Pop Culture

Revenge of the ‘Nerdy’ for Weird Al Yankovic

Now this is weird. “Weird Al” Yankovic’s new album, “Straight Outta Lynwood,” has scored the enduring song parodist his biggest chart successes in a career that spans nearly three decades.

“Lynwood,” Yankovic’s 12th album, debuted this month at No. 10 on the Billboard 200, his first top 10 album ever. Meanwhile, the Chamillionaire parody “White and Nerdy,” reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, besting his previous high of No. 12 with “Eat It” in 1984.

“I literally danced a little jig (when I found out),” Yankovic says. “It’s just a number, but I’ve been obsessing over it for a long part of my career. Even with, you know, millions of records sold, I’ve never been in the top 10, and it’s always been a goal of mine.”

More distinctions: “Nerdy” made the biggest second-week jump of the year on the Oct. 21 Hot 100, rising 28-9. And there may be more to come: “Canadian Idiot,” a parody of Green Day’s “American Idiot,” debuted at No. 82 on the Hot 100 the same week.

So what’s going on here? It could be the widespread appeal of comedy or that Yankovic’s legacy and fame have expanded throughout his career (his first single, “My Bologna,” was released in 1979). It could even be providential numerology associated with this being his 27th year of recording (Yankovic has a running joke with the number 27; witness the license plate on the cover of “Lynwood”).

For his part, Yankovic tends to credit the Internet. “The (”Nerdy”) video has gotten a lot of attention, and the proliferation of places like YouTube (has) been a big help,” he says. Yankovic also has accumulated 155,000 MySpace friends since he joined the site in July -- all of which he says he personally added. “I used to be a little pickier. Now I just kind of click as fast as I can.”

Did YouTube help Weird Al reach new audience?Once “Nerdy” hit outlets like YouTube, there was no stopping it. “We knew with ’Nerdy’ that he’d hit on something incredibly relevant to different generations,” Dan Mackta, senior director of marketing for Zomba Label Group, says. “Kids were discovering him like a new artist.”

Plus, with the advent of download services, Mackta says, suddenly Yankovic can be a singles artist again, and indeed, “Nerdy” has been safely tucked into iTunes’ top five for the past few weeks.

“I’d kind of written off the chance of ever having another hit single, since record labels weren’t really releasing commercial ones,” Yankovic says. “As much as people are griping about the Internet taking sales away from artists, it’s been a huge promotional tool for me.”

“Lynwood” has also benefited from positive reviews and glowing responses from his targets -- even though Yankovic had to pull the song he originally slated for the first single, the James Blunt riff “You’re Pitiful,” after issues arose with Atlantic. (Yankovic released the track for free on his Web site.)

Chamillionaire, whose song “Ridin’ “ is spoofed as “Nerdy,” even posted Yankovic’s track on his own MySpace site.

“It seems like he’s come full circle,” Mackta says. “A lot of the artists he’s parodied have come and gone, but Al is kind of a pop culture icon at this point.”

Yankovic takes such props in stride. “It’s a little dreamlike,” he says. “I can’t believe I’m getting this at this point in my life.”

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