Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Weird Al" Yankovic - Dare to Be Stupid

Today (June 18th) marks the thirtieth anniversary of Dare to Be Stupid, the third studio album from "Weird Al" Yankovic. The Platinum seller went to number 55 in Canada and number 50 on the US Billboard Album chart (with a sixteen week total run on that chart).

Side one starts with "Like a Surgeon", his cutting parody of Madonna's 1984 chart-topper "Like a Virgin". I always smile at the use of various pieces of medical equipment, like a heart monitor and respirator that pepper the background. This one hardly flat-lined; as the lead single, it went to number 47 on the US Billboard Hot 100 , number 37 in Canada and number 19 in Australia. The music video for the song even featured a cameo by the Material Girl herself. Evidence that the song is still remembered decades later is found on How I Met Your Mother in season seven episode seven (Ted tells his friends he was the one who suggested the song title to Al back in 1985 and Al even makes a cameo in a flashback).

The title track is next. "Dare to Be Stupid", an original done in the style of Devo, was released as a B-side of a single in 1986. I think Al really nailed the new-wave genre perfectly here. The music video further pays homage to many of Devo's own videos.

He takes a at Huey Lewis and the News with "I Want a New Duck", the parody of the 1984 hit "I Want a New Drug". It was released as the second single. For me, the song invokes the memory of another ditty drake Rick Dees' "Disco Duck" and of Marvel's movie mallard Howard the Duck.

"One More Minute", another original, is done in a 1950's doo-wop style. It was released as the third single; Al also did a music video for it. I like the way he flips the script lyrically on this slow-dance saunter.

"Yoda" is a stellar parody of the Star Wars variety of the Kink's 1970 tune "Lola". He first conceived the song with a demo in 1980, but it took him almost five years to get approval from George Lucas and Ray Davies. This would not be the last time that Al would go to a galaxy far far away; in 1999 on his album Running With Scissors he took a jab at the Star Wars prequels with "The Saga Begins" (a parody of Don McLean's "American Pie").

Side two begins with a performance of the theme song from "George of the Jungle", the 1967 Jay Ward cartoon.

"Slime Creatures from Outer Space" is Al's original ode to 1950's science-fiction movie soundtracks. This B-movie boogie was the B-side to the lead single. Its rhythm really reminds me of Thomas Dolby’s “Hyperactive”; I like it a lot.

Next up is Al's nod to Cyndi Lauper with "Girls Just Want to Have Lunch", a parody of her debut smash single "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". For me, this is the weakest of the four direct parodies on this album; the concept does not hit home as much as the others. Then again, it is a tough one to nail down.

"This Is the Life", an original about living high on the hog, is done in the musical style of the 1920's and 1930's. Look for a brief sample of a Malcolm McLaren tune towards the end.

Another original "Cable TV", was the B-side to the second single. It is a commentary on something that was, at that time, a luxury in a lot of homes across America.

The album closes with a medley "Hooked on Polkas", a name that is a take-off on the Hooked on Classics craze of the mid-80's. Released as a single in Japan, this one gives us Al's classic takes on songs by the Jacksons, ZZ Top, Tina Turner, Hall and Oates, Yes, Twisted Sister, Nena, Kenny Loggins, Duran Duran, Quiet Riot and Frankie Goes to Hollywood. When I hear this one, I cannot help but think of old Looney Tunes cartoons; it has to do with the comedic sound effects that run throughout it.

I gathered the parodies from Dare to Be Stupid thanks to a greatest hits CD. For me, that has always been my primary draw with “Weird Al”. Still, some of the original cuts also are refreshing fun and are worth checking out.

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