Album Review – Mandatory Fun by “Weird Al” Yankovic

I know this isn’t the usual MAASOO fare (‘usual’ being an arbitrary term since I don’t post nearly as often as I should), but I felt like writing it and I have nowhere else to put it. So deal with it.

It’s gotten to the point where pretty much everybody has heard of Al Yankovic, or at least knows a few of his more popular songs. Being the fan of comedy that I am, and having the general disdain for pop music that I do, I’ve grown up enjoying his music immensely. His new album dropped yesterday, and the TL;DR version of this review is essentially that you should probably go buy it if you like funny things. Or music. Or life itself. I’m gonna do a track-by-track review of it because I can’t think of any other way to write a review of a CD.

MandatoryFunThe opening track, Handy, is actually one of the weakest for me, although I realize that might be simply because, until this point, I’ve never heard of someone called “Iggy Azalea” or her song Fancy, of which this is a parody. The song is catchy enough, and has enough of Al’s trademark sense of humor to keep one’s interest, but I get the feeling that those who know the source material will get more enjoyment out of it. In the past, I’ve really enjoyed Yankovic’s better parodies (Gump and Amish Paradise come to mind) without knowing the original tunes, so Handy might not be his best work.

The next song, Lame Claim to Fame, is a style parody of Southern Culture on the Skids (again, a band I’ve never heard of) and is about pretty much what the title makes you think it’d be about. Whether it’s sharing a public restroom with Jonah Hill, or buying a used car from Cuba Gooding, Jr.’s uncle, this guy’s got a pretty lame claim to fame. And it’s pretty hilarious.

Foil is another parody, this time of Lorde’s Royals, which I have actually heard. This one really showcases Yankovic’s musicianship in his ability to create a sound almost identical to the original while at the same time cleverly using rhymes and similar-sounding words to pull off a hilarious parody, this time about the numerous uses of aluminum foil.

Sports Song is another one that’s just decent, this time a style parody of generic college sports team fight songs. The lyrics, while at times difficult to discern amidst the various marching band instruments, essentially amount to “we’re good and you suck”, which is of course hilarious to me as one who in general disdains fight songs. And sports in general, for that matter.

Word Crimes is one of the best tunes on the album, a spot-on parody of Robin Thicke’s hit from last summer, Blurred Lines, which became famous for being one of the most douchey songs ever, with an even more douchey music video to go along with it. Yankovic’s take? Naturally, it’s about the intricacies of proper grammar usage and the annoyances that come about when one decides to stupidly split an infinitive. Hilarity ensues, as is to be expected.

My Own Eyes is a style parody of Dave Grohl’s other band, and illustrates a plight to which any of us who share a bathroom with our sisters can relate – the need to ‘unsee’ anything and everything that your poor eyes have been laid upon. A myriad of hilariously vile images are put forth (two drag queens shoving crackers up each others’ noses), in addition to a few that are just plain silly (an old man dying of Bieber fever), and they’re all backed up by some great alternative rock that proves, once again, that Al Yankovic’s band is the greatest cover band on earth.

NOW That’s What I Call Polka! is the song I was most excited to hear, and it did not disappoint. NOW is this album’s take on Yankovic’s signature polka medley in which he takes the biggest hits of the past few years and puts them to an accordion- and horn-filled polka romp. With songs that even I couldn’t avoid hearing, like Pumped Up Kicks and Somebody That I Used to Know, intermixed with some of the more goofy hits of late, such as Thrift Shop (with “this is super awesome” replacing Macklemore’s less family friendly lyrics), Call Me Maybe, and, of course, Gangnam Style, NOW is one of the best polka medleys to date.

Mission Statement is probably my least favorite on the album, though again most likely because I’m unfamiliar with the source material. I’ve only heard a handful of Crosby, Stills, Nash, [& Young] songs (Our HouseĀ comes to mind), so hearing Yankovic parody their style largely goes over my head. The song does have some funny lyrics, chock-full of business buzzwords like ‘synergy’ and ‘globalization’, but it’s lacking that signature Yankovic charm that makes me love some of his other style parodies.

My least favorite track is followed by the one I like the most, Inactive, a shamelessly hilarious parody of a song I can’t stand, Radioactive, by a band I can’t stand, Imagine Dragons. Inactive depicts a terminally lazy young man who finds himself inseparable from his sofa and covered in Cheeto dust. Naturally, Yankovic abuses synthesizers, voice modulators and filters, and a myriad of unnameable electronic instruments to the point of it hardly sounding like music – just like Imagine Dragons does. Only this time, it’s funny, and doesn’t make me want to wear earplugs made of barbed wire. Kudos, Al.

First World Problems is a musical representation of the popular internet meme, and rattles off a whole bunch of them (‘my maid is cleaning the bathroom, so I can’t take a shower’) in a style parody of The Pixies. It’s great.

Tacky is a delightful parody of Pharrell Williams’ adult version of If You’re Happy and You Know it Clap Your Hands. In it, Al describes numerous tacky behaviors such as Instagramming every meal you eat, having a YOLO license plate, and using Comic Sans on your resume (yes, mom, that font is tacky). The music video is equally hilarious, featuring some hilarious comedians, and also Aisha Tyler.

The last track, Jackson Park Express, is a 9-minute-long style parody of Cat Stevens the depicts a man making eye contact with a girl on the bus, and naturally imagining the rest of their lives together through a totally one-sided conversation he believes she’s having with him with her facial expressions. It’s damn funny.

Overally, “Weird Al” Yankovic is still “Weird Al” Yankovic. Some of the songs, as usual, were misses for me because I didn’t know the original material, but there’s a lot of enjoyable meat here that a fan of any age can enjoy (seriously, he put a CSN parody on the same album as a Robin Thicke parody). It’s great fun, as the album’s title suggests, and I look forward to anything he puts out in the future.