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Pop-music parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic

Pop-music parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic's latest song is "You're Pitiful," a take on James Blunt's "You're Beautiful."

 
 

June 13, 2006 · "Weird Al" Yankovic, the king of pop parody, has a brand-new song out, available for free on his Web site. Music Producer and Song of the Day Editor Stephen Thompson gives us the scoop:

In a career spanning more than 25 years, pop-music parodist "Weird Al" Yankovic hasn't exactly ranked among the music business' fiercest iconoclasts: He doesn't release his song parodies without the consent of the artists being parodied, and he's rarely used the Internet as more than a tool to promote his projects and connect with his fans. But a music label's efforts to block a (relatively tame) parody of James Blunt's ubiquitous hit "You're Beautiful" has Yankovic fighting back publicly, and using his Web site as a tool to do so.

According to Yankovic, Blunt himself gave his blessing to a song called "You're Pitiful" (audio), which was to appear on Yankovic's now-finished but as-yet-unreleased new album. But after Yankovic finished recording the parody, Atlantic Records, Blunt's label, told Yankovic that he couldn't release "You're Pitiful." Though Yankovic has encountered resistance from artists before -- after a miscommunication involving permissions, Coolio publicly objected to a released parody of "Gangsta's Paradise," while Prince has always turned down Yankovic's requests to parody his hits -- he says this is the first time a label has stepped in to squash the release of one of his parodies. (Quoth an Atlantic representative: "We have no comment on this matter.")

So how, exactly, does a music label have a say in whether one of its artists can be parodied?

"The legality in this case is somewhat moot," Yankovic writes when contacted via e-mail. "James Blunt could still let me put it on my album if he really wanted to, but he obviously doesn't want to alienate his own record company... and my label could release the parody without Atlantic's blessing, but they don't really want to go to war with another label over this. So really, it's more of a political matter than a legal matter."

Of course, it's not hard to circulate a song these days, and Yankovic has helped that process along by making an MP3 of the track available for free download on his Web site. It may not appear on Yankovic's new album, but "You're Pitiful" will still swirl around in cyberspace long after Blunt's original recedes from memory.

"I have a long-standing history of respecting artists' wishes," Yankovic writes. "So if James Blunt himself were objecting, I wouldn't even offer my parody for free on my Web site. But since it's a bunch of suits -- who are actually going against their own artist's wishes -- I have absolutely no problem with it."

Comments (This post is no longer accepting comments.)

It's about time a parody was done on "You're Beautiful." Now if only a commercial station will have the chutzpah to play it as some seem to have no problem banning artists (referring to Clear Channel and The Dixie Chicks).

Sent by Carol | 6-13-2006

Good for Weird Al. He's got more integrity in his little finger than those "suits" have in their collective bodies!

Sent by Sabrina Messenger | 6-14-2006

Al is a classy person, even with the occasional scatological references in his work. It's true that parodies are legally protected, so it says something that he "requires" artist permission. His parodies actually make me appreciate the originals even more, though they do tend to age better than the originals. He's actually very talented and his direct parodies usually make up only half of his albums, the rest of the songs being either tribute "style parodies," complete originals, or a polka medley.

It's too bad he's having trouble with this parody, and it is also too bad that corporate music radio takes itself too seriously to give Al's songs air time. He's a smart artist that the entire family (usually) can enjoy together.

Sent by Ken Pellman | 6-14-2006

Atlantic Records: Why don't you understand? Parody is free advertising and encourages people to explore new music and artists they wouldn't have heard otherwise after they heard Al's song.

Their loss.

Sent by AJS | 6-14-2006

I love Weird Al and it really stinks when big business tries to get in his way. Someone else has done another parody titled "My Cubicle" that is also circulating the internet. Al's version is much funnier though.

Sent by Sharon Cook | 6-14-2006

I so like his version better!

Sent by Denise V. | 6-14-2006

Weird Al has genuine scruples and I respect him 100%. He is not rude and his parodies are very funny and very clever. He deserves better treatment than this!

Sent by Deran Kay Lunt | 6-14-2006

Al doesn't need the blessing of Atlantic Records, he could just do the parody, but he does have honor which indicates the integrity of the man. He is a highly intelligent and humble human being. Every parody that he has ever done, the artist/label have all gone on to reap the financial gain from Al's release of a parody. As for the Coolio mishap -- Coolio was fine with it at the American Music Awards that year. It didn't become an issue until the Grammy's when a VJ for MTV decided to ask Coolio about Al doing the parody "Amish Paradise" when it was "Gangster Paradise" that won the Grammy and deserved the conversation. I am sure Coolio did not want to discuss Al at that moment in time and was caught off guard, which set off the whole miscommunication issue. It was his first Grammy and he deserved to be respected and it got redirected unfairly to Al.

Atlantic should open up their minds. One would think in this time where sales are down so low, that being creative to increasing sales would be a good thing. Al has never hurt anyone in the process of doing his videos. They all have excellent production value and he is a stickler to detail and brings an element of pure entertainment, plus opens up the song to a market not otherwise exposed. The suits just don't get it. That's corporate America for you, playing it safe, boring. No wonder the music industry is in so much trouble.

Sent by Roseanne McIlvane | 6-14-2006

Atlantic -- "You're Pitiful!"

James Blunt -- Get a spine, boy.

Al and band -- You guys are always winners!

Now, get out there and TOUR!!

Sent by K. Fields | 6-15-2006

Way to go, Al! You've got class, man. It's about time you did a parody of that fruity song, anyway. I LOVED IT!

Sent by David Roson | 6-15-2006

Once again Weird Al has made music more fun. Too bad the execs at Atlantic don't have a sense of humor. If the artist doesn't mind the parody, why should they? Give em heck Al!

Sent by Barbara Standifer | 6-19-2006

Well almost everyone knows James and James' label doesn't want people hating by that song that Al made but Al is a great guy and understanding. I love the song that Al made and James' too.

Sent by Jose Santiago | 6-19-2006

I'm just glad Al put the song out on the Net. It now has a nice place among my Ultimate Dr. Demento MP3 collection. Hurry up with the album, Al! Dare to the Stupid! :-)

Sent by Elak Swindell | 6-19-2006

I would like to ask Al if he's married or not. He's incredibly funny and every time I watch his videos I'm on floor for laughs. Heheeee!

Sent by Nushin | 6-21-2006

I have a feeling that those same "suits" that tried to stop "You're Pitiful" from being released will soon be "soiled suits" as they see how popular the parody becomes.

Sent by Clayton Elam | 6-21-2006




   
   
   
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