A Deep Dive into Weird Al’s ‘Amish Paradise’
"Amish Paradise" is the first song of what I consider 'Weird Al's' creative explosion. It's the first song on, and the first single from, 1996's Bad Hair Day album.
What makes "Amish Paradise" so special is that Al's gift for clever turn of phrase and twisting of expectations is on full display. Starting with the concept; the song is a parody of the super serious song "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio from the white lady saves the poor kids with poetry move Dangerous Minds.
For the parody, Al choose the least gangsta thing in the world, the pop culture image of the Amish as quaint, butter churning, technophobes. That's an important aspect of the song. It is not written as a way to ridicule the people that live in Amish communities. It uses generic stereotypes to poke fun at the self importance of the original song and video. In doing so we get some of Al's best lyrics ever. For example from the first verse:
I'm a man of the land, I'm into discipline
Got a Bible in my hand and a beard on my chin
But if I finish all of my chores and you finish thine
Then tonight we're gonna party like it's 1699
The use of thine and the Prince reference gets me every time. The old-time folk getting down with gangsta bravado is a brilliant juxtaposition.
From the third verse, this bit that is dripping with irony is my favorite:
Think you're really righteous? Think you're pure in heart?
Well, I know I'm a million times as humble as thou art
Again with the generic old-timey language and this time paired with the brag about how humble he is; it's beautiful. Especially when delivered in the rap star persona.
Another great part of the song is when Al goes into the breakdown part of the song and replaces the original lyrics with the Gilligan's Island theme.
There's no phone, no lights, no motorcar
Not a single luxury
Like Robinson Crusoe
It's as primitive as can be
It's another masterful mixing of pop culture references that pokes fun at the solemn and earnest nature of the source material.
The video, directed by Al, makes a perfect companion to the song. Look for Brady Bunch mom Florence Henderson playing the Michelle Pfeiffer part from the Coolio video.