With "Mandatory Fun's" No. 1 debut, the veteran parody artist became essential to the Internet conversation.
First, let's make one thing clear: "Weird Al" did not replicate Beyonce's feat in its exact form by any means. Beyonce's album was not announced ahead of its release, while "Mandatory Fun" had a widely announced release date. Beyonce only sold her album through iTunes, while "Weird Al" went to iTunes, Amazon, and even streaming services like Spotify. Initially, consumers could only hear "Beyonce" by purchasing the album as there were no singles available, while "Weird Al" made his individual singles available for purchase. Beyonce did not allow any of the videos that she released along with the album to be uploaded to YouTube until weeks after, while "Weird Al's" viral clips were on the platform almost immediately. And finally, "Weird Al's" album release wasn't as tactical (or effective) as Beyonce's in his effort to create a perfect window through which to funnel consumers and jack up iTunes sales, as "Beyonce" sold 617,000 copies in its first week compared to "Mandatory Fun's" 104,000 (according to Nielsen Soundscan).
So, that's a whole lot of "Beyonce" that "Weird Al" didn't pull. What "Weird Al" did do that was similar to Beyonce was to orchestrate an Internet spectacle that played out within a contained timeframe that online consumers had no choice but to be a part of. This behavior was best characterized in a piece by Grantland's Steven Hyden:
"When people rushed to purchase Beyoncé from iTunes this weekend, they weren't just (or even primarily) getting a record (or an experience). They were buying into a conversation. Beyoncé (willingly or not) was exploiting a glitch in the psychology of social media in order to strong-arm consumers into actually spending money on music. People may not be eager to buy a record, but they are eager to feel part of whatever cultural happening is dominating tweets and Facebook posts at this very second."
In a video interview with Billboard, Weird Al puts this exact notion into his own words:
"If somebody gets sent a link the day after a video premiers people are like 'Oh, that's so yesterday!' So, I know that because of the immediacy of the Internet was to just bombard them with something every single day."