Oct 07 2010
For those in the audience that need statistics to quantify success, take a peek at the resume of Alfred Matthew “Weird Al” Yankovic. Since his first-aired comedy song in 1976, he has sold more than 12 million albums- more than any other comedy act in history. His work has earned him three Grammy Awards (nine nominations), four gold records, and six platinum records. Not bad for parody songs that rarely receive mainstream airplay.
Al isn’t finished. He said so himself just the other day on Twitter.
The album will probably be a success. He will sell out concerts and play to legions of loyal fans. Much of it is because Al knows exactly what made him successful and doesn’t stray too much from the formula.
Here are six reasons Weird Al is just hitting his stride after thirty years in the business.
He is the best at his genre
If Weird Al is the most successful parody songwriter off all time, who would be considered second? No idea. That is how far Al has distanced himself from the pack. There are comics that do funny songs or bands that will occasionally do a comical tune but their isn’t another act that can do exactly what Al does.
He changes with the times
Many performers and artists, once they find a gimmick that works, they stick with it until they die (or their career does). Think Gallagher or Carrot Top. Sure, Al was known for his curly afro, mustache and signature nerd glasses but as the times changed, so did Al. Lasik surgery, a razor to his upper lip and a new style hair. Same Al, newer look.
He puts on a great live performance
Yankovic describes his live concert performances as “a rock and comedy multimedia extravaganza”with an audience that “ranges from toddlers to geriatrics.” Very few musicians know how to perform. They understand how to play music, but they don’t get that people want to see a show. Al puts on a show. While his music is light and often hysterical, it would still come off pretty boring if Al just sat on stage with an accordion and did little to entertain the crowd. Weird Al’s show is filled with costume changes, set changes and feels more like a Broadway musical than a concert performance.
He stays relevant
Al parodies every genre of music, every performer and anything that is mainstream. He doesn’t target one specific type of music and usually parodies topics of the day using current hits. Even when he does sample classics from a musical generation gone by, the lyrics are comprised of present day news and pop culture. A good example is The Saga Begins, which sampled Don McLean’s American Pie but discussed the Star Wars Trilogy from the point of view of Obi-Wan Kenobi. He also embraces social media, boasting almost 2 million followers on Twitter.
He parodies culture, not people
Very few Weird Al songs make fun of specific people. They do poke fun at types of people (“White & Nerdy” and “Canadian Idiot” come to mind) but all of the jokes are light-hearted and good-natured ribbing. Mostly, Al jokes about people just like himself.
He has a loyal following
Weird Al fans are a quiet but massive group. They buy every album. Go to every show they can. They pass on his music to their kin and it breeds a whole new set of Al fans. It’s difficult to build that type of loyalty as a musician. Part of the appeal is that he keeps it clean so his audience is kids as well as adults. A perfect example of that loyalty is the The Weird Al Star Fund, a campaign started by Yankovic’s fans to get him a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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