If you ever doubted the curly headed parody artist’s cultural solvency, you’ve got another think coming. Weird Al Yankovic has been making culturally relevant parodies of mega-pop-hits since the 1980′s, and has a longer track record than some of our most lauded musicians. One might argue that he’s simply piggy backing on artists throughout the past 3 decades, however if you pay close attention Weird Al doesn’t simply mock songs that are popular to gain popularity of his own. Instead, Weird Al takes songs that have gained pop culture traction and turns them into hilarious anecdotes, and at his best he makes them into social commentaries. The first Beyoncé like video instalment came in the form of Tacky, a parody of Pharrell’s Happy, a tune that inspires happiness in few. Tacky provides hilarious insight into the strange hipster culture that continues to potter along, fuelled incessantly by social media. “I would live-tweet a funeral, take selfies with the deceased” with his particular brand of absurdism, Weird Al gleans insight into some of the more peculiar developments in human nature.
While Tacky is both hilarious and socially self aware, Weird Al outdid himself with his next video instalment from his new album Mandatory Fun. Word Crimes is a parody of a song that should strike loathing into those with any sense of human decency. Blurred Lines is a not-so-thinly veiled rape anthem, made popular by its undeniably catchy beat and the video featuring a parade of scantily clad women draping themselves over Robin Thicke and Pharrell (a two-time target for our curly headed champion). One look at the lyrics of Blurred Lines, it becomes instantly apparent that Thicke has no respect for women. According to him, no doesn’t mean no. There’s a slew of articles about the socially sanctioned chauvinism that Thicke propagates in his music, like the brilliant article from Pacific Standard, featuring victims of rape holding up signs featuring things their rapists said, things uncannily similar to the lyrics of Blurred Lines. As Weird Al would say:
If you don’t think that’s bad, guess what, then you’re tacky, too.
What Weird Al has done with Word Crimes is reclaim a song (and by song I mean the music and beat, which are fun to dance to) and transform it into something that is valuable to society, instead of a song which debases society. The video features expertly crafted typography without a shred of human flesh, in sharp contrast to the original which is about the hyper sexualisation of women’s bodies. The song pokes fun at incorrect grammar while also being educational. Perhaps the most amusing part of Word Crimes is Weird Al’s intolerance of those who use the word ‘literally’ incorrectly; for example: ‘every time I hear Blurred Lines I literally want to take the nearest sharp object and jam it into my ears’. Weird Al’s lyrical choice is far more humour of course: “That really makes me want to literally smack a crowbar upside your stupid head.”
Weird Al continues to prove his cultural merit. It doesn’t take much to be a parody artist today, but it does take a lot of genius to be a parody artist that does more than just entertain. Weird Al’s lyrical prowess is both stand up comedy and social commentary wrapped into the most popular songs of our day. From his humble beginnings of Another One Rides the Bus to Word Crimes, he continues to astound. Weird Al’s particular brand of social commentary reveals the underbelly of society in a humorous and listenable way. One can only hope he continues to parody pop music, allowing us a glimpse into ourselves as a society while enjoying his exceptionally funny music.
Originally published on WhisperLondon.co.uk