Weird Al Yankovic’s new album Mandatory Fun hits stores today, and as always, it’s full of parody songs skewering the top hits of the day. Iggy Azalea, Pharrell and Lorde all come in for a roasting, but as Chamillionaire knows, getting imitated by the master of pop parody is hardly a bad thing.
But among the new worthy targets – “Blurred Lines” and “Happy” included – which song gets parodied the best? Which singer’s success most solicited a send-up? And which artist has the most potential for a Weird Al bump? Let’s break it down.
Parody of: “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea
Sample lyrics: “I’m so handy, everyone says so / I’ll grout your bathroom, resurface your patio”
Weird Al’s Iggy parody is easily his best-timed, as “Fancy” enjoys a seventh week atop the Billboard Hot 100. (He also just asked her permission to parody last month, so it was possibly a late addition.) The song itself, about a handyman with a diverse skill set, is a little distant from the original – instead of being luxe like Iggy, he’s a hard worker; it’s tangentially connected. The only moment that really shows an understanding of Iggy Azalea is when Weird Al raps, “I got 99 problems but a switch ain’t one,” a reference to her verse on “Problem.”
Despite that bit of wit, the song isn’t quite catchy enough to be a hit. It’s a shame, because the most ubiquitous songs often make for the best targets, and a breakout Weird Al parody would definitely lock down “Fancy” as our Song of Summer 2014.
Parody of: “Royals,” Lorde
Sample lyrics: “I never seem to finish all my food / I always get a doggie bag from the waiter / So I just keep what’s still unchewed / And I take it home / Save it for later”
Clocking in at just under two and a half minutes, “Foil” is the shortest parody on the album (omitting the bridge and last chorus from “Royals”) and also the strangest. Did you want to hear about the fungi and mold that grow on Weird Al’s food? Probably not! But his ode to using aluminum foil gets much stranger in the second verse, when he starts talking about the protective material’s second use: as a hat for conspiracy theorists.
Again, it seems pretty disconnected from Lorde and “Royals” – even moreso than “Handy” – and the original song was a hit last year. It’s catchy, but for the same reason “Royals” is catchy: the beat. It’s probably the least successful parody on the album.
Parody of: “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke f/ Pharrell & T.I.
Sample lyrics: “As a possessive / It’s a contraction / What’s a contraction?”
The title of Weird Al’s Robin Thicke send-up is a wink to the controversy surrounding the original: the unfortunate connotations of lyrics like “I know you want it” as they relate to rape culture. But thankfully, the song doesn’t get political, instead indulging in a bit of online grammar shaming. At its core, the idea of Weird Al giving Internet commenters a grammar lesson sounds like the worst thing. But it manages to be kind of delightful, mostly because the wordplay is superb. For example: “You should hire / Some cunning linguist / To help you distinguish / What is proper English.” Not bad for this late in Al's career.
More than any of the others, “Word Crimes” sounds like Weird Al actually listened to the original. All the riffs are on point, and he leaves the rap verse intact (and has a nice flow, too). The song’s a little older than “Handy,” but making fun of Robin Thicke is practically a national pastime right now, so that’s less of an issue. A lot of this song’s success depends on how the video holds up amidst Weird Al's eight straight days of new video releases, but it has the potential to be a viral smash.
Parody of: “Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons
Sample lyrics: “My muscle’s gone / Atrophied / Always lose my fight with gravity”
“Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons’ most perplexing, unintelligible hit, is a worthy candidate for skewering. The premise – being inactive – is fine, and Weird Al gets some decent gags in. There are major parts of the song that Weird Al gets right: Comparing the first verse’s weird breathing noise to an asthmatic needing their inhaler is brilliant. The vocal distortion is spot-on. But that’s the biggest problem with this song: It’s as unintelligible as the song it’s parodying. As a parody, it’s pretty good! As a song, it’s unpleasant to listen to. No one’s getting a bump from this one.
Parody of: “Happy,” Pharrell
Sample lyrics: “Got my new résumé / It’s printed in Comic Sans”
Here we have the viral sensation just waiting to happen. “Word Crimes” has a chance of being the album’s breakout hit, but it’s definitely the dark horse. “Tacky” is a Weird Al Perfect Storm: The original song is still ubiquitous enough to warrant parody, and tolerance of its smash success has dissipated. It’s similar enough to the original song – particularly with its video – but still manages to be catchy on its own merits. The lyrics are sharp, with great lines like “Think it’s fun threatening waiters with a bad Yelp review / If you think that’s just fine, then you’re probably tacky, too.”
As a bonus, the video features cameos from comedians like Aisha Tyler, Jack Black and Margaret Cho. The cameos recall when Donny Osmond showed up in “White and Nerdy,” the greatest Weird Al Perfect Storm yet. Perhaps “Tacky” has a shot at taking that title.
[UPDATE 7/16: As Weird Al continues to release new music videos this week, we'll update this space. You can see the videos for "Word Crimes" and "Foil" above now.]
[UPDATE 7/17: "Handy" was released this morning – we've added it above.]