Monday, May 17, 2010

Hey Ya! by Outkast

While “shake it like a Polaroid picture” became of the most popular phrases of 2003, it doesn’t really work all that well in practice. At the last wedding I was at “Hey Ya!” came on and when the end dance break hit and I watched girls try to shake “it” as if “it” was a rapidly developing photograph. . . yeah . . . not such a good idea.

I still remember the first time I heard this song. My brother sent me the album that "Hey Ya" was on and I received it right before leaving for the airport. In a hurry I uploaded the CD onto itunes and put it on my ipod, got in the cab and got to the airport.

Sitting outside the gate with about half an hour to kill I got out my ipod and listened to “Hey Ya!” My immediate reaction was “what the. . .?!?” Simply mystified by what I heard I listened to the song again and again. After listening to the song repeatedly for half an hour I was convinced I had heard the greatest song ever.

It seemed at the time that the entire world agreed with me. Even if you spent the entirety of 2003 stuck in a cave with your head buried in the ground, you heard “Hey Ya!” This spastic, surreal, pop hit ruled the air waves, dance clubs and internet videos.

Like many popular songs it couldn’t be avoided and through no fault of the song itself, “Hey Ya!” got kind of old. Somewhere along the line screaming “ICE COLD!!” to the question “what’s cooler than being cool?” stopped being clever and simply was a logical answer to a inquiry about temperature.

How does this song hold up now? “Hey Ya!” still sounds like nothing else. The best description I can give for this song is “A Prince song with a touch of crazy, mixed up with the Beatles with a dash of the surrealism.” The sense of humor throughout this song which is not as fresh as it was when the song first came out but it’s still fun.

The musical invention is still impressive. The mixed meter pattern (4+4+4+2) provides a steady but off-kilter feeling. The combination of acoustic guitar with weird synthesized colors contributes to a campy feeling and the reflective lyrics questioning the nature of relationships are blunt and honest, “Why are you so in denial when you know we’re not happy here?”

What sticks with me now more then anything else is the juxtaposition of the overly happy chorus with the doubtful lyrics. It’s like someone is pretending to be happy and is trying too hard. Like someone at a party who is putting a front, it’s just plain awkward.

All of this makes the reality of the statement, “shake it like a Polaroid picture, ” make that much more sense.

1 comment:

  1. I still love this song! Sure, it was TOTALLY overplayed and I needed a break from it for a while... but I heard it for the first time in a while a couple weekends ago (a band was covering it on the Indy Half Marathon course), and for a minute or two I was brought back to parties sophomore year of college.

    To me, the song is just fun!