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My Weirder Al Yankovic Playlist (2 of 4)
Who lists the lyrical listmaker?
Weird Al songs stayed in the background of my life, and some of my friends were big fans of his. But I didn’t latch onto one of his tracks again until “White and Nerdy.”
Even more of a nerd anthem than “Dare to Be Stupid,” “White and Nerdy” came out in 2006, when nerd pride was near its peak…a few years after the dot-com revolution but still before too much gatekeeping and toxic behavior started making itself known in the community.
By then, I knew a lot about how geeks got represented in media—my first comics series, Fans, had been about trying to do that right. As a result, I’m picky (even prickly) about other such representations. The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy struck me as an old joke when that show was young. And don’t get me started on The Big Bang Theory.
Weird Al’s gleeful recitation of his nerdy “achievements,” though, passed my smell test. Aside from an “outsider looking in” cultural theme, it doesn’t have much to do with Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’.” But it does reflect hip-hop’s style of self-promotion.
Al once mentioned that he had notebooks full of itemized ideas for each song. This is a song in list form—with brief digressions, every short sentence is an independent proof of its title, all of them arranged one after another after another. And so this song may be one of the ones he released that was closest to his original creative process.
I mentioned “Word Crimes” earlier as a fond first-date memory—finding this for me was one of several ways Janice showed me she might be a good partner right from the start.
There’s some more list-making to this one as Al cycles through all the little rules an English major has to care about, especially during the bridge, but there’s also a little narrative arc as the speaker goes from sympathetic and helpful at the beginning of the song to more and more frustrated until he just walks away.
As a bonus, it takes the catchy beat and melody of “Blurred Lines” but strips away everything that makes that song kinda pushy and creepy when you think about the lyrics too much. Al includes his customary nods to the lyrics and the song’s original video, but this feels less like a collaboration and more like a conversion. And that’s just fine with me.
Janice has her own connections to the world of comedy music. Spending more time with her and her friends opened me up to appreciate the genre more. And I found my attention drawn to the virtuoso performance of “Hardware Store.”
Again Al balances storytelling and list-making, and the list in this case is maybe his most rapid-fire, taxing performance. (There’s a reason he’s never done it live.)
Hardware store equipment is not one of my interests, but it is one of Janice’s: she’s happy to be able to solve a few house problems with simple tools and her own two hands. But Al’s enthusiasm is transformative. I think a cavalcade of rhymes like this could make someone a believer in almost any interest. Who says the poetic ode is dead?
More the day after tomorrow, after our regularly scheduled Ubercross!