Album reviews for July 24, 2014
Weird Al Yankovic, "Mandatory Fun"
The success of any great piece of art is determined by a few key factors.
Does it accomplish what it sets out to achieve? Does it illuminate some essential aspect of the human condition? Does it change those who are exposed to it—rewire the circuitry, add new ideas that disturb the status quo? Does it build on the art of others, in the process crafting something profoundly new? Most important, does it advocate for the enduring relevance of tinfoil?
Under those guidelines, Weird Al Yankovic’s new “Mandatory Fun” is a stone cold masterpiece. Its goal remains the same since Yankovic changed the game with “My Bologna” and “Eat It”: parodying hit songs to create gut-busting laughter. Thirty years later, the Weird One hits every note.
Is it illuminating? Certainly. You will learn, for example, that beneath Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is a way better message about a more important topic than dubiously intentioned swagger: good grammar. Harnessing the song’s undeniably funky music and melody, Yankovic turns it into “Word Crimes,” a song directed at online commenters and their unspeakable bastardizations of the English language. Yankovic implores his fans to educate themselves: “You learn the definition/ of nouns and prepositions/ Literacy’s your mission/ And that’s why I think it’s a good time/ To learn some grammar/ Did I stammer?/ Work on that grammar.”
He transforms Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” into “Inactive,” a celebration of couch potato culture featuring dubstep warble and the chorus, “I’m really inactive!/ I’m highly inactive!” Yankovic’s at his best on his ode to handymen, “Handy,” rapped to the tune of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy,” where all the bragging is about carpentry skills rather than Aussie bling.
On “Foil,” Yankovic channels young New Zealand singer Lorde’s “Royals” in service of a love letter to aluminum. Opening with the singer in full Lorde mode, he explains, “I never seem to finish all my food/ I always get a doggy bag from the waiter/ So I just keep what’s still unchewed/ And I take it home, save it for later.” The solution, sung to the tune of the chorus: “Aluminum foil/ Never settle for less/ That kind of wrap is just the best.” No argument here.
—Randall Roberts, Los Angeles Times