Review Summary: Some priest got drunk and stole a circus zebra and trained it to massage his back. My guinea pig committed harakiri so we used him to play hacky-sack.
I find it a little vexing when I hear and read people claiming that Weird Al Yankovic has “lost it”, that he will never be able to top what he did in the 90’s and should just hang it up. If anything, Weird Al has shown a remarkable stubbornness throughout his career that has trended against changing. This is especially true in recent outings where you can be sure there will be a song poking fun at some aspect of American culture, a song consisting of a random list of things or situations, a 7+ minute epic, and of course his magnificent parodies. In short, it’s not Weird Al that’s changed, it’s you.
And that’s completely fine, after all, is it Al’s fault that he’s had to go from working with Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Nirvana songs to Miley Cyrus and Iggy Azalea? Despite this perceived downturn in the quality he has to work with, Weird Al has continually produced high-quality, relevant, and most importantly, funny parodies and that timeless trend continues with his 14th LP, Mandatory Fun
Released with virtually no advertising with the only pre-release teaser being an 11-second trailer, (although he promises to release a new music video every day after release for 8 days) Weird Al seems to realize that word-of-mouth is his best hype generator. Mandatory Fun
kicks off with “Handy” a parody of the beloved “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea. This song really sets the precedent for the rest of the album, as Mandatory Fun
contains some of Weird Al’s greatest parodies in recent memory. Along with “Handy”, “Foil” (Royals by Lorde), and “Tacky” (Happy by Pharrell) display the man’s remarkable ability to keep the original’s melody note for note while telling some hilarious stories. Unfortunately, with the exception of “First World Problems” the originals barely hold a candle to the parodies which makes Mandatory Fun
a scattered listen once you find your favorite songs.
Even with this dichotomy in quality throughout the album, it’s hard to argue against Weird Al’s knowledge of the workings of whatever decade he’s worked through. Quite simply the man is a pop-culture nerd, he displays it with every song poking fun at American culture, every celebrity’s name he drops, and every Polka song. “First World Problems” is easily the best original song here and the subject matter is pure comedy gold, only being enhanced because it’s so true
. “Tacky” not only pokes fun at Pharrell’s hit “Happy”, but at all the awful social trends that have come and gone (or stayed) like taking pictures of your food and posting in online and wearing crocs. A clever allusion to the game “Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon” in the album’s second song really brings home the fact that Weird Al’s finger is still firmly on the pulse of pop-culture.
I’ll say it again, Weird Al’s lyrical skills have not diminished one bit, he is just as silly as he has always been, and he conveys this silliness with as much artistry as he entered the game with back in the 80’s. Mandatory Fun
is simply more Weird Al Yankovic, you know exactly what you’re going to get and I for one grinned immediately after pressing the play button for the first time and for that I like to think, at least in my case, his job has been accomplished yet again.