If Michael Jackson is the King of Pop, then Weird Al Yankovic must be the Court Jester. For the past twenty-five years, Weird Al has been simultaneously entertaining and annoying millions of music fans around the world. He’s set to do it again with a new album later this month (Straight Outta Lynnwood).
A clever — if demented — bit of marketing has made the first single from the album, “Don’t Download This Song,” a free download. Mind boggling, isn’t it?
The song is an original ballad of the raised lighter variety, including a chorus that swells with a choir of backing vocals. Don’t be too surprised if it gives you flashbacks to “We Are the World” and other songs of that sort. Even with the sentimental touch, Weird Al is able to convey a sense of poking fun at the genre. It’s a sincere cupcake iced with irony.
The first verse sets up the extreme RIAA fascist perspective:
Once in a while maybe you will feel the urge
To break international copyright law
By downloading MP3s from file sharing sites
Like Morpheus or Grokster or Limeware or Kazaa
But deep in your heart you know the guilt would drive you mad
And the shame would leave a permanent scar
‘Cause you start out stealing songs, then you’re robbing liquor stores
And selling crack and running over school kids with your car
The chorus changes every time, and the first one is:
So don’t download this song
The record store’s where you belong
Go and buy the CD like you know that you should
Oh don’t download this song
Essentially, they all end up with the same message – illegal downloads are bad and you really should know better.
Some music fans write off Weird Al as a novelty act. This song is yet another one that demonstrates he can write songs with humor and also have something worthwhile to say. “Don’t Download This Song” points out all the evil bad things with illegal downloads, but this legally downloadable song will likely result in numerous sales of the album. Rather than getting all Lars Ulrich about it, Weird Al is going with the flow while still making music worth buying.