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|Written by Christine Seabrook|
|Tuesday, 23 June 2009 21:20|
Popular music is as dynamic as ever before thanks to ever-developing musical techniques, advancing technology, and the complex themes tackled by today’s artists. But in addition to the melodies and the lyrics that make up the core components of emotional imagery that suck a listener into a song, there is a completely different element to music that isn’t exploited nearly as often: comedy.
The comedians who have tried their hand at song-writing have often crafted songs that provide a unique twist on more traditional themes and approaches to music. Sometimes the comedy comes from controversy or profanity, but other times comedic songs approach an issue from so far outside the box that it becomes a totally unique work that is worthy of as much praise as any serious song.
Musician/actor Jack Black appeared on television shows such as Northern Exposure, The X-Files and Life Goes On, before finding a comfortable niche on the big screen, appearing in small roles in films such as Waterworld, The Jackal and The Cable Guy. Black, of course, eventually became a comedic superstar featured in many movies, including last year’s Oscar-nominated hit Tropic Thunder. In addition to being a very funny actor, Black is also a musician, with a passion for heavy metal. When joined by long-time friend and fellow actor Kyle Gass, the duo become Tenacious D – a two-man group producing heavy metal with a comedic touch. Their biggest hit, “Tribute,” mocks metal stereotypes, and other songs feature ridiculous topics that mainstream artists would never dream of writing songs about, including sasquatches and towns named Kickapoo -- that one featuring Meat Loaf! How much more rock 'n' roll can you get? (Meat Loaf seems to love the whole comedic rock genre as well; he starred in The Rocky Horror Picture Show after all!)
Weird Al Yankovic is another icon of comedic music, having written and performed dozens of parodies during a career that has spanned over twenty years. Yankovic’s career was kick started when he sent a cassette of quirky songs he’d written, featuring his own accordion accompaniment, to Dr. Demento, a DJ known to have a keen ear for comedic music. Today, at the age of 49, Yankovic is still releasing his parodies, with “Whatever You Like” – a parody of TI’s hit song of the same title – being his most recent release. Some of his more memorable songs include “Yoda,” “Don’t Go Makin’ Phony Calls,” “Like a Surgeon,” and, perhaps his biggest hit, “Amish Paradise” – a cover of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise.”
Yankovic has stated on his official website that he receives permission from the original artists before he parodies their work. There was, however, apparently some sort of miscommunication when it came to “Amish Paradise.” The comedian was told by his people that they had received permission; however, shortly after the song was released, Coolio publicly stated he had never given such permission. The controversy and resulting publicity likely helped the song’s popularity… though maybe it was just the catchy lyrics. I mean, who can honestly listen to the song without having, “Jebediah feeds the chickens, and Jacob ploughs, fool,” stuck in their head afterwards?
Al is not currently on tour, but last year’s tour included some Canadian dates. With “Whatever You Like” getting decent air play, maybe fans can be hopeful for another tour in the near future.
Another comedic musician, one who falls a little shy of Billboard chart radar, is Youtube sensation Bo Burnham. Residing in
While the comedic music genre may never be as popular as R&B, pop, or rock, it does seem to be seeping above ground more than ever before. With comedians like Jack Black, television shows like Flight of the Conchords, and new technology like YouTube and Myspace Music, there are plenty of new resources and entry points for new listeners. Even if it may not be your genre of choice, it can’t hurt to look up some of these artists just for a good laugh and a new perspective on music, one that’s little wacky, a little twisted, and performed by artists who are a little bananas.