Sasha Frere-Jones at The New Yorker:
Do people enjoy “Weird Al” Yankovic because he’s funny or because he’s not that funny? The comedian, who specializes in song parodies, just released his fourteenth studio album, “Mandatory Fun,” which features his class-clown mangling of hits by Lorde, Iggy Azalea, and Pharrell Williams, among others. It débuted at No. 1, selling more than a hundred thousand copies in its first week. Considering the post-digital slump in music sales—a hit album a decade ago could sell as many as a million copies in a week; this year, Sia’s “1000 Forms of Fear” entered the charts at No. 1 by selling only fifty-two thousand copies—this might be the biggest first week for a comedy album ever. But what is it that Weird Al actually does? I don’t laugh at his songs, yet I’m delighted by his presence in the world of pop culture. With his parodic versions of hit songs, this somehow ageless fifty-four-year-old has become popular not because he is immensely clever—though he can be—but because he embodies how many people feel when confronted with pop music: slightly too old and slightly too square. That feeling never goes away, and neither has Al, who has sold more than twelve million albums since 1979.