enjoying the sounds the band and singers were putting out. With my head bobbin' to the beat and hands drumming on the steering wheel, I noticed an elderly lady in the car next to me looking my way. She seemed to have an air of disdain about her at seeing a gentleman of my years acting like some dang fool kid. That very moment is when my ears picked up on the words "I blew my nose and wiped it on your cat". The lyric caught me totally off guard and I spontaneously burst into laughter. Seeing that, the lady snapped her head forward, stomped on the accelerator and speed through the red light trying to get away from that dang fool (being myself) as fast as she could.
Well, I guess that probably isn't why you should by this album either, but I can tell ya... This double CD sure is a lot of fun and you will absolutely enjoy the music.
It turns out that "Straight Outta Lynwood" is Yankovic's most successful album of all time and his most successful single with "White & Nerdy" making it all the way to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 ("Eat It" was his previous top single which made it to #12). I still think "Running With Scissors" is his best album, but I am definitely heartened to know Yankovic is going strong. With albums coming out every three or four years he appears to have found his stride. There is the obligatory polka medley and several new style parodies, with "Pancreas" (Brian Wilson), "I'll Sue Ya" (Rage Against the Machine), "Virus Alert" (Sparks), "Close But No Cigar" (Cake), and "Don't Download This Song" (fundraiser songs). The surprise is that I liked the style parodies more than I did the parodies of particular songs, which is obviously turning my "Weird Al" universe upside down.
My only problem with this album is clearly my personal problem because with the exception of "Canadian Idiot" I had to look at the liner notes to find out which songs were parodies and which were originals. The fact that I had not heard (or perhaps only not remembered) "White & Nerdy" is a parody of "Ridin'" by Chamillionaire (featuring Krayzie Bone) was received with jaw-dropping astonishment by my daughters. I am down to recognizing only three songs out of 14 in the album's pokla medley, "Polkarama!" ("Let's Get it Started," "Don't Cha," and "Pon de Replay"). I had forgotten that Taylor Hicks had done "Do I Make You Proud," but I do not think I am alone in that regard. But I had no idea "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" is based on a R. Kelly song, although I did recognize Led Zeppelin's "Black Dog" when it popped up.
Flip over the CD and you get to the DVD, which has animated videos for all of the original songs, namely: "Don't Download This Song," "I'll Sue Ya," "Virus Alert," "Close But No Cigar," "Pancreas" and "Weasel Stomping Day." The videos for "White & Nerdy," "Do I Creep Your Out," "Canadian Idiot," and "Trapped in the Drive-Thru" are all for parodies and for some reason that justified exclusion (insert pout here). The videos are followed by a short documentary that simply shows Yankovic and his band recording some of the songs and paying testament to his attention to detail. You can also listen to the entire album with the lyrics as subtitles, each song accompanied by a photograph of Yankovic from infancy to young adulthood (his parents liked the triple image option). Finally, you can do the karaoke function and get the music and the lyrics so you can sing the songs yourself. Consequently, there are enough extras here to justify rounding up on the disc overall.
Concert Update: So last night "Weird Al" came to town and as I suspected they set up two rows in the orchestra pit for winners of radio contests for tickets (sigh). But during one of the songs (that does not appear on any of the albums) he came down in the audience. Al was singing to the women in the audience but when he was walking in front of it was all dads and kids, so he sang to my oldest daughter (she just got accepted into the Peace Corp to go do what she wants to do where she wants to do it so she is having a good week). We also picked up over a thousand dollars in "Weird Al" money. For the record, he does complete versions of five songs from this album (1, 3, 4, 5, 9), excerpts from three more (7, 10, 11), and one music video (8).
This album's hit "White and Nerdy" has already achieved widespread popularity, especially since the world of nerd rap isn't exactly bursting with material (yet: check out MC Frontalot). The other parodies are pretty good too. Unfortunately, he's a little slow on the uptake: waiting until 2005 to parody "American Idiot" seems rather lazy. However, his attack on the music industry with the ironic "Don't Download This Song" (provided for free download on his website) is just in time.
That song, plus 5 other originals based on other artists' styles and the obligatory polka medley round out the album. While some of these styles are rather dated, that actually makes them funnier: "Weasel Stomping Day" sounds like a 50's pop song glorifying conformity (assuming weasel stomping was compulsory in times of yore). "I'll Sue Ya", based on Rage Against The Machine, and "Close but No Cigar", based on Cake, mirror their original artists with an uncanny accuracy and showcase the versatility of Al's backup band.
Heck, "I'll Sue Ya" actually has some pretty good riffs in it: though it lacks the usual killswitching guitar solo, Al's group is surprisingly skilled for a novelty band. This keeps the album fresh and will keep you listening to it long after the first laughs wear thin. Recommended.
The cd is chock full of great parodies (Confessions III, and Canadian Idiot come quickly to mind.) I have a lot of fun putting all of Weird Al's tunes on random play and getting a surprise by a new or older tune. Lots of fun