Top 10 Best Novelty Songs

Children singing with party paraphernalia

Photo by BJI/Getty Images

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.

Aqua - "Barbie Girl" (1997)

Aqua's Barbie Girl

Courtesy of Universal

Danish-Norwegian pop group Aqua blasted to #1 around the world with this tribute to the dolls Barbie and Ken. Group member Soren Rasted was inspired to write the song after he saw a display of kitsch culture in Denmark that featured Barbie dolls. "Barbie Girl" has frequently been selected as both a favorite and "most annoying" song among pop music fans. Aqua released two more #1 pop hit singles in the U.K., but they failed to return to the top 10 in the U.S.

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 the appeal was rejected. An appeals court determined that "Barbie Girl" was protected as a parody under copyright law. Later, Mattel used the song in their own advertising campaign to sell Barbie dolls.

Crazy Frog - "Axel F" (2005)

Crazy Frog's Axel F

Courtesy of Ministry of Sound

Crazy Frog began as a computer animation accompanying a sound effect. It was originally known as "the annoying thing" when created by Swede Erik Wernquist. The Crazy Frog sound effect was marketed as a cell phone ringtone.

A cover version of Harold Faltermeyer's "Axel F" from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack was recorded featuring the Crazy Frog sound. It became an international pop smash hitting #1 in the U.K. and many other countries. It failed to reach the top 40 in the U.S. but was a top 10 dance club hit.

Rick Dees and His Cast Of Idiots - "Disco Duck" (1976)

Rick Dees' Disco Duck

Courtesy of RSO

Rick Dees has been one of the top DJ's in the U.S. for four decades. His countdown show Rick Dees Weekly Top 40 is heard every week around the world. In the mid-'70s, 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 '70s.

"Disco Duck" was inspired by 60s novelty song "The Duck" by R&B artist Jackie Lee. Rick Dees says that it took him one day to write the song but three months to convince anyone to record it. He performed it live on American Bandstand lip-synching along with a duck puppet.

Elmo & Patsy - "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" (1979)

Elmo and Patsy's Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

Courtesy of Epic

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.

"Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" reached its peak chart position during the 1997 Christmas season climbing to #87. An animated TV special of the same name was created in 2000. It tones the plot of the song down and has a happy ending.

Steve Martin - "King Tut" (1978)

Steve Martin's King Tut
Courtesy Warner Bros.

In the late 70s, 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 status. 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.

The song was a particularly big hit in Chicago spending four weeks at the top of local radio station WLS' pop chart while the Tutankhamen exhibit appeared at Chicago's Field Museum of Natural History. In 2011 Steve Martin and his Steep Canyon Rangers recorded a bluegrass cover of "King Tut."

Naploeon XIV - "They're Coming To Take Me Away Ha-Haa" (1966)

Napoleon XIV - They're Coming To Take Me Away

Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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 1960s 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.

Jerry Samuels was also a successful pop songwriter under the name Scott David. He co-wrote Adam Wade's top 10 hit "As If I Didn't Know" and Sammy Davis, Jr.'s top 20 hit "The Shelter of Your Arms."

Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt Kickers - "The Monster Mash" (1962)

Bobby Boris Pickett - Monster Mash

Courtesy of Garpax

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.

Bobby Pickett recorded a Christmas-themed follow-up titled "Monster's Holiday" which reached #30 on the pop chart. He recorded a wide range of other monster-themed songs, none of which charted. In 1985, he addressed the growing success of rap music with "Monster Rap."

Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack - "The Time Warp" (1975)

Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack

Courtesy of Ode

"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.

Despite being released as a single, "The Time Warp" has never reached the pop charts. However, it is a favorite at school dances and wedding receptions. The original soundtrack album for the film reached #49 on the album chart.

Ray Stevens - "The Streak" (1974)

Ray Stevens - The Streak

Courtesy of Barnaby

Ray Stevens is arguably the most successful performer of novelty and comedy songs of all time. 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.

"The Streak" is the lead single from the album Boogity Boogity. It was a top 10 hit on the country album chart but only reached #159 on the overall chart.

Weird Al Yankovic - "White and Nerdy" (2006)

Weird Al Yankovic - White and Nerdy
Photo by Westlake Recording Studios

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 rap hit "Ridin'." Fueled by extensive Internet exposure, the song turned into Weird Al's first top 10 pop hit ever. It is also his first single to be certified platinum for sales.

In 2013, Weird Al Yankovic reached the pop top 40 for a fourth time with his "Blurred Lines" parody titled "Word Crimes." The song was promoted with a celebrated kinetic typography video created with Jarrett Heather. Yankovic will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2018.