“Weird Al” Yankovic

Unconventially Unconventional

Mar 04, 2015 Issue #52 - January/February 2015 - St. Vincent Bookmark and Share


Following more than three decades as the premier maestro of musical parody, "Weird Al" Yankovic suddenly finds himself having the best year of his career. His 2014 release, Mandatory Fun, was the yuckster-accordionist's first Billboard #1 Album.

"I think there was a bit of a snowball effect that's happened because a lot of the fans that discovered me in the '80s have stuck with me, and a generation has gone by, and now they're bringing their kids along for the ride," Yankovic suggests. "By the time I'm 110, I'll be huge!"

Chalk it up to multi-generational sales bumps or the fact that his humor has always stayed silly and good-natured ("I try to give people a poke in the ribs instead of a kick in the butt," he says), but Yankovic has found a formula for lasting success. Mandatory Fun was the final record in a deal Yankovic signed way back in 1982: a whopping 10-album contract that was eventually extended to 14.

"I never imagined I would have a career that lasted this long, and certainly no one else did when I signed my record deal," he says. "It was laughable." His voice lowers: "Like I'll ever have 10 albums."

Yankovic, just like any other musician whose career has flourished through multiple eras, finds ways to "stay valid," as he puts it, in a quickly-evolving industry. He was among the first to adopt music videos in MTV's early days by parodying artists such as Michael Jackson and Madonna. These days, Yankovic has utilizes viral video as well as any artist to get his music out there. For Mandatory Fun, eight music videos-lampooning current-day pop stars such as Robin Thicke, Iggy Azalea, Pharrell, and Lorde-were released online in an eight-day flurry that put Yankovic front and center in everyone's web browsers.

"I had no idea if the eight videos in eight days thing was going to work," he says.

"People could have gotten sick of me by the third day and said, 'Okay, enough already! We've had it!' But thankfully, it was successful.

Going forward, Yankovic will have more freedom to explore unconventional releases and one-off singles. Because Mandatory Fun fulfilled the obligations of his lengthy record deal, Yankovic finds himself an independent artist for the first time since the early 1980s.

"I'm actually assuming Mandatory Fun will be my last conventional album," says Yankovic. "It's a bit ironic to say that having just had ostensibly the biggest album of my career."

Don't take that to mean Yankovic is retiring from the funny business. The musician cites the difficulty he's always had trying to keep his parodies as timely as possible while being forced to wait until he had 12 tracks to release all at once. Thanks to digital retailers, Yankovic will be able to independently release his parodies as quickly as he can write and record them. But don't think that just because Yankovic isn't contractually obligated to deliver comedy that we'll suddenly be getting any glimpses of his serious side.

"When I was about 13 or 14 years old, I tried to write a couple earnest, straight-forward pop songs," Yankovic says. "I would rather have nude photos hacked off my cell phone than have people hear those songs." He adds: "I think there are enough people in the world that do unfunny music. I like the little niche that I've carved out for myself."

So do we, Al. So do we.

[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's January/February 2015 print issue (Issue 52/Best of 2014).]

weirdal.com

 

 

 



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