Hey Ya! (2003)


Written by André 3000 (André Lauren Benjamin)
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Shake it like a polaroid picture…

“Funny” is the first word that comes to mind when listening or dancing or running or cleaning the house while listening to “Hey Ya!”

All the handwringing over the dysfunction of modern romance, over hyper-sexualized “friendships,” the state of the Millennial Generation and the state of the world should be dismissed so we can have some fun, and rejoice that it took a Rock-N-Roll song to put the laughs back in Hip-Hop.

Hey Ya video shot 1 full group

In the video, Andre plays all the parts

The second words that come to mind are “supreme groove.” “Hey Ya!” rocks and rolls in the older sense of the descriptive. Think “Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard, the madness of “Great Balls Of Fire” from Jerry Lee Lewis, the Big Bopper’s “Chantilly Lace,” the Rolling Stones’ “It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll,” and so forth. They all have in common a leering, playful, almost silly (some might say adolescent) view of sex, dancing and the wildness of youth. Toss in a little Reggae and there you have it. Bravo.

“Long Tall Sally” by Little Richard

So kind… “Great Balls Of Fire” – blazing forever

“Chantilly Lace” – you KNOW what I like

The artist formerly know as Dre vibes on The Beatles, too, with a powerful, frantic rhythm guitar that John Lennon would have given his blessing to. The song, layered with decades of Rock/pop history, is underpinned by that guitar. There is also a satire of Beatlemania, crazy teen girls and a din of screams under the video’s audio track. Additionally, at turns, musically channeled are: Prince; Biz Markie and his ludicrous sense of humor; Funkadelic; Punk and New Wave. (Just a quick note about André 3000 and The Beatles: he also has a song on The Love Below album called “A Life In The Day Of Benjamin André.”)

The uncertainty of love in the 2000s is thoroughly explored, acknowledging a time when, in legend at least, couples stayed together.

My baby don’t mess around
Because she loves me so
And this I know for sure.
Uh, But does she really wanna,
But can’t stand to see me
Walk out the door?
Don’t try to fight the feelin’
‘Cause the thought alone is killing me right now.
Uh, thank god for mom and dad
For sticking two together
‘Cause we don’t know how…

Staggeringly, André composed all the lyrics on the spot when recording. Some of his lines were the result of 50-odd takes where one word or phrase was substituted for another then another, on down the line.

Hey Ya video shot 2 jokies

Andre sends up black “lawn jockeys”

He did the same with the music side of “Hey Ya!”

John Frye, who recorded the session, said “He really, really listens to everything intently, coming up with ways to make the song better. His attention to detail is the biggest thing. Every element of it is thought through. And it had to be cooked just right. He would spend so much time trying to get the right sound out of every snare drum, bass or whatever.”

The dandyish, punchy feel of the song – there is a fair amount of preening – is the result of ‘Dre’s meticulousness.

Amidst the slick, attractive music hooks are great lyrical throwaways, like:

Hey… ya. (Don’t want to meet your daddy, OH OH)
Hey ya. (Just want you in my Caddy OH OH)
Hey… ya. (OH OH, don’t want to meet yo’ mama OH OH)
Hey ya. (Just want to make you cumma OH OH)
Hey… ya. (I’m, OH OH I’m, OH OH)
Hey ya. (I’m just being honest OH OH, I’m just being honest)

Hey Ya video shot 3 drumming

Andre the drummer

Some might object to the “coarseness” of the use of “cumma,” but a listen to classic Rock-N-Roll songs inform us that even in the staid 1950s, there were plenty of risqué lines that shocked older generations. Words and expressions like “jellyroll,” “Good golly, Miss Molly, you sure like to ball,” and even the term “rock and roll” are overt references to sex. And there are countless others throughout the history of the genre.

Anyway, it’s pretty damned funny. (You could argue that “mama” and “cumma” make for a weak rhyme, though!)

There are also two hilarious lines that have become part of the cultural vernacular:

Gimme some sugar
I am your neighbor

And, a timeless verbal riff that references a dying (or dead) technology:

Shake it, shake it, shake, shake it, shake it, shake it (oh 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 sugar) shake it like a Polaroid picture

It’s inarguable on every count: you can’t beat “Hey Ya!” for sass, genre blending and bending, including classic Rock-N-Roll, Gospel, Hip-Hop and Blues shouting. In short, it transcends and reinvents all forms.

  • The weird, wacky and eminently entertaining music video of “Hey Ya!” compares favorably to The Beatles’ “Hello Goodbye” video that aired on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967. Thirty-six years separate the two videos and songs, but one is the clear descendent of the other.