American guitarist uses music as healing force in Kabul
KABUL Strumming their guitars and clapping together, American musician Lanny Cordola and his Afghan pupils sing a Bob Marley tune as they sit on a hill in Kabul.
LOS ANGELES The past week for "Weird Al" Yankovic has been a little weird by the standards of the curly-haired, accordion-playing, oddball master of pop music parody.
The 54-year-old singer of such songs as "Eat It," a culinary spoof on Michael Jackson's 1983 hit "Beat It" and "Amish Paradise," the send-up of rapper Coolio's 1995 sensation "Gangsta's Paradise," scored his first No. 1 album on the U.S. Billboard chart with "Mandatory Fun", following a week-long rollout of music videos.
"It's still hard for me to wrap my head around that," Yankovic said in an interview. "It means a lot to me."
Seemingly eclipsed at his own game by the rise of parody and fan-generated music videos online over the past decade and shut out from MTV when the network largely gave up music videos for original programming, Yankovic has survived by tapping into social media.
"I realized that the Internet was pretty much where my bread was buttered," said the three-time Grammy winner, whose three-decade career has been due largely in part to the success of his humorous music videos.
"I wanted to do something that would appeal to the online community and things on the Internet go viral quick," he added.
Yankovic released eight new songs each day beginning on July 14 with "Tacky," a celebrity-filled video of Pharrell's international hit "Happy," which itself has spawned countless fan videos.
"There was always the danger people would get tired of it, by the third day I was wondering if people would be going, 'Oh no, more Al,'" said Yankovic of the eight videos that have so far racked up more than 40 million views.
"Mandatory Fun" sold 104,000 copies in its first week, according to figures compiled by Nielsen SoundScan. It also became the first comedy album to reach No. 1 since 1963's "My Son, the Nut" by Allan Sherman.
"It kind of had a snowball effect," the three-time Grammy winner said of the videos. "By the end of the eight days there was a little bit of a Pavlovian effect as well, because when it ended, people were like, 'Where's the "Weird Al" video?'"
The singer, whose new fare about aluminium foil parodies poor grammar to the tune of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Lorde's "Royals", said it took about two years to complete the album and videos.
Yankovic was able to field cameos by actors Jack Black, Eric Stonestreet and Margaret Cho among others and partnered with websites such as Nerdist.com and Will Ferrell's Funnyordie.com as a way to help with its launch.
"I wish I had YouTube when I was starting out," he said. "All it does really for me is, it means I need to step up my game, make sure that I can rise above the crowd and I won't always go for the most obvious idea. I'll have to make myself a little bit more unique."
(Editing by Clarence Fernandez)
LONDON A torch on his head, Jason Sandy scours the nighttime London foreshores of the Thames river, searching for objects that could offer a glimpse of life in the British capital hundreds of years ago.
PARIS Italian luxury goods maker Prada predicted a return to sales and profit growth next year after its first-half underlying earnings and net profit dropped by 25 percent, partly dragged down by weak demand in China and Italy.