‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s ‘Mandatory Fun’: Track-by-Track Album Review
Jul15

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic’s ‘Mandatory Fun’: Track-by-Track Album Review

By Kenneth Partridge | July 15, 2014 3:26 PM EDT Billboard Rating:  76 It’s hard out there for a professional parodist: nowadays, any idiot with a webcam can post his or her version of “Fancy” on YouTube, and if a master idiot like “Weird Al” Yankovic wants to get us tweeting about his send-ups, he’d better make them extra special. On “Mandatory Fun,” the 14th album of his crazy-long, crazy-pants career, the Weird One delivers the reprocessed goods, though it’s his original tunes — done in the idiosyncratic styles of his favorite artists — that truly warrant repeat listening. On the parody front, Yankovic wisely plucks low-hanging fruit, turning Lorde’s “Royals,” Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” Pharrell’s “Happy,” and the aforementioned Iggy Azalea summer jam into songs about food storage, sloth, tactlessness, and home repair. Best of all is “Word Crimes,” a handy grammar lesson based on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” While it’s foolhardy to read too much into Al’s lyrics, a tune like “Word Crimes” captures the zeitgeist in more ways than one. Digital culture hasn’t simply obliterated the English language — it’s accelerated the chew-’em-up, spit-’em-out celebrity hype cycle that’s turned Thicke from R&B star to laughing stock virtually overnight. Now, Yankovic isn’t goofing on “Blurred Lines” because he, like many critics, thinks its author is a slime ball. Al’s far too good-natured for that. But let’s face it: The last thing Thicke needs right now is another person making him look silly. In addition to track-specific remakes, Yankovic serves up a string of his patented “style parodies,” which speak to his broad taste in music. When he’s not scanning the FM dials for words he can rhyme with types of food, Al apparently gets down to Southern Culture on the Skids, Pixies, Foo Fighters, and Cat Stevens. On “Mandatory Fun,” he pays homage to these and others with varying degrees of cleverness, and by referencing the non-mainstream likes of SCOTS and Pixies, he smartly nods to an older audience that likely remembers him for his ’80s-era MTV ubiquity. Is it “Sgt. Pepper’s?” No, “Mandatory Fun” certainly is not. But if anyone ever makes a “Sgt. Pepper’s” that’s actually about pepper—and the various foodstuffs you can sprinkle it on—it’ll be “Weird Al.” Read on to get our track-by-track take on Yankovic’s latest blast of inanity. 1. “Handy”: After a weak opening line — “First things first, I’m a craftsman” should have been something like, “First things first, I’m a drill-est” — Al takes this musically spot-on “Fancy” parody in some rather crafty (ahem) directions. There are rhymes about installing Formica countertops, laying tile, and fixing leaf blowers — all...

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