Novelty songs are those that fall outside the boundaries of standard pop music primarily because they are created to provoke humor or commentary. Frequently, novelty songs parody something else in popular culture. These are 10 of the most outstanding examples of the art.
Danish-Norwegian pop group Aqua blasted to #1 around the world with this tribute to the dolls Barbie and Ken. Mattel, the company that sells Barbie dolls, sued the group complaining that Aqua turned Barbie into a sex object by referring to her as a "blonde bimbo." Suits and countersuits made their way all the way to the United States Supreme Court where it was determined that "Barbie Girl" was protected as a parody under copyright law. For the rest of us, yes, this is the spirit of Barbie in song.
Crazy Frog began as a computer animation accompanying a sound effect. Before we knew it, the animated figure was a pop star via a remake of Harold Faltermeyer's instrumental pop smash "Axel F." The song spent a month at the top of the UK pop singles chart and became one of the biggest selling hits of the year.
Rick Dees and His Cast Of Idiots - "Disco Duck" (1976)
Rick Dees has been one of the top dj's in the U.S. for three decades. His countdown show Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 is heard every week around the world. In the mid-70's, while working as a Memphis DJ, Dees recorded "Disco Duck." It features Dees in a Donald Duck style voice detailing his disco adventures. The song hit #1 on the pop singles chart and was one of the biggest selling records of the 70's.
It began as a self-marketed record by the real life couple Elmo and Patsy Shropshire. Country radio stations picked it up first and then top 40 stations followed. "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer" and its silly story of grandma stumbling out into the snow drunk on Christmas Eve has become an unlikely Christmas classic. It has been estimated to have sold somewhere in the range of 500,000 singles in all configurations.
In the late 70's acclaimed actor Steve Martin emerged as the most popular stand-up comic in the U.S. His frequent appearances on Saturday Night Live solidified his national acclaim. Steve Martin's career took another leap forward when he began releasing comedy albums. His first, 1977's Let's Get Small reached the top 10 on the albums chart. The second A Wild and Crazy Guy included the top 20 hit single "King Tut" which parodies the national obsession at the time with Egyptian king Tutankhamen.
Naploeon XIV - "They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haa" (1966)
Singer-songwriter Jerry Samuels became an unlikely one-hit wonder with this tale of descent into madness about being carted off to a mental institution. In the 1960's the song went to #3 on the pop singles chart. However, its treatment of mental illness led to the song being banned on many radio stations and music rights organization BMI removing certification of the song. Today "They're Coming to Take Me Away Ha-Haa" remains one of the most unusual major hit songs ever.
Bobby Pickett was an aspiring actor when he took the stage with his band and performed a monologue imitating the speaking style of horror movie legend Boris Karloff. The audience loved it, and eventually Pickett and a team of studio musicians put together the "Monster Mash." It was in part a parody of the dance craze the mashed potato. "Monster Mash" went to the top of the pop singles chart and returned to the top 10 in 1973. Today it is one of the most durable of Halloween songs.
"The Time Warp" marks the height of audience participation in the legendary cult film the Rocky Horror Picture Show. The song was included in the stage production The Rocky Horror Show which preceded the film. Lyrically, "The Time Warp" consists of little more than dance step instructions. The song is simultaneously a party classic, a parody, and one of the top novelty songs of all time.
Ray Stevens is arguably the most successful performer of novelty and comedy songs ever. He is responsible for classics like "Ahab the Arab," "Gitarzan," and "Along Came Jones." In 1974, at the peak of streaking (running naked in public) as a national fad, Stevens put together "The Streak," a song featuring fake news reports of a streaker in various settings. It became one of his biggest hits and topped the pop singles chart.
Weird Al Yankovic has been the foremost performer of song parodies for the past 25 years. A protege of legendary radio performer Dr. Demento, Yankovic first gained national attention in 1980 with his parody of the Knack's "My Sharona" titled "My Bologna." "White and Nerdy" is a celebration of nerdiness set to the music of Chamillionaire's hit "Ridin'." Fueled by extensive Internet exposure, the song turned into Weird Al's first top 10 pop hit ever.