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Writing and composition
The song opens with Yankovic lamenting that he cannot finish food at restaurants, opting for a doggy bag from the waiter to take it home. The song's first verse and chorus find the narrator expanding upon the usage of aluminum foil for food storage purposes: "That kind of wrap is just the best / to keep your sandwich nice and fresh." Yankovic deems it better than what he feels as inferior food storage options, among them "baggies, glass jars, [and] Tupperware containers."
In a twist, the second verse finds Yankovic ranting about conspiracy theories. In particular, he notes that the Illuminati are being primed for "world domination" and that shadow organizations are monitoring daily life, and he reinforces the conspiracy theory that the moon landings were fake. To conclude the song, Yankovic once again reinforces the greatness of aluminum foil, in this scenario putting a hat made of foil atop his head to avoid "thought control rays."
The original song's instrumentation is carried over, albeit toned down a little to fit Al's singing voice, and the song contains elements of "minimalist electro-pop". Kevin O'Keeffe of The Wire observed that it is the shortest parody on Mandatory Fun as it omits the bridge and final chorus of the original song.
The music video for "Foil" was released as the third of a series of eight videos produced for Mandatory Fun on July 16, 2014 through CollegeHumor's YouTube channel.
In the video, Yankovic carries his brown paper doggy bag out of a restaurant and onto the set of a cooking program titled Now We're Cookin'!. Yankovic's role is that of what Slate Magazine described as an "infomercial huckster." Throughout the sequence, he spoofs Lorde's "on-camera intensity"; MTV also observed that the video highlights the similarity between Yankovic and Lorde's hair styles. Patton Oswalt appears as the director for Now We're Cookin'!] and "watches in horror" as Yankovic begins his monologue on conspiracy theories. As stock footage of rotating Illuminati logos plays on screens behind Yankovic, the set changes to a dark red color to match the sinister tone of the lyrics. By the song's final chorus, two men in black suits (portrayed by Tom Lennon and Robert Ben Garant) drag him off the set. As Yankovic is taken away, the director peels his face off, revealing the face of an alien-like lizard.
"Foil" was the most successful video from Mandatory Fun, attracting 11 million views in five days.
Yankovic performed "Foil" as part of his Mandatory World Tour in 2015. The live version mostly replicates the music video, with Al behind a Now We're Cookin'! table and accompanied by various props including a roll of aluminum foil, a teapot, and the famous foil hat. For some international performances, Al changed the pronunciation of "aluminum" to "aluminium" to reflect the different ending being commonplace outside of North America.
The Los Angeles Times deemed the song a highlight of Mandatory Fun. Consequence of Sound called it one of the album's "essential tracks," comparing it to past food-related parodies by Yankovic. Billboard wrote that while both "Tacky" and "Foil" could have been "one-joke affairs," they were both successful, noting, "Lorde should feel honored: on Mandatory Fun, "Royals" is the only tune Yankovic re-imagines as a song about food." Paste considered "Foil" to be less clever than the other parodies on the record.
When asked about being parodied on Yankovic's latest album in an interview with Billboard, Lorde responded, "'Weird Al' is so cool! I’m so psyched to be on it. He asked ages ago if he could do it and I was like 'PLEASE! Please, can you do something with 'Royals'.' I was listening to 'Weird Al' parodies when I was like 10 — especially that one that he did of "Confessions" by Usher. How could I have been listening to that while I was young and … that’s me now."
"Foil" peaked at #3 on the US Comedy Digital Tracks (Billboard) Chart.