For the first time in his 30 year career, singer, parodist and accordionist “Weird Al” Yankovic has a #1 slot on the Billboard charts with his album Mandatory Fun.

What’s more, Al’s accordion-driven single “NOW That’s What I Call Polka!” has topped the Spotify Viral Chart in seven countries.

In Squeeze This! A Cultural History of the Accordion in America, Marion Jacobson tracks the uniquely American musical and cultural phenomenon of the accordion.

In the chapter titled “New Main Squeeze: Repositioning the Accordion in the Music Industry,” Jacobson writes of Weird Al’s “self-conscious” embrace of the squeezebox.

Weird Al (no relation to Frankie Yankovic the Polka King) and his flat, inexpressive style of accordion playing subverted this listener’s expectations of exaggerated virtuosity (“accordions can rock, too!”) or deliberately bad playing (“see how schlocky!”). What is Weird Al doing to/with the accordion? The answer to this question offers much insight into this chapter’s discussion, raising key moral and aesthetic issues. The accordion is present not as an object of parody but as the subject–an accomplice to Weird Al’s explicit attack on the popular music industry’s banality and endless repetitions of mediocre musical formulae (note the song title “It’s Just Billy Joel to Me”).

 

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