News has come that on July 15, Weird Al Yankovic will release a new album: Mandatory Fun. Going by the cover, I deduce that the title track will be a North Korean-themed parody of South Korean rapper Psy’s Gangnam Style.
Gods, I hope so. The video should be classic. No matter what, though, any new Al is a must-buy for me.
In the meantime, I’ve decided to distract myself from real estate headaches and associated frustrations through work. In addition to editing a manuscript, this is a good time to become a Gangnam Style parody aggregator. Because looks can be deceiving.
First, of course, the original. It went viral to a level ensuring that, even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve heard of it. My own take: the cultural influence of hip-hop goes far beyond conventional US stereotypes, and this is some of the best evidence for that. It isn’t all gangsters, family dysfunction, and violence. That’s just one very visible (and media-emphasized) manifestation of hip-hop culture. And yeah, it does touch on race. I grew up listening to Irish folk and country music, both of which glorify a whole lot of dysfunction and violence. That’s even more true if you consider alcohol a drug, which I am not sure how anyone cannot. To dismiss rap (the music of hip-hop culture) as One More Reason The Country Is Going To Hell is narrow-minded and media-buffaloed.
Some time back, a band of creative central Kansas brothers came up with Farmer Style. It had me laughing from start to finish, the more so because I’m from Kansas. I know their world. And don’t be taken in by shortsighted Cletus stereotypes enhanced by the gentle drawl I myself grew up with. If I had to guess, one probably got his degree in agronomy, one in animal husbandry with a minor in veterinary medicine, and one in business administration. I’d bet that the sister will end up in accounting or dairy science. These are educated people; they live where they live, and do what they do, because they like it. Kind of like my aunt (bachelor’s in zoology, doctorate in psychology) and uncle (bachelor’s in civil engineering) managing the family ranch. They have the help of my cousins, one who works in IT, another with a master’s in speech pathology.
Then my Australian mate Paul turned me on to Battler Style, a parody by two Sydney DJs. If one didn’t know they were broadcasting professionals, one might have imagined them a couple of exaggerated-accent yahoos just like those they’re having fun with. While I’m laughing (as the DJs themselves cannot help throughout the video), I’m noting that it’s both good music and highlights a real aspect of Australian culture: a mix of mockery and pride. In Australia, a ‘battler’ is a member of the working semi-poor, getting by in some way or another. You might not see many of them at the Sydney Opera House, but they too are Australia.
At that point, I got to digging around on my own. Gunman Style is an Asian-themed parody of Western movie themes. A Westerner myself, I understand the white hat/black hat mentality they’re laughing at. This too is good music, an elongated variant of the original done by guys with squirt guns. It takes smarts and talent to produce stuff like this, in much the same way as Snoop Dogg is such a savvy and instinctual businessman.
I found this, a video-only parody of the original by a Navy/Marine Corps medical outfit in Afghanistan. Even though it doesn’t include parody lyrics–probably because they would have gotten in trouble–just the visuals are funny as hell. Somewhere in Afghanistan, there was an officer staff that understood a valuable thing: you don’t have to be a raging jackass in order to lead. Things like this keep morale alive in places where the reality varies from uncomfortable to awful. The best part is the one outside the Sani-Cans, finishing with one guy in the head.
Then there’s a Korean parody in English making fun of Kim Jong Un, and very effectively. Even if what it refers to is a humanitarian tragedy, I for one couldn’t help but laugh. Just the right mix of cheesiness and truth.
This one, making fun of Mitt Romney, busted me up. I like the fact that the lyricist stayed completely off his religion, which many people did not. It’s a little dated (though it might not end up being so), but watching the people dance with croquet mallets, it’d be hard not to laugh. And after doing that, here’s one that made fun of both parties for the 2012 election, but made more fun of the incumbent.
You can probably find more if you dig around YouTube, but I think this’ll do. If you know of any more great ones, feel free to drop a link into a comment.