Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rejoice and Sing, Grammar Nazis, for Weird Al's "Word Crimes" Is Here

Grammar Nazis; you either know one (at least) or you are one yourself. I feel like there's a sense that grammar Nazism stems from or feeds into some sort of superiority complex, and although I'm sure that's true for plenty of people, in my case it's more an obsessive compulsion, and I react to grammatical misdeeds because of their effect on me rather than for the edification (or chastisement) of somebody else. I subconsciously correct grammatical errors in the lyrics of familiar pop songs when I'm singing along, usually out of subconscious habit; whenever I hear someone misuse "less," I involuntarily say "fewer" out loud, even when I'm by myself. Don't get me wrong - I do think that anyone beyond elementary school who can't handle your/you're or they're/there/their needs to examine his goddamn life. And I, too, struggle with my own abusive habits with the language: my proclivity toward the passive tense probably makes my dad want to hurl himself (or me) over a cliff, and I never use three words when nineteen will do.

The sexy stars of Weird Al's "Blurred Lines" parody, "Word Crimes"
In general, therefore, I am the textbook example of the type of person "Weird Al" Yankovic panders to in his second music video from his new album, the Robin Thicke parody "Word Crimes."

Yankovic wisely avoids spoofing anything about "Blurred Lines" itself; as he told The View, "There were already about 10,000 parodies...and they were all rapey." Instead, "Word Crimes" is an in-depth screed against grammatical sins both juvenile (it's vs. its, spelling words with numbers "unless you're seven, or your name is Prince") and more commonly sinister ("whom" vs. "who," "literally" vs. "figuratively"). There are plenty of gems for any language devotee to latch onto, my favorite "word crime" being "Like 'I could care less'/That means you do care/At least a little."

What makes the English lecture so entertaining - I literally laughed until I cried, and I do mean literally - is Yankovic's inspired use of meter (like the clever split line in "Say you've got an I-T/Followed by 'apostrophe/-'S' Now what does that mean?") and rhyme, both in its own context ("It's apparent/Your grammar's errant") and in relation to the original "Blurred Lines" lyrics ("You the hottest bitch in this place" becomes "You would not use "it's" in this case!").

Also contributing enormously to the effectiveness of "Word Crimes" is the truly brilliant graphic design and animation of the video, by Jarrett Heat. "Word Crimes" is technically a lyric video, but whereas lyric videos are typically the way labels go about putting official music on YouTube (now that YouTube streaming figures into the Hot 100 calculations) before a music video is complete, in this case it's the most appropriate way to visualize a song that's entirely about language. Seeing the lyrics on screen is helpful, of course, but the clever ways Heat presents them are a delight and achievement all of their own. Sometimes the visuals actively enforce or explicate the lyric itself; there are cute diagrams with simplistic drawings clarifying the differences between "doing good" and "doing well," "less" and "fewer" (!), and my favorite, "irony" and "coincidence," which gets in a wonderful visual dig at Alanis Morissette with a pair of bride-and-groom stick figures standing in the rain.

There are other easter eggs throughout that often take multiple viewings to notice, like a test paper addressed to "Mrs. Krabappel" and a reference to the tv show Lost with the ABC logo in the bottom corner, which at closer look is part of the sentence "Learn your ABCs, doofus." Of course, there is also plenty of reference to the typographical elements of the "Blurred Lines" video, including the almost too-easy but obviously necessary "Weird Al has a big dictionary" balloons at the end.

"Word Crimes" is the second of eight planned music video releases over eight days; the Pharrell Williams video "Tacky" premiered yesterday. Yankovic's album, Mandatory Fun, was released today.

Further Reading:

Get More of Your Weird Al Fix With the Iggy Azalea Parody "Handy"

Weird Al's New Lorde Parody Celebrates "Foil," Goes Hilariously Off the Rails

All Your Favorite People Are In the New Weird Al Yankovic Video, "Tacky"

WHAT IS IRONY? (Now You Know #3) - SalterNet

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