Weird Al is back, folks…I mean, I guess he never really left, seeing as his last album was released just a few years ago, but I completely missed that one (possibly due to the fact that it was a lesser album than most). But this week he’s decided to go full blast and really try to make an event of his album release. It’s actually rather smart. He’s got 8 music videos he produced for the album, and he’s giving each one a day to shine, to go viral, to, you know, be what people are talking about.
But what’s even more important is that this album appears to be an example of what he can really do when he actually gets to work at it. I listened to the majority of the 2011 album (I don’t pay attention to album titles, sorry) and there was only one song that I really thought had that old-style Al mindset that really stuck with the playful fun, with also a fair amount of mocking the world. Perform this Way, his parody of Born this Way, is not only clever, but has a video that works even without the music to back it up.
But with the new album, I’ve only heard two songs so far (because I figure I’ll just wait for the videos to get my first hit) and I’m already seeing that same brilliant humor that brought me to him when I was a young lad, most specifically with his Amish Paradise.
But this isn’t really a review of the new album, like I said, I haven’t listened to much of it at all. You see, when I watched Tacky (his take on Pharell’s Happy), I couldn’t help but think of all the people who have already parodied this song. I mean, 24hoursofhappy.com is all about just having everybody do their own version of the music video. The idea of having people dancing in front of a camera while lip synching to the song is nothing new. Not even the whole addition of familiar faces, seeing as there were more than enough celebrities that did a spot on the above-mentioned site.
Sure, this video still seems fresh somehow, possibly due to the perfect selection of people to match the idea of the song, ie being tacky. But it still brought me to wonder how Al can really feel valid anymore in a world where everyone is doing parodies, thanks, in large part, to youtube.
I mean, seriously…one of the other songs he parodies in this album is Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke. Do a search on youtube…everyone has parodied it in every single way possible (well, so you would have thought, until seeing Al’s take). How can a man feel even remotely capable of rising above all of that when there’s just so much out there? Well, obviously, for one, it’s Weird Al. He invented the genre and for the longest time was the sole competitor in the field. But, remember, he released an album just 3 years ago…no one cared.
And rounding the bend to my point…
I think, looking at the new album (or at least what I’ve heard of it so far) verses the one released in 2011, there’s one very obvious difference that can cause one to see how Al deals with the increased competition. He upped his game. Well, in my mind, I think he actually just put more effort into this album than the last, but overall it looks like he really went to town making sure that this one was the best thing he could put out.
In other words, the key here is competition.
I’m not trying to say that everyone could have come up with songs like Fat or Eat It or Amish Paradise, but the basic concepts aren’t all the far off the obvious mark. With the newly created competition in the field, Al had to focus on really trying to pull away from the crowd, hence creating a song like Word Crimes (the Blurred Lines parody) which is a far cry from the original source material…although also somehow not.
I like to explore what makes popular artists popular. Obviously there are some who benefit from a strong marketing team or, you know, just being beautiful. Folks like Al, however, really have none of that. He built himself up originally just by being original and has to continue being original in the face of all of the copycats that are now everywhere. He’s not a pretty man, doesn’t have a marketing force behind him. In fact, one of the sole reasons he has continued to exists for these 30 years or whatever, is because of his focus on being original.
And for a celebrity known for his ability to play the accordion, that’s a pretty big deal.
The world is filled with copy cats. When something big comes out, it’s pretty easy to find the shelves of stores filled with items that are almost exactly the same. Heck, just take a look at Netflix and see all the movies out there which are obvious ripoffs of blockbuster hits. Take a peak at a bookstore and you’ll find a wide selection of things matching whatever book is big at the moment.
Being original, however, is hard. When I was looking at how to secure an agent/publisher, all I could find were notes about how you had to play to the trends, but do so early on so the trend wasn’t nearing its end and all sorts of BS along those lines. I actually considered this idea, looking into the types of books that were selling and I even modified The Legend of Buddy Hero to be a young adult romp, much more in lines with the types of books that sold big. A few agents even responded happily to the idea of it being a young adult novel, although, ultimately they rejected it anyways, possibly due to the fact that superhero novels just don’t sell.
I’m quite happy, actually, that it happened, because I was willing, at that point, to do anything to sell a book. The Legend of Buddy Hero is not a young adult novel, and it shouldn’t be, although I don’t believe it’s written in a way that young adults couldn’t enjoy it. The entire point of the book is about this middle-aged man dealing with a midlife crisis in a way no one has had to deal with it before, not some mystery about a kid whose dad went missing and he finds out that he’s the son of the legendary Buddy Hero…that’s been done before.
I may not be a huge success (yet), but I’m sticking with the idea that being original is better, even if it doesn’t mean I get the big bucks. At least I can feel proud of my work as being my own creative expression, as opposed to knowing that it’s just an attempt to latch onto a popular style.
Much like this:
Which…for the record…me and most of these rules fight on a regular basis…as you can ask my beta readers.