"Hey Ya" is one of the best examples of an upbeat, happy song with some seriously depressing lyrics. If you haven't heard by now, this hit single written and produced by Andre 3000 from Outkast is a song about love not working out.
Even though this gets played at weddings across the world every year, it's a story about how modern relationships are bound to fail, and the people involved always end up being unhappy, suggesting that we should just keep things shallow.
The song has always been a huge hit since it came out 20 whole years ago (I cannot believe it's been that long), but it recently made waves in social media, specifically on TikTok and Twitter, when a wave of music fans found out the sad meaning behind the lyrics.
TikTok user Elizadeva made a post about the song in her series, ’Songs That Hit Different When You Know What They’re Written About’, back in 2021, and tons of fans were shocked to know the truth.
Andre 3000 himself came out with interviews over the last few years giving us the inside scoop on his creative process and the overall meaning behind the lyrics, which are pretty easy to spot once you get the beat out of your head.
Andre 3000 was working on the sound years before its actual release in 2003 and originally wanted to call it "Thank God For Mom And Dad".
"The song isn’t autobiographical; it’s more like fantasies or tangents based on real life. Moments from my life spark a thought when I’m writing," he said in an interview, sharing that it's not actually about his relationships or his actual mom and dad.
The tempo of the track is fast and sure to make the listener dance with major chords, high-pitched, synthetic instruments, and a tricky time signature that changes the fourth measure of every six-measure phrase, which subconsciously makes you want to move even more.
Andre 3000 put a ton of effort into the instrumentation and the vocals, often doing 30 takes on every vocal part to ensure the layers were right.
The female voice you hear at the end that gives off the feeling of a huge group of ladies is also just one vocalist who layered many recordings in order to sound like a crowd.
Andre was gracious enough to state in an interview exactly what he wanted the overall message of the song to e about, although he didn't break down each line bit by it, which still leaves a few mysteries that fans are conversing about.
According to Andre 300 himself in an interview from 2004 with MTV:
"'Hey Ya!' is pretty much about the state of relationships in the 2000s. It's about some people who stay together in relationships because of tradition, because somebody told them, 'You guys are supposed to stay together.' But you pretty much end up being unhappy for the rest of your life."
The first verse starts with confidence in the character's relationship, with him explaining that his baby loves him and he knows it for sure, but a couple of lines later, Andre 3000s character starts doubting himself, saying, "But does she really wanna (mess around) but can't stand to see me walk out the door?"
He wonders if the only reason his girl is acting like she's satisfied and not messing around with other guys is that she doesn't want to be alone in life.
He finishes up the verse by thanking parental figures of the past who stuck together in ways beyond comprehension, even if they were happy.
The second verse shows the male character in the lyrics doubting love in general, with lyrics like, "If what they say is, 'Nothing is forever,' then what makes love the exception?"
While the first verse says his baby loves him for sure, the second shows him wondering how long the love will last if it starts out as genuine.
The final lines in the second verse really spill some ugly beans when he asks, "Why are we so in denial when we know we're not happy here?"
This relationship that is being explained is completely wrong for both parties, and the denial shown in the first verse gets followed up with the question, "Why even bother?"
Going back to the mom and dad in verse one, is this couple like parents who stuck together out of necessity and never truly loved each other, or like parents who were and love but just fell out of it and are only going through the motion now?
The hook towards the end of the track adds a fun but important layer of lyrics to the song, saying, "Don't want to meet your daddy, just want you in my caddy. Don't want to meet your momma, just want to make you come-ah."
This is the point where the male character decides to take things to the surface level instead of going deep with his relationships. He just wants to have fun and have sex instead of meeting her parents and building a strong relationship.
In the bridge, the lyrics point out that being ice cold is what's cooler than being cool, which is a reference to one of Andre 3000's nicknames, Ice Cold.
Some music fans speculate that there is a double meaning behind this, suggesting that the male character is cold-hearted and detached as a defense mechanism for having failed relationships.
The breakdown, which is one of the catchiest parts of the song, goes into more shallow lyrics about needing girls that look like Beyonce and Lucy Lu to get on the dance floor to shake it like a Polaroid picture.
This rap song broke barriers and was praised by fans of all types of genres because of how genius the music production alone was. It was funky, groovy, and pop, and the guitar lines were rock-inspired; it had everything a music lover could want.
The video added to the confusion behind the song's meaning because it says nearly nothing about the heartbreaking lyrics and focuses on how much of a dope dance tune this is.
It features Andre 3000 himself wearing the iconic green and black while playing as all the band members and energetically jumping around the stage to a roaring crowd.
This hit is one of the most influential songs of the 2000s, and the line about shaking it like a Polaroid picture even helped to revitalize the Polaroid Corporation (temporarily) because of how catchy it is.
In 2014, NME ranked Hey Ya at number 18 on their list of the 500 greatest songs of all time, and in 2021, Rolling Stone ranked it at number 10 on their list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
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