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October 24, 2006

Weird Al's Gettin' "White and Nerdy"

Reuters, that print news network that has now expanded into Second Life, had a fascinating story on CNN's Web site yesterday about the immense success of Weird Al Yankovic's newest album, Straight Outta Lynwood.

According to the story, out of all of Weird Al's famous work over the years, this album is the first to break the top 10, while his new Chamillionaire parody "White and Nerdy" has broken the top 10 singles in the country. What does Weird Al attribute such success to? The Internet. Here's what he said:

"I'd kind of written off the chance of ever having another hit single, since record labels weren't really releasing commercial ones. As much as people are griping about the Internet taking sales away from artists, it's been a huge promotional tool for me."

Although his album is doing well as a whole, it seems to be driven by the "White and Nerdy" single. According to the senior director of marketing for Zomba in the story, the song has been in the top five of iTunes for several weeks now. He was quoted as saying.

"We knew with 'Nerdy' that he'd hit on something incredibly relevant to different generations. Kids were discovering him like a new artist." He goes on to point out that, while many of the artists Weird Al has parodied over the years have come and gone, he remains a cultural icon.

The video for "White and Nerdy" has gotten quite a bit of play on YouTube, and Yankovic doesn't seem interested in suing for any free distribution of his work, instead in spreading his name through his MySpace page. And Chamillionaire loved the parody of the song so much that he posted it on his MySpace page as well.

It's inspired some interesting fan response as well, including this video explaining a math problem with a very strange finale, entitled "Brown and Nerdy." with reference to MIT embedded.

If you want to talk a bout a song poised for success in Internet distribution, it really is no surprise that "White and Nerdy" struck a chord with the Internet crowd. With its references to almost every cult fan activity you can think of (he works in references to Star Trek, Dungeons and Dragons, "first in my class at MIT," html coding, comic book collecting, the chess team, Wikipedia, MySpace, and on and on, in the song and video), the song has hit widespread appeal and has been viewed more than 3 million times.

Because of the standalone nature of parody songs, I think it's important to further consider Weird Al's emphasis on distribution of singles once again made possible through the Internet and the impact that has on his music career and introducing him to a new generation of Weird Al fans.

Thanks to David Edery for passing this story along.

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