There are contests I’m apprehensive about (e.g., the just-closed Week 1027) and then there are those like this week’s contest, which combines two of our most sure-fire genres: movie humor and song parodies. Writing parodies — or even reading them — isn’t everyone’s cup of tea; when I run a parody contest, I get a few “see you next week” e-mails from otherwise every-week entrants. On the other hand, there are Losers who enter virtually no other contests besides the parodies, as well as those for whom setting new, clever, perfectly rhyming lyrics to existing songs is just one more zingy arrow in their quivering quiver of Invite humor.
And everyone sees movies.
So have fun. As I say in the introduction to this week’s contest, the tune you use might be relevant in some way to the movie — I could see how that could enhance the humor — but it’s not a requirement.. And as I also said, what ends up going in the print paper — and that will include the top four winners — are songs that readers will be more likely to know; I’m afraid that even the cleverest parody lyrics aren’t much fun if you don’t know the song. Now that there’s a full page in Sunday Style for the Invitational, it’s possible that I can print a multi-verse song or two, but it’s still more likely that the entries I run in print won’t run more than eight lines.
There are differences between what makes a good performed parody — like the ones that Weird Al Yankovic does — and one that’s just going to be read. When someone sings out loud, especially in pop or rock music, the vowel sounds carry more weight than the consonants at the ends of the lines; this is why it doesn’t matter so much when a singer “rhymes” “ways” with “made,” and “eyes” with “life,” as in the bridge of this ubiquitous pop song. (whose other rhymes are pretty much kosher).
But Bruno Mars isn’t going to get ink in the Style Invitational. To work as clever light verse, which is what they are on the page, the rhymes have to be “perfect rhymes” — the last accented syllables of the words rhyme, and any syllables following those accented syllables must either be identical or, in rare cases, rhyme with each other. “Annoyance” doesn’t rhyme with “convenience” because their accented syllables,”noy” and “ven,” do not rhyme. And while “eyes” rhymes perfectly with “dries,” “eyes” does not rhyme with “dry.”
So even if you’re parodying a song whose rhymes won’t pass this test, yours should.
Also, when a song is performed as a whole musical number, the traditional structure of a repeated chorus works great. But as humor on paper, it doesn’t because it’s anticlimactic — there’s no “punchline” when the song ends with a refrain you’ve already used. It really helps a parody to have a strong finish.
Because this is a humor contest, we’re not necessarily looking for parodies that simply give an accurate synopsis of the movie’s plot; it needs to depict that plot with humor, make some wry observation. And it doesn’t have to even sum up the plot. Note that the instructions say that the parody should be “descriptive” of the movie; that’s intentionally broad wording.