And Let There Be Parody!

by Junting Meng

Throughout this semester we have delved in depth into the mind and rationale of composers. What do they want to achieve with their music? How do they go about implementing the various techniques to achieve their goals? These are but a few questions to ask when analyzing pieces of music in the context of the composer. Even though most of the composers that we have studied concentrated on the more serious and technical side of this art—religious implications, tonality, and harmony—I would like to direct our attention to a particular composer that chose to focus on the more humorous side of music. I’m sure many of you know him. His name is Alfred Matthew Yankovic, more commonly known as “Weird Al” Yankovic.

For the small number of you that do not recognize this legendary persona, I most definitely recommend you to check out some of his pieces after reading my post. The majority of Weird Al’s work is a collection of parodies based on pop music of the time. His career has spanned decades long and he has been awarded three Grammys and multiple other wins and nominations. In fact, many star musicians nowadays consider it to be very prestigious to have their works featured in Weird Al’s collection. It is seen essentially as a rite of passage into stardom. Some of the artists that have been parodied include Michael Jackson (a huge fan of Weird Al’s), Nirvana, Lady Gaga, and my personal all time favorite: Chamillionaire. Though some artists prefer their works to not be featured as a parody by Weird Al, many whole heartedly support his ventures.

Check out some of his notable parodies below:

“White & Nerdy” parody of Chamillionaire’s “Ridin’”

“The Saga Begins” parody of Don McLean’s “American Pie” revolving around the story of Star Wars

“Eat It” parody of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It”

So what exactly do these parodies entail? Besides generating a boat load of Benjamins and showering immense fame to their creator, I believe they also attempt to make an interesting commentary on music, specifically pop music. Weird Al shows us that we really shouldn’t take music too seriously. Music plays a versatile role but its extremes should not be extended to the point of utter obsession. When die-hard fans argue over the prestige and respect of their favorite pop artist/group, it sometimes becomes too ridiculous. Yes, maybe the song has some supposed deep, philosophical, metaphysical meaning that will change our way of existence as we know it but just calm down and let me enjoy the tune. So what do you guys think of Weird Al? Do you like his parodies? Do you agree with my interpretation that music should not be taken too seriously?