April 7, 2022

Time Out's Top 50 Karaoke Songs of All Time: (#45) "Hey Ya!" in the style of Outkast

Time Out's Top 50 Karaoke Songs of All Time: (#45)

If you're wondering what this is referring to, check out the previous posts in this series: Intro,
#50#49, #48,

Title: "Hey Ya!"
Artist: Outkast
Album: Speakerboxx/The Love Below
Year: 2003

I'm not kidding--I genuinely thought this song was older than this, because it feels ubiquitous. 

The most common thing written about this song has to do with its rhythm, so I'll stay away from that--better, more knowledgeable people have covered it much better. People have also covered the irony present in the dissonance between the happy sound and the sadder lyrics, and I see no need to rehash that either. It still feels like a party song--and, hey, sometimes we party about sad things. 

I'll say this, though, you know what this song makes me think of? "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T. S. Eliot, but more precise and with a driving beat.*

Now, they're not connected in terms of tone (you could argue there's a sense of insecurity in both) or in scope, but there's one thing they both do early on--they unsettle you. Intentionally, and with style. Early in both, a line forces a rereading of previous lines:

"Let us go then, you and I, 
When the evening is spread out against the sky 
Like a patient etherised upon a table;"
-T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

"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? (Ah)"
- André 3000, "Hey Ya!"

In some ways, this reminds me of traditional haiku as well. The first thing they teach you about haiku is the syllable count--ask just about everyone, and they'll tell you it's five-seven-five. The thing that's often missed in talking about haiku is the juxtaposition present in the short poems. Neither "Prufrock" nor "Hey Ya!" are haikus, obviously, but the juxtaposition of the bolded lines against the more romantic lines preceding them provide a tension and force a re-reading. An illustrative example:

First autumn morning
the mirror I stare into
shows my father's face.
- Murakami Kijo

If I have a major gripe with music discussions, it's the way pop music is often looked down on as less than, in terms of creativity or artistic integrity.  That's likely a reason for the way this blog series has progressed.

Date Attempted: 6 April 2022
Location: Voodoo Brewing Company, Indiana PA

How It Went: As bad as "Creep." Maybe slightly worse.

Karaoke Difficulty Level: 8

The song is complex in a rhythmic sense. It's easier to dance to than to sing. And, for me, there's just something about the song where I couldn't find a way to do it in a place that was safe and comfortable for my vocal cords, so I strained and groaned my way through it (eventually, I shifted it down a bit, but much like trying Al Green or Sam Cooke, I stretched way too hard trying at first).

Karaoke Fun Level: 8

I'm very torn on this rating, and part of it is based on the version I did--a lot of the fun parts I figured would be front and center were background vocals. Is it a deceptively sad song about the impermanence of love? Absolutely. Does it also want to make you move and dance? Unquestionably. Let's face it--it's a bop.

Does it belong?

Yes. It's not the easiest song to do, but it's such a fun song despite the themes--it's a stealth sad song, which hits a very nice thing if you need something cathartic without breaking the party vibes of the night. With a better version, I may have liked doing it more.


* "Are you about to be a pretentious git again?" Yes, yes I am.