“Weird Al” Yankovic released “Perform This Way,” a parody version of Lady Gaga‘s hit “Born This Way” earlier today against the wishes of the pop star, who initially refused to provide permission for him to include the track on his upcoming album. In a post on his blog, Yankovic wrote that Gaga had made the process of submitting his parody for her approval very long and difficult. At first, Gaga said no, even though Yankovic had planned to donate all proceeds from the single to the Human Rights Campaign, an organization that supports gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered causes. (Gaga’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.)
But apparently Gaga has relented. According to a tweet by the New York Times‘ David Itzkoff, Yankovic’s manager has confirmed that she has given “Weird Al” her blessing to include the song on his album.
Though Yankovic has maintained a policy of getting permission to parody songs as a courtesy to artists, he has no legal obligation to do so, and was within his rights to release the song as he pleased. When he put the track – along with its lyrics – on YouTube this morning, he asked fans to donate to the Human Rights Campaign.
Yankovic’s song is essentially a light-hearted goof on Gaga’s penchant for outlandish costumes and high-concept performances, but it’s not too surprising that the singer would object to its lyrics. Unlike the vast majority of “Weird Al” song parodies, which mainly rely on silly wordplay, “Perform This Way” is a commentary on Gaga herself. (“Got my straight jacket today, it’s made of gold lamé / No, not because I’m crazy – I perform this way / I strap prime rib to my feet, cover myself with raw meat
I’ll bet you’ve never seen a skirt steak worn this way”)
Yankovic insisted in his initial pitch to the singer that he was only “having a bit of fun with her larger-than-life image,” but his words could certainly be construed as dismissive and mean-spirited. His take on Nirvana‘s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is the only major song in his catalog that takes a similar tack in describing the artist being parodied, but that song was more of a fond tribute (“A garage band, from Seattle / Well, it sure beats raising cattle)” than a slam on their image.
Over the years Yankovic has been granted permission to parody a huge number of superstar artists, including Michael Jackson, Madonna, R.E.M. and AC/DC, but he has been denied in the past. Notably, Yankovic was initially denied permission by the Kinks to release “Yoda,” a version of their hit “Lola.” The song received plenty of airplay on Dr. Demento’s radio show anyway, and was a major fan favorite by the time it was officially released on the Dare to Be Stupid album in 1985.
UPDATE: In a post on his website, “Weird Al” has confirmed that Lady Gaga has given permission for him to release his parody. According to Yankovic, Gaga’s manager had never forwarded the track to her, and she was unaware of its existence. As it turns out, she’s a big fan of the song.