Weird Al Yankovic 'Mandatory Fun' Review: Weird Al Tackles Lorde, Pharrell And More
Musical comedian Weird Al Yankovic doesn’t really change his parody style with Mandatory Fun. The 'Weird' formula goes like this: an album contains a few songs that parody well-known pop songs, as well as some of Weird Al’s polka performances where he’s a beast at the accordion. Each parody sounds instrumentally identical to the original song, but the lyrics are ridiculously different. I nearly busted a gut listening to “Foil,” the parody of Lorde’s “Royals.”
“With aluminum foil (foil)
Never settle for less
That kind of wrap is just the best
To keep your sandwich nice and fresh”
One of the reasons Weird Al remains relevant today is that he happily embraces pop culture. It’s wise of him to diversify his repertoire with the music that’s popular today in Mandatory Fun. In addition to Lorde, we get Imagine Dragons, Pharrell Williams, Iggy Azalea, and a handful of other pop musicians featured in this album’s installment of “NOW That’s What I Call Polka!” – a recurring feature of his albums. But perhaps what gets the least attention is his original writing, and not just in the comedic sense. His albums contain original songs written by the weirdo himself, but instead of the parodies, his original songs mimic the musical style of the artists he appreciates. “Mission Statement” is an example of such a specimen. It’s a commentary on corporate America written in the hippy spirit of Crosby and Stills And Nash.
The weakest songs in this goody bag of goofy fun are “Sports Song,” which offers a shallow message on fandom, and “Inactive," a clever, but overly dark parody of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons.
Still, Weird Al’s parodies never devalue the original source material. What surprised me the most in Mandatory Fun was his resistance to provide any negative commentary on a given song or artist. Even “Word Crimes,” the parody of Robin Thicke’s controversial “Blurred Lines,” refrains from speaking about the original song’s issues. Instead offers us a pleasantly funny and much appreciated lesson on basic grammar.
I think Weird Al couldn’t be more direct about his message on Mandatory Fun. The YouTubers who relentlessly offer their own — and often crude — parodies of music that slam the artist without subtlety or grace hold no authority over Mandatory Fun. Having your music parodied by comedian Weird Al Yankovic is pretty much a rite of passage in the music industry today. Rest assured, your source material falls into good hands with the old, but relevant comedian (“Eat It” still puts a smile on my face). One of the things I can appreciate about Weird Al’s style is the good, clean fun he has parodying pop music of today. It isn’t in his nature to directly make fun of an artist by dishing out underhanded banter in his songwriting. With a childish sense of humor and a humble sense of respect for the original source material, Weird Al remains top dog of musical comedy with Mandatory Fun.