Never let it be said that “Weird Al” Yankovic blinks. This morning, he released his Gaga-ribbing track “Perform This Way” for free online and let the Internet know that he was doing so because he’d been turned down by Mother Monster’s camp when he asked to put it on his forthcoming album. Cue the outrage from Yankovic’s wider-than-you-think fanbase, cue Gaga claiming to have never heard the thing, and now cue Gaga giving the parody–in which she is ribbed for wearing meat and maybe not being as much of a freak as she likes to think she is–her blessing, according to Al himself (via NPR Music honcho Stephen Thompson). Well, now that‘s over! And hey, new “Weird Al” Yankovic album with I hope a new polka parody! Of course, this raises a new question: What will we get our collective knickers in a twist tomorrow? Think it over while you listen to the song, and revisit the whole story, after the jump.
EARLIER: Accordion-wielding prankster “Weird Al” Yankovic has released his newest pop song parody, a take on Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”–and the star’s outlandish style–called “Perform This Way.” Despite the very small window of time between the original and Yankovic’s overall pretty faithful interpretation of Gaga’s grandiose anthem, it apparently won’t be on his new album; on the YouTube page where the song now lives he alludes to a “Gaga saga” and says that he’ll release more info on just what happened at a later date. The song–in which Al makes references to Gaga sporting lamé straightjackets and small-intestine necklaces, which, come on, could totally happen someday–below.
Now, before we go blaming Gaga and her oh-so-serious artiste-ness for this, let’s recall that with the whole James Blunt “You’re Beautiful”/”You’re Pitiful” saga the reason Yankovic felt OK releasing the parody for free lay in just who held it up: The suits, not the artist, objected to the remake of Blunt’s limp love song. So maybe there’s some sort of cash-cow-related holdup, or maybe the people handling Gaga’s publishing want residuals from the YouTube ad revenue of “Polka Face,” which zipped across the Internet after Yankovic performed it live.
Or perhaps Gaga heard the song and said, “You’re going to make fun of me, but not do a song about food–‘Corn This Way,’ ‘Born This Whey,’ something like that? I’ve been wearing food as clothes just to get your attention!” She is pretty savvy, after all!
UPDATE: Al speaks–it was Gaga herself who objected! (And he lets us in on the hoops he jumps through in order to do these!)
I had my manager contact Lady Gaga’s manager to see if she would okay the parody. Here was the exact pitch:
I’d like to do a parody of Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” called “I Perform This Way.” The basic concept is that I, as a Lady Gaga doppelganger of sorts, describe the incredibly extravagant ways in which I perform on stage. Meat dresses and giant eggs would most likely be referenced, but also much more ridiculous made-up examples of bizarre wardrobe and stage production. As with all my parodies, it would be respectful of the artist, while having a bit of fun with her larger-than-life image.
I hadn’t written a single line of the song at this point, but that was the concept I had in my head. Because of my 30-year track record, most artists know that my songs are all in good fun and they’re more than happy to approve a parody just based on the concept alone.
We eventually got a response from the Gaga camp: she would need to “hear it” before she would approve it.
Okay, I thought, she wants to know exactly what the lyrics are going to be before she signs off on the parody. Some artists just are a bit more protective of their material and don’t want to take any chances. Fair enough.
I was right in the middle of my Australian tour and I didn’t have a whole lot of free time, but I cranked day and night until I had a set of finished lyrics.
We send the lyrics to Lady Gaga and wait on figurative pins and needles for her to give us the go-ahead. After a few days, we get our answer: “She actually needs to hear it. Otherwise the answer is no.”
Hmm. Well, this was mystifying to me. At this point she has the lyrics… and hopefully she is familiar with her own song… and the parody is basically her music… with my lyrics. It really shouldn’t be that hard to decide – based on having the lyrics right in front of you – whether or not you’d be “okay” with a parody. But, alas, we’d been given an ultimatum. If she didn’t hear it, she wouldn’t approve it.
Okay then. I decided – based on my belief that people are basically good – to go through the trouble and considerable expense of actually recording the song. Now, I never do that – never. But because I was really excited about this parody, I decided I would faithfully jump through as many hoops as Gaga deemed necessary.
After the Australian tour, I was supposed to go on a long-awaited family vacation over my daughter’s spring break – but because I now had to record what ostensibly was going to be my “hit single” as quickly as humanly possible, I cut our vacation short and came back to L.A. to spend long days and nights in the studio. The band and I worked around the clock. On April 11, I put the finishing touches on the mix and mastered the track. Done.
Or so I thought.
A couple days later we got the final word: Lady Gaga says “no.”
And that’s it. As of this posting, I still don’t know specifically what kind of problem she has with the song (obviously I take a few jabs at her, but y’know, it’s satire – that’s how it’s supposed to work). And I’m especially confused as to why she waited until I actually recorded the song (at her insistence!) before saying no. It’s not like there were any surprises in the finished song that she couldn’t have foreseen by, you know, READING THE LYRICS.
A conventional release for the song and video would have also raised a nice chunk of change for the HRC – an organization which I have to assume Gaga supports. Hopefully, if fans enjoy hearing the song online, they’ll make a donation anyway.
Oh, Gaga. Here I was trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, and this is how it turns out? All this over a song you supposedly wrote in 15 minutes? Tsk, tsk.
ALSO RELATED: This clip from UHF, now more than ever.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 20, 2011