Dedicated to those songs that I can’t stop playing, humming, or thinking about; the 4+ minutes you fall head-over-heels in love with. Past instances have included Beck’s “Truckdrivin’ Neighbors,” The Clash’s “Guns on the Roof” and David Bowie’s “Starman.”
Many times, songs get stuck in our head through repetition and familiarity. Some scientists actually believe the brain has a pre-designed pattern for music, so when a song resembling that pattern plays, we succumb to biology and love it. Other times, songs get a phrase or chorus lodged in our brains like a tape in the VCR, you try to remove it, but it clings and scrapes and it makes a mess. The worlds collide when a song comes along which not only fits with our brain’s pre-determined grooves (a.k.a. “brain grooves”) but also jams that chorus in the slot with peanut butter and super-glue. Riskay’s “Smell Yo Dick” happens to be one of those, a song so simultaneously funny and foul that it lessons that legitimate scientific term of “brain grooves,” and for that I am grateful.
I’ve always had tremendous respect for the creators of parody, but I’ve never heard a song that illustrates just how difficult Weird Al’s job is than this one. Imagine you’re Weird Al. You wake up in your race car bed, eat a sensible breakfast, then jet off to the recording studio in your Jetta shaped like a cowboy hat, all the while wondering to yourself, “How am I going to top THAT?” I suppose you could just substitute the word “dick” with something else (“sick,” “Bic,” “Michael Vick”), but you’ve already done that so many times before that people are starting to talk.
Whenever I play “Smell Yo Dick” for friends, the question of legitimacy always emerges. “Is she for real?” they ask. “I mean, is this a joke? Is she a real singer?” Without getting too esoteric, “Dick” blurs the line between what we hold as our concept of “legitimacy.” Can a good song be funny? Can a break-up song be dirty? Was this song meant as a joke? And even if it was, does that detract from its artistic value? Too often we associate “serious” with “good,” “sad” with “real,” or “respectable” with “legitimate.” It happens all the time when comedic actors comment on why they chose to do a drama for their next project. “I wanted to prove I was an actor,” is ultimately offered, as though anyone could effortlessly make people laugh. Just because Tenacious D makes comedy songs like “Wonderboy,” with it’s comedic levels of majesty, that doesn’t mean it isn’t majestic. Years ago, The D opened for Weezer and through a combination of terrific rocking on the part of two over-weight men and the severe standing around by four skinny men, Weezer qualified as “closing for Tenacious D” that night, I don’t care how much of a genius Rivers Cuomo is.
So for anyone questioning the cultural stance of “Smell Yo Dick,” let me clarify a few things: Riskay is on a label (Glassnote). She has a video that looks better produced than if her neighbor shot it, she has a Myspace page (just like every other band on Earth), and this song is available on iTunes. She even has a section of Allmusic.com, where her moods include “Trashy,” “Sleazy” and “Reflective.” She may not have produced twenty albums, and “Smell Yo Dick” may end up being her career’s biggest hit (making for interesting conversations years down the road with her grandchildren), but she is as legitimate as anyone can claim to be. More to the point, her song has worked its way into my consciousness as effortlessly as any perfectly crafted hunk of pop trash (which is to say “pop anything”) could. She has brought a smile to my face and a bounce in my step, which is more than I could say for so many “real” songs.