08. Outkast – Hey Ya!

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Artwork by Adam Sarpalius

As 2009, and the decade come to a close, PMA will be looking back at our favorite songs of the last ten years. We will update a list with 75 empty slots until we reach that song that changed everything. You can keep track of this list by keeping an eye on this page. We make these lists in hopes that you guys will chime in the comments and share your favorite musical moments of the noughties.


One morning in late-September of 2003, I woke to my television on and tuned to MTV. (I must have been watching Real World/Road Rules Challenge the night before, the only reason to watch MTV at the time.) I turned over at saw Outkast’s Andre 3000 in eight incarnations, joyfully paying homage to the Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. I listened in my semi-stupor, and as I turned over to fall back asleep I thought, God, I love this song. Only later did I realize I had never heard it before.

Such is the brilliance of “Hey Ya!,” a song whose instant likability belies a remarkable level of complexity and virtuosity. The song has been so ubiquitous, that its novelty is easily taken for granted. Its meter unexpectedly shifts between 4/4 and 2/4, giving it an odd, syncopated beat. The tempo, a brisk 160 BPM, never feels rushed, thanks to its bass line. Andre’s vocal spans a range of over an octave and a half, from its half-spoken verse to its giddy height at the chorus. Its lyric is responsible for adding idioms like “shake it like a Polaroid picture” into the vernacular. All told, no small feat for one single.

Repetition may have diminished its immediacy, but “Hey Ya!” remains a mini-masterpiece, and the defining instant-classic of the decade. -Peter Tabakis

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