Day one hundred and fifty-one: "Another Tattoo" from Alpocalypse
A few weeks ago I was in a restaurant, working, when I heard a song that sounded uncannily familiar yet somehow foreign as well. I knew the sticky sweet melody by heart but the words were all wrong and the dudes rapping and singing? They were all wrong in ways it was hard to pin down.
It wasn’t until the second verse that I realized that the reason the song sounded so familiar was because Al had parodied it for Apocalypse as “Another Tattoo.” I must have heard “Nothin’ On You” during its reign as a number one song. Al doesn’t really parody songs unless they’re the kinds of songs that everyone at least sort of knows but for some reason B.O.B and Bruno Mars’ gushy hip hop/R&B ballad didn’t penetrate my consciousness the way nearly all of the subjects of Al’s other parodies have, including songs like “Party in the USA” and “You Belong With Me.”
At the same time, I am very familiar with “Another Tattoo”, partially because it’s on the album Al was working on when we collaborated on Weird Al: The Book and partially because the song is so irrepressibly catchy. It’s a real ear worm that hijacks “Nothin' On You’’s dreamy groove and swooning romanticism for a gleeful bad taste character study of a tattoo-obsessed American Jackass hopelessly in love with poor life choices and body art that is an insult to propriety and good taste.
Of course it is possible that the deluded narcissist half-singing, half-rapping, half annoyingly ad-libbing (I know that does not “add up” but this is parody, not math rock) is a wealthy Ivy League graduate with an unfortunate predilection for hideously ugly tattoos but it sure feels like he’s a semi-literate high school dropout type who lives in Florida, proudly displays the Confederate flag, possibly on the gun rack of his pick-up truck, and considers Kid Rock and Ted Nugent personal heroes. In the old days, these folks would be called “White Trash” in an ugly display of blatant classism. These days, however, we can safely call these tacky, vulgar, poorly educated paragons of questionable judgment and intelligence Trump supporters.
Among his other abominations, the song’s singer has a tattoo of Ronald Reagan but we don’t know if it’s political or if he just loves Reagan as a kitsch icon. “Another Tattoo” is partially silly social satire about an idiot man-child whose body art tells a story all right, albeit of stupidity, vulgarity and cluelessness rather than one involving wizards or demons but “Another Tattoo” is also partially rooted in the comedy of randomness.
The comedy of randomness is particularly well-suited to bad tattoos; Al here once again references the holy nerd staples of Star Trek and Star Wars, or, more specifically William Shatner (whose old toupee Al bid on in “Ebay”) and Boba Fett playing clarinet along with Clay Aiken, Hello Kitty and the aforementioned Ronald Reagan.
We live in an age where tattoos have gone mainstream. You no longer have to be a cool greaser type or a sailor to rock tattoos. I should know. I have a tattoo of a kitty cat that is legitimately maybe the least badass thing ever. My wife has, I dunno, a dozen tattoos but then again she is both a 1950s sailor and a cool greaser type.
My wife has our son’s name tatted on her arm. Al’s ink-obsessed yokel impresses prospective employers by having all of his ex-wives’ on his chest. Al does not specify whether the tattoos are of his ex-wives’ entire bodies, or just their names, or, if, in a hideous scenario of Lovecraftian horror, his ex wives are physically coming out of his torso like the stomach burster in Alien.
The tattoo addict singing longingly about his body art didn’t take the time to ensure that all of the many, many words on his body and face and neck and every pore were spelled correctly but he’s nevertheless brainy enough to rhyme “inscribed on me indelibly” with “even Hepatitis C.” Those are some serious college words from a dude who seems like an elementary school dropout.
The humor in “Another Tattoo” is also, on some level, grounded in the irritatingly busy, redundant production on the equally irresistible and obnoxious song it’s parodying. “Nothin’ On You” is a duet between B.O.B and then-rising pop star Bruno Mars but it’d sound like a collaboration even if Mars was not singing the hook because B.O.B double-tracks himself relentlessly so that he’s acting as his own idiot hype man chattering at the end of seemingly every line, sometimes pointlessly repeating words with a slightly different inflection, and sometimes cheering himself on or even laughing for no discernible reason.
Ever the stickler for details, Al picked up on the way B.O.B and his producers have the rapper/singer/flat-earth-proponent constantly responding to himself in the most asinine and pointless possible way and ramp it up to comic extremes of aggressive, mindless busyness.
This may not be the most dignified or highbrow parody in Al’s catalog but that doesn’t make it any less infernally infectious. It’s tattooed in my brain and memory permanently, inscribed on it indelibly, as it were, in a way its lackluster yet super-catchy inspiration simply is not.
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