Dark Meaning Behind ‘Hey Ya!’ Will Ruin Song For You Forever

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There will always be those songs that, when you hear them, they immediately transport you back to a certain time in your life.

Whether it’s a Rihanna song that returns you to your first girl’s holiday or a sad song that reminds you of your first heartbreak, it’s amazing how quickly you’re able to remember that period of your life.

Hey Ya! by Outkast is one of those songs for me. It was released a couple of years before I started high school so it was ultimately the soundtrack for my teenage years.

I only need to hear the words ‘shake it like a Polaroid picture’ and I’ll be the first one up dancing, embarrassing moves and all.

But it would appear that the catchy dance song is not all it cracks up to be, as its true meaning is much darker than you might initially think.

How could that be, you might be wondering. Surely there’s no way we’ve been singing along to it for the past 15 years without knowing what it’s really about?

Well, apparently we have so prepare for your mind to be blown.

Exhibit A: the lyrics. If you really pay attention the lyrics you will notice that the song may not be as lighthearted as we first thought.

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Polaroid pictures aside, the verses hint at a darker truth:

If what they say is “Nothing is forever”
Then what makes, then what makes, then what makes
Then what makes, what makes, what makes love the exception?

So why oh, why oh, why oh, why oh, why oh
Are we so in denial when we know we’re not happy here?

Clearly, the song is referring to the fact that many people stay in unhappy relationships rather than doing what’s right for them and leaving.

This is then backed up by an interview with Andre 3000, one half of the Outkast duo, who confirmed that this was in fact the meaning of the hit song. Which takes me directly to…

Exhibit B: Andre 3000 confirmed the true meaning of Hey Ya! on the set of the music video.

According to MTV, the American rapper explained:

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. So ‘Hey Ya!’ is really about saying, ‘F*ck it. Live life, you know?’

Blimey. When you’re dancing around your bedroom, hairbrush in hand, you never really pay attention to the lyrics – especially when the song itself is so fast-paced and catchy and the music video so vibrant.

But now, when you can actually see the lyrics in front of you, you realise that the whole idea of the song is to show just how much people can hide behind the facade of a relationship, all the while hiding their true feelings.

I don’t know about you lot but this was a bit too deep for me on a Monday afternoon. I’m going to go listen to some Little Mix and not think about it…

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Lucy Connolly

Lucy Connolly

A Broadcast Journalism Masters graduate who went on to achieve an NCTJ level 3 Diploma in Journalism, Lucy has done stints at ITV, BBC Inside Out and Key 103. While working as a journalist for UNILAD, Lucy has reported on breaking news stories while also writing features about mental health, cervical screening awareness, and Little Mix (who she is unapologetically obsessed with).