The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines parody as “a piece of writing, music, etc., that imitates the style of someone or something else in an amusing way.” The secondary definition of parody it cites as “a bad or unfair example of something.” In this not at all satirical look (ok, maybe a bit) at music video parodies, we will get to see both the good and the bad examples of a genre of music video that sprung up at the birth of the modern music video. Despite seismic ups and downs, music video parodies remain a great way to gaze at the culture, as they send up the excesses, the messages, the themes and yes even the big-assed woman who are often a staple of the genre. So grab your remote control, put on your happy shoes, crank up your speakers and let’s discover
WHAT MAKES A GREAT MUSIC VIDEO PARODY?
A really clever music video parody needs an easily recognizable target to truly land. Trent Reznor’s brand of nihilistic industrial future metal pop (or whatever you want to call it) might seem a tough bird to imitate, but this video gets Reznor’s look and sound right. Like many of the examples we’ll give today, it might not make much sense or seem too clever if you’re not familiar with the original, but it’s clear either way that some time and effort went into this one.
Here’s what the parody was based on:
Speaking of big-assed woman, it’s hard to forget good ol’ Nicki Minaj. Her “Anaconda” video featured plenty of said large asses, but sometimes it takes a good parody to really nail it. In this clip from “Ellen,” you’ll see both pieces of the original as well as the comic’s riff on it. What it lacks in big butts it makes up for in attitude.
Picking on Justin Bieber is kind of like shooting fish in a barrel, but that doesn’t make this video spoof on the annoying Canuck any less funny.
The first real giant of the MTV-era was Michael Jackson, and parodies of his work are many. “In Living Color” brought both Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans to stardom, but it also produced this excellent MJ parody. Any clip that contains the line “I wrote a love song to a rat named Ben” is worthy of your time.
WHO IS THE KING OF MUSIC VIDEO PARODIES?
In the world of video spoofs, one name stands above all the rest. Weird Al Yankovic is the Mozart, Einstein, Shakespeare and Edison rolled into one of the genre and is as big of a star now as he ever was. One could study his work and the pieces it is toying with and have an encyclopedic knowledge of modern music. Here’s one of his modern examples: a parody of Lorde’s “Royals.” The beauty of Weird Al isn’t that it’s too smart for the room. No, he goes for just plain silly here with “Foil.”
Here’s the original for comparison:
Yankovic isn’t the only one to give Lorde the parody treatment. This clip can’t touch Yankovic’s for curly haired nonsense, but it does stay a bit closer to the original in terms of subject matter.
Yankovic also took on Iggy Azalea’s monster hit “Fancy” with his version, “Handy.” This is a great example of Yankovic’s singular talent – he seldom does the obvious parody matter. Who else would turn the song into an ode to a man who is good with tools? It’s stupid and brilliant at the same time.
For comparison’s sake, here’s Azalea’s original. Sure, it’s sexier - but does it feature underground comic Eddie Pepitone being blown off his toilet while taking a dump, as in Yankovic’s? It certainly does not!
This video shows several of Yankovic’s most memorable pieces side by side with the video originals. As it states, the attention to detail to get them just right is remarkable. It’s not just the visual replication that makes them so funny though, as it’s his oddball comic sensibility that has made him the master of the parody genre.
Before we move on from the bastion of music video genius that is known as Weird Al, we will share his take on Pharrell’s “Happy.” This one is “Tacky,” but if you ask us, it’s just plain funny. Who could have guessed that a weirdo with an accordion would become the master of parody videos? This video offers further proof of his skills. It even offers everyone’s favorite pompous screaming lunatic/genius Jack Black! We’re not worthy!
Here’s the original video, which is missing both Jack Black and Yankovic’s patented goofiness.
CAN A MUSIC VIDEO PARODY TAKE ON SEVERAL ARTISTS AT ONCE?
Many such videos do send up an artist’s catalog or even an entire genre, but few take a handful of catchy songs, set them into the land of one of the most popular TV shows in the world, and keep the funny and the musical sides intact. Yep, this mashup of “Game of Thrones” with a handful of pop smashes is hummable as well as clever.
ARE THERE ANY RULES IN MAKING A MUSIC VIDEO PARODY?
Parody, like it’s cousins satire and lampoon, doesn’t really have to fit into an exact mold. The litmus test is just if it is either funny/clever/insightful/interesting or not. Some might say that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were just parodies of real rappers, but a legion of fans proved them wrong. This send up of their smash “Thrift Shop” is really smart and ridiculous at the same time, and shows that you don’t need to rely on the usual video tropes to knock one out of the park. Go nerds!
I LIKE KATY PERRY AND HER EPIC, WORLD-CHANGING, GIGANTIC, MIRACULOUS AND UTTERLY DIVINE BOOBS. IF I SAW A PARODY OF ONE OF HER VIDEOS, WOULDN’T I BE MISSING OUT ON HER BOOBS? WHY WOULD I DO THAT? SERIOUSLY, MISSING OUT ON HER BOOBS WOULD BE THE DUMBEST THING I COULD DO! WHAT DO YOU THINK?
I think that was a very long question, but while her rack is clearly one of the wonders of the world, there’s no reason that a parody of her wouldn’t be boobtastic as well. This video does of course keep the boobs as a major source of the comedy, because when you’re talking about Katy Perry, sheesh – how could you not!
We won’t tease you though. If you need to see the real thing, feel free to watch this a few hundred times.
WOULDN’T EVERYTHING BE BETTER WITH A LITTLE BATMAN IN IT?
While not everything would be better with Batman in it, especially things like coleslaw or applesauce, many videos would be improved with a bit of Bruce Wayne. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” might not be the best song you’ll ever hear, but there’s no denying that this version was a hit in Gotham City.
BESIDES WEIRD AL, WHO ELSE IS A MASTER OF THE MUSIC VIDEO PARODY WORLD?
The lunatics of The Lonely Island, whose videos on “Saturday Night Live” helped reenergize the video parody world, offer a perfect blend of super catchy songs with excellent comic skills. “I Just Had Sex” is not only a good name for your hamster (actually, it’s a terrible name for your hamster), but it’s one of the best spoof videos of its era.
There’s no way to discuss Lonely Island without their two most famous videos. “Lazy Sunday,” with its sense of self-importance and absurd references, put Lonely Island on the map as modern masters of parody. It was also the first “Saturday Night Live” video to truly go viral, and helped bring many new fans to the show.
It still holds up beautifully, despite becoming so famous that others made parodies of it.
Even better is this awesome piece from “The Office” with Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson as Michael and Dwight putting their spin on it.
The other key piece from Lonely Island is the immortal “Dick in a Box.” Andy Samberg, Justin Timberlake and a couple of dicks in a couple of boxes? Could life be any better? Warning – don’t try this at home unless you want to take the risk of accidentally having your dick bitten off by a tiny rat that might be living in the box. Which is exactly what happened to Rand Paul when he tried it at home.
THESE ARE ALL WELL AND GOOD, BUT I WANT TO SEE AN OLD DUDE SNIP OFF HIS WEENIE IN A PARODY OF EMINEM AND RIHANNA. CAN YOU FIND SOMETHING LIKE THAT?
That’s a very specific request, but we like very specific requests so we can indeed help you. This video features one of the ugliest people you’ll ever see starring in a music video, but it makes up for it in silliness. Eminem might not seem to have a sense of humor, but even he might get a kick out of this one.