The Weirdest Part of Weird Al

Is anyone else puzzled by the enduring career of nerdy musical ‘artist’ Weird Al Yankovic?

Decade after decade, this accordion-playing, polka-loving purveyor of pop parodies just keeps banging out mildly clever derivative hits.

His latest creation is “Perform This Way,” a spoof of current pop phenom Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way.” Recent reports that Gaga refused granting Al permission to use her song escalated into a frenzy he skillfully dubbed The Gaga Saga. Alas, it was apparently just a misunderstanding, and the sweet Lady has given the green light to include the single on Al’s “Alpocalypse” album (his 13th!), scheduled for release on June 21.

Collective sigh of relief.

Although some artists have previously denied Al access to their work (Prince foremost among them), others report being quite flattered by his request to rework their tunes (including Michael Jackson, Madonna and Nirvana).

And so far, the 51-year-old’s prolific parodies have sold more than 12 million albums, including six platinum records and four gold records, as well as garnering three Grammy Awards and nominations for nine others.

Ironically, Weird Al’s musical career has outshined and/or outlasted many of his targets: Joan Jett, Toni Basil, Billy Ray Cyrus, Robert Palmer, The Knack, Coolio, etc., etc.

He’s a fascinating character, to be sure. 

Some interesting factoids about Mr. Alfred Matthew Yankovic:

  • valedictorian of his high school senior class.
  • earned a degree in architecture from California Polytechnic State University.
  • practices veganism.
  • opened for acts as diverse as The Monkees and Missing Persons.
  • directed music videos for numerous other artists, including Ben Folds, Hanson, The Black Crowes and The Presidents of the United States of America.
  • named as the top artist that should be nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a 2009 Rolling Stone poll (followed by Rush and The Moody Blues).

But for me, the weirdest part of Weird Al is that he’s still piloting a thriving musical career.

In a fickle industry that relegates artists to the bargain bin with relative ease, this nerdy gimmick of a guy has exhibited real staying power (although I’m fairly certain his CDs are available in many a bargain bin).

Don’t get me wrong…I’m grateful for any ’80s pop singer who is still considered relevant in 2011. But given the chance, I’d really like to trade Al in for someone along the lines of Pat Benatar, Level 42 or The Go-Go’s.

So again, I ask: Is anyone else puzzled by the enduring career of nerdy musical “artist” Weird Al Yankovic?