Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic has built a career out of mocking other artists. Everyone from Queen and Joan Jett to Eminem and R. Kelly have felt the sharp side of his tongue. Considering the delicious ridiculousness of his send-ups, it’s doubtful that many care. Since gaining his first exposure on Dr. Demento’s Southern California-based radio show in the mid-1970s, he’s recorded more than 150 parodies and original songs, earned five Grammys (and 11 further nominations), and sold over 12 million records worldwide. Here’s how we rank the 10 best Weird Al songs of all time.
10. Smells Like Nirvana
Smells Like Teen Spirit didn’t really deserve to be parodied, but that hadn’t stopped Weird Al in the past and it wasn’t going to stop him now. It might not be quite as scathing as his takedown of Billy Joel, It’s Still Billy Joel to Me, but it’s still pretty biting, combining unintelligible lyrics with an alternating quiet-low dynamic to gently (but devastatingly) mock not only Nirvana, but the entire grunge movement. Released on April 3, 1992, it became one of Weird Al’s most successful singles, reaching number 35 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the U.S. Mainstream Rock Tracks.
9. Eat It
In 1984, Weird Al kickstarted his career with Eat It, a sarcastic, wildly silly rip on Michael Jackson’s Beat It that turned the lyrics into a story about a frustrated parent trying to get their fussy child to eat. As Billboard says, the song established Weird Al as a pop force, becoming his first Top 40 hit in the US when it peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100. In the Australian Aria Charts, it even managed to outdo Beat It, peaking at No. 1 compared to Jackson’s No. 3. At the following year’s Grammys, it scooped an award in the Best Comedy Recording category.
8. Trash Day
Weird Al’s eleventh studio album had a bunch of killer songs, including Couch Potato (a parody of Lose Yourself by Eminem) and eBay, a spoof of the Backstreet Boy’s I Want It That Way that climbed to No. 15 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. One of its chief highlights is Trash Day, a rip on Nelly’s Hot in Herre that features some of the best ad-libs ever recorded.
Clocking in at an impressive 11 minutes and 23 seconds, Albuquerque is the longest song Yankovic has ever recorded… and unquestionably one of the funniest. A stream of consciousness narrative about… something (Albuquerque is involved, as is a woman named Zelda and a donut shop that specializes in rabid weasels… other than that, your guess is as good as ours), Yankovic has described the song as being in the “hard-driving rock narrative” style of artists like The Rugburns, Mojo Nixon and George Thorogood. Recorded for the 1998 album Running With Scissors, it’s become one of Weird Al’s most popular songs.
6. Another One Rides the Bus
As yardbarker.com says, that doesn’t mean it’s a high-quality recording. Yankovic cranks away on his accordion, while Jon “Bermuda” Schwartz (who Yankovic had dragged into the recording after randomly running into him in the hallway a few minutes earlier) bangs out some ragged beats on the accordion case. It still manages to be an utter triumph though, with Al turning Queen’s Another One Bites The Dust into a silly story about getting trapped on a bus.
5. Trapped in the Drive-Thru
Weird Al has a habit of closing out his albums in spectacular fashion, and in 2006, he pulled another classic out of the bag with Trapped in the Drive-Thru. Based on the R Kelly saga Trapped in the Closet and incorporating a very unexpected sample of Led Zeppelin’s Black Dog, it’s the second-longest song after Albuquerque to feature on any of his studio albums. Long, ridiculous and studded with multiple cliffhangers, its expert blend of musicianship and humor is classic Weird Al.
4. I Love Rocky Road
Weird Al has sometimes struggled to get permission for his singles, but he faced no such problems for I Love Rocky Road. Although Joan Jett made it famous, it was actually The Arrows who originally recorded the song back in 1975. Fortunately, Yankovic had an advantage, as it was The Arrows’ Jake Hooker who’d first introduced him to Rick Derringer, who’d produced Weird Al’s first six albums. With the permission a done deal, he went on to turn the classic rock song into an ode to rocky road ice cream, reaching No. 106 on the charts in the process.
Released in May 1983, Ricky, a “I Love Lucy” themed spoof of the 1982 song Mickey by Toni Basil, became Al’s first chart hit, peaking at No. 63 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also delivered his first televised music video, along with a standout performance from actress Tress MacNeille, who delivers a career-defining impersonation of Lucille Ball in both the song and video.
2. My Bologna
Weird Al recorded his first single in a men’s bathroom, the only space he could find during his time as a student disk jockey at Cal Poly. Despite (or perhaps, because of) that, My Bologna ended up becoming the most important song of his career, turning into a big enough hit to attract the attention of Capitol Records. With a record deal secured, the only way was up.
1. White & Nerdy
As redbull.com says, people were ready to forget about Weird Al by 2006. But then along came White & Nerdy, a song that proved in no uncertain way that parody rap songs could be hip. A glorious send-up of the Chamillionaire anthem Ridin’ it, White & Nerdy finds Yankovic at the very top of his game, delivering one of the best rapping moments of his career. The song soared to No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, reminding everyone that no matter what else was happening in the world, there’d always be a place for Weird Al.