When I interviewed “Weird Al” Yankovic about the polka covers medleys he does on every album, there were two he described as noble failures: “Hot Rocks Polka” (1989) and “Bohemian Polka” (1993). In both, he deviated from his traditional mashing up of a dozen different genres for a single-artist focus: the Rolling Stones and Queen (in their case one song, “Bohemian Rhapsody”).
“As much as I like going with the tried-and-true, after a while you want to see if something else is going to work,” he said in my book. “Both those polkas were sort of experiments. And both worked okay. But in general, I found that people tended to like the full-on random medleys better. Like the Stones thing was a nice tribute, but there wasn’t as much of a surprise going from song to song. It was like ‘Oh, and here’s another Stones song.’ And I think a big part of the humor in the medleys is the random, jarring juxtaposition of one song to the next, done polka-style. I thought ‘Well, I tried that, now let’s go back to what works.’”
Judging by his latest polka, it seems he may have changed his tune. For the third in that series of one-subject polkas, he polka-fied a dozen songs from the musical Hamilton. And hopefully fans will love it more than they did the other two, because on a creative level – just as “Hot Rocks” and “Bohemian” were – it is top-notch.
It should help that, though it’s often labeled the “rap musical,” Hamilton itself includes a number of different genres and voices. The “Hamilton Polka” features “Wait For It,” “The Schuyler Sisters,” “The Room Where It Happens,” and more songs from the show. Listen to it below, then watch an amusing video of Jimmy Fallon and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first reactions. Oh, and give “Hot Rocks” and “Bohemian” polkas a second chance too.
To read the full story of Weird Al’s polka medleys – as told by Al himself – check out my book ‘Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time.’