“Look/If you had/One shot/To sit on your lazy butt/And watch all the TV you ever wanted/Until your brain turned to mush/Would you go for it?/Or just let it slip?” -Weird Al Yankovic, “Couch Potato.”
Those are the lyrics of one of my favorite songs from the end of elementary school. Though I’m not incredibly proud to admit it, Weird Al was just about the only artist I listed to regularly at the time. My friends and I memorized line after line of his lyrics and sang them passionately whenever we could.
Looking back, this was not your everyday obnoxious childhood phase. In his own strange way, the man who wrote such memorable parodies as “Couch Potato,” “Trash Day” and “A Complicated Song” played a major role in the development of my musical taste.
During my preteen years I was (and to a certain extent still am) the type of kid who saw everyone else doing one thing and did the exact opposite. If I was a salmon (warning: left-field analogy coming up), while all my peers swam upstream, I would be the one smugly standing still or escaping downstream. For whatever reason, I could not justify doing something simply because other people it was cool.
So it makes perfect sense that I would be attracted to an artist who poked fun at what the other kids were listening to. I could have my own distinct taste without succumbing to “everyone else is doing it.”
But instead of isolating me, Weird Al’s music kept me in the loop. I knew the tunes and some of the lyrics to songs like “Lose Yourself” and “Pretty Fly for a White Guy” from the parodies, but I could still relish in my stubborn nonconformity by singing different lyrics. (And relish I did: Whenever one of those parodied songs came on the radio I would always try to sing Weird Al’s version as loud as I possibly could just to get confused looks from passersby.)
The past nine or so years have mellowed me out significantly; I am no longer the annoying dare-to-be-different kid I once was, but I still retain certain fragments of that mindset.
And every now and then I still pull out those old albums for a chuckle. It makes me blush to think that I once obsessed over those lyrics, but it makes me smile to remember how they taught me it’s okay to go another way.