Day One Hundred and One: "I'm So Sick of You" from Bad Hair Day
Howdy, y’all! Welcome back to the Weird Accordion to Al, our epic, obsessive, song-by-song romp through the songs of American pop parodist “Weird Al” Yankovic. We recently reached our milestone one hundredth entry with “Gump”, a peppy tune about a big celebrity who, legend has it, told JFK that he really had to be pee.
Oh, but the the hub bub that accompanied that hundredth entry was enormous! We’re talking the key to multiple cities. We’re talking the Smithsonian asking for my laptop. We’re talking hundreds of page views and several retweets to my tweet announcing that I’d done what scientists previously imagined impossible and written one hundred screamingly self-indulgent, typo-ridden articles about the songs of “Weird Al” Yankovic.
As some of y’all may have noticed, this column is updating a little less frequently than usual. When I started this project back in March before the site launched I had a backlog of about thirty entries. That was my ace in the hole when I started Nathan Rabin's Happy Place: I had a whole bunch of these columns banked and foolishly imagined that I could continue to crank them out on a daily basis while simultaneously handling the enormous amount of work the rest of this site entails and writing my outside columns.
That backlog dwindled to nothing fairly quickly and I’ve been playing catch-up ever since, especially since I just took some time to finish writing a book I’d been procrastinating on, partially because I’ve been overwhelmingly focussed on this website.
I apologize for sometimes not being able to keep to the fairly demanding schedule I set for myself, but thankfully we are back with one of the overlooked gems from this particular era in Al’s oeuvre, the wonderfully tart Elvis Costello pastiche “I’m So Sick of You.”
Elvis Costello is the master of the highbrow intellectual insult. He’s a sneering poet of prickly tell-offs. With “I’m So Sick of You”, Al takes his inspiration’s highbrow cleverness in an unmistakably lowbrow direction. If a song like “Alison” is a New Yorker short story, then “I’m So Sick of You” is a particularly scatological Mad Magazine cartoon.
I’ve written a lot about Al’s lousy Lothsarios but in this case it’s the girlfriend who seems to be a waking nightmare: she’s a toenail-chomping, back-hair sprouting, knuckle-cracking, drooling Neanderthal. Think a female Larry the Cable Guy without the class or dignity.
The woefully deficient partner being comically excoriated here isn’t just hopelessly inadequate as a girlfriend, wife or partner: they’re downright sub-human, a feral, grotesque caricature of a female. When the singer frets, “I’ve I never dated anyone this low on the food chain” he doesn’t seem to be exaggerating.
Sonically, “I’m So Sick of You” nails the details of an early to mid-period Elvis Costello rocker: the New Wave roller rink keyboards, the pummeling drums, the sneeringly nasty nasal lead vocals and cheekily Beach Boys/Jan & Dean-style back up vocals. Al’s affection for rock and roll’s second most important Elvis comes through in every lovingly gross lyric and stomach-churning image.
“I’m So Sick of You” has lyrics of great quantity and quality. Like early Costello, this finds Al singing at a rapid fire clip that never lets up or slows down. The chorus is infectious, the extra-long verses filled with deft wordplay and fake-outs, like when he complains, “You don't have an ounce of class/You’re just one big pain in the—neck.”
On “I’m So Sick of You”, the repulsion expressed is unmistakably, even stomach churningly physical. These are less bon mots than schoolyard taunts directed towards a woman who is more of a monster in human female form.
Al has a richly merited reputation as one of the nicest men in show-business in part because he’s managed to make people laugh for nearly forty years (not to mention think) without being mean-spirited. “I’m So Sick of You” is about as mean spirited as Al gets but that’s only because he’s so adroitly channeling the witty misogyny of Elvis Costello.
Is “I’m So Sick of You” funny and sharp enough to justify its uncharacteristic snarkiness? Thanks to wonderfully tart sentiments like, “You’ve got inhuman body odor/You’ve got the hair of a boxing promoter”, I’d say the answer is yes.
Support Nathan Rabin’s Happy Place and the Weird Accordion to Al over at https://www.patreon.com/nathanrabinshappyplace