23 July 2014

Weird Al Yankovic - Mandatory Fun


Fourteen albums of parodies. That is a lot of comedy to keep your brand fresh and relevant, but somehow Alfred Mathew "Weird Al" Yankovic has been doing this for what seems like a Millennium.  When I was younger I was given a tape of his works (as well as some songs which were not by Weird Al, something that happens all too often), it was a comedy gold mine.  For some people, they think they have made it when he parodies their music (Nirvana were one of these acts), other artists don't like his versions (Coolio, James Blunt (or at least his people)) and some people (Prince) just flat out refuse to let his versions of their music to be heard by the world.  However, he has always managed to have one or two songs on each album that take a song and make it into something completely different - such as "White & Nerdy" which took "Ridin' " originally by Chamillionaire featuring Krayzie Bone, the new song was make a nerd sound like a pimp before the Big Bang Theory made it popular.  But the times have changed and Weird Al has been doing this for so long, there is always a danger of releasing a sub standard album or just missing the mark. So before a do can be ignored or made into a strange statement, let’s see if this fun should be compulsory.

Now I will admit to being a little behind the charts, so some of these parodies just pass me by a little - i.e. I am not bothered with the latest trend setting band/artist willing to 'take one for the team' to make some money fast.  So you will have to bear with me when I sound like a grumpy old man, wondering why they cannot listen to some Pearl Jam or Fishbone.  So when I hear a parody of "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, I have no reference point to the original material; having checked out the original for the blog I can say my life is the same for hearing it as it was beforehand.  But "Handy" using the music and changes the lyrics to a tale about being a handy man.  It is a funny song and already a thousand times better than the source material.  This is the gift that Weird Al has; he can make something that seems a little dull to the listener fun. "Lame Claim To Fame" is an original song in the style of Southern Culture On The Skids (another band I have no idea about, but I am guessing from the song that they are one of the Southern Rock bands who worship Lynyrd Skynyrd).  It is a song about all those silly claims that people have to knowing a famous person without really knowing the person, it is another funny number but it does fade with repeat listenings. Next is "Foil" which is a song that I actually know beforehand! Hazar for the grumpy man!!!  This is a parody on "Royals" from Lorde, and it is the stand out track of the album.  I was laughing out loud; the bit about aliens is brilliant.  Check out the video at the end of the blog!

"Sports Song" is a song which is sort of lost on me; it is a big band song which sounds like a song played before an American Football game.  The lyrics are funny, but the music is lost in translation for me.  Also, Ben Folds nailed it better with the start of 'Effington".  "Word Crimes" is another gem here, based on the slightly rapey song called "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke (never has a man be so perfectly named) it is an attack on the grammatically impaired (something that is levelled at this blog regularly and with good reason - dyslexia is a horrible disease).  Even though I am responsible for most of these crimes at various points in my life, I was laughing out loud - especially at the Prince reference.  Well played Al, well played.  "My Own Eyes" is a song in the style of the Foo Fighters, whilst the music is pretty much spot on for Mr Grohl the lyrics are just not up to the usual standard that Mr Yankovic is capable of delivering.  It is a shame as he is usually spot on.  Next is the highlight of most Weird Al albums; the Polka number.  This one is called "Now That Is What I Call POLKA!" and features some of the following artist - Miley Cyrus, Daft Punk, Will.I.Am, Foster The People, Gotye, Pharrell Williams, One Direction, LMFAO and others.  It is basically a mega mix to polka music and it is a brilliant as the other polka songs that he has released.  It will be stuck in your head for the rest of the day once you hear, it has been for me since I heard it.....Weird al, you git!!!!

"Mission Statement" is another original song; this time is the style of Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Now I love CS&N (better when Neil Young was with them), the lyrics about mission statements from big companies (some of which I have heard and that make me want to hurl) is a complete contrast to CS&N musical style and make this song something dark, subverted and brilliant. For Mr AF"W" Yankovic, this is a strange mix and it also shows that he might have accidently made his most complex number by pure chance. "Inactive" is based on "Radioactive" from the Imagine Dragons, this is another band that has passed me by, but I had heard the song on various adverts so I have some reference point at least.  This is another ode to the lazy man who cannot be bothered to do anything, but it was done much better in his James Blunt parody "You're Pitiful".  Also, musically this sucks balls.  It is something that cannot be levelled at Weird Al, but Imagine Dragons aim to be epic and sound pretentious.  "First World Problems" is another original, this time in the style of the Pixies.  This is much better and has the right combination of comedy, music and a healthy dose of the strange.  Next is "Tacky" which is the last parody on the album, this one is based on "Happy" by Pharrell Williams (who happens to be the most used artist on this album - his vocals appeared on "Blurred Lines", "Get Lucky" and obviously "Happy").  The song is about a man/woman who has the tactile ability of a brick in the face.  It is a funny number, but again like "Lame Claim To Fame" it loses its appeal on repeat listenings.  Ending the album is "Jackson Park Express" which is based on the style of Cat Sevens (aka Yusuf Islam - his preferred name). This track is really lost on me and whilst it is played well, the final product just fails with me.

What we have here is the classic Weird Al album; some of it is top draw and really clever/funny/insane, whilst other parts are destined to be skipped and forgotten after the first listen.  The polka number and some of the parodies work incredibly well, but overall this album is nothing without the viral/visual campaign that came before it.  But you have to congratulate Mr Yankovic on still releasing albums this long into his career and finally scoring a number 1 in the USA.  Shame it is on an average album, but there is some choice cuts for the next Weird Al compo tape/CD/playlist that his fans (including myself) will create.

6.5 out of ten - Now I see where you were going, but not quite there

Top track - Now That Is What I Call POLKA!

 You can purchase the album from Amazon here 

You can visit the Weird Al Yankovic website here; it has links to purchase the album as well 

You can listen to the album on Spotify here 

Alternatively you can listen to it on Deezer here 

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