Day One hundred and thirty-six: "Confessions Part III" from Straight Outta Lynwood

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When you write about Al’s oeuvre as exhaustively and excessively as I have, you tend to notice a themes. In this period of Al’s career, for example, he released a surprising number of parodies riffing very directly on specific R&B songs. 

That’s not necessarily the case. Lyrically, many of Al’s parodies have nothing to do with the song they’re spoofing. “TMZ”, for example, has absolutely nothing in common with Taylor Swift’s “You Belong to Me” beyond a melody and, I suppose, Swift’s tabloid fame and infamy. 

Sometimes Al’s parodies are inspired by the lyrics and themes of the songs they spoof in a more abstract way. “White & Nerdy” for example, takes a song about a proud, defiant black man being judged by the police as a probable gangsta and criminal based on how he looks and the vehicles he drives and transformed it into an unlikely nerd anthem about a white Poindexter being judged by cool gangsta types based on how he looks and the vehicles he drives. Oh, and his actions as well. “Canadian Idiot” similarly has a connection to “American Idiot” so obviously it doesn’t need to be spelled out. 

Then there are the small but fascinating and sometimes important sub-section of “Weird Al” Yankovic parodies very specifically satirizing some element of the song and performer that inspired them. This includes seminal, career-reviving classics like “Smells Like Nirvana” as well as less auspicious take-downs like “This Song’s Just Six Words Long” (which genially zings George Harrison’s comeback smash “I’ve Got My Mind Set on You” for being maddeningly, infectiously repetitive) and “Achy Breaky Song”, which gave the business to Billy Ray Cyrus’ obnoxiously catchy crossover smash. 

These songs are by definition meaner than most of Al’s work and puts him in the unenviable position of seeking permission from artists to record spoofs making fun of them and their biggest successes, not just borrowing their tunes for the sake of parodies that have nothing to do with them, like “Eat It” or “Like a Surgeon.” 

Given its title, it’s appropriate that this parody of Usher’s Jermaine Dupri-produced smash represents the first entry in what I see as Al’s late-period R&B trilogy that continues with “Trapped in the Drive-In”, his brainy deconstruction of the unique and gimmicky song craft of R. Kelly’s endless “Trapped in the Closet” opus, and closes with “Whatever You Like”, which shares a title with the T.I smash it’s spoofing and half of a conceit but replaces the glitzy lifestyle porn of the original with a dollar store version trafficking in penny-pinching and self-defeating cheapness rather than endless splurging. 

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“Confessions Part III” is an unusually direct parody of both “Confessions Part 1” and “Confessions Part II” to the point where it opens with Al directly referencing them not just as prequels to his parody, but also as things that happened to the man singing the song. Judging from the details he reveals about himself over the course of the song, the dude crooning "Confessions Part III" is one of Al’s Lousy Lothsarios, his Creepy Casanovas, more than the scandalous and oversexed R&B singing the first two Confessions. 

Al crudely but succinctly summarizes those two R&B hits as being about, first his cheating on his lover with what Al uncharacteristically refers to as a “skank” and then about the confessor getting the aforementioned woman of easy virtue pregnant. 

Yes, the first two confessions are about secrets. Sexy, sexy secrets about sex stuff. That’s not how Al rolls, however, so “Confessions Part III” is about confessions that aren’t just non-sexy but anti-sexy. Let’s just say that if you have one of those painful erections that last longer than four hours that medications for erectile dysfunction warn you about, listening to “Confessions Part 3” for an extended period of time could probably cause your hard-on to finally stop tormenting you. 

 I'm guessing the karaoke version of "Confessions Part III" sound an awful lot like "Confessions Part II"

I'm guessing the karaoke version of "Confessions Part III" sound an awful lot like "Confessions Part II"

For whatever reason, my iPod did not initially include “Confessions Part III” and “Do I Creep You Out” as part of Straight Outta Lynwood. That made me initially overrate the album, since it’s much, much stronger without either song. That’s partially because the inspiration for the parodies aren’t anywhere near as inspired as usual. 

“Do I Make You Proud” is pure American Idol-derived schmaltz, while “Confessions Part II” has a minimalist, just barely there beat that adds to the sense of raw intimacy in the original song but comes off as a little boring in a parody. There’s simply not a whole lot going on musically here, and Al’s parodies inevitably benefit from being built on the sturdy foundation of perfect pop songs like “Smells Like Teen Spirit” or “Gangsta’s Paradise.”

Instead of the steamy sexuality of Usher’s original, “Confessions Part III” substitutes the comedy of randomness and humiliation beginning with him admitting to the public at large, and the woman that he cheated on, that he does not, in fact, know Pauly Shore as he inexplicably claimed to.

 Seems a little excessive but I suppose some folks have too much time on their hands. 

Seems a little excessive but I suppose some folks have too much time on their hands. 

On a larger conceptual level, “Confessions Part III” takes satirical aim at the oily opportunism of a musician recording a sordid laundry list of his misdeeds, and when that song did gangbusters business, following it up with a mercenary sequel recounting even more ethical transgressions. "Confessions Part III" is more successful on a conceptual level than it is on a line by line basis. 

By 2006 Al was unmistakably a grown man in a pop realm that purposefully never evolved beyond adolescence. There’s an unmistakable element of regression here and I flinched a little when Al used a slang term for little people that was a lot less offensive twelve years ago than it is now, and that Al also used in “Stuck in a Closet With Vanna White”, another song I doubt Al would list as one of his personal favorites. 

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Al had attained a state of mastery by this point in his career, but “Confessions Part III” illustrates that not everything he did was a masterpiece. 

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