Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars
“Mandatory Fun” not only marks Weird Al’s 14th music album, but it also marks 35 years since his first single, “My Bologna”. I’m not even 35 years old, yet I owe so much to my current nerdom to the polka comedy master. Ever since that memorable day for me when I first heard Weird Al through the car speakers, and even since his take on “My Sharona”, Weird Al has remained a goofy class act when it comes to his art and “Mandatory Fun” solidifies that fact. In this ADHD Internet age, he remains topical and funny.
Weird Al’s finger on the pulse of pop culture must be way better than mine since I immediately consulted Wikipedia on the first track. I had no idea who Iggy Azalea is, but luckily Weird Al did on the opening track, “Handy”. It isn’t the most fertile ground for comedy, a home repair man rapping his various skills, but his injection of other popular music lines and aged cultural references shows his sharp mind is still a walking encyclopedia of television, movies, and music in the U.S.
While “Handy” is a fantastic take on “Fancy”, the best parody on this album is “Word Crimes”, a play on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”. It’s not only a perfect example of Weird Al’s brilliant wordplay, but feels like a funky “Schoolhouse Rock” song that could teach children a thing or two about the difference between who and whom, and other common grammatical headaches. Only Weird Al could take the much criticized “Blurred Lines” and create a song poking fun at the continual deterioration of writing skills.
While Weird Al may be well more known for parodies, he finds more success on this album with his musical style parodies, particularly a Pixie-esque song called “First World Problems”. It’s a perfect lampoon of spoiled rich people and possibly the first song he’s meshed with an Internet meme. He also stays true to his roots by consistently remaining silly throughout “My Own Eyes”, which beautifully captures the Foo Fighters style. Take out the vocals and you’d probably mistake it for another catchy rock anthem by Dave Grohl and gang. He finds success on other tracks encapsulating Crosby, Stills and Nash as well as Cat Stevens.
In an age where Youtube parodies are rattled off almost immediately after an artist’s work starts charting the Billboards, some may question the relevancy of Weird Al. But most viral videos come off as structurally weak or intentionally sinister while Weird Al seems to embrace the culture he’s satirizing. He also creates a completely unique and original feel despite imitating the footing of other musicians. He’s had a knack for targeting that sweet spot when a song begins to develop a disdain in the general population after it’s been left on repeat at every top 40 radio station in America. That’s flawlessly seen in “Tacky”, a riff on “Happy”.
Genuine artistry is seen throughout Weird Al’s latest album and it’s amazing that he’s further planted his humorous seeds into our culture. The title, “Mandatory Fun”, is a self-fulfilling prophecy once you’ve given the album a listen. While some may question his relevancy, I simply look at the explosion of coverage around his album and see that he’s become further ingrained into nearly every indie, nerd and mainstream facet of music. Question his growing legacy all you want, but his latest work has the lasting impact that “Eat It” and “Amish Paradise” have.
1.”Handy” – “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX
2.”Lame Claim to Fame” – Style parody of Southern Culture on the Skids
3.”Foil” – “Royals” by Lorde
4.”Sports Song” – Style parody of college football fight songs
5.”Word Crimes” – “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams
6.”My Own Eyes” – Style parody of Foo Fighters
7.”NOW That’s What I Call Polka!”
– “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 & Shout” by will.i.am featuring Britney Spears
– “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra
– “Timber” by Pitbull featuring Kesha
– “Sexy And I Know It” by LMFAO
– “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz
– “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams
8.”Mission Statement” – Style parody of Crosby, Stills & Nash
9.”Inactive” – “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons
10.”First World Problems” – Style parody of Pixies
11.”Tacky” – “Happy” by Pharrell Williams
12. “Jackson Park Express” – Style parody of Cat Stevens