Pop parodist extraordinaire "Weird Al" Yankovic made headlines in April when the release of his upcoming album seemed to have been stalled by none other than Lady Gaga. Yankovic detailed the saga on his blog, but the short version is that the decision by Gaga's camp to deny him permission to parody her hit "Born This Way" left the "White and Nerdy" star without a single for his new LP.
Yankovic posted his parody, the Gaga-spoofing "Perform This Way," to YouTube, and a few hours later she gave him the go-ahead to release the track - according to Yankovic's blog Gaga herself "had no idea at all" about the song until the news hit about it not being approved.
So take heart parody lovers: Yankovic's new album, "Alpocalypse," drops on June 21, Gaga is totally cool with "Perform This Way" and the song will be included on Yankovic's upcoming tour, which kicks off Thursday, June 19, at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ. "I think we can't get away with not playing it at this point," Yankovic said of the song.
After all of the internet commotion that surrounded "Perform This Way," how does it feel to have your lead single for the new record locked in and ready to go?
Oh, it feels so great, it's such a relief. It's been, I think, the longest period between albums I've ever had, and I think it's been close to a half year with me having all the tracks on the album done except for the big single, and when the Lady Gaga song came out I thought, "This very well could be what I've been waiting for."
And then, once I came up with the idea and started dealing with her camp I was getting more and more excited, because I thought that as soon as she gave me the go-ahead I could lock in a release date, which is why I was so just crestfallen initially when I was told, "no." But then when that got turned around within the course of a few hours, I was just elated. I hit both peaks of the emotional spectrum within a very short period, so it was definitely a lot of drama going on, but of course it had a happy ending.
Over your career, you've seen so many pop stars come and go, and "Perform This Way" has a lot of fun with Lady Gaga's image. What are your thoughts on her work?
I think she's a great artist. I mean, she definitely knows how to grab the spotlight, she's an incredible musician and songwriter, she's a presence, she's a force to be reckoned with, she's a big part of the zeitgeist, she's exactly the kind of thing that I look for when I'm doing a parody, she's sort of like the next big thing that I'm always looking for.
Between the "Internet Leaks" EP (2009) and releasing "Perform This Way" on YouTube, it seems like you're finding ways to make the internet work to your advantage, but in some ways has the internet made your job harder with the fact that anyone can go on YouTube and upload, say, a "Poker Face" parody?
It's a two-edged sword; I mean, I enjoy all my social networking portals, like Twitter and Facebook, and it's certainly a lot easier for people to track or stalk me these days; if people want to follow me around slavishly on tour we make that very easy for them. But the flip side of the coin is of course the whole record industry has suffered from the peer-to-peer file sharing sites, not to mention the fact that me personally, I have to compete now with 10,000 would-be parody writers uploading their own videos to YouTube, which is all great, I mean, more power to them, but the downside for me is that I will never again be the first or only person to parody any given song.
I promise you I have not Google-searched "'Born This Way' parody," but I would guarantee there's thousands of them out there, and as far as I know maybe even one has the exact same idea that I did, I just didn't even want to know.
But the unique thing that sets your parodies apart is that a "Weird Al" parody is a status symbol. I'm sure a lot of musicians feel like they haven't really made it until they get the call from you letting them know there's going to be a parody of their work.
Yeah, I've heard that a lot from artists, actually, which is very flattering. I forget who said it first, but my favorite quote is, "Forget how many Grammys or gold records you've got, you haven't made it until you've gotten your 'Weird Al' parody."
How did Kurt Cobain react when you approached them for a parody (1992's "Smells Like Nirvana")? He did have his own sense of humor, but his image was of a very serious guy.
Well, he's the guy I quote all the time about that. He was famous for saying in the press that he didn't feel like he'd made it until he saw the "Weird Al" video. And also in his journal that was published posthumously, in the margins on one of the pages he wrote, "'Weird Al' Yankovic's a modern rock genius," so he did enjoy the parody, which is one of the reasons why I felt OK about continuing to perform it after his untimely death.