In an interview with CNN, Weird Al talked about how his writing process has changed since those ol’ days of cassette tapes. “The internet is the new MTV. I’m basically marketing to the online audience. I used to think about, what would the MTV executives like? Now it’s basically, what do I like, what do my fans like?”
It’s not really a new observation, this “the internet is the new MTV.” Pretty much a well-established reality at this point, but no matter, I can get behind that. Straight to the fans, Weird Al. Like an arrow to the heart, as a certain songstress might say.
Yankovic’s new video for “Word Crimes” is amazing. It is his hilarious, brilliant tirade, to the tune of “Blurred Lines,” against those who butcher the English language with poor grammar and punctuation. We’re on the same page about the brilliance, right? I’ve seen you all get fired up in the comments over misplaced commas and the like. We’re of the same mind, you readers and myself. (Ha! Just messing with you their. Ha! Did it again. Okay, I’ll stop now.)
You’ve probably seen it because, at press time, it already had 6.2 million views on YouTube. In case you missed it:
The fact that “Word Crimes” is so good—arguably the best Weird Al song ever, though I’m not a connoisseur—does make the case for eliminating the middle man between artist and audience in cases like Weird Al’s. Listener empowerment is the order of the day. Weird Al could probably have made whatever song he wanted, even if he involved all the executives in all the land, but it’s interesting to hear him say that the absence of any suits influenced his thinking and freed him up to make the music he thought his fans would love. Maybe we’ll get more meaningful, exciting and quality work when gutsy musicians are removed from an apparatus that has “executives” involved.
Not that all musicians should be throwing the executives out with, you know, the executives water. Weird Al is an exceptional case, as musicians go: he’s been releasing music since the 1980s, has sold over 12 million albums, and is already famous enough that his parodies get parodied.
And of course, he’s dealing with songs that are already immensely popular, transforming an existing hit into yet another hit. The man doesn’t have to start from scratch, financially, musically, or otherwise. For a new artist who still likely sees YouTube as a springboard to a real record deal and not an alternative to one, there is no answer to “what do my fans like?” because there aren’t any fans yet. But for Weird Al, it works.