Saturday, November 5, 2011

November 5: OutKast, "Hey Ya!"

Artist: OutKast
Song: "Hey Ya!"
Album: Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Year: 2003

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While in many ways it makes very little logical sense, the reality remains that as hip-hop music began to gain a larger dominance within the mainstream world of music, the quality and creativity in the music being produced took a rather sharp turn in the opposite direction.  As the 1990's came to an end, it seemed that any vestige of the once wildly unique scene that was hip-hop music was a relic of the past, as a majority of emcees and producers seemed to have their hearts set on doing little more than placing predictable and unoriginal rhymes over bass-heavy arrangements that showed a similar lacking in creative thought.  Yet it was the handful of groups within hip-hop music that did their all to reinforce the idea of "music" within the genre that yielded some of the finest music of the decade, and there are few hip-hop acts in history that have shown the diversity and talent that can be found throughout the entire catalog of OutKast.  Whether it is deep, darker, soulful songs or some of the most high-energy, head-bobbing music the world has ever heard, it seemed as if there was no style of music that the duo could not adapt into their sound, and their albums became the most highly anticipated whenever they were released.  Though their catalog is filled with some of the most memorable songs of the past few decades, there is no question that OutKast managed to outdo even themselves with their absolutely unforgettable 2003 single, "Hey Ya!"

It almost goes without saying that the main musical hook on "Hey Ya!" is nothing short of musical perfection, as the songs' name alone instantly places that musical progression into the head of anyone who hears it.  The combination of sounds that are deployed simultaneously are far beyond any other song of the era, and yet it is the way that OutKast were able to combine so many different musical elements that gives "Hey Ya!" its unique sonic structure.  While it is almost unheard of within the past decade of mainstream hip-hop, "Hey Ya!" is built around a guitar hook that is so perfectly mellow that it almost defies description.  Yet the deep groove that André 3000 brings via this progression is what draws in listeners from all across the musical spectrum, as it has a upbeat, bright feeling that is nothing short of refreshing.  The way that this sound contrasts the bouncing beats creates a rather simple, yet uniquely full sound, and the additional keyboard noises give it all of the modern flare that it needs.  In many ways, it is the fact that OutKast are able to extract so much emotion and attitude from such a basic musical arrangement that sets "Hey Ya!" so far apart from other recordings of the time, and it also proves that there are no limits as to what can be done within the hip-hop genre.  To this day, there is no question that the hook and melodies found throughout "Hey Ya!" are some of the finest in the history of the musical form, and it is this distinctive musical style that sets OutKast so far apart from their peers.

Perhaps the only element of the music of OutKast that is more impressive than the wide range of sounds that they have created over the years is the fact that within these diverse musical arrangements, they have always been able to adjust their vocal style.  Whether it was a heavy and hardcore style rhyme or this almost sing-song approach that he takes on "Hey Ya!," there is no arguing that André 3000 is one of the most talented performers in the entire history of hip-hop music, and there is no question that this track finds him at his best.  It is the way that he seamlessly switches from rapping to singing throughout the song that makes "Hey Ya!" such a superb musical experience, and yet it is also the unrestrained joy that comes across on every note that keeps the song from ever feeling dated or anything less than pure musical excitement.  However, running underneath this brilliant musical and vocal performance are some of the most thought provoking lyrics that have been written in years, as André 3000 takes a rather blunt look into relationships within modern society.  Bringing into question exactly whether or not "love" in itself can succeed within the new generation, there are few more insightful lyrics one can find than when he states, "...if they say nothing is forever, then what makes love the exception?"  Strangely enough, the lyrical content often goes overlooked due to the fantastic vocal performance, and yet there is no question that there is a great deal going on below the surface of André 3000's singing.

Truth be told, in modern times it is almost impossible to think of a time when the song did not exist, and it almost boggled the mind to consider that the track is approaching a decade since its initial release.  These two realities solidify the rather special place that the song occupies, and few other recordings have retained as long lasting and wide ranging an appeal as "Hey Ya!"  Furthermore, in the short time since it has been released, "Hey Ya!" has already been covered by a wide range of artists, and remains a regular fixture within all forms of popular media and culture.  The fact that even with all of this use in the short time since the song was first heard, "Hey Ya!" continues to come off as fresh and stimulating as ever, and in many ways, this is all the proof one could need to understand what a uniquely brilliant song lives within "Hey Ya!"  Whether it is due to the absolutely hypnotic musical arrangement or the singing to which one cannot help to sing along, there are few songs from any genre or era that have achieved the level of perfection found here.  The fact that the song was a part of a music scene that was becoming rather bland makes it even more significant, as "Hey Ya!" in many ways reminded people what "great" songs were all about.  Creating what can only be labeled as an "instant classic," there is simply no other song in recent history that can measure up to the presence and allure one can experience all across OutKast's unmistakable 2003 single, "Hey Ya!"

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