"Weird Al" Yankovic, MANDATORY FUN
While "Weird Al" is best known for parody, he does terrific original creations about half the time, and that's true on Mandatory Fun. "Sports Song" is every sports fan's us-versus-them anthem (literally, since it never specified the team -- or even the sport -- being discussed). "Lame Claim to Fame" is a listing of pathetic encounters with celebrities, while "Mine Own Eyes" are bizarre things the singer has seen. "Mission Statement" puts together enough corporate jargon for a year of Dilbert strips in one upbeat pop song. "First World Problems" has people who have it really well finding things to complain about (and sounds remarkably like the Pixies). " And the album ends with the pseudo-epic romance tune "Jackson Park Express," where people sitting across from each other on a bus try to read each other's facial expressions. ("I arched my eyebrow ever-so-slightly, which was my way of asking/'Do you want my old Hewlett-Packard printer?'") While some of these were one-joke lists, most of these songs are pretty amusing.
And "Weird Al" really excels at mimicking and twisting popular songs. He turns Iggy Azalea's "Fancy" into a home-fixing song ("Handy"), makes Imagine Dragon's "Radioactive" into the lazy "Inactive" ("I'm waking up in Cheeto dust/my belly's covered with pizza crust"), and Robin Thicke's raunchy "Blurred Lines" into a critique of grammar and spelling (shown below). And numerous current songs get polka-ized into the "NOW That's What I Call Polka" medley. These really sound close to the originals, while making them so amusing it's impossible to listen to the original songs the same ways again.
Mandatory Fun may not be mandatory, but it sure is fun. This album is pretty consistent and quite amusing too.
Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch