Day Thirty-Eight: "Addicted To Spuds" from Polka Party!
The formulaic nature of Al’s music has been both a strength and a weakness, a crutch, and one of the main reasons for Al’s astonishing popularity and longevity. In the mid 1980s, for example, no one was more likely to transform a ubiquitous pop song about love or sex or rock and roll into a song about food than Al. Consequently, no one did it better.
The “Addicted To Love” parody “Addicted To Spuds” follows a blueprint that had served Al well. He took one of those monster radio smashes that everyone knows, and everyone recognizes. Then he switched a few letters around. Voila!: a song about drug addiction as a sweaty, coke-addled metaphor for overpowering lust delivered with icy sophistication by a debonair English playboy becomes an equally obsessive but far sillier song about two people helpless before their addiction to all things potato-related.
“Addicted To Love” is very overtly about sex and lust and compulsion lyrically but it also just plain sounds dirty. Needless to say, Al’s mutation is nowhere as lascivious but at times it captures the visceral, sweaty intensity of the original when the singer moans of his compatriot’s helpless potato addiction: “Your greasy hands, your salty lips/looks like you’ve found the chips/your belly aches/Your teeth grind/some tater tots would blow your mind!”
Never has an overwhelming desire to munch Pringles until you’re sick (because if you’re not binging to the point of sickness in a “Weird Al” Yankovic food song, then what’s the point of eating in the first place?”) seemed so obsessive and pathological. This is not just someone who enjoys potatoes in all their admirable majesty and variety (which are of course listed here in obsessive detail here): he’s a man with a problem. A serious problem.
I will be the first to concede that potato-overconsumption is not the most fertile subject matter. On “Addicted To Spuds”, Al works up a sweat wringing every last bit of humor out of the fairly fallow ground that is being unhealthily consumed with consuming every form of a certain starch.
Al’s wordplay in the song is dad joke-shameless but also dad joke-ingratiating and dad joke-mildly-amusing, like when the singer observes to a fellow french fry fiend of their shared addiction to potatoes,”I understand how you must feel/I can’t deny they’ve got a-peel!” Al’s stylized delivery, a sort of Bizarro World version of Robert Palmer’s taunting bluesy growl, carries some of the humor as well.
I particularly love the way Al turns “fried” into two syllables when he pronounces it “Fuh-Ried” (that french fried potatoes), and I especially like both the line, and the sentiment, “Some tater tots would blow your mind!” to the point where I am considering getting it tattooed on my neck. “Addicted To Spuds” is rooted in the surprisingly sturdy conviction that potato words (like deli words) are inherently funny: it doesn’t hurt when they’re neatly symmetrical and catchily alliterative phrases like “french fries” and “tater tots.”
“Addicted To Spuds” fits the profile of a “Weird Al” Yankovic lead-off first single a lot more than “Living With A Hernia.” It’s a parody of a massive, massive, unmissable smash in “Addicted To Love” that spawned an equally, if not more massive, unmissable smash video featuring a snazzily dressed Palmer (looking not unlike someone who might hang out with Patrick Bateman) crooning before an all-female band of vacant, dead-eye sex doll automatons barely pretending to play their instruments.
Like the notorious woman-in-a-grinder Hustler cover, the video is so grotesquely misogynist that it almost comes all the way around and becomes a weird, disturbing commentary on the nature of misogyny and the dehumanization of women’s bodies in pop culture and society as a whole. The video would be an obvious satirical target for Al but for whatever reason a video was never made and the song never became a single.
That’s not the greatest loss in the world but “Addicted To Spuds” is funnier and more clever than a song with its title and premise has any right to be. Then again, Al has been making a little go a very long way, song conceit-wise, for going on four overachieving decades.
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