I’ve recently introduced Biggie to Weird Al Yankovic and Tom Lehrer, and apparently they are perfect for certain boys of age 7.
I must admit that I’ve been, at times, assertive at trying for some early cultural indoctrination. With some mixed results. The Ramones blasted in the car nearly as soon as he could tolerate it, but I consequently heard Biggie yell at a daycare teacher, “Hey! Ho! Let’s go!” I was (and let’s face it, still am) disappointed that Shel Silverstein and Calvin and Hobbes left him cold while he gravitated towards Garfield and Heathcliff. Once, I think out of spite and vinegar, I led him to Garfield minus Garfield.
But he’s graduated from first grade now, and I’m noticing that all sorts of things are hitting with him. He now devours Silverstein and Watterson (phew!). His new favorite thing is Yotsuba&!. He’s just finished Harry Potter, is starting to watch Avatar, and is now really enjoying Peter Pan as bedtime reading. I feel like he’s entering into a golden age of childhood culture appreciation, even if I still don’t consider him to a particularly “literary” kid.
Weird Al is all kinds of perfect for him. I was privileged to witness, through the rearview mirror, his dawning reactions to “Yoda”—from “Hey, what’s up with these lyrics?” to “OMG PLAY IT 50 MORE TIMES.” Weird Al lyrics are not elliptical; they always tell a very clear and understandable narrative or point-of-view. The music is impeccably performed and very catchy, and its glossiness buttresses the song’s satirical irony. At his age, irony is a quickly developing concept, and the smarminess of musical satire hits the bullseye of Biggie’s current understanding of humor and critique. And Mr. Yankovic isn’t necessarily subtle, but he is a wordsmith; his songs are so popular and singable because he pays attention to things like alliteration, assonance, and meter.
Of course, the other benefit of Weird Al is that he’s a touchstone for all kinds of nostalgic pop music, and it’s been fun for the two of us to do side-by-side comparisons of “Beat It” and “Eat It,” and then surf over to the music video for “Smooth Criminal,” and then Alien Ant Farm’s version, and so on. Nerd nirvana.