Certain Songs #1421: OutKast – “Hey Ya!”

Album: Speakerboxxx / The Love Below
Year: 2003

Amazingly enough, it’s now been 15 years since that heady autumn when OutKast dropped their massive dual solo album project Speakerboxx / The Love Below on the universe. Like the Illusion twins from Guns n’ Roses, Speakerboxx / The Love Below was a massive amount of music — four vinyl albums worth — and so, it took a lot to process.

Which nearly everybody did, willingly: it sold millions of copies as well as topping the 2003 Pazz & Jop critics poll, which was only the second time that massive popularity and critical acclaim had happened since 1992 — the first time being Stankonia in 2000 — on the strength of such eternal jams as “Roses,” “Bowtie,” “I Love The Way You Move” and, of course, the culture-dominating “Hey Ya!,” a song that you might be sick of, but is totally impossible to dislike.

A huge grin in song form, “Hey Ya” might not be the only pop hit scored by a hip-hop group where the the main instrument is an acoustic guitar, but it’s undoubtedly the best, as Andre 3000 layers that acoustic guitar — influenced he said, by groups like the Buzzcocks and the Smiths — over a mutated Motown rhythm and a lyric that — ahhh, who gives a shit about the lyrics of “Hey Ya!”?

It’s all about the mood: and in the dark days of 2003, the relentless upbeat mood of “Hey Ya!” was exactly the kind of tonic that was needed, so it was good enough to sing “Heyyyyyyyyyyy ya!” along with the chorus, dig how Andre 3000 invoked The Handclap Rule throughout, or how his vocals danced around with the music.

Sure, there’s the eternal “shake it like a Polaroid picture,” which single-handedly extended the life of an otherwise dead technology, but my favorite moment just before that, and goes a little like this:

Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!
Alright!

Whether or not it was planned or an in-studio ad lib, that repeated “alright” is one of the most joyous musical moments I’ve ever heard in my life, and I listen for it every single time I hear this song, and it never ever fails to make me feel just a little better. And I’m still waiting for the first solo album from Andre 3000.

“Hey Ya” official music video

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