Totally Serious Music Review #6: Weird Al Yankovic’s “Headline News”

Weird Al Yankovic is a fool. And by that, I mean in the most Shakespearean tradition: what he speaks sounds like gibberish, but when you give him a second look, you find wisdom. It’s what sets Weird Al apart from the rest: his lyrics, unlike the ones generated by imitators, aren’t lazy parodies. Think of some of his recent hits. “White & Nerdy” sounds goofy, yet it doubles as an anthem to obsessive geeks who have yet to find such a public songwriter who speaks their language. Or how about “Fat”? Sure, Weird Al dons a clownishly obese suit, but he is surrounds himself with legitimately large men. If you are an overweight person, suddenly you can, like the song says, be proud to tell the world that you are Fat.

But “Headline News” is a separate masterpiece. In a way, it overshadows even the original song by the Crash Test Dummies (who are fans of the Weird Al song, by the way). The song equates three incidents from the 1990’s — the Michael Fay caning, the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan kneecapping incident, and Lorena Bobbitt’s knife obsession — with mythology. Does that sound farfetched? Take a look a the video made for “Headline News.” There are shirtless midgets, sumo wrestlers, men unconvincingly donning ladies’ wigs. It’s done for humor, but there’s an undeniable David Lynch vibe to everything. And what does Lynch do but insert visual symbolism to transform a domestic tragedy into a modern day legend? Weird Al, then, says something that the original lacked: in a world lacking storytellers, the mythmakers are the media circuses.

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