Weird Al’s latest is refreshingly down-to-earth

Published 8:20 pm Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three longtime musicians recently released new albums, but leave it the parody maestro to be the one with the freshest, most enjoyable one.

Tom Petty sounds curmudgeonly — if not a bit predictable — on his 12th album “Hypnotic Eye,” and former Smiths’ singer Morrissey sounds as moody as ever on his 10th album “World Peace is None of Your Business.” However, “Weird Al” Yankovic ‘s 14th studio album sets itself apart as a positive breath of fresh air.

Weird Al released “Mandatory Fun” on July 15, and it proves he’s a musical chameleon. But along with effortlessly spanning several musical styles, Weird Al thrives on “Mandatory Fun” by making his humorous parodies oddly relatable. It’s not as much laugh-out-loud funny as it is humorously human.

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Weird Al parodies several songs focused on famous, glamorous and luxurious lifestyles like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Lorde’s “Royals” — yes, the tracks are somewhat critical of opulent fame. However, Weird Al turns them both into something more relatable to everyday life.

Weird Al’s “Handy” is about the best ode to plumbers and handymen you’ll find. Like several conversations many of us have had, “Foil” starts about an everyday topic — preserving leftovers and mold — before unraveling into a tangent on conspiracies theories like aliens, the Illuminati and the New World order.

He takes Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and changes it into the oddly educational, grammar-focused “Word Crimes.”

Weird Al takes a direct, but humorous stab at people who never stop talking about lame connections to famous people on “Lame Claim to Fame,” a song modeled after Southern Culture on the Skids.

On “Tacky,” a parody of Pharrell William’s “Happy,” Weird Al lists several tacky things we’ve all experienced: “43 bumper stickers and a YOLO license plate” and “I Instagram every meal I’ve had.”

Along with his spot-on parodies of several pop hits, Weird Al also produces a polka collage of several popular hits, a college sports fight song parody, and several songs mimicking the styles of acts like the Pixies, The Foo Fighters and Cat Stevens.

“Jackson Park Express,” modeled after Stevens, is perhaps my favorite track on the album, as Weird Al starts with a seemingly romantic chance encounter on a bus and spirals into an increasingly awkward fantasy of terrible pickup lines.

While Weird Al’s latest may not receive the same acclaim as Petty or Morrissey’s new albums, “Mandatory Fun” is a refreshing reminder that musicians don’t always need to be moody and sullen to be successful. Several of the musicians parodied on the album approved of being parodied or even helped Weird Al on the musical style.

“Mandatory Fun”

By “Weird Al” Yankovic

4 out of 5 stars

Track listing

1. “Handy,” a parody of “Fancy” by Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX

2. “Lame Claim to Fame,” a style parody of Southern Culture on the Skids

3. “Foil,” a parody of “Royals” by Lorde

4. “Sports Song,” a style parody of college football fight songs

5. “Word Crime,” a parody of “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams

6. “My Own Eyes,” a style parody of Foo Fighters

7. “NOW That’s What I Call Polka!” a polka medley of several hit songs

8. “Mission Statement,” a style parody of Crosby, Stills & Nash

9. “Inactive,” a parody of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons

10. “First World Problems,” a style parody of the Pixies

11. “Tacky,” a parody of “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

12. “Jackson Park Express,” a style parody of Cat Stevens