Why Prince should let Weird Al Yankovic parody his songs
The undeniably white and nerdy Weird Al Yankovic has received the blessing of umpteen pop musicians for his humorous pursuits over the past three decades. "Smells Like Nirvana" victim Kurt Cobain even called him "America's modern pop-rock genious [sic]" in his journals. As a result, we have a lifetime of laughable songs commenting on pop culture to the tune of tracks by Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Chamillionaire and even Lady Gaga, who with a little prodding, gave him permission to skewer "Born This Way" as "Perform This Way."
While the list of parodies grows ever longer, there's a notable exception to this rule. According to Al himself, Prince is not down with some purple parody. In an awkward and somewhat intrusive video filmed by TMZ recently, the King of Pop Satire explains.
While Al was signing autographs at LAX, a cameraman approached and butted in on the moment. The consummate pro Yankovic kept his pen moving and responded. To the question regarding who has turned down requests for spoofs, he had an immediate answer.
"They only guy that's said 'no' consistently has been Prince," he said.
And it's really too bad. The closest we come is a staple of Weird Al shows called "Wanna B Ur Lovr" from 2003's Poodle Hat. It sorta filters a little of the Prince funk sensibility through what Beck did on his falsetto-rich "Debra."
Weird Al Yankovic "Wanna B Ur Lovr"
Let's be clear that this song is not as good as Prince's "I Wanna Be Your Lover," but it's not really even close to a straight homage to it anyhow. But goodness, there are so many opportunities throughout the oeuvre of the Purple One to revamp his familiar phrases to suit the humor of Al.
He likes songs about consuming food, so there could be "I Could Never Take the Place of Your Spam" or a remake of "Pop Life" as an ode to soda ("Everybody needs a refill..."). The fetishizing of niche areas of mass culture could breed "Sexy Monster Trucker" and "Nothing Compares 2 Knut." And all of his self-deprecating pickup lines and eye for emerging technology could certainly turn the lascivious into eco-friendly with "Little Red Prius." And there are more. When you have someone who turns a phrase as well as Prince, there are thousands of ways to re-turn that phrase into something else.
Perhaps the greatest of great Prince songs for imagination is "1999." We can picture Weird Al clocking through the centuries and envisioning what it's be like to write stock market lyrics for "1929," or a gold rush epic titled "1849." And if you've seen many of the resulting videos from Yankovic's career, you know endless wardrobing possibilities exist. Want further proof on this one? Weird Al has, in his own little way, hinted at a "1999" parody already.
One of the couplets from 1996's "Amish Paradise," a parody of Coolio's Stevie Wonder interpolation "Gangsta's Paradise," lays it all out there -- and likely inspired a good portion of what Rainn Wilson would later turn into Dwight Schrute on The Office. "But if I finish all of my chores, and you finish thine/ Then tonight we're gonna party like it's 1699," Al raps.
Weird Al Yankovic "Amish Paradise"
Inspired stuff. The crazy thing about Weird Al Yankovic's parodies is that they're done in a way that lifts up the original song to an even greater height. Back when "Smells Like Nirvana" was getting radio airplay on 101.3 KDWB, so was "Smells Like Teen Spirit." It essentially gives a second life to an already widely accepted song, and creates a "Which version is this?" moment of tension.
Plus, Prince really is a funny guy. Judging by his zany animal headwear during the final show of his three-night stop at the Dakota in January, he's open to having a laugh at himself and his image these days. He can't deliver the "I'm your driver, you're my screw" line without a bit of a smirk. And speaking of smirking, the best Prince joke of all, of course involves him fooling Appollonia into a cold dip in a lake that was decidedly not Lake Minnetonka.
So, back to our awkward moment at LAX. "I don't think anybody's too sacred to have some fun poked at them," Al told the man behind the camera and we agree. Plus, even the Purple Yoda probably wants see Weird Al tease his curly mane into an afro.
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