Robinson Meyer notes some of the interesting ways Weird Al uses the interwebs to promote his work. Writing in The Atlantic, Meyer observes:
No wonder, then, that this week Al has mimicked the tactics of the preeminent Knowles. From last Monday to this upcoming one, he released a new music video every day, eight videos in total. There are few songs on his new album that will lack a video, meaning that, in medium and marketing, he’s pulling a sort of time-extended Yoncé.
But not all eight videos are going straight to YouTube. Weird Al is spreading that goodness around.
His parody of Pharrell’s “Happy” is hosted by Nerdist, a sprawling online entertainment empire that achieved fame through its eponymous podcast but which now encompasses a news website, a network of audio and video shows, and a television program on BBC America. Al’s Lorde spoof, meanwhile, went to competing digital content factory, CollegeHumor. It did go to YouTube, but is marked “Exclusive” and a “CollegeHumor ORIGINAL.” A “Blurred Lines” send-up sits on Yancovic’s Vevo page.
I also liked the reflection about Weird Al’s mockery driven art. Since the idea of juxtaposition comes up so much on Life of Refinement, it seems worthwhile to think about Weird Al laying a mocking interpretation on top of something already widely marketed. Adbusters-style mock advertisements do the same thing. Borrowing the millions of dollars of advertising money that preceded to simultaneously undercut the original message and build a counter-brand.
The situationists would call this détournement — to turn something against itself. A media concept articulated by Debord, but well understood by any Weird Al fan. Here Meyer describes this process as “disruptive innovation:”
The phenomenon Weird Al describes here is actually well described by a genre of scholarly literature—by business scholarship, of all things. It’s disruptive innovation, the buzzword so buzzwordy that the New Yorker devoted a thinkpiece to it in print!. Disruptive innovation describes what happens when new products create a new market for that type of product, which winds up challenging the existing one.
I also appreciate the documentation of the Lady Gaga incident. Yankovic created a parody of a Gaga song and when he checked in with her to get her blessing to release the tune on an upcoming album Gaga’s people refused. Weird Al released the song on youtube with an explanation and Gaga quickly relented.
It’s worth noting something more about the substance of Weird Al’s mockery.
Not only is “Tacky” a review of a number of bad fashion moves, it is also a conservative morality rant. This tune marks as “tacky” oversharing on instagram, forcing others to pay, reminding people you’ve done them favors, insulting people, dropping names, leaving bad yelp reviews, and having no shame.
At points Weird Al references particular low-points of recent toxic internet culture such as: “I’m a live-tweet a funeral and take selfies with the deceased.” This could be a Fox “news” commentary.
I happen to agree with Weird Al on most of these morality points. But given that Pharrell’s “Happy” is a sort of liberation utopian expression of pop-oneness, the grounded grumpy juxtaposed retort is interesting. [Let’s note that the use of the Odd Future crew in “Happy” is a juxtaposition in itself.]
If you add in the English-teacher favorite “Word Crimes” you can start to map a particular perspective to Weird Al.
I get the sense that Al is frustrated with some of the changes in this new-fangled world. His juxtaposition is intended to bring down and anchor some of the worst behaviors of the current era.