Tuesday, July 19, 2011

ETEWAF: Weird Al's Style Parodies

Weird Al's new CD Alpocalypse is filled with some fine parodies of pop tunes. "Party in the C.I.A." pokes fun at Miley Cirus, "Perform This Way" steals Gaga's "Born This Way". Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" gets turned into the hilarious celeb-gossip satire, "TMZ".

Additionally, there are a number of tunes known as "style parodies". These are usually Al's less famous songs, since they don't directly rip off a well known ditty. However, for music nerds, these can be the most exciting because you're hearing Al and his band make a musical interpretation intended to epitomize a certain artist's archetypical sound. "Craigslist" is probably the most specific of these, as it exemplifies a stereotypical, unmistakable Doors song (it even features Ray Manzerek on keys). Interesting that Al and the gang choose to do this quite frequently, because some of their style parodies are so very specifically styled after a specific song ("Craigslist" being "When the Music's Over") that it would almost seem easier (or, at least, funnier) to directly rip off the original song's exact melody. According to Al's F.A.Q. page, he doesn't have very much trouble getting permission from the original artists (on WTF with Marc Maron, he says he doesn't require permission, but he tries to stay classy). I guess poking fun at a band's entire catalog is sometimes more fun than poking fun at a single song. This is probably best evidenced by his every-Cake-song "Close But No Cigar" off of 2006's Straight Outta Lynwood.

But there's a pretty old debate dating back to 1993's Alapalooza about a style parody that I would like to ask your help on (via the comment section). It's a debate that I thought only myself and losers who know me have had, but I found on the Alapalooza's Wikipedia "Discussion" page that even the "experts" seem to have trouble settling. I also visited www.weirdalforum.com and apparently the good folks over there have no definitive answers either.

The debate is: Which song off Alapalooza is a style-parody of Peter Gabriel? "Talk Soup" or "Waffle King"? Both of these songs sound--in their own unique ways--reminiscent of Gabriel's "Sledge Hammer". Again, for him to make a style-parody that sounds very close to one particular song is not rare. What is unheard of, is for two completely different songs to be seemingly ripping off the style of the same song.

I won't sway your opinion with what I think (although, after you vote, you can check out my comments on the talk page over at Wikipedia [second paragraph under "Talk Soup and Waffle King"]).

So here's the original:



And here's contestant Number 1:



And here's contestant Number 2:



Vote Now: Does "Talk Soup" or "Waffle King" sound more like a style-parody of Peter Gabriel, via "Sledgehammer". Or, does one of them sound more like a different Peter Gabriel song (such as "Steam" off of his 1992 album Us)?

Or do either of them sound more like a different artist?

Or, is Al brilliant for finding enough unique elements in a Peter Gabriel classic to celebrate in style tribute with two different songs? In the meantime, I'm going to work on getting in touch with the man himself to help settle a bunch of wagers. (For my analysis, visit the Wikipedia Discussion page (second paragraph down in the "Talk Soup and Waffle King" sub-section).

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

"(technically, he doesn't need permission for parody, but he tries to stay classy)"

Actually he does, sure a parody doesn't require permission, as long as you change the lyrics and the music. But in Al's case he writes new lyrics to the original music, and therefore requires permission from the rights owner to use the music.

In the future please do a little more research before giving possibly criminal information as legal.

Dr. Carey said...

Thank you for your correction. Can you share a link to the related statute? My information was based on a paraphrased quote by Yankovic in an interview.