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Meaning Behind “Hey Ya!” By Outkast, Explained

Hey Ya! was one of the most popular singles released by Outkast, and it comes from their fifth album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. If you’ve been wondering about the meaning behind Hey Ya! by Outkast, keep reading to find out it might not be what it appears! 

Origin 

November 2002 – Kevin Kendricks. Image source: Pianoking777, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hey Ya! was written in 2000 by André 3000, although it took until late 2002 before the song was recorded in Georgia with an acoustic guitar as the accompanying instrument. The introduction was written, then the first verse, then the hook, and the vocals were done all near the same period. Kevin Kendricks came in days later for the synthesizer and bass parts.

April 25, 2012 – Novation UltraNova with vocoder microphone. Image source: Novation_UltraNova_demo.jpg: ghostdadderivative work: Clusternote, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Several months would pass before Pete Novak started to work with André 3000 in Los Angeles at the sound studio. It was during this LA trip when André 3000 started to do various sound effects for the track, such as using the vocoder, and doing multiple takes of each part of the song. 

Music Video 

The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show

In the music video for Hey Ya!, it’s clear that it’s inspired by The Beatles when they went on The Ed Sullivan Show, which happened back in 1964. During that time, there were a lot of girls in the audience who were screaming for them, so Outkast recreated a similar music video except that the American band went to England, went on a television show, and created that same type of hype and buzz that The Beatles did during their Ed Sullivan performance. 

February 15, 2015 – Ryan Phillippe on Saturday Night Live 40th Anniversary Red Carpet. Image source: Anthony Quintano from Mount Laurel, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

André 3000 appears in the music video as eight band members of a fake group called The Love Below. He plays these band members including vocalist, keyboardist, bassist, drummer, guitarist, and the backup singers that were called The Love Haters. He plays the song as each person and does this more than once so that there are various angles for the video. Girls were used as fans and Ryan Phillippe played the announcer at the beginning of the television show. 

Outkast - Hey Ya! (Official HD Video)

The video for Hey Ya! is very nostalgic since you have the manager talking to the band in the back while Philippe announces the band and introduces them before they take the stage to perform their song. The girls are loudly screaming and one rushes the stage and is hauled off by the security. There is another girl who faints when she sees the band, and everyone is watching the show at home in the video and dancing along.

November 7, 2020 – Photo of a Polaroid Camera. Image source: WI-Photos, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

At this point, Ice Cold begins to tell everyone “Shake it like a Polaroid picture,” which then pans to the girls in the crowd shaking them after taking the pictures of the band. As a side note, it was always a misconception that shaking a camera would get it to develop the film quicker. At the end of the video, you can see the group’s friends all huddled together talking about the television performance. 

Lyrics

When you look at the beginning of the song, in the first verse, the lyrics are filled with optimism and the feeling that he knows for sure that his girlfriend loves him, so there’s a lot of confidence in the air. You can easily hear this in the line “My baby don’t mess around, Because she loves me so.” 

However, you then can start to hear the doubt when he says “But does she really wanna mess around, But can’t stand to see me walk out the door?” So, he begins to wonder whether the reason she’s with him is because she doesn’t want to be by herself and that she isn’t happy like she is making it out to be. At the end of the first verse, he thanks his parents for staying together. 

Then, you get to the second verse where the guy begins to just double that love is real in general terms, and you can tell with lyrics such as “Nothing is forever, Then what makes love the exception?” and it’s in this second verse where the doubt and questions are coming up in terms of whether they will stay together even if it was really love. You can see at the end of this verse that he starts to accept the truth, which is that they are in denial about being unhappy. 

July 28, 2007 – André 3000 at Comic-Con in San Diego for Class of 3000. Image source: Gage, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The ending of Hey Ya! is all about focusing on the fun things about being with the girl and just general things such as having sex with her and not focusing as much on love or the deeper parts involved. He talks about not wanting to meet her mom or dad but just wanting to make her orgasm, thus, just enjoy the sex and not get wrapped up in the love part, which might not exist. Finally, in the lyrics, it’s said that being cool is being ice cold, which is funny considering that Ice Cold is the nickname of André 3000, so it’s a nod to him. 

So What Does The Song Mean?

July 10, 2015 – Love padlocks on the Butchers’ Bridge in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Image source: Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When André 3000 did an interview with MTV back in 2004, he explained that Hey Ya! is a song that’s all about how relationships were during the 2000s. By this, he meant that there are people who chose to stay together because they were told to stay together, such as by family or friends, and other people stayed because it was just custom and tradition to stay with that person. 

He went into more detail about this thought, and it was essentially that you’re staying in a relationship because you think that’s what you’re supposed to do, but you’re not happy and you end up miserable for the rest of your life or until you choose to leave, if you choose to leave. While other people are in a relationship with someone and they love the person and are happy, it’s just a song about the way people looked at relationships and the reasons behind them during the millennium. 

July 12, 2012 – Lucy Liu at the Comic-Con in San Diego. Image source: Genevieve, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Some of the lyrics in the song, such as “Now, all the Beyoncés and Lucy Lius” don’t have a meaning except that André 3000 said Beyoncé was on in the background when he was writing, so he threw it in there. He also had the same logic for “Shake it like a Polaroid” because he said he had no idea where that came from, and at the time, didn’t even know you’re not supposed to shake the camera. 

To summarize the main theme of the song, it’s that you should be with someone because they make you happy, and not because someone else expects it from you, and that goes for all aspects of life beyond relationships. Do what makes you happy and don’t worry about what other people think. 

Hey Ya! Chart Success 

May 11, 2013 – Ryan Seacrest in Carson, California. Image source: Glenn Francis, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hey Ya! was huge on the charts, and it hit the Billboard Hot 100 on October 18, 2003, and landed at number 57 before peaking at number one for nine weeks. What’s cool about this song being number one is that Casey Kasem was leaving the American Top 40 countdown and Ryan Seacrest took over, so it managed to bridge the gap between the two hosts.

Hey Ya! also landed at number one on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart as well as the Mainstream Top 40 chart. It went to nine on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles chart and also landed at 13 on the Adult Top 40 chart and 16 on the Alternative Songs chart. 

In Europe, Hey Ya! also achieved a lot of success and hit number three on the UK Singles chart just 12 weeks after debuting on the chart at number six. In other countries, such as Sweden and Norway, it went to number one, while landing within the top 10 in countries such as Ireland, France, Austria, Germany, and Finland. 

Grammy Awards 

July 16, 2017 – Coldplay in Paris. Image source: Raph_PH, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hey Ya! was nominated for two Grammy Awards at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards, but it only won for Best Urban/Alternative Performance since it did not win Record Of the Year, which went to Coldplay.

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