Analysis of OUTKAST’S “HEY YA!” (one of 500 BEST songs of ALL time)

“Hey Ya!” is a song that describes a problematic relationship over an upbeat melody… …André 3000 then uses a deceptive cadence after a 2/4 measure of the dominant D major chord, leading into two 4/4 measures of an E major chord. The song moves at 160 beats per minute, [this is how fast a human heart beats when you work out hard and he used this on purpose, as a metaphor] and André’s vocal range spans more than an octave and a half, from B3 to G5.[3]

The song opens with three upbeats as André 3000 counts “one, two, three” and then leads into the first verse. The lyrics begin to describe the persona’s concerns and doubts about a romantic relationship.[1] He wonders if they are staying together just “for tradition,” as in the lines “But does she really wanna [mess around]/But can’t stand to see me/Walk out the door?” André 3000 commented, “I think it’s more important to be happy than to meet up to…the world’s expectations of what a relationship should be. So this is a celebration of how men and women relate to each other in the 2000s.”[4]

During the second verse, the persona gets cold feet and wonders what the purpose of continuing the relationship is, pondering the question, “If they say nothing is forever…then what makes love the exception?”[1]

The song’s breakdown coined the phrase “shake it like a Polaroid picture,” a reference to an erroneous technique used by some photographers to expedite instant film. Early versions of the film needed to be dried, and shaking the picture helped it to dry faster.[6] The song closes by repeating the chorus ad libitum and gradually fading out.[3]

Now the lyrics with Boris’s thoughts/comments inside brackets “[ ]”

Intro
One two three uh!

[a reference to the Polaroid picture, time to freeze and smileJ]
Verse One – Andre 3000
My baby don’t mess around
Because she loves me so

[so- an ambiguous word not describing anything]
And this I know for shooo..
Uh, But does she really wanna

[mess around with other guys but doesn’t because she can’t handle the image/idea of him breaking up with her]

But can’t stand to see me
Walk out the dooor..
Don’t try to fight the feelin’
Because the thought alone is killing me right nooww..
Uh, thank god for mom and dad
For sticking two together
‘Cause we don’t know hooowww…
UH!

Chorus:
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa..
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa..
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa..
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa..
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa..
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa..
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa..
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa..

[I have not found an interpretation of the “heeyyy… Yaaaaa…” whats that all about or is it just a silly fun meaningless phrase.  One line is ascending in pitch and the other one descending as if mixed opposing feeling.]
Verse Two – Andre 3000
You think you’ve got it
Ohh, you think you’ve got it

[he tells the listeners from the get-go that they “think you’ve got it” they think they know what this song is about, they think they know about relationships, but they don’t.  In our culture there is a high demand and expectation for everyone to be a certain way, it is expected that you “get it” and follow it.  but what are we following?  Nothing?  Do we even care what we follow or do we just agree to follow it?
But got it just don’t get it
Till’ there’s nothing at
AaaaaaaaAAAAAAAaaaaaaAAAAAAaaaaaallllll..
We get together
Ohh, we get together
But seperate’s always better when there’s feelings
InvooooooOOOOOOOoooooooOOOOOOooooooOOOOOlved

[this whole song is full of contrast, vocally and musically.  Andre 3000 varies everything and this variation relates to the themes of feelings and the roller coaster ride synonymous to relationships and love.  The dragging out of the word “involved” exemplifies this with the back and forth of feeling of the dragging out of the “OOOO, and oooo.”  It the variation within the word makes it feel like a fight or struggle.]
If what they say is “Nothing is forever”
Then what makes, Then what makes, Then what makes
Then what makes, Then what makes LOOVVEEE?
(Love exception) So why you, why you
Why you, why you, why you are we so in denial
When we know we’re not happy heeeerrreeee…

Y’all don’t want me here you just wanna dance

[2nd to last line the persona (singer) musters up the courage and, although stuttering, asks the listener and crowd he’s performing for a perplexing question regarding morals and the philosophy of life/relationships.  The music silences and the crowd cheering quiets as if to allow time to think about one of the biggest questions in life.  Instantly (a reference to Polaroid photography) the music comes back on and the crowd goes wild with admiration.  The question has slipped between the audiences ears, because they don’t care to think about anything even the songs the singer they admire creates, and even though they are the ones that are asked the question and the ones who this question concerns the most, and the singer understands this, evident by his next phrase (last line).  It is a moment of acceptance, but a moment the singer has already prepared for, because he know what to expect from a young careless fun seeking and no thinking wild crowd, and that this is not the right time to ask this.  He quietly, yet contently, admits the crowd doesn’t even want him here, they just want to dance to something and don’t care who makes the music for them to dance to.  The crowd is at once exuberant, rebellious yet mindedly traditional and predictable.

There is a disconnect in the music video between the Beatles performance and the yr2003 girls.  By juxtaposing new colorful times with the old b/w he creates a dialogue and comparison.  Is he saying that nothing has changed, that we are still where we were 45 years ago in terms of what is accepted and practiced as far as relationships?  And we are so because its scary to try otherwise?  Back then the girls were so excited to hear the Beatles sing, and the Beatles were singing about more chivalrous love, with values, morals, commitment, and serious feelings.  The had the image of the perfect boyfriends.  Outkast sings of love/relationships as a transient, throw-away, perhaps item, like a Polaroid picture that captures a split second in time a momentary feeling that can and is replaced the next minute by another picture/feeling/situation.  The shaking of the Polaroid refers to trying to make the photo develop faster, as if there is no time again to question the situation, only to indulge in it.  Interestingly, shaking a Polaroid photo will not make it develop faster, it may only make it more blurry.  The other meaning of shake is to shake things up as in doing something new, experimenting, changing etc.. He calls on the listeners to shake up their relationships, possibly with no reward but just for fun (like a Polaroid picture).  And “nothing is forever,” like a Polaroid photo. It can only seem that way.

Outkast is made the ideal boyfriend in the contemporary world too, because he is a celebrity, makes amazing music that makes girls excited and want him as a boyfriend because they automatically think he will treat them right, love them and not break their hearts, but ironically the content that he sings about is contrary.  He questions the traditional relationship and admits that he doesn’t want to meet their parents, he just wants them in his caddy, and to make them cum.  (it’s dirty but sung in a cute pop song innocent way and brushed over with quickness, celebratory, merry music so he can get away with saying it).  Brilliantly enough the word “caddy” means a Cadillac, a car many inner city guys dream to have.  It is spacious and big, great for fucking in the back seat.  Yes it’s a crude but honest ambition.  In the British, traditional sense the word caddy refers to “a container, rack, or other device for holding, organizing, or storing items [either heavy items or also a tea caddy].”  He directly and blatantly objectifies the women of his crowd (fans) and compares them to teabags stored in a tea caddy in which there are different sections for different teas to open and consume.  Or a cart for hauling around luggage (baggage) that he can also use and in this interpretation he implies they are a burden because of their weight its hard to get rid of them.  The weight here can be a metaphor for social standards and morals that make alternative decisions tough to make.

Apparently the crowd is only made up of hot girls showing off their feminine sexuality, and the only guys in the video are the 8 faces of Andre (Ice Cold) 3000 who is the hero and center of attention.  In the video when he asks the fellas, only him and his 8 faces respond with “ice cold” which is a reference back to himself.  It’s about him worshiping himself and wanting everything for himself.  He is also engaged in a relationship with the girl crowd and in the video a security guard prevents a girl from running to him upstage in an instantaneous expression of her love for the singer.  It is curious that the crowd is all girls.  Are they all single?  Have they gone to a cheesy pop concert their boyfriends weren’t interested in so they could shake their ass like a Polaroid picture and throw themselves at andre 3000?
Chorus
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH)
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH)
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa.. (Don’t want to meet your daddy, OHH OH)
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa.. (Just want you in my Caddy OHH OH)
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH, don’t want to meet yo’ mama OHH OH)
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa.. (Just wan’t to make you cumma OHH OH)
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa.. (I’m, OHH OH I’m, OHH OH)
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa.. (I’m just being honest OHH OH, I’m just being honest)

[in the video Andre 3000 says “I’m just being nice” rather than saying “I’m just being honest.”  He tells the crowd the truth but defends the truth which he knows is socially unacceptable by saying he is honest/nice.  In the video he is smiling and innocent looking.  This talks about the superficial qualities of pop songs and pop music lovers(he knows he is singing A pop song).  The superficial qualities are so attractive that people fail to look through them to deeper ideas and questions.  And the pop song crowd is not intelligent enough to even think that there could be something deeper in the songs than a fun happy beat.]

[this is an interesting and perhaps one of the most conceptual art about artists verses in this song because it deals with the assumptions that people make about the person in the spotlight and the way they are perceived as moral, heroic and loved just because they are on a stage/in the light, when in reality they are no more special or better that anyone else.  Understanding this, he can say anything he wants in the song, and it will not be taken to heart among the (careless) masses; it will not be heard or criticized. However if a normal person says similar things to their bf/gf or to anyone else in general they will be seen as a bad person and will not get anyone to shake their ass for them and throw themselves at them.   He gets ways with it because it is in a SONG, and even though he really means it he can’t get anyone to understand it because they can’t view him or the performance as anything but a dazzling spectacle.
Bridge – Andre 3000
Hey, alright now
Alright now fellas, (YEAH!)
Now what’s cooler than bein’ cool?
(ICE COLD!) I can’t hear ya’
I say what’s cooler than bein’ cool?
(ICE COLD!) whooo…
Alright, alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, alright, alright
Alright, alright, Ok now ladies, (YEAH!)
And we gon’ break this thing down in just a few seconds
Now don’t have me break this thang down for nothin’
Now I wanna see y’all on y’all baddest behavior

[here he asks the girls to show him how naughty they can be and they continue to scream in ecstatic joy at him.  Then he asks them for sugar which could mean sexual things or be taken literally, in which case he is innocent and he again defends himself by referring to a moral: he is a neighbor and neighbors should be treated well and respected; you should do things for your neighbor]
Lend me some suga’, I am your neighbor ahh here we go!
Shake it, shake, shake it, shake it (OHH OH)
Shake it, shake it, shake, shake it, shake it, shake it (OHH OH)
Shake it, shake it like a Polaroid Picture, shake it, shake it
Shh you got to, shake it, shh shake it, shake it, got to shake it
(Shake it Suga’) shake it like a Poloroid Picture

Verse Three – Andre 3000 (Repeating “Shake it” in background)
Now while Beyonce’s and Lucy Lui’s
And baby dolls, get on the floor
(Get on the floor)
You know what to dooo..
You know what to dooo..
You know what to do!

[this second to last verse gains poignancy with the repetition of the phrase “You know what to do.”  It is ambiguous and on purpose because the singer (persona) doesn’t know what to do, he doesn’t know the answers to his own questions so he just tells the crowd that they know what to do.  Earlier he admitted that they just want to dance and this implies that they don’t know/care about his questions and just want to be in the moment and dance.

He raises the possibility that the reason the couple that he refers to in the song (and everyone else in the world) are staying together because they know what to do.  They are doing what they have always known what to do because nobody has ever taught them or showed them otherwise in terms of relationships.  And this is the reason why they can’t answer his question or break up with their bf because of their true feeling; because they know what they SHOULD do, and that is continue to NOT “mess around [with other people]” and just staying together like their traditional parents.

Another way to interpret “you know what to do” especially the last line is that the singer has given up with this question and left the crowd to do what they apparently know what to do; dance. ]
Chorus
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH)
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH)
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH)
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa.. (Uh oh, Hey Ya)
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH)
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa.. (Uh, uh, OHH OH)
Heeeyyy… Yaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH)
Heeyy Yaaaaaaaa.. (OHH OH)

[BOOM! The song has come and gone, nothing was resolved and if you did actually listen and understand it, you are on your own to resolve it.]

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7 responses to “Analysis of OUTKAST’S “HEY YA!” (one of 500 BEST songs of ALL time)

  1. Genius! =D

  2. wow nevr would’ve seen the song in this way. thanks for the intrepretation!

  3. This is so much poetic and artistic than i ever thought!!..good OUTCAST!!!

  4. A brilliant reading between the lines of a very clever song. Eons ago people used to say ‘ars est celare artem’. IMHO a true artist is exactly someone who give pleasure making easy something that is not. To understand this is appreciating in more than just one sense.

  5. I appreciate all the effort you put forth in analyzing this song. Unfortunately, you are attributing far too much ‘genius’ for lyrics which were more happen-chance than theory.we needed lyrics that married the beat and that’s what the end result was.

    • Well, if they acted by happen chance then they could’ve chosen a very wide range of different lyrics but they decided to choose these particular ones for a purpose. The purpose being expressing something, some senses feeling and thought in their mind.

  6. Hi Boris, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this music. I suppose that the “hey ya” theme sprungs from the same spirit that youve analized. We often blow many chances of geting scores because we dont know what pretext to use in order to start contact that may eventually lead to bed. André indicates it is deceptively simple: hey you. not even that: hey ya…nothing special really, actually superficial, flirtatious, no tricks or gimmicks, the less atention you give to it the better.

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