The first time I heard “Hey Ya!” was in a hotel ballroom/auditorium in late summer 2003. The occasion was the then Sony-BMG’s unveiling of their fourth quarter heavy hitters. “Hey Ya!” sounded so unbelievably left from anything OutKast (or, for that matter, any hip-hop act) had ever done. It was catchy, sure. I liked it. I just didn’t think the whole fucking world would go “Hey Ya!” crazy for the better part of the year. The song became so ubiquitous that Andre 3000 would go on to introduce his Grammy performance of the song with the words “‘Hey Ya!’ again, God damn it.” It was everywhere.
And for good reason. Again, it’s catchy as hell. It performs the neat trick of sounding exuberant while having lyrics that are actually kind of sad. It hasn’t lost its luster even after sixteen years and play on every radio format from hip-hop to easy listening to alternative. In a sense, Andre created a format-busting demographic-shattering song that might have been one of the last moments of the monoculture before the internet brought that era to a close.
I don’t think anyone ever figured that’d come from the “Players Ball” guy.