Audio Mixer: Dave Way.
Recording information: Bedrock L.A.; GoDaveyGo Studio; Mad Oak Studios; Way Station.
Illustrators: Alexander Lansang; Ria Del Rosario.
Photographer: Robert Trachtenberg.
Already accepted as a bona fide talent in the world of parody -- his musicianship, comedic timing, his pop-culture reference awareness, and his great wordplay are all well-documented -- the only thing that matters when it comes to "Weird Al" Yankovic albums is how inspired the king of novelty songs sounds on any given LP. On his 14th studio album, Mandatory Fun, the inspiration meter goes well into the red, something heard instantly as Iggy Azalea's electro-rap "Fancy" does a complete 180 thematically on the opening "Handy," the song now heading toward the local home improvement store where the craftsmen vogue in their orange vests and blow sweet come-ons like "I'll bring you up to code" and "My socket wrenches are second to none." Pharrell's "Happy" becomes "Tacky" and Al's amazing ability to follow an everyday poke ("Wear my Ed Hardy shirt with fluorescent orange pants") with something brainy and reserved ("Got my new r‚sum‚, it's printed in Comic Sans") surprises once more, but for end-to-end "wows," it's his brilliant redo of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," now the smug and twerking "Word Crimes," which gives copy editors, English professors, and grammar nerds a reason to hit the dancefloor ("And listen up when I tell you this/I hope you never use quotation marks for emphasis!"). Hardcore and hilarious musical moments start to happen when Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive" becomes "Inactive," a singalong anthem for the sluggish and the slovenly ("Near comatose, no exercise/Don't tag my toe, I'm still alive") with a dubstep-rock bassline that sounds like Galactus burping. Better still is the every-Al-album pop-polka medley, this time called "Now That's What I Call Polka!" which polkas-up Daft Punk ("Get Lucky"), PSY ("Gangnam Style"), and Miley Cyrus ("Wrecking Ball"), and with more Spike Jones-styled sound effects than usual. As for the originals this time out, the "you suck!"-minded "Sports Song" will be unavoidable under Friday night lights once a teen gets hold of it, while the ranting and wonderfully weird "First World Problems" sounds more like the Pixies than anything the Pixies did in 2014. Wonders never cease on Mandatory Fun, and neither do the laughs. ~ David Jeffries