1985. The video game industry had fallen, the last Star Wars movie had unspooled, leaving no sign of a sequel outside from some unpromising Ewok TV movies that somehow lacked the epic sweep of a Jedi duel between good and evil, and new wave music had given way to slickly-produced pop that attempted to mass-produce the synth-based sound that had been so boldly experimental just six years before when Gary Numan gave us Cars. And Weird Al Yankovic? Thank God at least Al was still around, and he had a fresh target: Madonna was on the rise.
This brings us to “Like A Surgeon”, Al’s cuttingly funny take-off of Madonna’s “Like A Virgin”, and the lead single (and first track) on Dare To Be Stupid. Considering that In 3-D had made him a superstar, the follow-up required some serious work to top it. And that it did, complete with some of Al’s best original compositions ever.
Dare To Be Stupid itself is a brilliant rip of the Devo sound, and in some ways even exceeds its inspiration. (Years later in a VH-1 special about Weird Al’s career, Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo confessed that he loved the synth sounds Al used in the song – and hated him from that day forward for “wasting” them on a parody. Get over yourself, Mark. We’ll reserve a room for you in the Shatner suite.) “One More Minute” sets some truly bizarre lyrics to Inkspots-style doo-wop music, while the brilliant “This Is The Life” takes on the big band style that wouldn’t be coming back into vogue for nearly a decade and a half. “Cable TV” is hilarious as well, and in some ways lays the foundation for Al’s movie, UHF.
In the area of parodying specific songs, Weird Al rarely hit the ball over the fence this often in the space of a single album. “I Want A New Duck” is a bizarre spoof which flips the bird to Huey Lewis’ “I Want A New Drug” (and I’ll best Yankovic spent a lot less time apologizing for his song after the fact); food is once again the topic of the Cyndi Lauper-inspired “Girls Just Want To Have Lunch”, and most brilliantly of all, Weird Al does an almost straightforward retelling of The Empire Strikes Back to the tune of the Kinks’ “Lola” in “Yoda” – proof, if any be needed, that Al needs to go back, record some new material, add “Yoda” and “The Saga Begins” to the mix, and tell the entire Star Wars saga through music.
The album is triumphantly capped off with “Hooked On Polkas”, another of Weird Al’s signature polka medleys of songs that were making it big at the time. Among his victims this time around are ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man”, Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose”, and Nena’s “99 Luftballoons”, to name just three richly-deserving candidates. It’s hard to really put a finger on why Dare To Be Stupid always rocked my world back then; the only song that doesn’t do a thing for me is “Slime Creatures From Outer Space”, which sounds like a weak attempt to mimic Thomas Dolby’s style circa 1984, but that’s one bad egg out of nearly a dozen – and truth be told, Al foisted worse turkeys on us with Even Worse. Dare To Be Stupid dared to take on an era when rock and pop music was getting less and less interesting, and at least made them funny.
- Like A Surgeon (3:32)
- Dare To Be Stupid (3:26)
- I Want A New Duck (3:04)
- One More Minute (4:05)
- Yoda (3:58)
- George Of The Jungle (1:05)
- Slime Creatures From Outer Space (4:23)
- Girls Just Want To Have Lunch (2:49)
- This Is The Life (3:07)
- Cable TV (3:38)
- Hooked On Polkas (3:52)
Released by: Scotti Bros.
Release date: 1985
Total running time: 36:59