For the first time in "Weird Al" Yankovic's career, one of his albums has debuted in the top 20 without the benefit of a music video.
The reason is that Eminem didn't want Al parodying him in a clip for Poodle Hat's first single, "Couch Potato," which spoofs TV culture to the beat of "Lose Yourself." It's the first time an artist Al's parodied hasn't given him permission to do a video, and Al can't help but point out the irony.
"A lot of [Eminem]'s videos are very tongue-in-cheek," Weird Al said, "and he seems to have a great sense of humor, but he felt that a Weird Al video would somehow detract from his legacy and make people view him as a less serious hip-hop artist. I'm not exactly sure of the logic there, but those were his feelings and I have to respect that."
Actually, he doesn't. The law doesn't require him to respect the original artist's feelings, but Al said he always seeks permission and that he won't pursue a parody without the original artist's blessing (see "Weird Al Parodies 'Lose Yourself' But Won't Spoof Em's Video"). The only person to consistently deny him permission over the years has been Prince, when Weird Al sought to parody the Purple One's "When Doves Cry," "Kiss" and "1999."
"It seems strange to me because he seems like a wacky, funny guy, you know? Kooky," Al said. "I call him up every couple of years and say, 'Hey, Prince, it's Al. Just checking to see if you have a sense of humor yet. No? OK. Well, take care.' I would love to do one of hits from the past 10 years, but oh, he doesn't have any. Oops!"
Luckily for Weird Al, there were plenty of other artists to pilfer from, and Poodle Hat is rife with rips on artists who've recently occupied the charts, from Avril Lavigne to Nelly to the Backstreet Boys to just about every garage rock band that's been on the verge of breaking through ("Angry White Boy Polka").
"I'm just totally plugged into the culture," Weird Al said with a laugh. "I've got my finger on the pulse, as it were. I'm all about scanning the zeitgeist and trying to find the next big thang and then putting my own twist on it. Not everything on the album is going to be the most current thing, because my albums are like time capsules."
This time capsule around, Weird Al managed to combine topics such as auction sites and boy bands into one song, called "eBay" and set to the tune of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way."
"It's been four years since my last album, and I couldn't let the whole boy band phenomenon go unnoticed, so I had to put the Backstreet Boys or 'NSYNC on there. And I love scanning eBay. It's pretty kooky; it's a worldwide garage sale. Somebody was selling autographed Weird Al albums, and I looked at the picture and 'Weird' was spelled wrong, so I think that might not be authentic. Buyer beware."
Though Weird Al said he's constantly coming up with ideas, he takes pride in the fact that he's not constantly putting out music.
"Morning radio DJs have to get it out, and they're quick, quick, quick," he said. "I don't want to be an assembly line. I don't want to be onstage performing some song that I dashed off in a couple of minutes. I pretty much know when I get an idea if it's enough to sustain a whole song, or if it's a one-joke thing that nobody's going to care about. And I prefer having the time to craft my lyrics, which sounds like a lofty term for what I do, but I like to get it right."
Already, Weird Al is casting his net for future targets, eyeing 50 Cent for signs of longevity and Snoop Dogg for his cultural cachet.
"Everyone's going to get the Weird Al treatment someday. Everyone!" he threatened. "We need as much comedy in our culture as we can get. There's enough people in the world that do serious music. I'll leave that to Michael Bolton."