September 18, 2006, 4:17 PM — How about this as an ironic addition to the endless acrimonious dispute between the recording industry and music fans over illegal file sharing? An anthem titled "Don't Download This Song," which preaches against the perils of such behavior, that anyone can freely download from the Internet (http://www.dontdownloadthissong.com/).
Confused? Welcome to the world of pop's premier prince of parody, "Weird Al" Yankovic. Weird Al has established a successful career through humorously revisiting works by the likes of Eminem, Michael Jackson and Nirvana, while also penning his own songs that are often pastiches of musical styles.
In "Don't Download This Song," the first single from his upcoming "Straight Outta Lynwood" album, he cheerily riffs:
"Oh, you don't wanna mess with the RIAA
They'll sue you if you burn that CD-R
It doesn't matter if you're a grandma or a 7-year-old girl
They'll treat you like the evil, hard-bitten criminal scum you are."
Start out stealing songs and before you know it, you'll be robbing liquor stores and selling crack, he sings. The video accompanying the song is a cartoon by acclaimed animator Bill Plympton in which a child downloads a song and is immediately plunged into a nightmarish world of crime, courts and prison.
Weird Al was inspired to write the song after it occurred to him that illegal downloading was "a cause in need of an anthem," he said in an e-mail interview. "So I wrote some tongue-in-cheek lyrics and set them to a cheesy '80's benefit song-type melody inspired by tunes like "We Are The World," "Hands Across America" and "Do They Know It's Christmas".
Where does Weird Al stand on the file-sharing debate?
"I don't really take a firm stand on either side of the issue," he wrote." It's a grey area for me, and besides, only a Sith deals in absolutes." In the "Star Wars" movies, evil Sith like Darth Vader feed upon their negative emotions in the pursuit of power, devoting themselves to the dark side of the universe's lifeblood, the Force.
Weird Al does think that the record industry and in particular the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) have been "a bit ham-fisted" in their approach to illegal music downloads. "Criminalizing kids who file-share is probably not the best solution, and it's certainly not the best PR," he wrote. It's clear that file-sharing is here to stay and the record industry is only now starting to "smell the coffee" and figure out that it can use file-sharing to positive effect.
He appreciates the positive promotional aspects of P-to-P (peer-to-peer) Web sites. However, Weird Al also feels that people who get their music exclusively from such channels instead of in ways that directly benefit artists "are not taking the moral high road, and I don't really condone or support that."