Yesterday morning the world-renowned musical parody artist Weird Al Yankovic was planning to post some exciting news on his blog: the release date of his newest album.
Instead, Yankovic regretfully informed his fans that the album release — his fourteenth since a self-titled debut hit record stores in 1983 — wouldn’t be announced anytime soon.
The culprit? None other than Lady Gaga.
According to Yankovic’s blog, the venerable satirist recorded a parody of “Born This Way,” entitled “Perform This Way,” which was going to be the “one elusive ‘big idea’ for a parody that [Yankovic] thought [he] could turn into the lead single and video.”
He had previously recorded the other 11 songs for the album, but was waiting for his final inspiration — eventually he concluded that “Perform This Way” was it.
Usually Yankovic will pitch a parody idea to an artist through his managment company, and only write the song once he receives their blessing. Due to his “30-year track record” of producing lighthearted parody, most artists consent to this.
But the Gaga camp responded that Mama Monster would have to “hear” the track. Even though no artist has ever asked Yankovic to do this, he banged out a set of lyrics at nights during his Australian tour. He then sent it to Gaga’s contacts.
A few days later, he heard back: “She actually needs to hear it. Otherwise the answer is no.”
As Yankovic pointed out, since Gaga knew the song already — she wrote it— she could probably have envisioned how it sounds. But no matter. He cut short a planned family vacation to return to L.A. and record the single to get Gaga’s approval — something he never does due to the cost and time required.
He sent to it Gaga. According to her manager, she said, “no.”
Really, Gaga? No?
While under fair use laws, Yankovic has the legal right to release the record without her permission. But because of his own personal ethics regarding intellectual property, he won’t do it. At least, not for money. He was going to donate the income from the song to the Human Rights Campaign as it is.
So, he released the song on YouTube, for free. And it’s hilarious.
Hours later, Yankovic updated his blog: Apparently, Lady Gaga had never even heard the song, because her manager had never sent it to her. She actually loves it and wants it released. That’s great! Personally, I can’t wait to see Weird Al’s music video.
So what the hell happened here exactly? Why did the Gaga camp make releasing this song so difficult? The appropriate cliché is that imitation is the highest form of flattery. If Weird Al, especially, wants to parody your song, then you’ve made it.
There was no response to messages left at Gaga’s label, Interscope Records, but the incident reveals that Gaga’s manager lied about showing the song to Gaga. That or the 25-year old singer did deny the song, and then when she found out how stupid that was, turned around and got her manager to take the fall.
Either way, it leaves a crack in the eggshell of Gaga mythology: that she’s above the control and corporate doubletalk of the mainstream recording industry.
Yankovic has been nominated for eleven Grammy awards and won three; he’s had six platinum-selling albums, and even more platinum singles. He has been making music on an international market before Lady Gaga was even gestating in a womb, egg, or whatever way she was born.
Some folks will remember that Coolio pulled this kind of foolishness in 1996, complaining that he didnt agree to the song well after his record label approved the track, supposedly without his permission. The issue is now resolved. Mostly, it made Coolio seem like kind of a doofus — and Weird Al remains more culturally present than the Gangsta’s Paradise rapper.
As The Wire readers may remember, I wasn’t such a huge fan of Born This Way to begin with. While I do like much of what Lady Gaga brings to the table — particularly alternative lifestyle, fashion, and mode of thought that she brings to mainstream America — I’m not surprised that either she or someone in her circle took this whole parody business too seriously.
Gaga’s biggest struggle, despite the remarkable confidence she displays, is that her camp is out of touch with that certain kind of artistic authenticity that other offbeat musicians, like Björk or Robyn, exude naturally. While many love Gaga, plenty of sceptics are still waiting to be convinced, especially after this incident. I could be wrong, though; maybe someone just pulled her bedazzled girdle way too tight.
Or perhaps, after thinking about it for a few minutes, the Gaga camp realised that if they didn’t want any Gaga-related parodying, why would she agree to be booked at the SNL season finale?
As we said before, Coolio claimed that he wasn't cool with the parody of Gangsta's Paradise, due to its serious subject nature. He even told the press so at the 1996 Grammy awards. But he's since gotten over his ire.
Eminem refused to let Yankovic shoot a video for 'Couch Potato,' a parody of the rapper's Oscar-winning 'Lose Yourself.'
'It's very disappointing,' said Yankovic. 'This could have been my best video ever.'
Over the years, Yankovic's most consistent denier is Prince -- Weird Al has tried to parody 'When Doves Cry,' 'Kiss,' and '1999.'
'It seems strange to me because he seems like a wacky, funny guy, you know? Kooky,' Al said. 'I call him up every couple of years and say, 'Hey, Prince, it's Al. Just checking to see if you have a sense of humour yet. No? OK. Well, take care.' I would love to do one of hits from the past 10 years, but oh, he doesn't have any. Oops!'
Although James Blunt gave Yankovic the thumbs up in 2006 to make 'You're Pitiful,' a parody of 'You're Beautiful,' his label, Atlantic Records told Yankovic that they couldn't release it after all. According to Yankovic, the fight is more political than legal, much like the Lady Gaga scenario.
Jimmy Page, although a fan, wouldn't give permission for Yankovic to perform a polka medley of Led Zeppelin songs. However Yankovic was allowed to re-record a sample of 'Black Dog' for a segment of 'Trapped in the Drive-Thru'.
Paul McCartney refused Yankovic permission to record a parody of 'Live and Let Die', called 'Chicken Pot Pie.'
The reason? McCartney is a vegetarian and thought the song was in poor taste. Seriously!
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