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Music Review: Mandatory Fun

WEIRD AL MANDATORY FUN cover_0Shrewsbury, Massachusetts-  He has managed to remain relevant after nearly 30 years in the music industry. He is a God in the eyes of middle schoolers at heart. When Chamillionaire, Nelly, and Coolio have all faded into obscurity, one man has risen from their ashes like an accordion-wielding phoenix: Weird Al Yankovic. With the onset of YouTube, staying relevant in the digital age could have killed Weird Al, but his last few albums have shown he hasn’t lost his touch. So in what may be his last conventional album, Weird Al has unleashed Mandatory Fun on the world.

The track starts right off with “Handy,” a parody of “Fancy,” by Iggy Azalea. It’s not as stunning of an opener like “White and Nerdy” or “Perform This Way” were for their albums. Even “Lame Claim to Fame,” one of Yankovic’s style parodies, doesn’t quite hold up to his more original works in the past. The third track, “Foil” starts to try to pick things up, but the album almost begins to fall at the seams.

That is, until “Sports Song” starts. A send up of college fights songs, the song is short, but hilariously sweet. After that, the album kicks into high gear with “Word Crimes” (“Blurred Lines” without the misogyny) and quickly becomes one of the best parodies of Yankovic’s in recent history. Following that, Mandatory Fun’s polka medley, “NOW That’s What I Call Polka!” proves that Yankovic is still the master of mash-ups.

As the album heads for the home stretch, Yankovic heads into another style parody with the spot-on “Mission Statement” putting boring corporate language to the tunes of Crosby Stills Nash & Young. His parody of “Radioactive” by Imagine Dragons, “Inactive” is so well done that it’s hard to distinguish it from the original song at times. “Tacky” is an obvious switch from Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” but that nevertheless makes the song a lot of fun. “First World Problems” is a delightful send-up of mundane complaints in the most punk style. Some of the original tracks weren’t as strong as the parodies and hope that they would stand out was looking slim.

Then, out of nowhere, Yankovic busts out “Jackson Park Express”: a nine-minute ballad about an encounter on the bus that turns into a romantic fantasy unlike any other. It calls back to “Albuquerque” and “Trapped into the Drive-Thru” which are epics of the highest order. “Jackson Park Express” goes right up there among those songs as one of Yankovic’s best. Equal parts hysterical and heartbreaking, with a finale that could bring some to tears (maybe an embellishment, but it is quite good). It changes your perspective of the whole album and see it in a whole new light.

Yankovic is at his most daring when he really branches out and keeps a joke going. He’s based his whole career on that and has succeeded swimmingly. However, YouTube has had him on his toes, almost beating him to the punch. The conventional album isn’t ideal anymore and Yankovic is smart enough to realize that and cut his losses and stick to releasing singles and EPs in the future. Yankovic is a survivor and a lot of people, myself included, are glad he’s still around.

Mandatory Fun is a fantastic album. The audacious conclusion alone is enough to make this album worth it, but it also benefits from a solid collection of tracks.  It features some of Yankovic’s best parodies and originals that will stand the test of time like “White and Nerdy” still does 8 years later. It proves that Yankovic is still a juggernaut in his niche corner of the music industry and he’s not going anywhere soon. It may not be in a physical album, but whatever it is, the world will wait on bended ear to hear what he does next.

Mandatory Fun is available wherever music is sold. Also, pretty stellar music videos are out of these songs all over the Internet.

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