79. OutKast - Hey Ya!

I would’ve posted this one sooner, but the Blogger site apparently has it in for OutKast. This is the fourth time that I’ve done this post. The Blogger interface wouldn’t autosave and would just delete my entire post without warning. You’d think I would have learned after the first couple of times, but I tend to trust technology more than I should. So who wants my ATM PIN number? Anyway……

Before I get into the specifics of “Hey Ya!”, I wanted to talk about the album that it came from, because that’s a cool story, too. “Hey Ya!” comes from the 2003 double album by OutKast, Loveboxxx/The Love Below. But it wasn’t really an album by OutKast. It was solo albums by each member of the band, Loveboxx by Andre 3000, and The Love Below by Big Boi. They said they wanted to release it as an OutKast album to keep the songs under the OutKast umbrella. Stephen Thomas Erlewine, of allmusic.com (a great music site) compared it to if the Beatles had released The White Album as a double album with a Paul record and a John record. Interesting argument, but let’s get back to “Hey Ya!”

Dance songs tend to have two strikes against them when it comes to calling them musical genius. It’s as if the mere fact that they’re dance songs remove them from the discussion. It’s much like comedies in the Academy Awards. But genius this song is. I would normally just point to the fact that it won a Grammy, but I’ll give you more. With the exception of the female voice saying “Yeah?”, every single voice you hear is Dre’s. He recorded many of the lines up to forty times to get different feels and takes on each. I listened to the song five times in a row and discovered something new in the vocals each time. There’s also the kid’s keyboard sound that you can’t help but love as well as that great bass line (that was actually recorded with a synthesizer). So even though it's a dance song, it's a audiophile's dance song. There's lots of musical meat on the bones.

The lyrics are about having a great night with a woman, thinking you might be falling in love, and then wondering if you’re the “falling in love” type of guy. Andre tends to not have concrete ideas down when he starts doing lyrics for a song, and this song was no exception. Don’t get me wrong, he has a solid idea of what the song is going to be about and how he wants to get it there, but there’s just no wrenching over individual words in order to create lyrical poetry, a la U2’s Bono. So as he’s at the microphone, he just lets it fly and sees what happens. For Andre, it works, and in this song, works brilliantly. Here’s a sample of what he came up with:

And we goin' to break this thing down in just a few seconds
Now don't have me break this thing down for nothin'
Now I wanna see y'all on y'all’s baddest behavior
Lend me some sugar', I am your neighbor
Shake it, shake, shake it, shake it (OHH OH)

Shake it like a Polaroid picture

The “shake it like a Polaroid picture” line is genius (and the one everyone quotes), but the one I really like is “lend me some sugar, I am your neighbor.” The Polaroid line is cool, but the sugar line is FUN. Most people like to be cool, but I’m much more of a fun guy than a cool guy, so Andre’s got something for all of us.

Fun Fact #642 (When asked about his taste in music, presidential candidate Wesley Clark said in 2004, “I don't know much about hip-hop, but I do know OutKast can make you shake it like a Polaroid picture." I couldn’t talk myself into basing such an important vote on something this silly, but I came this close to voting for Clark just for that.)

Fun Fact #124 (In the last ten years, of the fifty nominees for the Academy Award for Best Picture, only two have been out-and-out comedies. The two? I’ll give you a second to think about it…….. Juno (2007) and Little Miss Sunshine (2006))

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