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Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby TMBJon » Tue Jul 15, 2014 10:52 am

Hey everyone, I was waiting until after spoiler tags went away to start a topic like this. There's been a general review topic for every other album, so why not?
I have listened to Mandatory Fun eight times so far, on speakers and headphones, alone and with friends. ( :w )

Handy - This one has definitely grown on me with each additional listen. He does a really good impression of both Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX. Great lyrics, and I actually do think it works as a lead single. Just not sure if people will be into a handyman song. Then again they loved the Amish one, so who knows? I have very high hopes for the video, which will make or break the song's longevity.

Lame Claim To Fame - If I had to pick a least favorite original it might actually be this one. I know that seems like a universally unpopular position on the forum so far... It just doesn't impress me as much as some of the other style parodies on the album, and the subject matter just seems too easy. But I do enjoy it more with each listen. It just seems derivative of Straight Outta Lynwood era style parodies like I'll Sue Ya or Virus Alert, and not really as boundary pushing for Al as the other five originals.

Foil - This is my early pick for favorite parody on the album. I love both halves of this! As others have said, I was totally caught off guard a few lines into the second verse even though I had previously predicted there might be a Complicated thing going on. I love thinking about the fact that it's the same narrator in both halves of the song!

Sports Song - As others have said, I picked up on a Tom Lehrer influence from this right away. The first clue we had about this one was that it'd be the song Al would play at the Super Bowl. This would (obviously!) be the perfect opener. Let's hope it happens!

Word Crimes - This is really Weird Al at his peak! A classic instance of a really bad but undeniably catchy pop song, and Al hit it out of the park. I hope this song is played at every Weird Al concert for the rest of my life! Too many favorite lines to list.

My Own Eyes - This song really really rocks! The whole band just perfectly nailed the Foo Fighters. I think it's the most accurate style parody on the album; it's definitely my favorite original. The guitar and drumming especially is unmistakably FF! I barely know any lyrics to this one because I can't help but rock out to it every time I listen.

NOW That's What I Call Polka! - I do think this is possibly the best polka ever, but I always think that when a new one comes out. The way this one is structured is perfect to me, with more time spent on several of the big hits rather than racing through obligatory reference bits. So much to love here, really every single part. One gripe: can't believe will.i.am snuck in there over some of the other options.

Mission Statement - This is my second favorite style parody on the album, and it's so much fun to listen to. I don't know if it's possible to pull it off, but it seems obvious this would be unbelievably great live! The costumes for this would be really incredible. It would be a perfect replacement for Craigslist in the setlist. Also, this is almost definitely the best Weird Al song to listen to while :wacko: .

Inactive - This is a cool parody, probably my least favorite on the album but I have to pick one! It really does sound like there's something wrong with the production in this song, like they couldn't quite match what Imagine Dragons did.

First World Problems - This is yet another perfect style parody! Amanda Palmer is used perfectly. It's not the funniest lyrically or even conceptually, but the Pixies style carries it all the way.

Tacky - Another absolutely great parody, and this may well end up being "the hit". The Pharrell music doesn't hurt the song at all. I love everything from the lyrics to the Lisa Popeil appearance to the music video.

Jackson Park Express - This is just a beautiful song to listen to. I know there's a lot of truth to this song, as my wife rides the bus every day and often encounters creeps exactly like this guy. I love now thinking that this is what's going on in their head on the other side of the aisle. And I also relate to the narrator because he's such a sweetheart even though he's a creep!


Overall thoughts - These are twelve really outstanding tracks, all of them among Al's best musically. Much love to the band pulling off some of these sounds! All five parodies are great, the polka is outstanding, and the style parodies are excellently crafted. If I had one criticism it would be how three of the originals have the same lyrical premise of "I did this crazy thing, then I saw that random thing, and I hate it when that thing happens!" I think it works on My Own Eyes well, but wears thin on First World Problems and Lame Claim To Fame. I thought about this for a while and realized it's kind of been a staple of Weird Al albums going back to the beginning. But the album could have used a Skipper Dan like song where it's about something specific to balance out the songs that are just lists of non-sequiturs.

I really enjoyed having no spoilers aside from the tracklist and not hearing one second of the album until all 12 songs were available. It was a cool treat to experience that one last time, which hasn't happened for me since Bad Hair Day.

This is a great album front to back! :clap:
I couldn't tell a dirt clod from a plate of caviar.
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Re: Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby mrmeadows » Tue Jul 15, 2014 11:24 am

I've only listened all the way through a few times, but here are my early thoughts:

Handy - This one probably shouldn't be as funny as it is, but I really like it. It's essentially recycled gags from the busted "I'll Repair for You" parody, but in some ways they work better when co-opting the brashness and swagger of Iggy Azalea. Wish he would have thrown in a spelling ("I-G-G-Y") bit, but the song is still great.

Lame Claim To Fame - As I said before, this is my early "favorite original" on the album. Love the rockabilly musical style, and while basically a List Song lyrically it still manages to make me laugh. The Kevin Bacon line is perhaps the funniest and most clever line on the album!

Foil - Not sure what to think of this one. Feel a bit short-changed that it didn't really have an ending. I agree with many on here that he should have wrapped things up by extending the conspiracy part just a bit and giving the song more closure. Someone suggested "I think they're on to me..." as a better closing line, as it would then make sense why the song stopped so abruptly. Other than that, I dig the parody lyrics we DO get, but it seems unfinished and that relegates it to my "least favorite parody" on MF, at least for now.

Sports Song - This is more or less what I expected it to be, and I love it! Totally hope he gets to play this at the Super Bowl! Very Lehrer-esque

Word Crimes - What more can be said? An almost perfect parody. A couple of lines are a touch clunky, maybe, but who cares? The bulk of the song is spot-on and I love it! Very close to my favorite parody on the album, and could easily become my fave after a few more listens.

My Own Eyes - I like the rockin' sound of this one, and some of the lyrics are laugh-out loud, but overall I can't say it's one of my favorites. I do like the repeated line "wish I could disconnect my brain from my own eyes" a lot, though. Of all the originals, this has the potential to grow on me the most, I think.

NOW That's What I Call Polka! - Does seem a bit truncated compared to Al's past polkas, but it does flow nice and the song picks are strong. Wouldn't say it's my favorite polka ever, but it's up there.

Mission Statement - Sheer brilliance. Love that Al doesn't have to be laugh-out-loud "wacky" all the time and can still put out a subtle social critique like this once in awhile. The style-parody of CSNY is perfection, and it successfully skewers(!) the coldness of the business world.

Inactive - I'm not as down on this one as many others are. I think it's superior to the original (which I don't care for) and a fun listen. Sure, it's a bit of a "You're Pitiful" rehash, but let's face it: it's also a superior song to YP. Love the bit about how the couch is "part of me".

First World Problems - This one was a little disappointing, because I'm a Pixies fan (casual, but still) and was looking forward to it, and while it nailed their sound I didn't get much out of the subject matter. It's little more than a laundry list of Twitter hashtag jokes put to music. At the moment, my least favorite original, but as with all these songs things can always change.

Tacky - My knee-jerk favorite parody on the album, and I think Al must have thought highly of it too since the first live-action video released was for it. Has great cross-over potential (i.e. even non-Al fans would probably enjoy it), and would not surprise me if it's the album's hit.

Jackson Park Express - Great epic song! Maybe not as good as BBOTIM, but glad it was a real SONG as opposed to another "Albuquerque"-type stream-of-consciousness rant. I'm also a fan of early Cat Stevens, so really dug the style-parody. Excellent way to close out a fantastic album.
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Re: Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby Kevbo1987 » Tue Jul 15, 2014 3:08 pm

Handy: This one is definitely growing on me with each listen. I think it's a solid parody with several laugh-out-loud lines, and as others have said, with an excellent video, this song could easily become very popular.

Lame Claim to Fame: Definitely a solid original, though I'm not terribly familiar with SCOTS, so I can't really speak to how solid of a style parody it is. I do enjoy the concept, and quite a few lines make me chuckle. I know people who are sort of like the narrator in this song, though obviously not quite so exaggerated.

Foil: This one really picks up with the second verse, though the first verse is growing on me. The conspiracy theme is done perfectly; I love how Al goes through the various conspiracy theories and then sings, "I'm protected 'cause I made this hat...." :lol: It just really brings home the ridiculousness of it all.

Sports Song: I originally ranked this as the worst song on the album, but I have since changed my opinion. After listening to it a few times, I've begun to relate to it. It really shows how ridiculous people can get about sports, and how meaningless these rivalries really are. When I listened to it this morning, I was thinking about how crazy my fellow Clevelanders and I were last week about all the LeBron James speculation. I actually lost sleep over it.

Word Crimes: I really think this is one of Al's best parodies ever. He absolutely nailed the concept, and I crack up several times during each listen. I agree with Jon that this should become a permanent fixture in the setlist.

My Own Eyes: Oddly enough, I like this song less every time I listen to it. I love the music, and Al really nailed the Foo Fighters/Nickelback/Creed/27 other similar sounding rock band style. I just can't get into the lyrics though. I guess maybe the scenarios presented are too ridiculous for me to find funny. I do like the line about the mime being hacked to death with an imaginary cleaver, but other than that, this is pretty weak for me.

NOW That's What I Call Polka: This is one of Al's best polkas, if not the best. It flows perfectly, and I really don't mind that it's a bit shorter than what we're used to.

Mission Statement: Musically, this is one of the best originals Al has ever done. I don't know if it would have been possible for Al to nail down the CSN/CSNY style any better than he did. I also love how the lyrics basically say absolutely nothing. Welcome to the corporate world.

Inactive: I'm kind of surprised by the number of people who don't seem to like this one. I think it's a very well-done clever parody, and there are several laugh-out-loud lines included. There does seem to be a production issue, especially in the chorus. I'm not sure if it was a problem during mastering or what, but it almost sounds muffled.

First World Problems: A very sold Pixies style parody, and I enjoy both the concept and the execution. Amanda Palmer also sounds great.

Tacky: This one grows on me every time I listen to it, and it really seems to be gaining traction online. This could end up being the biggest hit of the album. Al did a great job executing this.

Jackson Park Express: Easily one of my favorite Al originals ever. I love how the song starts out innocently enough and then devolves into creepy stalker/serial killer territory.

Overall, this is a very solid Al album. The parodies are quite strong, and the originals are even stronger. It is musically one of Al's best albums, and the lyrics are right up there as well.
Last edited by Kevbo1987 on Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Very Solid Album

Postby symphy » Tue Jul 15, 2014 4:17 pm

(Cross-posted to Amazon)

This is Weird Al’s 14th (no joke!) studio album, and allegedly his last traditional release. It’s also one of the most consistent albums he’s ever put out, with no real clunkers (No Larrys, Mimes, or Phony Calls.) You can listen to the entire CD on repeat and never reach for the skip button. Can’t say that about many modern releases in any genre.
Track by track, there’s a lot of good stuff here.

Handy – (Parody of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”) – As usual, Al captures the cadence and feel of the original quite nicely, and the lyrics are clever, if not laugh-out-loud funny. Weird decision not to parody the original song’s most memorable motif (the “I-G-G-Y” bit), but the “glue-dat” and “screw-dat” moments made me smile. (6/10)

Lame Claim to Fame – (Style parody of SCOTS) – This one gave me my first real chuckles on the album. It’s a very clever pop-culture-filled recitation of genuinely lame ways to have a brush with celebrity. Nice production values too. (7/10)

Foil – (Parody of Lorde’s “Royals”) – This one is really short, but in a good way. Comedy shouldn’t overstay its welcome, and there’s no way of making the breakdown portion of the original song be “funny” anyway. The twist halfway through the piece from food to conspiracy theories is rather inspired, and I think I’ll have “Aluminum Foy-illl (Foy-illlll!)” in my head for days. Possibly every time I use foil in the future. (8/10)

Sports Song – (Style parody of campus fight songs) – If it wasn’t for a line in the middle in which the singer admits that the home team isn’t that great either, this one would probably get a lot of play at high school and college stadiums. And, maybe it still will! It’s kind of awesome. It’s not the sort of song you’ll want to be in the mood to listen to very often, but to pump you up before some college football, it’s great. (8/10)

Word Crimes – (Parody of “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke) – Leave it to Weird Al to offer a nearly g-rated parody of the most famous r-rated video of all time. But it works. One complaint about Al is that he doesn’t often parody his subjects themselves (with notable exceptions such as Smells Like Nirvana) but rather just writes new, unrelated lyrics to their existing melodies. Sometimes, this can feel lazy (isn’t parody supposed to, you know, parody something?) In this case, though, it works beautifully, because all the possible content parodies about the controversial song have already been made, so there’s no feeling of missed opportunity. This direction feels fresh. Importantly, Al’s version just as catchy as the original, with all the little details and asides you’d expect, and the video will almost certainly be posted on countless Facebook pages for years every time someone makes a grammatical error. (9/10)

My Own Eyes – (Style parody of the Foo Fighters) – Whether you love this song might depend a bit on whether you like the specific 90s alternative wall-of-sound style he’s using. I do, so I do. As is often the case of Al songs, the lyrics are essentially just a funny bulleted list of unexpected things the singer would prefer to “un-see”. But the hook is SO. CATCHY. that I can never listen to it just once. We’re talking Frank’s 2000” TV-levels of replayability. Favorite song on the album. (10/10)

NOW That’s What I Call Polka – (Polka medley) – I must admit, I love it when I actually know and can sing along to all the songs in Al’s medleys, and this one didn’t disappoint. The transitions were excellent (especially into Gangnam Style) and I laughed out loud at “This is Super Awesome!” I missed some of the pacing variety found in some of his other medleys, but that’s a minor quibble. (9/10)

Mission Statement – (Style parody of Crosby, Stills & Nash) – This track is kind of remarkable. There’s nothing funny about any individual phrase, not really, but as a collective whole, it works quite well. The harmony constructions are pitch-perfect (literally and in the parody sense) and it’s simply a beautiful song to listen to. No one listens to a Weird Al tune because of the timbre of his voice, and yet this one might find its way into genre playlists of mine that are comedy-free. Nice work here. (8/10)

Inactive – (Parody of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive”) – This is a solid parody, good for a Wall-E-esque chuckle, and as is the case of everything else on the album, the production values are flawless. One thing is suffers from is the fact that the song itself is pretty slow-moving, which is always harder for comedy. The lyrics are fine, but the funniest part of the song is the concept, so once you get the concept, there’s nothing really more to laugh at. (6/10)

First World Problems – (Style parody of Pixies) – Another very funny song. I remember the first time I listened to the album all the way through, I was impressed at the strength of all the originals, even the ones like this one near the end of the album, which traditionally tend to be weaker (not counting the always-strong finale). The lyrics are particularly clever on this one, and it might make you feel a little guilty, in a good way. (7/10)

Tacky – (Parody of Pharrel’s “Happy”) – This is really, really cute and catchy. It might be being released just a tad late to be relevant (now that we’ve all heard the song a million times), but the clever cameo-studded video certainly should help its staying power. (The video, by the way, is a parody of the 24hoursofhappy project, and is actually quite brilliant.) Well done. (8/10)

Jackson Park Express – (Style parody of Cat Stevens) – Only Al could get away with lines such as “I like your boobs” and “I want you inside me” and still have an album suitable for families. If you like the Cat Stevens folky storytelling style, you will almost certainly like this. It’s a surprisingly sweet, even wistful song, that takes its time to tell its tale and yet somehow always seems shorter than its nine-minute running time would imply. If this is truly Al’s last traditional studio album, it’s a fine way to go out. (9/10)

And there you have it! A consistent, high-quality, catchy mix of well-produced music that will make you chuckle and smile throughout. Al’s humor doesn’t try and compete with the explosive-laughter-inducing shock value of, say, The Lonely Island, but it’s not stale, either. Weird Al doesn’t have to reinvent himself every few years – the music industry already does that, so he can always be relevant just by always adapting his sound to fit modern times. In the age of Youtube, where everyone and their brother can release parodies of popular music within days instead of months, Weird Al will never again have the lock on the parody market he enjoyed in the 80s and 90s. But no one can touch him in the talent of his band, the high production values, and the attention to detail and nuance he brings to his versions. I hope he’s doing this for twenty more years.
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Re: Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby anthontherun » Wed Jul 16, 2014 6:31 am

I'm reviewing this as I do my second listen--I made a deliberate effort to avoid information about the album over the last two weeks. As of Sunday, the only thing I knew was that there was an Iggy Azalea parody...but thanks to a headline on EW.com, I found out about a "Happy" parody called "Tacky" last night. D'oh! Otherwise, I was all good, and I even avoided looking at the tracklist when I got the CD, so I had no idea what to expect. I haven't read any of the above reviews (or any other MF posts for that matter) so I apologize if I cover some of the same ground.

"Handy" - The original has become a bit of a guilty pleasure over the past few weeks, but it was a slow burn. "Handy" admittedly didn't hit me right away, but it's a pretty clever spiritual brother to "The Plumbing Song" and "Hardware Store." I think I was hoping for something a little more laugh-out-loud funny for the lead-off track, but I expect it to have staying power.

"Lame Claim to Fame" - I'm not familiar with SCOTS at all, but I really dug the music here, so I might need to check them out. My prediction was the B-52s, but I figured there would be some female vocals in there if that were the case. The Kevin Bacon line is fantastic, and anyone who knows me knows that the quickest way to my heart is with a Zooey Deschanel reference. I was kind of expecting that the second verse and beyond would switch it up beyond the simple name-dropping direction that maybe ran its course a little bit, but there were enough funny lines that it didn't bother me ultimately.

"Foil" - When I heard the opening, I was psyched for a "Royals" parody. And as the second verse began with "Oh by the way," I thought we were in for something along the lines of "A Complicated Song," with a different "-oil" each time. The conspiracy theory verse is definitely stronger than the leftovers one, but I admittedly did get a sense of "That's it?" when it just suddenly ended. That said, I don't really know how it could have continued, and although on my first listen my impression was that the whole song should have been in the conspiracy theory vein, something about the juxtaposition is kind of funny to me. So it's already starting to grow on me.

"Sports Song" - Now this is where I'm sold. I love everything about this. "We're great and you suck!" needs to become a catchphrase in everything, not just in rooting for sports teams. "Ok, full disclosure, we're not that great" killed me, and the ending is hilarious, the length is just right--this is executed perfectly.

"Word Crimes" - Definitely the most immediately appealing parody on the album. I imagine a lot of English teachers will be using it in their classrooms. The "could care less" part literally made me laugh out loud, but it was really just one of many fantastic lines that brought a smile to my face. I'm not a grammar Nazi, but I do relate to this song a lot, and there are so many moments I just love, from the Prince reference to the crack-up on "What's a contraction?" (a nice touch). Also: Al's falsetto has gotten a lot better since the days of "She Drives Like Crazy."

"My Own Eyes" - I'm a huge Foo Fighters fan, so I'm ashamed to say that I missed out on the style parody the first time, although I hear it perfectly now. In fairness, the solo riff is almost identical to Velvet Revolver's "Slither," so that mixed me up. Needless to say, this is one of my favorites both musically and lyrically. The entire verse that starts with the mime getting hacked up is particularly fantastic.

"Now That's What I Call Polka" - Although I still have a soft spot for "The Alternative Polka," I really get what Patton and Bermuda were saying...this polka flows exceptionally well. The transitions are super-strong, and you have to love "Hey sexy laaaady!" "Scream and Shout" is in my bottom five songs of all time but it actually sounds good here--nicely done, Al! Of course, I do have to register my disappointment with, "This is super-awesome." Man, I was so hoping for a "This is *CLANG*-ing awesome." :( Still, a very likely pick for second best polka ever.

"Mission Statement" - I'll admit, during my first listen, I was waiting for the joke to drop in the first verse. It didn't happen. But I was shocked that, by the second "synergyyyyyyyyy," I was already into it...one of my favorites at this point. I'm a sucker for "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" gags, if only because I think kicking into that "Do-do-do-do-do" part just automatically makes any situation funnier (Frank Zappa utilized it to great effect around when the song first came out). Al and the band nailed the sound perfectly; just from a musical perspective this has to be one of his most successful style parodies ever. Very nice.

"Inactive" - I'm not really a big fan of the original, so maybe that colored my opinion here...but although there were a few lines that I got a kick out of, it's another parody that just sort of ended before I feel like it really got off the ground. So far, it's my least favorite, but a few of my initial least favorites have done a 180 and won me over ("Truck Drivin' Song," "Do I Creep You Out"), so I won't count it out.

"First World Problems" - I love the Pixies' sound, but the vocals always prevented me from really getting into them...so this is win-win. Knowing Patton's hint about a 90s band style parody, I recognized the style right away. I love what Amanda Palmer adds to the song, and the lyrics aren't hysterical but amusing enough for sure. Probably my favorite after two listens. When the inevitable Mandatory Fun Blu-Ray comes out, I hope they include some bonus mixes, because I would love an instrumental version (or rather, a karaoke version with all the backing vocals and Amanda's "First world problems" intact).

"Tacky" - Not a standout, but a pretty good supporting parody all the same...I love the line about twerking in line at the DMV.

"Jackson Park Express" - Wow, this one really doesn't feel like nine minutes. It's absolutely his best closing track since "Albuquerque." Al is a master at non-sequiturs, and this song is full of some of his best. The "my answer to everything" bit was my biggest crack-up on the entire album on the first listen...until we got to "goat, chicken, whatever." Man, this whole song just paints such a vivid picture. Much like "Albuquerque," this could be twice as long and I'd still want it to continue on and on.

To summarize, after two listens:
LOVE: Sports Song, Word Crimes, My Own Eyes, Now That's What I Call Polka!, Mission Statement, First World Problems, Jackson Park Express
LIKE: Handy, Lame Claim to Fame, Tacky
THEY'LL GROW ON ME: Foil, Inactive

I really couldn't ask for anything better. This could easily prove to be my favorite Al release, but I'll let the high wear off before I declare that. I have to say, I really, really hope that this isn't the dun-dun-dun last album, because man, the excitement that had been building up for me the last two weeks as I was counting down the days was just exhilarating. I can say this because I'm among friends here, and I know you all can relate--but last Thursday morning, I woke up and started thinking, "Oh wow, there's only five days to go!" and I literally began hyperventilating from excitement. :lol: And the whole experience of lying down and putting my headphones on and drifting off into Yanko-land for 45 minutes (that sounded a lot dirtier than I had intended)...it's almost spiritual. You just don't get that with single-serving songs. There's a need to be more critical of individual tracks that way, rather than just basking in the Yanko-glory. But needless to say, whatever Al decides, I'll be with him no matter what. His sense of humor--and honestly, his approach to life in general--has been such a huge influence to me for more than 2/3 of my life, and Mandatory Fun is a great extension of that. It may not get off to the strongest start, but overall, another excellent addition to Al's oeuvre.
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Re: Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby sethmartin » Wed Jul 16, 2014 9:03 am

I'm not going to give some long review. The album is Bad Hair Day to me as far as overall great album. These are some of the best originals and I love all of the rock music. Polka seemed off to me at first because it had fewer songs but I have it a few more listens. It's great. It seems like there are more horns and less weird sound effects. Loved all of the parodies. Foil was great and short! Totally threw me off. Tacky and Word Crimes are my favorite parodies which is weird because I am so incredibly sick of those original songs. My favorite original is probably My Own Eyes. Second place is probably Jackson Park Express.
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Re: Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby Yankovic-Gretzky » Wed Jul 16, 2014 1:37 pm

'Weird Al' Yankovic's 'Mandatory Fun': Track-by-Track Album Review
http://www.billboard.com/articles/revie ... bum-review


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 professional 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."

'Weird Al' Talks 'Mandatory Fun' & Getting Pharrell's Permission

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 delivered by the world's most braggadocio contractor. Here's the motto for the side of his van: "Let me glue 'dat, glue 'dat / screw 'dat, screw 'dat."

2. "Lame Claim to Fame": Fans not familiar with Southern Culture on the Skids might mistake this for a remake of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Run Through the Jungle," and Al's probably cool with that. Grasping his semi-obscure musical reference isn't really a prerequisite to chuckling along with this examination of our celeb-obsessed culture.

3. "Foil": Lorde should feel honored: on "Mandatory Fun," "Royals" is the only tune Yankovic re-imagines as a song about food. Fortunately, he doesn't stop by telling us why aluminum foil is the best way to store that leftover sandwich. He goes on to poke fun at foil-hat-wearing, black-helicopter-fearing conspiracy theorists — a segment of the population that probably contains more than a few "Weird Al" super fans.

4. "Sports Song": On this original tune, Al imagines a high school or collegiate marching band that doesn't mince words. "Allow us now to summarize in a manner your feeble brains can understand / We're great and you suck," he sings over old-school fight-song brass. It's pretty skippable — unless you're a drum major, in which case it's your summer jam.

5. "Word Crimes"

A more satirical, cynical parodist could have taken this in a million super-searing directions, but Al isn't interested in commenting on Thicke's alleged misogyny. Instead, he takes on bad grammar, teaching us the difference between "its" and "it's" and explaining why the phrase "I could care less" means you actually do care.

6. "My Own Eyes": If this Foo Fighters style parody falls flat, it's because the Foos don't really have a style worthy of parodying. Take away Dave Grohl's songwriting chops and supremely likable personality, and you're left with rousing yet fairly bland arena rock. Here, as Yankovic sings of all the strange things he's seen in his lifetime — old men dying from Bieber fever, a mime "hacked to death with an imaginary cleaver" — he might as well be fronting one of those millions of Foos knockoffs you hear on active-rock radio.

7. "NOW That's What I Call Polka!": Yankovic got his start on the accordion, and he loves doing polka medleys of popular hits. Here, he and his band thump, bleat, and wheeze their way through Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball," Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks," and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop," among others.

8. "Mission Statement": Is this combination of strumming guitars, sweet harmonies, and cold-hearted corporate management-speak a comment on Crosby, Stills & Nash's propensity for launching money-grab reunion tours? It could be, though Al's real targets seem to be those folks who've introduced terms like "core competencies" and "value-added experience" into our lexicon. CS&N are all about "leveraging core competencies," but at least they don't talk about it.

'Weird Al' Yankovic's 10 Biggest Billboard Hits

9. "Inactive": Since Imagine Dragons are the least interesting of the artists parodied here, it's fitting that "Inactive" — Al's take on "Radioactive" — is all about a housebound loser covered in pizza crust and donut crumbs. "Don't tag my toe / I'm still alive," Yankovic sings, offering a preview of what the Dragons themselves might be saying if their second album doesn't take off.

10. "First World Problems": On the disc's most ambitious cut — both from a musical and a sociological standpoint — Al uses Pixies tunes like "Debaser" and "Hang Wire" as the framework for a surf-punk treatise on how entitled and ungrateful we've all become. "I'm pretty sure the cookies in this airport lounge aren't gluten-free!" he sings. It's a reminder that we should all be worried about more important things — like whether those still-trucking Pixies have another classic album left in them.

11. "Tacky"


As with "Foil," this parody of Pharrell's "Happy" could have been a one-joke affair, this time about bad dressers. Instead, Yankovic explores the concept of tackiness as it pertains to social interactions, proclaiming, "I would live-tweet a funeral / take selfies with the deceased." Is that worse than wearing socks with sandals? Who can tell anymore?

12. "Jackson Park Express": At nine minutes, this parody of vintage Cat Stevens story songs is three times too long and about nine times too obscure for most listeners. Yankovic has said "Mandatory Fun" could be his final proper full-length album, and if that's the case, he ends with a curious tale about a guy who meets a girl on the bus and dreams of settling down and starting a mobile pet-grooming business. Oh, and having his body "surgically grafted" to hers, because that's how much he loves her. A typically Al-like finale, in other words.
Last edited by Yankovic-Gretzky on Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby Yankovic-Gretzky » Wed Jul 16, 2014 2:07 pm

*** / ***** 3/5 STARS from Rolling Stone

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"Weird Al" Yankovic
Mandatory Fun

By NICK MURRAY
July 15, 2014

When we talk about timeless artists, the ones who truly cross generations, how come no one mentions Weird Al? Where his 1983 debut spoofed then hot singles like "Mickey," his 14th album turns Lorde’s "Royals" into "Foil" (as in aluminum) and Iggy Azalea’s "Fancy" into "Handy" ("I’ll fix your plumbing/When your toilets overflow"). The schoolhouse R&B of "Word Crimes" is clever enough to win over the harshest critics of Robin Thicke’s "Blurred Lines." Then there’s "Tacky," his sharp tongued take on Pharrell Williams’ "Happy." Sure, there’s a touch of hypocrisy in a guy as gloriously tacky as Al taking shots at the shameless but who really cares when it’s this much fun.

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/album ... z37dGyeHNe
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Weird Al Shows Off Big Dictionary in Robin Thicke Parody 'Word Crimes'
Parody prince drops some grammar and spelling knowledge in new video


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By Jon Blistein
July 15, 2014 12:00 PM ET

Hard as it may be to imagine, but there are certain things in this world more grating and ubiquitous than Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines": Persistent spelling and grammar errors. Fittingly, "Weird Al" Yankovic has combined the two in "Word Crimes," a send-up of Thicke's 2013 hit that promotes proper punctuation and accurate verbiage, and calls out participle danglers, those who "do good" not "well" and anyone who uses numbers instead of letters, which is only acceptable if you're seven — or named Prince.

So if you're still uncertain about when to use "whom" or "who," and whether you're dealing with an "it's" or an "its," check out the clever, hashtag-filled "Word Crimes" video below. The only thing that could've made this better is if Yankovic had been able to enlist Kelsey Grammer Grammar.

Yankovic spoke about the new song during an appearance on The View Tuesday. "'Word Crimes' is about a year old. There were already about 10,000 parodies of ["Blurred Lines"] and they were all rapey," he said. "And I thought nobody had done a song about grammar."

When asked by one host if he wrote "Word Crimes" as a reaction to his 11-year-old daughter's linguistic skills, "Weird Al" curtly replied, "No, my daughter is fairly literate. We raised her that way."

"Word Crimes" is the second of eight videos "Weird Al" will drop this week to celebrate the release of his new album, Mandatory Fun, which is out today. On Monday, he kicked off the festivities with "Tacky," a take on Pharrell's "Happy," which rags on anyone who has ever live-tweeted a funeral, gotten a YOLO license plate or printed their résumé in Comic Sans. Yankovic enlisted a bunch of comedy friends for the excellent one-shot clip, including Jack Black, Margaret Cho, Aisha Tyler, Kristen Schaal and Modern Family's Eric Stonestreet, all of whom traipse through Los Angeles' Palace Theatre in the best worst outfits you've ever seen.

In a new interview with Diffuser, Yankovic spoke about his "eight video" strategy, which was inspired by the fickle nature of viral video culture. "Things burn really quickly, things tend to go viral for a day, and I figure, 'Well, ok, I'll let each of my videos go viral for day,'" Yankovic said. "Nowadays everybody's trying to figure out what works, and I'm not like every other artist. I'm a special case and there's really no precedent. So I'm just trying to see what works and this seemed like a fun thing to try."

You can check out the full interview below, in which "Weird Al" also talks about "First World Problems," a style-parody of one of his favorite groups, The Pixies, and what makes those pastiche numbers different from his spins on specific songs. Mandatory Fun marks Weird Al's final album under his current contract with RCA and also features send-ups of Lorde's "Royals," Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive," and Iggy Azalea's "Fancy."

Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/ ... z37dJzwyud
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Re: Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby Bruce the Duck » Wed Jul 16, 2014 4:00 pm

Thanks for posting those. I like reading reviews of music critics - the good and the bad. Billboard's comments about "My Own Eyes" - that it doesn't work because the Foo Fighters don't really have a style worth replicating - are interesting considering there was some discussion about other potential influences of that song in this forum.
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Re: Reviews of Mandatory Fun

Postby Marko_The_Odd » Wed Jul 16, 2014 4:44 pm

Al's got an 82% score on the aggregate review site Metacritc. Granted it's only got 6 reviews there. It's also the first time I've seen an album of his on there.
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