Billboard Year in Music 2014: 'Weird Al' Yankovic on Inspiring Beyoncé and Making 'Mandatory Fun' a Must-Listen

Andrew Hetherington
Weird Al and his manager Jay Levey photographed by Andrew Hetherington on September 30th at RCA Records in New York City.

The Strategist
Mandatory Fun
1 Week on Billboard 200

"Weird Al" Yankovic had the last laugh in 2014. In the weeks prior to the release of his 14th album, Mandatory Fun, Yankovic prerecorded a release-week podcast, wherein he joked about having a No. 1 album. He couldn't have dreamed up a better punchline: Mandatory Fun did, in fact, debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, an unprecedented feat for a comedy album. To get there, Yankovic orchestrated an online onslaught of daily videos for eight days straight. When his label, RCA, declined to give him the funds to create the clips, Yankovic, 55, went the DIY route, enlisting celeb friends including Jack Black and relying on such Internet portals as College Humor and Nerdist to help fund and debut them.

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Aaron Borns, head of pop/rock marketing, RCA: Al's entire career has been built on spectacular marketing, and having his finger on the pulse of popular culture.

 

 


"Weird Al" Yankovic: I wanted to make release week an event. It was just an idea. A part of my nightmare was three days into it, people would say, "Enough already, this is too much!" But the reverse happened. It created a snowball effect.

'Weird Al' Yankovic Gets First No. 1 Album On Billboard 200 with 'Mandatory Fun'

Tom Corson, president/COO, RCA: The rollout essentially was a visual album, to borrow a phrase from Beyoncé.

Yankovic: On my previous album, Alpocalypse, there was a video for every single song. So I did not pull a Beyoncé. If anything, Beyoncé pulled a Weird Al. (Laughs.)

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Jay Levey, manager: Beyoncé did not have a portal partner approach. That was key in harnessing the web community.

Yankovic: Not only did we not pay a penny out of pocket, we got far more exposure than we would have normally.

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Corson: The social aspect allowed people to share the excitement. But they didn't have to put down their money and buy the album -- they could've just enjoyed it online. But they voted for Al, and they bought in because it was awesome.

2014's No. 1's: J Balvin & Farruko  | Idina Menzel & the 'Frozen' SoundtrackTove Lo, Kiesza, & Nick Jonas | Taylor Swift | Barbra Streisand | Weird Al Yankovic | Ed Sheeran & Charli XCX | Nicki Minaj | 'Guardians of the Galaxy' SoundtrackEnrique Iglesias | Kacey Musgraves | Santana | Sam SmithIggy Azalea | Jason Derulo | Meghan Trainor, Nico & Vinz

This article first appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of Billboard.