To talk about Weird Al is to talk about a cultural icon. His parody work of popular songs over the past few decades became a touchstone of musical celebrity. You were really no one until Weird Al has done a hilarious rip of your single. Everyone knew him, everyone listened to him, but there was always a ceiling to the respect given to him by the industry. He was treated like the funny acting cousin, never the star of the show. Now, at a much deserved point in history, Weird Al got just a small taste of that validation with the debut of his new album, Mandatory Fun, at #1 on the Billboard Pop chart (something a comedy album has almost never done).
So before I get into the review itself, I want to say congrats to Weird Al. You earned it, now and a long time ago.
Mandatory Fun brings another round of witty and ingenious writing from the master of musical parody. With this new addition to his repertoire, I think he’s playing at the absolute top of his game. If you don’t believe me, let me dive into just a few of the standouts from Mandatory Fun.
“Word Crimes”, a mind-bendingly literate take on “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke, challenges pretty much every listener to keep up with Al’s massive dictionary and impeccable timing. The sheer act of keeping the rhyme scheme in line with the rhythm and holding steadfast to the rebranded topic of the song shows off Weird Al at his absolute best. No one, and I mean no one, could have written this track better. From the opening lyrical riff of “Everybody shut up” I knew I was in for something amazing. I was not disappointed.
“Foil”, his cover of “Royals” by Lorde, is equally as catchy as the original, but it throws in a brilliant twist on the uses of aluminum foil in the deep dark worlds of conspiracy theorists. “Tacky”, a bouncy retake on Pharrell’s “Happy”, delivers a hilarious and scathing attack on modern social norms and how we’ve lost track of anything close to good taste. It’s impossible not to recognize some of the behaviors he mentions in yourself or someone you know. Hell, one of the opening lines is, “I Instagram every meal I’ve had.” That takes on 70% of this generation right off the bat.
Other tracks deserve mention as well, like “Handy” (parody of “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea) and “First World Problems” (an original that destroys the attitude of how bad things really are for folks in industrialized countries). But you can’t talk about this album and Weird Al’s record-breaking debut on the charts without celebrating the magnificent marketing campaign leading to the release of Mandatory Fun.
There was a music video released once a day for eight days leading to the release and each video was given excessively to a different Internet outlet, like Yahoo, YouTube, PopSugar, and others. If you follow popular social blogs, it was impossible for over a week not to see posts about him and his newest video. It kept Weird Al at the top of many trending charts and helped to secure the truly well-deserved accolades he got once the album finally dropped.
I’ve been a fan of Weird Al’s for over 20 years and I couldn’t be happier for him. He’s been a genius for so long and Mandatory Fun proves that he is just getting funnier with age.
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