Day Eighty-Three: "Young, Dumb & Ugly" from Alapalooza
With “Young, Dumb & Ugly”, “Weird Al” Yankovic didn’t set out to make his comedy version of a metal song. No, just as Al straight-up went country on the terrific album cut “Good Enough for Now”, on “Young, Dumb & Ugly” made a straight-up metal song, and a pretty terrific one at that. He didn’t just make a song that commented irreverently on songs that rock. No, he made a song that legitimately rocked.
“Young, Dumb & Ugly” isn’t the first hard-rocking song in Al’s oeuvre, but with the possible exception of “Smells Like Nirvana”, it rocks harder than anything we’ve covered for this column so far. The sneakily ingenious sleeper is a riotous riff on the bad boy posturing and heavy metal swagger of AC/DC only instead of luxuriating in the giddy transgression of heavy metal, Al and his band of miscreants are less threats to the established social order than merely unpleasant.
The young, dumb and ugly rebels without a cause or a clue ironically championed here aren’t going to steal your girl or your bike but if they’re feeling particularly naughty or defiant they might cut ahead of you in line, jaywalk or go for soda refills without paying for them.
Over clean, minimalist, pounding drums and anthemic guitar, Al at least starts off on an appropriately metal note of defiance when he howls, “We’re dangerous dudes, we’ve got bad attitudes. Most of our brain cells are gone! We were born to be bad/you better not get us mad.” The illusion of menace dissipates instantly, however, once Al specifies the exact nature of the consequences of pissing him off: “We just might toilet paper your lawn!”
These young, dumb and ugly would-be miscreants are born to be mild, an aggregation of human irritants who delight in behavior that’s less illegal or genuinely dangerous than merely kind of annoying. Al perfectly replicates the agitated nasal yowls of AC/DC frontmen Bon Scott and then Brian Johnson. When Al sings/screams, “We wear black leather in the hottest weather/You can't imagine the smell” he’s so vivid that you have no choice but to imagine the smell, and let me tell you, brother, it is not pleasant.
These quasi-outlaws don’t break the rules or the laws so much as they commit an endless series of minor faux pas. Instead of tipping between fifteen to twenty percent, as God intended, these monsters somehow imagine ten percent is sufficient. Or maybe they know that leaving a ten percent tip is rude, but they go ahead and do so anyway.
That’s only the start of the laundry list of mildly aggravating behaviors these bad-ish boys engage in. Sometimes they don’t return their shopping carts. They squeeze toothpaste containers from the middle instead of the end. They drink milk straight from the bottle like animals instead of from glasses like human beings. They think nothing of foregoing a half hour waiting period and swimming immediately after a big heavy meal. If that’s not bad enough (and, by almost any standard, it is nowhere near bad enough), they also keep library books until they’re way overdue.
My favorite part of the song is when “Moderately Transgressive Al” Yankovic "boasts" of himself and his fellow rebels, We “wait until the last minute to pay our telephone bills.” Al and his ilk aren’t even paying their telephone bills late, or not paying them at all, or throwing their telephones in swimming pools or setting telephones on fire as rock stars and rebels are expected to do. Nope, they’re just not being super-prompt in their payment.
“Young, Dumb & Ugly” doesn’t just sound exactly like an AC/DC song: it sounds like an anthem, the kind you might find on a greatest hits album or on the awesome soundtrack of the poorly received Stephen King directorial vehicle Maximum Overdrive. The authenticity of the big, macho, anthemic music really sells the comic conceit of an alternate-universe AC/DC accidentally humble-bragging about the kind of middle-schooler-level shenanigans that should actually be a source of minor shame.
Al really hits it out of the park with his first real original metal song. It’s hilarious and infectious and I’m not just writing that so that the singer of the song (whose name spells trouble, T-R-U-B-E-L) doesn’t make me the target of his moderate disdain and toilet papers my lawn.
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