They say that the best way to secure longevity in pop music is to adapt with the times and always keep people guessing. People always heap praise on Madonna for being able to transition smoothly between the various phases of her career. It’s an impressive trick, and one that few artists are truly capable of pulling off. You wouldn’t normally associate the Material Girl with “Weird Al” Yankovic, but he is one of the few musicians who has managed to stay on the cutting edge while subtly shifting what he does and adapting to changes in trends (and technology). On this day in 1999, Yankovic released Running With Scissors.
Yankovic was coming off an incredible run of hits in the 1990s, including 1992’s Off the Deep End (which featured the classic Nirvana parody “Smells Like Nirvana”), 1993’s Alapalooza (an album that contained the hit tune “Jurassic Park”) and 1996’s Bad Hair Day (which was the album that provided the world with “Amish Paradise” and “Gump”). “Amish Paradise” was an especially huge song for Yankovic, who took the Coolio track “Gangsta’s Paradise” (itself a Grammy-winning song) and turned it on its head with a series of rhymes about churning butter and raising barns.
A spin through any one of Yankovic’s albums is a great peek into what the country’s pop culture obsessions were at the time, and Running With Scissors is no different. There was a fixation on the first of the “Star Wars” prequels (captured in the tune “The Saga Begins,” a parody of Don McLean’s “American Pie,” which was also making something of a comeback at the time). It was also the height of Jerry Springer’s popularity, which lead to Yankovic recording “Jerry Springer” (wisely choosing the Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week” as the jumping off point). And there was a simultaneous fascination with faster computers and the work of Diddy, which is what gave birth to “It’s All About the Pentiums.” Check out the video below, and be sure to also check out “Weird Al” on Twitter, as his feed is one of the sharpest on the Internet.