"Werid Al" Yankovic

ATTENTION pop stars: if “Weird Al” Yankovic (pictured) shows up at your concert, or has tracked down your personal e-mail address, you’re probably his next parody conquest.

Such was the case for artists like Pharrell and Iggy Azalea, who are covered by Yankovic in his latest album, Mandatory Fun.

For his 14th offering, released last week, Yankovic had his heart set on Williams’s No 1 hit Happy. When he didn’t hear back from Pharrell’s camp, he decided to go straight to the source.

“I somehow got Pharrell’s home e-mail address – I won’t say how – and I e-mailed him and asked if I could do the parody,” recalled the 54-year-old comedian. “He couldn’t have been nicer and said he was honoured to have me do the parody.”

Sometimes a face-to-face plea was necessary. Yankovic flew to Denver and waited backstage at Azalea’s concert to get permission to use her hit Fancy.

“I talked to her as she was walking offstage. I introduced myself: ‘Hi. I’m ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic and I’d love to do a parody of Fancy,’” he said. “The next morning I was in the studio recording.”

Yankovic’s efforts paid off: Billboard reported that Mandatory Fun debuted at No 1 – his first – this week with more than 80 000 units sold. That’s almost double the amount his last album, Alpocalypse, sold in its debut week in 2011.

In a recent interview, Yankovic discussed the surprise success of his new album – which also features covers of Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines and Lorde’s Royals – and the accompanying music video-turned-viral hits.


AP: Can you believe the album’s initial success?

Yankovic: This has been an amazing week. I can’t even tell you. I have been doing roughly the same thing for many, many years and this is the best week of my life in terms of the response from people. It’s just insane and extremely gratifying. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around (it).


AP: You released eight music videos in eight days. Were you inspired by Beyonce, who dropped 17 videos with her surprise album last year?

Yankovic: It irks me when people say: “Oh you’re doing a Beyonce” because, you know, three years ago, when my last album came out, I did a video for every single song on the album, released it all at once, and nobody was saying to Beyonce: “Oh you’re doing a little ‘Weird Al’ there are you?” So, I’m sure I wasn’t the first one to do that, but I did it before Beyonce. I just want to set the record straight.


AP: Unlike other parodies, you’ve never gone the mean-spirited route.

Yankovic: I’m a fan, like everybody else. When I do my parodies it’s not meant to mock these people. It’s not meant to belittle them or make them look bad. It’s a homage. I don’t think you need to be hurtful to be funny.


AP: Not everyone is as good-natured as you are, especially on social media. How do you deal with negative feedback?

Yankovic: There will always be trolls and people being negative and, you know, it’s hurtful. I wish I could say that it bounces right off of me, but part of it sticks. Thankfully I’ve got so many other people on Twitter who are extremely positive that it more than balances it out.


AP: Will this be your last album?

Yankovic: I hate to draw lines in the sand and say this is absolutely the last album, but it sure looks that way. It’s the end of my record deal. I’ve been under contract since 1982 and I just feel like especially with the kind of music that I do, the album format isn’t the best way to deliver that music. I’m going to try to jump on new hits and trends as soon as I can (with singles) and try to be a bit more competitive with everybody else on YouTube.


AP: Who’s next on your parody list?

Yankovic: After I’ve mastered an album and it’s in the can… I don’t think about parodies for a while.


AP: What about Beyonce? You have yet to cover her music.

Yankovic: I’ll get there eventually because then they’ll say: “Oh, you did a Beyonce.” – Sapa-AP