Thursday, July 17, 2014
Mandatory Fun, Yankovic’s newest release, landed this week. It has twelve songs: six originals, five spoofs and the kind of crazed polka medley that only Weird Al can perform. Yankovic has promised eight videos from the album will debut this week. I’ve watched the first three of these and they are brilliant. I’ll have something to say about them in a bit.
The six originals are a mixed bag. “Lame Claim to Fame” deals with tenuous links to fame, but the theme’s simply too easy a target for a writer of Yankovic’s skill. “Sports Song” is better, but, again, an easy target. “My Own Eyes” goes for the gross-out and presents nothing more complicated than that. “First World Problems” almost works, but, once again, the target’s too easy for someone with Yankovic’s skills.
“Mission Statement” is the best of the originals. It’s built around corporate jibber-jabber and the word play is sensational. I really hope this one made it to a video.
“Jackson Park Express” is an ambitious depiction of a relationship that takes place on a subway train without the protagonist speaking a word to the woman with whom he falls in love. However, it does slip into that too easy gross-out territory. Though the song doesn’t entirely succeed, it is a magnificent attempt.
On to the spoofs...
“Handy” re-imagines Izzy Azalea’s “Fancy” as a paean to the nigh-supernatural prowess of a handyman. It’s funny and suggests enough visuals to make a hilarious video.
“Foil” - taking off from Lorde’s “Royals” - starts off as a salute to the utility of aluminum and then takes a wonderful turn to the strange. This is the second video from the album and it guest-stars the wonderful Patton Oswalt.
“Word Crimes” - from Robin Thicke’s ”Blurred Lines” - is brilliant. It’s a love letter to those of us who wince when the possessive is used instead of a contraction or vice versa. The animated video is equally brilliant. This might be the best song/video on the album, but there’s another contender for that spot.
“Inactive” isn’t that contender. Yankovic turned Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” into an indictment of American sloth. It is another too easy target for the master.
“Tacky” is more boisterous and less thoughtful than “Word Crimes,” but this send-up of Pharell Williams’ “Happy” is damned infectious and boasts a video filled with appearances by some of the coolest people in show business. Forced to pick between the two, I’d give this one the “best of album” trophy.
That leaves “Now That’s What I Call Polka,” the traditional polka medley. Featured music includes songs by Miley Cyrus, PSY, Carly Rae Jepsen, One Direction and more. Some of these songs might have made for good spoofs, but there are already multiple spoofs of them on YouTube. I doubt the young “Weird Al” Yankovic ever dreamed he would be facing such so much instantaneous competition from those he doubtless inspired.
Mandatory Fun runs about ten bucks on Amazon. Even if most of the originals aren’t memorable, there are other fine tunes to help you get your smile on. I can’t imagine not recommending a new “Weird Al” album to my friends and readers. He’s a musical genius with crazy hair and eyes. We must treasure him.
Once more in closing. “Weird Al” Yankovic should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The place will never quite right until Yankovic is honored for his tremendous body of work.
I’ll be back tomorrow with more stuff.
© 2014 Tony Isabella