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July 16, 2014

25 hidden secrets in "Weird Al's" "Word Crimes" video

Geeks come in a variety of modes, phases, classes and looks. But there's one thing we all have in common: A fierce, passionate, undying love of master parody artist and satirist "Weird Al" Yankovic.

Yankovic's 14th album was released this week, and it warms my heart containers that he's kept up his geeky brand of humor for so long. While he has written so many incredible songs, none have spoken to my love of proper grammar.

Until "Word Crimes."

The music video, released Tuesday, is part of a series of releases in connection with his new album, "Mandatory Fun." On Monday, he released a video for "Tacky," a spoof of Pharrell's "Happy" — sans large hat.

I sincerely believe the "Word Crimes" video will become the most important song in history, and the most mandatory-to-watch video in schools across the country. Sung to the tune of Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," this anthem of accuracy, this elegy of English details the importance of speaking correctly and clearly.

The video is perfectly done, as well. It's a triumph of kinetic typography, as a matter of fact. An added treat to the video, animated by Jarrett Heather, is the amount of geeky references, tidbits and little details hidden within it.

Go watch the video and follow along.

  • 0:00: Right off the bat, the video copies the typography of "Blurred Lines" with a bold use of Futura Condensed in all caps. Like Thicke's video, there are plenty of hashtags done in this style.
  • 0:05: As pages of a dictionary flip, you can see Al's old look -- short curly hair, mustasche and glasses -- next to the entry for "accordion."
  • 0:12: Thicke's video for "Blurred Lines" caught controversy for featuring supermodels prancing around wearing only panties. I was so disgusted by that video that I had to watch it 13 times, just to make sure it was still disgusting. At this point in the "Word Crimes" video, there are dancing punctuation marks, including an exclamation point, which can be easily confused with those models.
  • 0:26: Is Bart Simpson doing this? When a grammar test form is displayed, the home room teacher is listed as Mrs. Krabappel, the teacher from "The Simpsons."
  • 0:28: The "Hey hey hey" callback pops up like the chat bubble from an iPhone.
  • 0:30: A Reddit post riddled with bad grammar, which sends the user into deep negative points, is written by "George Newman" — the name of the character Yankovic portrayed in "UHF."
  • 0:37: Wait, does one of those diplomas declare Al a "bachelor of writing good?" Shouldn't it be “well”? Yankovic will address this issue later. In the meantime, Heather explains on his blog that each of those diplomas is signed by someone who would have been important to Yankovic's career. I can't make out a single signature, unfortunately.
  • 0:44: I said this video was a master work of typography. That ampersand proves it. So beautiful.
  • 0:47: The word "mission" features a fuse similar to the intro for the TV show "Mission: Impossible."
  • 0:52: It's Doge, the recent puppy-based meme, tweeting with bad grammar! In a rare error, Doge later says "Wow" before "Much gramr" — in Comic Sans, of course.
  • 1:03: Looks like a couple of turtles with blindfolds were paved over before they could escape to the sewer.
  • 1:07: The title of the song is depicted using the logo of the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the best dictionary that ever dictionaried.
  • 1:13: Remember the picture of that tea party supporter wearing the St. Louis Cardinals shirt and sporting the mullet and bandana while holding a sign that says, "Get a brain morans"? Al is depicted as him with the message, "Dont be a moran!"
  • 1:39: So much win in this notebook cover, decorated with the Stussy "S" that every teen in the ‵90s drew and a majestic sword as the T. Also depicted are pictures of a Recognizer from "Tron," Pac-Man and a few ghosts, Trogdor from "Homestar Runner" and the animator's initials.
  • 1:45: Not really a hidden nugget here, but this is the part of the song where Yankovic aligns himself with Vampire Weekend about his feelings on Oxford commas, albeit not as strongly. Still, it's an important debate footnote.
  • 1:59: Clippy, the irritating paper clip from late '90s versions of Microsoft Word, makes an appearance, along with more Comic Sans.
  • 2:08: Prince is specified as an exception to a rule about never using numbers as words, for good reason. In this graphic, the Y in "your" is clearly a 4. Also, if you can freeze the screen just right, you can get the words "I hate" in front of the Prince logo from the '90s. That's funny because Prince has never given permission for Yankovic to spoof one of his songs.
  • 2:09: A nifty illustration features a longtime Yankovic reference — a red pen, depicted as a murder victim with its ink spilled across pavement, has been identified with an evidence tag reading "27." That's an important number for "Weird Al" fans: Its use is now a little "hello" from Yankovic.
  • 2:20: I nearly spit out my soda when I heard Yankovic sing about "some cunning linguist."
  • 2:39: An illustration showing the difference between "doing good" and "doing well" seems to contradict the diploma shown at :37. "Doing good" refers to performing charitable works or making a positive difference; "doing well" refers to achieving success or feeling happy. A trip to the dictionary reminds us that "good" is an adjective, and "well" is an adverb. Because it's referring to the quality of "writing," it should be "well." So yeah, that diploma at :37, in a song about good grammar, uses bad grammar. Ouch.
  • 2:42: This graphic explaining the difference between "irony" and "coincidence" features a fire truck on fire and what I assume is Alanis Morissette marrying Dave Coulier in a rainstorm. I think I'm projecting a bit, though.
  • 2:56: Windows 95 (and its gorgeous teal background) makes an appearance, along with "Minesweeper" and an Internet Explorer browser window. Ah, memories.
  • 3:04: This one flew right by me. I didn't even notice that the pencil logo in the IE browser window, paired with the lyric "I saw your blog post," was the old logo from LiveJournal. That logo was also designed by Heather, which he wrote about on his blog.
  • 3:21: For the lyric "You're a lost cause," the title screen of "Lost" appears. A hidden message surrounds the ABC logo.
  • 3:36: My favorite hidden thing in the video: In Thicke's vid, a message about the size of one of Robin Thicke's appendages appears in mylar balloons. Yankovic's video ends with the balloons spelling out, "'Weird Al' Yankovic has a big dictionary."

Heather writes much more about the video on his site, www.spaceparanoids.net, and includes the demo he made for Yankovic's approval, which used a homemade demo Yankovic worked up.

Story provided by The Joplin Globe.

 

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