On this week’s Monday Mixtape, Marco Cartolano belatedly celebrates April Fool’s Day with some comedy songs. This playlist is available on Spotify here.
[“White & Nerdy” – “Weird Al” Yankovic]
Hello everybody and welcome to Monday Mixtape. Sadly, April Fools Day came and went before the quarter started. To belatedly celebrate our funniest annual tradition, this mixtape is dedicated to songs with a sense of humor. Comedy songs are usually dismissed as novelties, but it takes a lot of talent to be funny. Let’s start off with the master of parody tracks. “Weird Al” Yankovic has been recording good-natured spoofs of popular music since the ‘80s. His first top ten single, “White & Nerdy,” parodies “Ridin’” by Chamillionaire and Krayzie Bone. Yankovic’s song turns a hot rap single into a loving send up of nerd culture. “White and Nerdy” keeps the original track’s bouncy beat and Yankovic’s flow is so solid that Chamillionaire himself complimented it.
[“Repeat Stuff” – Bo Burnham]
For a parody with more bite, look to one of comedy’s rising stars. Bo Burnham became famous for performing joke songs with an acidic touch. Burnham also likes to skewer the relationship between performer and audience. “Repeat Stuff” takes down pop stars marketed toward young girls. He attacks their heavily focus-grouped personas and how they get rich off exploiting adolescent desire. It has the squeaky clean pop-rock production that teen idols usually rely on, but it replaces semi-sincere platitudes about love with the blunt observations of a sociopathic pop star. The studio version even includes a demonic voice-over to take the track to its logical extreme.
[“Pregnant Women are Smug” – Garfunkel and Oates]
Sometimes comedy helps us express unspoken truths about social interactions. “Pregnant Women are Smug” by the folk duo Garfunkel and Oates makes fun of the way women act when they become pregnant. They mock cliché lines about pregnancy like “I’m walking on air” and also subvert how everyone is expected to be nothing but courteous to pregnant women. The juxtaposition of Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci’s crass put-downs with the sort of saccharine instrumentation that you would hear at a baby shower really sells the humor. It’s great catharsis for anyone who’s held back a snide comment.
[“A Boy Named Sue”-Johnny Cash]
Even some of music’s biggest legends had senses of humor. “A Boy Named Sue” was written by Shel Silverstein, the author of The Giving Tree, and made popular by Johnny Cash. Cash narrates from the perspective of a tough guy whose father named him Sue. He swears vengeance on his father for giving him such an embarrassing name. Cash’s vocals alternate from his usual stoicism to more emotive yelping at key points to emphasize the humor.
[“Not Crying” – Flight of the Conchords]
Fragile masculinity has been a goldmine for countless great humorists. The deflections that men make to pretend they’re not sensitive are ripe for mockery. “Not Crying” by Flight of the Conchords adds to that comedic tradition. Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie keep making up ridiculous excuses for why they’re tearing up after a breakup, but their increasingly emotional delivery says otherwise. The irony is enhanced by the sort of melodramatic pianos that usually accompany weepy breakup tracks.
[“Just a Friend” – Biz Markie]
Now for a classic. Biz Markie is known as the “Clown Prince of Hip-Hop” for his silly songs and comedic persona. His only hit single, “Just a Friend,” brought his loveable energy to a wider audience. The Biz tells a story about a cheating groupie that plays him for a fool. But everything from the mumbled way Markie delivers his lines to the cheap piano beat gives this song a scrappy charm. The highlight, of course, is the chorus. Markie belts out the lines in the most off-key way imaginable. He’s so charming that he managed to turn a joke song into a hip-hop staple.
[“Jack Sparrow” – The Lonely Island]
Andy Samberg’s comedy rap trio, the Lonely Island, deconstructed pop music cliches while getting actual pop stars in on the act. One of their best tracks, “Jack Sparrow”, featured a pop star from the past. Michael Bolton became a punching bag in the ‘90s for his overly earnest pop ballads, but his appearance on “Jack Sparrow” suggests he has developed a sense of humor. The main trio tries to perform stereotypical raps about clubbing, but Bolton’s hook commandeers the song as he starts singing about Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The tension between the rappers trying to stay on topic and Bolton’s obsession with Jack Sparrow makes the track hilarious. It only gets funnier as Bolton tries on different movie references to better fit the track’s intended tone.
["Reprise” – Jack Sparrow”]
And that’s all for Monday Mixtape. This week’s playlist will be available on Spotify at mondaymixtape. Make sure to subscribe to Monday Mixtape on Apple href="https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/nbntertainment-weekly/id1231570616?mt=2">Podcasts so you get a notification every time we post a new episode. All joking aside, thank you for listening. Until next time, this has been Marco Cartolano for NBN Audio.