February 11, 2011 / Mediation, Uncategorized
In 1991, the Academy Award for Best Picture went to the disturbing psycho thriller, The …
July 5, 2011
For over three decades, Weird Al has been engaging in serious reflection of culture. His reflection is bundled up and wrapped around rock and pop tunes and a comedic veneer, but his re-writing of lyrics break open genres and open us up to something new. In his newest release, Alpocalypse, the cover of which portrays him as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse (although personally, his horse would have looked better as a carousel horse), Al takes on media obsession with celebrities in “TMZ”, celebrities pushing the boundaries in “Perform This Way”, loss of innocence in “Party In the C.I.A.” and even the power of myth in “CNR” (which frankly is one hard-rocking and get-the-blood-pumping tune). By crossing tunes and themes, he creates something greater than just parodies.
His use of Miley Cyrus’ “Party In the U.S.A.” about black ops and the life of a spy, is a great contrast when Miley is trying to move from the Disney channel girl image to something more grown-up, while at the same time having to deal with the spotlight being so constantly focused on her. How does society let her grow up? How does society grow up and mature in the midst of almost constant warring?
Society’s constant thirst for dirty laundry is addressed in “TMZ.” In our society where stars are accorded god-like status, TMZ exists only to bring them down. How does that desire to tear down icons correspond to the place of the divine in the larger culture?
Al builds up a mainstay of 60’s and 70’s television in “CNR” as he builds the myth of Charles Nelson Reilly. While not a parody per se, this song is in direct opposition to the image portrayed on screen. For those who can remember him, the images within the song (“he won the Tour de France with two flat tires and a missing chain” or “he could run a four-minute mile blindfolded with an engine block strapped to his back”) are not at all what was seen. A reminder that perhaps what the media shows us is not at all what is.
In “Perform This Way” perhaps the direct counter argument to Lady Gaga whose “Born This Way,” where celebrity performance is not to be directly connected to matters of being and identity. After all, shock and awe performances are mainly about getting people to watch.
Al’s comedic genius is not just his ability to turn pop songs into hilarious bits, but that he can open us up to something larger. His staying power, it seems, attests to this. He is ever timely in themes and tunes. He is in constant conversation with culture, lifting up and tearing down. Al is a model as theology engages culture. As Stephen Long wrote in Theology and Culture, “When we speak about God, we do not use some private language that God gives us. We use everyday language; the language that allows us to communicate the most mundane things as well as the most sublime.” Al engages the mundane and the weird in looking for truth.
Even his use of the Apocalypse imagery points to the Apocalypse fever of a few months ago. Al throws his own revelation out there for us to take in.