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The art of the song parody

The king of parodies, “Weird” Al Yankovic has recently released his latest album, Alpocalypse, which features “Perform This Way,” a spoof on Lady Gaga. An insightful, in-depth review of the album can be found here. Like most other satirists (e.g.: MAD magazine), it is a hit-or-miss proposition, and is most appreciated when you around 12-14 years old. In honor of Al, I will list some tips for all of you up and coming parody writers that wish to be the next “Weird Al.”

  1. Don’t just re-write the last word of every line. I know that is the first step. It’s more of a crawl than a step. But that’s not writing. That’s just lazy. If not plagiarism. Which leads us to…
  2.  Make sure the subject of your song is completely different from the subject of the song you are spoofing. Show some originality. Some of the best parodies out there are those that have little or nothing in common with the source material’s song subject. It’s OK if your parody is mocking the original artist. It’s not-so-OK to take a love song and turn it into a break-up song.
  3. Don’t make your parody song about food. It’s so overdone that Weird Al doesn’t do it anymore.
  4. Your topic can be obscure, your song should not. If people do not know the how the song is supposed to be sung, they will not appreciate your parody. Parodies are not meant to be inside jokes. Also don’t be so proud that you do not feel the need to mention the original song you are spoofing. It’s better if you realize not everyone has heard every song.
  5. Try to at least write 2 verses. As opposed to just one verse and the chorus, or even just the chorus. I mean, you could, but it gives the impression of laziness. On the other hand, if you are using a long-worded song, such as Don McLean’s American Pie, you do not necessarily have to go verse for verse. And if you are using a short song, you do are not compelled to add additional verses that weren’t there to begin with.
  6. Don’t worry if your first few attempts aren’t funny. Just like ever other discipline, practice, practice, practice. Every new writer is advised to just keep writing. So just keep at it.

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