“Weird Al” Yankovic has been parodying music for over 30 years. He has won three Grammy Awards and scored four gold records and six platinum records in his career. Yankovic’s last album “Alpocalypse” in 2011, was his highest Billboard charted album to date coming in at number 9. His latest “Mandatory Fun” was just released and contains some of his best work including parodies on songs by Pharrell and Robin Thicke. He is also supporting the new album with releasing 8 new videos in 8 days (see the first three below). Media Mikes had a chance with chat with “Weird Al” to chat about the new album and his plans for the future.
Mike Gencarelli: Tell us how you chose which songs to parody on “Mandatory Fun” including songs originally performed by Pharrell, Robin Thicke, Iggy Azalea & Lorde?
“Weird Al” Yankovic: Well, it is not a huge secret obviously. I choose songs that are on the top of the charts. I create a list of songs that would be good candidates and that people would be most familiar with. I tend to pick songs that have some really identifiable musical and lyrical hook to them. I look for something that really jumps out of you when you hear it on the radio. Once I have that list, then I narrow it down to the ones that I can come up with a funny idea for.
AY: I decided to do eight videos in eight days because I wanted to make the release of this album a bit of an event. MTV isn’t really music television anymore and video channels don’t exist for the most part. The internet is the new MTV. So I wanted to do a big internet promotion to get a lot of people’s attention. My videos are usually consumed rapidly and enthusiastly but in a much shorter cycle. So I thought if I can get each of my videos to go crazy viral for just one day each that would be a wonderful weeklong event for this new album. I wanted to make this first week very special.
MG: The video for “Tacky” is already a viral hit including celeb cameos from Aisha Tyler, Margaret Cho, Eric Stonestreet, Kristen Schaal, Jack Black; how was it shooting this? Also it was done all in one shot right?
AY: It was, yes! I know there is one part where it looks like it might have been cut but I guarantee you there were no edits. It was one continuous shot. This was the most fun that I have ever had working on a video. I got to work with such fun, talented and professional people. It was like playtime and we never wanted it to end. We went through six takes and afterwards I looked at them all and the last take had a little something special to it, so we used that one. Jack Black, I have to tell you was just amazing. His energy was so intense. Every take he has this amazing level of enthusiasm that was just impossible to match.
MG: Do you find that the songs that you parody actually become more popular due to your work?
AY: Well, I have been told that my parodies do help the artists sell more albums. Executives at Nirvana’s record label once told me they sold the band an extra million copies of “Nevermind” due to my song. So from an artist’s prospective, if you look at the bottom line, it is in their favor to have a parody.
MG: When you do a “style parody” of a band like Foo Fighters or a full out song parody like “Word Crimes”, which takes on “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke; which is more challenging?
AY: The song parodies have a little more pressure because they are going to get the most attention. The style parodies are a whole lot more work and a lot more of me invested in them. I am writing the music as well. They sound like another artist but it is even a lot more work than writing a straight original because not only am I writing an original but I have to study an artists’ body of work, take notes and use every type of stylistic idiosyncrasy that I can to shape that song and have it sound like someone else.
AY: Successful is easy. That would be “White & Nerdy”. It was the highest charting and highest selling song. It is a platinum hit selling over a million downloads. So in this day and age, that is pretty impressive. Personal favorite might be that one also. “White & Nerdy” is probably my most autobiographical song [laughs]. You don’t have to dig too deep or do too much reference because I have lived that life.
MG: I heard that “Mandatory Fun” may be your last traditional full length album; what are your future plans?
AY: I figure there is a very good chance of that happening. Yes, this is my last album on my record contract. Going forward, I don’t really think I should be doing full length albums anymore. If I have wait until I have twelve songs all at once, then a lot of those songs might not be fresh or timely. So I think it would behoove me to go with a system that would allow me to release new songs more frequently, maybe not all at once but just to get the songs out there.
MG: Are you planning a tour to accompany “Mandatory Fun”?
AY: Yes, the “Mandatory Tour” will commence in 2015. I don’t know exactly when or where just yet but we will be on the road then and doing a bunch of shows.