Weird Al’s 10 Greatest Calls of All Time


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Today is the birthday of “Weird Al” Yankovic, who cuts a unique figure on the music landscape. Nobody else has recorded so many song parodies, for so many years, with so much appreciation from the public. He’s the undisputed king of the genre.

To a great extent, Weird Al’s success with each parody depends on the success of the original on which it is based. If he picks a song that nobody listens to a couple of years from now, nobody will listen to his parody version, either.

Which songs on the charts are going to be timeless? Which ones are passing fads? To many of us, this is a fairly trivial matter. To Weird Al, it is crucial.

Since today is Weird Al’s birthday, we wondered: What are Weird Al’s best calls of all time? That is to say, which of the originals he covered are getting streamed the most by today’s listeners?

We decided to answer this question, with science, based on current, anonymous, global Spotify listening data. To qualify, a song needed to be at least five years old — otherwise, it might just be popular because it’s still pretty new — and it needed to be a dedicated parody, rather than part of a medley. Each original is followed by its Weird Al parody.

1. Eminem Lose Yourself (2002)


2. Nirvana – “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991)


3. Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger” (1982)


4. Queen – “Another One Bites The Dust” (1980)


5. Backstreet Boys – “I Want It That Way” (1999)


6. Michael Jackson – “Beat It” (1982)


7. Green Day – “American Idiot” (2004)


8. Coolio – “Gangsta’s Paradise” (1995)


9. Miley Cyrus – “Party in the U.S.A.” (2009)


10. Billy Joel – “Piano Man”


Happy Birthday, Weird Al!


(Credit for this idea goes to my brother Tom Van Buskirk of the excellent band Javelin. Image courtesy of the Spotify Web API)

Update: An earlier version of this post had “Under The Bridge” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, but it was determined to be technically part of a medley. If you want to hear that too, it’s here:


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