Are you all ready for “Mandatory Fun”? Even if you’re not, tough. You must have fun, and that includes reading this entire review from beginning to end. The Honorable Chairman Al Yankovic demands it, and we must all listen to him like the pathetic peons we are.
So what is Mandatory Fun? If you don’t know, where have you been? Under a rock or something? Mandatory Fun is Weird Al Yankovic’s 14th studio album, released on July 15, 2014, the same day he rose to power and took the nation by storm with his new policies on how everyone will forced to have fun, even if they don’t want to. It’s a splendid regime. A regime built on fun and accordions. Chairman Mao, eat your heart out.
Fascist jokes aside, this 14th album is quite bittersweet since this 14th album is his last album. And with it being the last album, it better be good. Does Mandatory Fun live up to its name, coercing everyone into a perpetual state of fun and happiness, or is this album nothing more than propaganda full of lackluster songs conveying fascist patriotism put out by Chairman Al himself? Let’s find out.
By looking at the cover art, the appearance is quite shocking. Mandatory Fun features Al dressed up as a communist dictator, bent on conquest, standing tall above his army. Has Al gone off his rocker? He outcommunists the communists by constructing a regime built on fun. Fun that you must have, even if you don’t want to. Are we having fun yet? You better. For all I know, he could be watching us right now. Upon seeing that cover art, it made me all the more excited to buy this album. Either that, or I was brainwashed by the magnificent Honorable Chairman Al. I believe it was the former.
Still not having fun? Let’s look at the album and see what it sounds like. The album kicks off with the rather strong track “Handy”, a parody of Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy”. This song was recorded just a month before this album released. I liked the catchy beat and lyrics in this track, and it perfectly displays Azalea’s style in a humorous portrayal of a handyman that acts like a braggart. I love this track. Having listened to it recently, it still isn’t old. And with the funny music video to match, this track wins on so many levels.
After “Handy” is “Lame Claim to Fame” a Southern Culture on the Skids style parody that lists a bunch of name-dropping with the character bragging about having marginal associations with famous people. This song was pretty good, but not as good as the first one.
“Foil” is next in line, a parody of “Royals” by Lorde. While I liked the parody a lot, it was too short, as it omits the bridge and final chorus that was in the original song. I liked the contrast between the first and second verses, but the song could’ve been complete and true to the original. The song was good, but fell short due to the short length.
“Sports Song” takes the gridiron next, which I find odd since this is nowhere near the halftime of this album’s “game”. This track spoofs college fight songs, making the association that their team is “great” while the other team “sucks”. Not being a big fan of sports, I find this song slightly better than mediocre. Despite my opinion, I can definitely see it as a popular track to play during college sporting events in the fall by Weird Al fans everywhere.
“Word Crimes” is next, clearly evidenced by the crew touting their poor grammar. This is a parody of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” . Weird Al sets the record straight, giving the blockheads a crash course in Grammar 101. This song, along with the music video will be an effective teaching tool for English teachers everywhere this fall. It was written in a rather clever manner, and it keeps me on my toes for not making any grammatical mistakes. Another win for this album. So far, so good.
“My Own Eyes” greeted me next, leaving an impression on me that I can’t change. I can’t un-hear this song with “my own ears” This song is a style parody of the Foo Fighters, which I can clearly see (or hear) since I have heard a few of their songs before. Very catchy and very humorous. Another rather good track.
After “My Own Eyes” left, the final polka medley took the stage. “Now That’s What I Call Polka!” Now that’s what I call a clever stab at EMI’s endless series of compilation albums! This polka medley featured eleven artists, including Miley Cyrus, Psy, Carly Rae Jepson and Daft Punk, to name a few. This medley was really good, with only one song that I didn’t know (but for the sake of this review, I recently listened to it).
Some other songs that were included on this album consisted of “Mission Statement” (a style parody of Crosby, Stills & Nash), “Inactive” (a parody of Imagine Dragon’s “Radioactive”) and “First World Problems” (a style parody of Pixies). I liked the ambient tones of “Mission Statement” and the hilarious arrangement of “Inactive”. “First World Problems” is a hit, even though I have never heard of Pixies.
The last two songs were “Tacky” (a parody of Pharrell Williams’ “Happy”) and “Jackson Park Express” (a style parody of Cat Stevens). “Tacky” was awesome, and was the first song that I was spoiled about. I received the album the night before the release and I had to keep all TV’s off since I intended to hear the album the night of the release. I only knew the parody’s song, but not the name of it. Upon hearing it, it was pretty clever. I love all the tacky references that Al makes in the song. Listening to it makes me glad that I’m not “tacky”.
For the “Jackson Park Express”, it was an awesome finale. “Jackson Park Express” is a nine minute bus ride full of excitement, humor, romance and delusions of grandeur. The rider on this bus fabricates hilarious scenarios with the woman that he is sitting next to, all without saying a single word to her. His esteemed feelings for her take place inside his head, resulting in him making ridiculous guesses as to the words she’s implying when she carries out mundane tasks like looking at him, reading, smiling, sighing, crinkling her nose and so on. The song is warm, funny and satisfying. I enjoyed the song and it deserves a well earned spot in Al’s Extended Play Collection. It’s right up there, joining the ranks of “Albuquerque”, “Genius in France” and “Trapped in the Drive-Thru”.
So how was Mandatory Fun? In putting honesty first, I believe that this album achieved its purpose. Whether your intentions are to have fun or not, you will have fun listening to this, like it or not. With a lot of solid hits, Weird Al Yankovic finished well with his final album. While there were a couple of weaknesses, the strengths greatly outweigh them. With more than ten hits, the songs have grown on me, with each of them unique in their own right.
Mandatory Fun was indeed fun. So much so that I want every one of you to buy his album. With it debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart of best-selling albums, you can’t go wrong. Just click on this link to buy it. Or, if you are impatient, get it at the store or buy it on iTunes. What are you waiting for? This is 45 minutes of explicitly unrefined fun, and you would be crazy to miss it. And while Al is done with albums, he’s not done with music. He will release singles and EP’s in the future, so we can get his music on a more immediate basis. With this in mind, we can be confident that Weird Al will continue to reign as the king…or should I say communist leader of parodies. I give Mandatory Fun a 5 out of 5.