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Posted: July 20, 2014

Weird Al Conquers the Internet with 'Mandatory Fun'


By Matt Picht

The King of Parody is back. "Weird Al" Yankovich's 14th studio album, "Mandatory Fun," last week, and Yankovich is celebrating the occasion by releasing one new music video every day for eight days. (Via Matt Schilder / CC BY NC SA 2.0RCA Records)

So far, the videos have all showcased Yankovich doing what he does best — poking good-natured fun at popular songs like Pharrell's "Happy" and Lorde's "Royals," alongside pastiches of marching band fight songs and "Pixies"-style pop.

And the album itself has garnered a fair amount of praise from critics, who credit the singer-songwriter's ability to adapt his unique style to the pop zeitgeist of the day. (Via The A.V. ClubPasteLos Angeles Times)

But "Mandatory Fun" is also significant for what it represents: This is the last album on Yankovich's 32-year recording contract with RCA records, and it's possibly his last album ever.

During a recent Reddit Ask Me Anything, Yankovich said "I'll probably just be releasing singles (possibly EPs) going forward - I really don't think the album format is the most efficient or intelligent way for me to distribute my music anymore."

And that revelation has some people wondering: After over 30 years in the business, could this actually be the end of "Weird Al" as we know him?

A writer for Deadspin is optimistic that Yankovich's potential shift away from albums is for the best. "We could have the privilege of hearing that nasally voice weeks, not months or years, after the next hit spoof-able single presents itself, which might just make him fresher and more relevant than ever."

But Slate's not so sure, pointing out Yankovich's field is a lot more crowded these days. "The spike in sophisticated comedy as well as the do-it-yourself recording and video-making boom centered on YouTube have brought if anything a surfeit of musical mockery."

It's true that there are a lot more music parodies out there than when Yankovich's career first started. Pretty much every pop song parodied on "Mandatory Fun" has already been spoofed by at least one other up-and-coming musical parodist. (Via Facebook / The Gregory BrothersYouTube / BarelyPolitical)

Yankovich even admitted he had to scrap "Make It So" — a Star Trek-themed parody of "Let It Go" from Disney's "Frozen" — after finding out someone already came up with the idea three months earlier. (Via Vimeo / Debs & Errol)

Despite this, a writer for The Atlantic argues the 54-year-old comedian does have the chops to keep up with the Internet age — and "Mandatory Fun's" video-a-day promotion proves it.

Yankovich partnered with a different content distributor for each video — the first four were first published on NerdistCollege HumorVEVO and Yahoo — in what The Atlantic calls "a web-enabled precision video delivery operation."

"Working through networks that others have built, he can funnel content to the teenagers who help grow his audience and to the former teens who supplant it. ... The Internet has become just one more distribution network."

And as "Weird Al" told NPR last week,

"I'm sure people will let me know when it's time to hang up the accordion and call it quits, but as long as people don't mind, I'll keep doing it."

Yankovich's still got two more videos left to release. Possible candidates include parodies of the Foo Fighters and Imagine Dragons, or his latest pop-polka medley, "NOW That's What I Call Polka!"

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