‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s new ‘Hamilton Polka’ is a fine addition to his rich polka medley history
Rejoice, my friends, for though the world is dark and increasing Russian today there is cause for UNABASHED GLEE, because not only has “Weird Al” Yankovic released a new single BUT it’s also a polka medley AND the polka medley is all songs from “Hamilton,” and YES the ricochet-bang sound effect is used right when it should be in “My Shot” and then it’s used LIKE 20 MORE TIMES. God, it’s like my brain had forgotten which synapses turned on the joy.
“The Hamilton Polka” is available from all your downloadable spots and is Yankovic’s first release in five years, following the absurd success of Mandatory Fun. (Yankovic has hinted that his days of releasing albums are over, and in the digital context singles like this make a lot more sense.) Yankovic and Miranda are slated to appear on Friday night’s episode of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, where they will almost certainly perform this medley, possibly with the Roots.
The two are old friends and mutual admirers: Miranda is on record as saying that when he was a teenager he believed Yankovic played “Yoda” at a concert encore specifically for him, and Yankovic brought Miranda onstage last year at Radio City Music Hall for a brief cameo on the same song. To recap: “Weird Al” Yankovic brought Broadway’s most decorated human onstage at Radio City Ding Dang Music Hall to sing a 30-year-old song about a puppet. How lucky we are to be alive right now.
Fans of “Weird Al” know, of course, that the polka medley is generally one of the three high points of every album, although arguably it might be fourth on Dare to be Stupid, owing entirely to “I Want a New Duck.” (Only two albums lack them: his debut and “Even Worse,” which has “Stuck in a Closet With Vanna White” so it’s OK.) He also occasionally produces political ones. If you dig “The Hamilton Polka,” you might be wise to check out his other polka offerings, which can be found on his accordion-shaped box set Squeeze Box: The Complete Works of “Weird Al” Yankovic, which incidentally nearly made me weep with Christmas cheer:
“Polkas on 45” (In 3-D, 1983): The inaugural polka medley is a classic-rock grab bag that involves the Clash, Devo, the Stones and a fierce dark-accordion take on “In-a-Gadda-da-Vida” that handily destroys the original.
“Hooked on Polkas” (Dare to be Stupid, 1985): The first to include contemporary pop hits, it makes polkas out of Twisted Sister, Quiet Riot and “99 Luftballoons.” You cannot imagine how much it improves each of them.
“Polka Party!” (Polka Party, 1986): Best moment: Either the exceedingly zingy “Say You Say Me,” or when the band shuts it all down to bang out “Rock Me Amadeus,” a song that argued that in his time Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was basically the “Weird Al” Yankovic of the Austrian fancy-wigs scene.
“The Hot Rocks Polka” (UHF, 1989): After taking an album off of polka medleys with 1987’s “Even Worse,” Al revived the construct for the soundtrack of his shockingly enduring film breakthrough, and made it all Stones songs. At the time, I only knew the ones that were on 103.5FM The Blaze, so I’m pretty sure was my introduction to 80% of the Stones catalog. Not upset about that.
“Polka Your Eyes Out” (Off the Deep End, 1991): Happily back to basics, this is the first medley to open with the sounds of an actual song, in this case Billy Idol’s “Cradle of Love,” which quickly upshifts into its polka doppelganger and makes Billy Idol briefly enjoyable. If you have not heard the polka version of “The Humpty Dance,” listen right now, we’ll wait.
“Bohemian Polka” (Alapalooza, 1993): “Wayne’s World” had arrived shortly before, so this was 100% on brand. The ricochet-gun sound effect comes at exactly the right time. Wait for it.
“The Alternative Polka (Bad Hair Day, 1996): The pervasive whiners of mid-‘90s rock make for big fat targets: Alanis Morrissette, Billy Corgan, Green Day. The way he handles NIN’s “Closer” made my mom audibly giggle, and she spent at least two years hating that song.
“Polka Power” (Running With Scissors, 1999): Biggest takeaway: “Weird Al” sounds exactly, 100% like the guy from Harvey Danger. Strike that: The guy from Harvey Danger sounds like “Weird Al.”
“Angry White Boy Polka” (Poodle Hat, 2003): The most amazing facet of Yankovic’s longevity is how he’s subsisted through three decades of furiously shifting musical trends, including marble-mouthed wet-dumpster rap-rock, all of which is marginally more palatable when accompanied by cowbells. If you can remember all the songs in this one, I will buy you a Coke.
“Polkarama!” (Straight Outta Lynwood, 2006): The second-most amazing facet of Yankovic’s musical longevity is how his songs aren’t just word parodies, but also include all the ridiculous background bells and whistles that once decorated and now define pop songs, which is how his “Whoa!” in 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop” pokes subtle-then-huge holes in the absurdity of the original.
“Polkaface” (Alpocalypse, 2011): I mean. “Polka Face.” Come on. Unrelated, but this was the first medley that contained songs I’d never heard in real life (“What the f**k is ‘Fireflies?’ I remember accidentally asking the rest of the gym”), the method by which a considerable percentage of suburban dads realize they’ve peaked.
“Now That’s What I Call Polka” (Mandatory Fun, 2014): There’s one way in the universe to take “Sexy And I Know It” and make it dumber and more self-effacting. In his two-year tour supporting Mandatory Fun, Al performed this before a sped-up compilation of all the original videos. When viewed some time after the originals’ ubiquity and accompanied by a band of costumed 50-somethings with an accordion, it had the delightfully accidental effect of reminding everyone how instinctively ridiculous most of the music we’ve normalized is, and that is the true legacy of the polka medley. Except “The Hamilton Polka.” And “The Humpty Dance.”