Before Girl Talk was around to melt and splice pop and hip hop hits into dance-floor crack, there were “Weird Al” Yankovic’s polka-style megamixes. Although Al is known for his lyrical parodies, the brilliance of the polkas is that they expose current pop songs’ silliness simply by changing their genre. For over 25 years, they’ve been staples of his albums. In honor of the just-released “Polka Face” (oh yes he did) from Alpocalypse, which comes out Tuesday, we present a brief history of Weird Al’s polkas.
“Polkas on 45” (1984)
Weird Al’s first polka appeared on his second full-length, “Weird Al” in 3-D. Rather than a compilation of contemporary hits, “Polkas on 45” takes on a herd of sacred cows: It includes everything from “Hey Joe” and “My Generation” to “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and “Smoke on the Water.” But perhaps the creepiest moment is when Al sings that “I’m a little girl when we make love together” part from Berlin’s “Sex (I’m A…).”
“Hooked on Polkas” (1985)
Al gets a bit more contemporary on this track from Dare to Be Stupid, which mixes together Hall & Oates, Twisted Sister, Duran Duran, and more. The most brilliant moment, by far, is Nena’s “99 Luftballoons,” which was apparently made for polka (not terribly surprising, considering she’s German).
“Polka Party!” (1986)
His third polka medley in as many years, the title track from Al’s Polka Party! album includes some real ’80s gems: Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” Janet Jackson’s “Nasty,” and Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer.” We let out an audible giggle listening to Al lisp his way through Phil Collins’s signature cheese-fest, “Sussudio.”
“Hot Rocks Polka” (1989)
What do you get when you mix one of the coolest, sexiest rock bands of all time with Weird Al and a whole load of “oompahs”? Hilarity. “Hot Rocks Polka,” from UHF: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack and Other Stuff, is Al’s take on the Rolling Stones’ biggest hits. You’ve never heard “Let’s Spend the Night Together” sung like this before.
“Polka Your Eyes Out” (1992)
Weird Al greets the ’90s with this polka, from his Nirvana-parodying Off the Deep End. “Polka Your Eyes Out” is full of pop oddities, from “Love Shack” and “Losing My Religion” to “The Humpty Dance” and EMF’s deeply bizarre “Unbelievable.” What’s weirder than Al signing Warrant’s “Cherry Pie”? Well, how about Al singing “I Touch Myself”?
“Bohemian Polka” (1993)
It may not technically be a medley, but Weird Al’s take on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” is certainly polka. If you haven’t heard this Alapalooza track, you’re missing out.
“The Alternative Polka” (1996)
Sure, he was a few years late to the left-of-the-dial party, but Al got really topical on “The Alternative Polka,” from Bad Hair Day. There are some wonderful moments: Beck’s “Loser,” Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer,” Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” But we especially enjoy Al’s upbeat (yet still satisfyingly whiny) rendition of Smashing Pumpkins’ “Bullet with Butterfly Wings.”
“Polka Power!” (1999)
If you happened to be a teenager around the turn of the millennium, then Running with Scissors‘ “Polka Power!” is a nostalgic trip back to high school. “Ghetto Superstar”? Check. “Wannabe”? Yup. “MMMBop”? But of course! If you were DJing a late-’90s-themed party, you could do worse than simply making a playlist of these songs. We still wonder whether Marilyn Manson was amused by Al’s version of “The Dope Show.”
“Angry White Boy Polka” (2003)
This might be our favorite of all Weird Al’s polka medleys. Released at the height of modern-rock radio’s nü-metal/rap-metal period, Poodle Hat‘s “Angry White Boy Polka” is largely populated by terrible songs like Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba,” Papa Roach’s “Last Resort,” and Staind’s “Outside.” There’s also a substantial neo-garage section; we wouldn’t characterize The White Stripes and The Hives as particularly angry, but we do enjoy what Al does with The Strokes’ “Last Night.”
From Weird Al’s most recent album, Straight Outta Lynnwood, “Polkarama!” compiles all of the songs that made us roll our eyes in the mid-’00s: Black Eyed Peas’ “Let’s Get It Started,” Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha,” 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop.” Hey, remember when Modest Mouse were on MTV all the time?
“Polka Face” (2011)
We’re pretty sure this entire song exists because the title was too perfect to pass up. In addition to Gaga, Flo Rida, Justin Bieber, and Britney Spears all pop up. Our favorite moment, though, is Al’s mini-parody of Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”: “Tick tock on the clock, but the polka don’t stop.” Amen to that.