Remember 'Weird Al' Jankovic? He's back, and at Number One

Jul 25, 2014

'Weird Al' Yancovic has been the king of parody for decades, but only with the release of his newest album, 'Mandatory Fun', has he finally hit number one on the Billboard charts. Video: Reuters

The past week for "Weird Al" Yankovic has been a little weird even by the standards of the curly-haired, accordion-playing, oddball master of pop music parody.

The 54-year-old singer of such songs as "Eat It," a culinary spoof on Michael Jackson's 1983 hit "Beat It" and "Amish Paradise," the send-up of rapper Coolio's 1995 sensation "Gangsta's Paradise," scored his first No. 1 album on U.S. Billboard chart with "Mandatory Fun" following a week-long rollout of music videos.

"It's still hard for me to wrap my head around that," Yankovic said in an interview. "It means a lot to me."

Seemingly eclipsed at his own game with the rise of parody and fan-generated music videos online over the past decade, and shut out from MTV when the network largely gave up music videos for original programming, Yankovic has survived by tapping into social media.

"I wanted to do something that would appeal to the online community, and on the internet things get chewed up and spit out pretty quickly, so I wanted to do something where people could get excited about it and then the next day, instead of being bored they would have something else to look forward to," said the three-time Grammy winner, whose three-decade career has been due largely in part to the success of his humorous music videos.

"So I thought if I do eight videos and have them world premiering one a day for eight days that would give people something to talk about the entire week of release week, which is what I did," he added.

Yankovic released eight new songs each day beginning on July 14 with "Tacky," a celebrity-filled video of Pharrell's international hit "Happy," which itself has spawned countless fan videos.

"There was always the danger people would get tired of it, by the third day I was wondering if people would be going, 'Oh no, more Al,'" said Yankovic of the eight videos that have so far racked up more than 45 million views.

"Mandatory Fun" sold 104,000 copies in its first week, according to figures compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. It also became the first comedy album to reach No. 1 since 1963's "My Son, the Nut" by Allan Sherman.

"It kind of have a snowball effect," the three-time Grammy winner said of the videos. "By the end of the eight days there was a little bit of a Pavlovian effect as well because when it ended, people were like, 'Where's the "Weird Al" video?'"

The singer, whose new fare parodies poor grammar to the tune of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Lorde's "Royals" about aluminum foil, said it took about two years to complete the album and videos.

Yankovic was able to field cameos from actors Jack Black, Eric Stonestreet and Margaret Cho among others and partnered with websites such as Will Ferrell's as a way to help with its launch.

And although he's seen much more competition in the parody realm from thousands of YouTube users, he is grateful for the video-sharing site for making him work harder.

"I wish I had YouTube when I was starting out," he said. "All it does really for me is it means I need to step up my game, make sure that I can rise above the crowd and I won't always go for the most obvious idea. I'll have to make myself a little bit more unique."

As if Yancovic could be described as anything but unique...

"Mandatory Fun" is "Weird Al" Yanocovic's 14th studio album.


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