Throughout the years, I have been a casual Weird Al fan at best, while a lot of my other friends are diehard fans (some of them have even met him). Like everyone else, I have definite favorite Weird Al songs. “Amish Paradise,” a parody of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” is my favorite–possibly because it’s one of the only songs with which I can rap along.
Most people can tell you that I haven’t kept up with all of Weird Al’s work, but I have seen some of the highlights. I mean, who didn’t love seeing him play Sir Isaac Newton in an episode of Epic Rap Battles of History? Shortly after, his album, Mandatory Fun, has dropped. For some reason, this particular album is a bigger deal, among my friends, than any of his other work has been. I knew that I had to check it out myself and see what all the fuss was about.
Mr. Yankovic released a new music video for eight of his songs from Mandatory Fun (one for each day of its release week), so in in my review, if the song also has a music video, I will include my opinions of that. It’s only fair. It’s kind of an “in-depth” crash course on current Weird Al shenanigans, for the casual fan that I am. I’m okay with that.
Without further ado, in track listing order, my review of Weird Al’s fourteenth album, Mandatory Fun.
1. “Handy” (Parody of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”)
First of all, let me just say that I hated “Fancy,” from the very first time I heard it. In fact, I didn’t even know who actually sang it. I thought it was Gwen Stefani, and I was like, “Oh god, Gwen…. why? What have you done?” I was relieved to find out that it was not her. Then… I saw the music video. It’s a recreation montage of one my favorite movies from the 1990s, Clueless. The people and the costumes are spot-on, but I just can’t even, with this song, especially being paired up with this video. It’s glamorizing kids and young adults being spoiled, reckless, and stupid, as a lifestyle… because we definitely don’t have enough of that already. Clueless did this, itself, in the 1990s, but there was a difference. Back then, the line between fantasy and reality, was thicker. Today, it’s virtually non-existent, and this song and video reflect that.
Weird Al’s parody, “Handy,” made me giggle. First of all, I’m not 100% what look he was going for, but he looked like Owen Wilson… in basically anything. That amused me. I think that I got a good giggle out of this song, because my dad is essentially a carpenter, and I’ve even helped him with a few tasks, in this video, which features a handyman doing handy things. I’m also impressed when I hear song parodies, like this, from him, because for a nerdy white guy, in his fifties, he sure can keep a beat, and the lyrics fit perfectly with that beat. Additionally, I wasn’t even a fan of the instrumental part of “Fancy,” so I wasn’t sure that I’d like Weird Al’s parody. However, I was pleasantly surprised. He made an intolerable song, quite enjoyable. My two favorite lines are: “I’ve got 99 problems but a switch ain’t one” and “Let me be your stripper. I’ll take off your lacquer… no one does it quicker!” Well-played.
2. “Lame Claim to Fame” (Weird Al original, parodying style of Southern Culture on the Skids)
Ah, yes, a Weird Al original song! I have to admit–I love the parodies, but Weird Al comes up with great original pieces too. This song talks about having connections through celebrities, through really roundabout ways. Of course, I immediately thought, “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon!” (which he had to put in there). However, it is so relatable because my friends and I (especially my best friend, Wes), always talk about how we’re connected to “so and so.” Basically, the song is about “my uncle’s girlfriend’s sister’s boyfriend’s dog has the same groomer as Paris Hilton’s dog.” You know the kind. The thing that made me giggle the most is the part about almost sitting next to Steve Buscemi, in the theater, but he said “This seat’s taken.” I don’t know why, but anything involving Steve Buscemi is usually funny to me. The song, to me, is very upbeat and catchy. I thought it sounded like something else, though. It’s doubtful that many people will get the reference, but there is an online video producer, named Spoony. He does all sorts of videos, and one on my favorite things was when he riffed old Wendy’s training videos, from presumably the late eighties or early nineties. The training videos include how to do certain tasks, using employee-made music videos. “Lame Claim to Fame” reminds me of one of those songs, called “Grill Skills.” It is amusing. As for the video for “Lame Claim to Fame,” stop motion animation can either be done really well, or really bad, for the most part. Weird Al nailed it, in this video, and did a beautiful job.
3. “Foil” (Parody of Lorde’s “Royals”)
So, when I first heard this song, it sounded awesome. It had a nice tune, it was pretty simple, and the singer (Lorde, who is only 17, by the way) sounded amazing. Since then, I’ve caught myself humming along to this song. It wasn’t until I sat down to work on this review that I actually listened to and read the lyrics. I’m not sure if she wrote this entire song, herself, or if she had help, but coming from her, this sounds like the case of a teenager who is trying to grow up entirely too fast. I don’t mind the “we’re not like everyone else” parts of it, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s talking about an intense, illegal things-doing, so-called “beautiful mess” of a relationship that, to me, sounds dangerous, to anyone… much less a young teenage girl. The video was pretty simplistic, too. Just some people having some “carefree” fun, while not submitting to anyone else’s idea of what love should be. And then, a moment where a guy is bleeding from his face. It makes me very uncomfortable.
Thankfully, Weird Al’s parody, “Foil,” eased my discomfort. I was wondering how he was going to do an entire song about wrapping his food in aluminum foil, and then, the twist came. What looked like a set for a cooking infomercial, in the video, turned into background monitors of things like Illuminati and government conspiracies, as well as alien invasions and probings… to show that he’s safe, because he has a tin foil hat. That was well-played. I love a good conspiracy or supernatural happening reference. It is a fun song that just proves that Weird Al really can make a song out of anything,
P.S. That awkward moment when Lorde and Weird Al have the same hairstyle.
4. “Sports Song” (Weird Al original, parodying style of marching band music)
This song and video are brilliant! I am an avid sports fan, so I especially got a kick out of this one. It is a song that takes basically the “greatest hits” of sports trash talking that we sports fans throw at each other, and puts them into a song… with a marching band for the music, in uniforms, and all. Honestly, I would watch the hell out of it, if Weird Al were one of the musicians at Super Bowl XLIX, singing this song for the halftime show. I mean, this is just an awesome song. It makes me excited for the upcoming football season. (Go Steelers! Ravens suck)!
5. “Word Crimes” (Parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”)
Let me be very clear, here. I, under no circumstances, like Robin Thicke’s lyrics to this. I did like the music, but once I really listened to the song and heard the lyrics, all of it was ruined for me. A song about borderline sexual assault (“You know you want it”) is never okay, and contributes to why rape culture exists in the first place. The video was as dumb as the song. I think that there are no lines, left blurred, on whether or not I hate it. But I’m sure that the people who like this song and video, are also going to be huge fans of the 50 Shades of Grey movie. Call it a hunch.
Thankfully, Weird Al restored some of my enjoyment of the music, with his parody, “Word Crimes.” I absolutely love it, too, that he won me over, with the content of the song. It is a delightful summary of spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc. mistakes that people commonly make. Basically, if anyone has ever gotten on your case for correcting people’s grammar, this is going to become one of your favorite songs. Also, I have to laugh at the part, in the song, where he says to never use B, C, R, or U, as words, unless you are seven-years-old, or unless you’re Prince (it’s a joke about his “Symbol” phase). This song is one of Weird Al’s best, in my opinion. The video is cute, too. Especially because Weird Al has a big dic…tionary.
6. “My Own Eyes” (Weird Al original, parodying the style of The Foo Fighters)
As stated above, this is not a parody of a specific song, but a sound, instead. There’s no video for this one. The song is just kind of a miss for me. The music sounds more like The Offspring, to me. As I said in my intro. “Amish Paradise” is my favorite Weird Al song, so I know that a good parody of them, is within his forte. This song, however, does not reflect it. Also, the song is basically about nonsense. It literally only talks about seeing crazy, nonsensical things that would drive other people insane. Sorry, that’s just a really messed up game of “I Spy,” or things that my friends and I create when playing Cards Against Humanity, and not material for a good song (not even in the Weird Al world).
7. “NOW That’s What I Call Polka!”
This is literally a polka mash-up of the following: “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus, “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People, “Best Song Ever” by One Direction, “Gangnam Style” by Psy, “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen, “Scream and Shout” by will.i.am and Britney Spears, “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye, “Timber” by Pitbull and Ke$ha, “Sexy and I Know It” by LMFAO, “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore, and “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk. There are no parody lyrics; just polka music and some special sound effects thrown in. I like a few of the original songs, and it’s even better, hearing them in polka style. I’d love to listen to an all-polka version of “Gangnam Style.”
8. “Mission Statement” (Weird Al original, parodying the harmonic style of Crosby, Stills & Nash)
This is song, also, as stated, is not a parody of a specific song, but rather, a sound of a band. In this case, it is Crosby, Stills & Nash’s harmonic sound. I really, really enjoyed the music. I was taken back a few decades. It was nice. The lyrics are mumbo-jumbo and legalese that corporate businesses throw out to their employees and clients. A lot of them reminded me of scam online and small businesses that use fancy business words, to avoid giving clear, honest answers to people. Vector would be so proud. Also, the word of the song, that you will never forget is: SYNERGY! I also rather enjoyed the video, which was a bunch of elaborate white board drawings.
9. “Inactive” (Parody of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive”)
I never watched the music video for this song, until this review. Well, not the official Imagine Dragons one, anyway. I had only seen Lindsey Stirling & Pentatonix cover music video of “Radiocative,” which is one of my favorite music videos. However, upon even just hearing this song, it became a one of my favorite modern songs (I don’t like a lot of “new” music). Seeing the music video for it, doesn’t take away from that, but the music video could be kind of summed up in one sentence: “What the actual hell did I just watch?” There were apparently hostages or prisoners, kept in dungeon. Meanwhile, above ground, there was something like a stuffed animal/plush version of Fight Club going on… with stuffing… and death. I couldn’t help but thinking, “Did I accidentally watch the Weird Al parody first?” No… no, I didn’t. But I still love the song!
I’m a bit disappointed that there isn’t a music video for Weird Al’s parody, “Inactive.” If the original video was that insane, can you imagine what Weird Al could do with it? At any rate, this parody is okay, at best. It’s not my favorite. Basically, the lyrics are about someone who lives a messy, lazy, sloth-like existence–basically, my brother, if he didn’t have a part-time job. I don’t really have much more to say about this track, other than it was just okay.
10. “First World Problems” (Weird Al original, parodying style of The Pixies)
I think that the lyrics to this song are better than the music. Admittedly, I don’t think I’ve ever listened to The Pixies, but if their music all sounds like that, I think I’ll pass. It was just too mediocre and repetitive to me. It was more like noise, and not really music. However, the lyrics, as I said, are good. He certainly hit on a lot of things that even I have said. I especially relate to buying too many groceries to fit in my refrigerator. Now, most of these pertain to rich, arrogant people, but some are definitely relatable. If you can’t laugh at yourself and some of the ridiculous things you’ve said, then something’s wrong.
Side note: If you want another great song about first world problems, check out MC Frontalot’s “First World Problem.” It’s still my favorite song about the issue.
11. “Tacky” (Parody of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”)
I have absolutely, positively loved the hell out of “Happy,” ever since the first time I’ve heard the song. It’s so peppy, upbeat, and has such a positive message, among a lot of other songs, these days, that have none of that. I am absolutely on board with that. I never saw the music video, until now. It’s so great. It shows people of every age, shape, size, color, walk of life, enjoying life, not taking things too seriously, and just being happy. What’s not to love about that? Plus, they’re all dancing!
The “Tacky” parody is hilarious! I can’t even begin to tell you all the things I loved about it. However, a few favorites, just from the lyrics are him calling out: people who use the Comic Sans font, people who take selfies at funerals, people who constantly name drop, and people who ask women if they’re pregnant. Then, there are the clothes. You can only imagine what tacky clothes look like, when he’s singing the song, but if you want a visual assault, please watch the video! The whole damn thing was, indeed, tacky, but the clothes were especially insane. It’s like the eighties and nineties threw up, after drinking some Lisa Frank and puffy paint! He also did well, in choosing Aisha Tyler, Margaret Cho, Eric Stonestreet, Kristen Schaal, and especially Jack Black, for the video. Eric Stonestreet looked like Cousin Eddie, from all those National Lampoon’s vacation movies. As for Jack Black, he was being Jack Black–insane and over-the-top, as always. It’s why I love him. This was, overall, a great parody and a great video. It’s one of my favorites, from the album.
Side note: If you like cosplaying, there’s a video on YouTube, called “Cosplay,” which is a parody of this song, too. It’s awesome!
12. “Jackson Park Express” (Weird Al original, parodying style of Cat Stevens)
The music, in this, was good, and the lyrics made me giggle, at first, but the song just went on and on (it’s nearly nine minutes long), and I just got bored, to be honest. If they were going to keep this song on the album, I feel like it shouldn’t have been at the end of it. I’m left feeling like, “Oh. That’s it? Meh.” It’s basically about a man and a woman who meet on a bus (Jackson Park Express) and have a nonverbal conversation/relationship for only as long as that bus ride. Weird, like all of Weird Al’s material, but this just song just left me feeling disappointed. What a sad end to an album.
With all that being said, I’m done giving my thoughts on the individual tracks/videos. I thought about how I would score it overall, and have come up with this: Out of ten points, I would give it a fair 8.5. It’s not the worst album I’ve ever heard, but there were some weak songs, and the ending, there, deducted some of my joy over. I would recommend it to anyone who likes Weird Al, or parody songs, in general, though. Check it out on Amazon and iTunes!