Bad Hair Day
Scotti Brothers Records, 1996
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 04/21/2000
If anyone doubted that "Weird Al" Yankovic was still a relevant and powerful force in music back in the '90s, his album Off The Deep End shattered those doubts. And while neither 1993's Alapalooza nor the label-demanded compilation The TV Album really helped Yankovic capitalize on that success, he was honing his already sharp skills for his next target.
That attack came in 1996 with the release of Bad Hair Day, an album that is an excellent mixture of parody and original material that is rightfully, last time I heard, Yankovic's best-selling album to date.
Anyone who has O.D.'ed on the VH-1 "Behind The Music" special on Yankovic knows the controversy behind "Amish Paradise," Yankovic's take on Coolio's "Gangsta's Paradise". Memo to Coolio: Dude, lighten up ! Even you have to admit that Yankovic did a killer job manipulating your song, and ended up with a creation that is just as good as the original. Of course, this is what Yankovic had been doing on record for over a decade at that time - but he truly hit the nail on the head with "Amish Paradise".
What's interesting is that it keeps getting better for Yankovic. From his take on U2 ("Cavity Search") to a dead-on mimic of alternative rock ("Gump," his parody of "Lump" from The Presidents Of The United States Of America), Yankovic fires almost no blanks in this department. Even his r&b parody "Phony Calls" (taking TLC's "Waterfalls" and twisting it like a pretzel) hits on the mark, thanks in no small part to well-placed sound effects and guest appearances from Nancy "Bart Simpson" Cartwright and Hank "Moe The Bartender" Azaria.
The only mis-step Yankovic makes in parody land is "Syndicated Inc.," a take on Soul Asylum's "Misery". Yeah, the accordion solo is tasty, but this one hardly qualifies as "A-list" material. Besides, Yankovic has done enough TV parodies, so maybe this was a subtle hint that he needed to take a rest from them. (Then again, he hit paydirt with "Jerry Springer" off Running With Scissors, so I'm willing to admit I'm wrong.)
But what Bad Hair Day does for Yankovic is add more proof that he is a more than capable songwriter in his own regard. Some of the originals on this album - namely, "Everything You Know Is Wrong," "I Remember Larry" and "Callin' In Sick" - rank right up there with the best of his parodies. I know that Yankovic will forever be known for his parody work, but I honestly believe he could record an album of originals and it would be just as strong. Bad Hair Day is further proof of this.
The highlight of this album is the closing track "The Night Santa Went Crazy," a song that definitely isn't for the little ones who still believe in the jolly old elf. It's a pretty descriptive song about one S. Claus's rampage at the North Pole, and it's funny as hell. (Memo to Yankovic: You sing a different third verse in concert than you do on the album. Please tell me you'll eventually release that version on a "b-sides" album! It actually feels like it belongs more than what is on the CD.)
Yankovic would disappear from the music scene for a while after Bad Hair Day ran its course - to return with the previously reviewed masterpiece Running With Scissors. What this album did was remind us all not only that Yankovic was still slugging it out, but that he was more talented than ever, and deserved our attention. Bad Hair Day is a "must-own" album for any day of the week.