Lonely Island: Making Satire Sing On 'Incredibad'

A trio of comedians led by Andy Samberg have turned Saturday Night Live into a showcase for satirical music. Lonely Island's new album Incredibad is out this week.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And now, a CD I'd be more than happy to pay full price for. I'm not talking about the soundtrack to "Shaft;" it's "Incredibad," the debut album from the trio called Lonely Island. The Lonely Island guys have known each other since childhood. They all grew up in Berkeley, California. You may know their work from "Saturday Night Live." Here with his review is our TV critic, Andrew Wallenstein.

(Soundbite of TV show "Saturday Night Live)

(Soundbite of song "Lazy Sunday")

ANDREW WALLENSTEIN: It all began one "Lazy Sunday."

Mr. ANDY SAMBERG: (Rapping) Lazy Sunday, Wake up in the late afternoon. Call Parnell just to see how he's doing.

Mr. CHRIS PARNELL: (Rapping) Hello?

Mr. SAMBERG: (Rapping) What up, Parns?

Mr. PARNELL: (Rapping) Yo, Samberg, what's crackin'?

Mr. SAMBERG: (Rapping) You thinking what I'm thinkin'?

Mr. SAMBERG and Mr. PARNELL: (Rapping together) "Narnia"!

Mr. SAMBERG: (Rapping) Man, it's happening...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WALLENSTEIN: There was Andy Samberg and fellow cast member, Chris Parnell, rhyming about eating cupcakes, of all things, and with the intensity of a gangster rap group.

(Soundbite of song "Lazy Sunday")

Mr. SAMBERG: (Rapping) Gossling, Gossling, Gossling, Gossling.

WALLENSTEIN: If the subject matter wasn't strange enough, there was the sight of two white comedians acting like NWA, even though they look straight out of prep school. But when their video "Lazy Sunday: Chronicles of Narnia" came out in December 2005, it didn't just establish Samberg as an up-and-comer on "SNL." The song took on a whole new life on another up-and-coming cultural force: YouTube. The site was known to few who weren't early adopters at the time, but "Lazy Sunday" propelled YouTube's breakthrough as a household name and chalked up millions more views than the skit originally earned on NBC.

Over three years later, Samberg has made enough of his homemade ditties to fill an album. He recorded "Incredibad" under the auspices of Lonely Island, the Web site he created nine years ago to showcase his work with Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, who were two of "SNL's" writers. Now, pop-song spoofs aren't exactly a fertile genre. "Weird Al" Yankovic may be its best example. But Lonely Island is operating on a whole other level. Instead of just rewriting current songs, they're crafting hilarious bits out of whole cloth. Lonely Island is particularly fixated on satirizing hip-hop and R&B, as Samberg does with the cameo from singer T Pain in "I'm on a Boat."

(Soundbite of song "I'm on a Boat")

THE LONELY ISLAND: (Rapping) Arms spread wide on the starboard bow (starboard bow), Gonna fly this boat to the moon somehow (moon somehow). Like Kevin Garnett, anything is possible. (Singing) Yeah, never thought I'd be on a boat. It's a big blue watery road (yeah.) Poseidon, Look at me, oh, (all hands on deck)...

WALLENSTEIN: Rapping about being on the boat is absurd in its own right. But if you've seen the countless hip-hop videos that feature performers rapping about their life on the streets, well, dancing rather incongruously on yachts, the song is hysterical on a whole other level. Unfortunately, my favorite Lonely Island song is not on the album because they couldn't clear the rights to a piece of music in the song "Iran So Far."

(Soundbite of laughter)

WALLENSTEIN: It's a ballad in which Samberg declares his love for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

(Soundbite of TV show "Saturday Night Live")

(Soundbite of song "Iran So Far")

THE LONELY ISLAND: (Rapping) They say true love comes only once in a lifetime, And even though we're from opposite ends of the Earth, My heart tells me you're the one for me. Mahmoud,

I remember when it started, saw you on the news. You were hating gays; I was eating food. But I was feeling you, and even though I disagreed with almost everything you said You ain't wrong to me, so strong to me, you belong to me Like a very hairy Jake Gyllenhaal to me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

THE LONELY ISLAND: (Rapping) Mahmoud, make my heart beat right out of my chest. My mind says no but my body says yes...

(Soundbite of laughter)

WALLENSTEIN: If lusting after a dictator seems racy, that's nothing compared with some of the other cuts on "Incredibad." I can't even mention the R-rated titles of two of the album's biggest hits. No wonder Lonely Island has flourished on the Internet, where content standards run at loose to none. Whether "Incredibad" sells as an album or not, these songs have already earned a pretty significant place in the pop-culture pantheon, the first reliable source of entertainment that treated its TV home as little more than a springboard for making a bigger splash online. Maybe they are just a bunch of silly songs, but they'll be remembered from marking the period when momentum shifted between mediums.

COHEN: More to come after this.

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