Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Outkast has been hugely influential in the rap genre, and the duo has been innovating since their first album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik was released in 1994. Big Boi and André 3000 began to crossover to pop with songs like “Ms. Jackson,” but the Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album quickly became the duo’s biggest commercial success. In this double album, Speakerboxxx represented Big Boi’s vision while The Love Below represented André 3000’s. The first two singles promoted one song of each: “The Way You Move” (which definitely deserves its own Cover Me post at some point) and “Hey Ya!”. Both became instant dance-floor classics.
“Hey Ya!” really has it all. A call-and-response, a coined dance move, and references to Beyoncé and Lucy Liu. Is it a happy song? Is it a sad song? Do we really care? The song topped FiveThirtyEight’s data-driven ultimate wedding playlist, and this checks out. I have personally been the one shaking it like a Polaroid picture on the wedding reception dance floor and wow, do I want to be doing that again. With the backlog of weddings postponed because of the pandemic, will 2022 finally see the resurgence of this essential rite of passage for a newly married couple? Time will tell. Until then let’s hear some others reimagine “Hey Ya!”
The Blanks – Hey Ya! (Outkast cover)
Yes, this cover was technically inspired by Obadiah Parker daring to go acoustic, but in the spirit of nostalgia, I have to give preference to this a cappella wonder featured in the wind down of the television show Scrubs. The ukulele is fitting of the beach setting in the episode, and the barbershop quartet vibes are in line with the reoccurring band these characters form. The song is definitely on the somber side, but elements like the childlike xylophone and the deep “ice cold”s maintain some child-like cheer. The almost desperate “lend me some sugar” plea is also balanced with the upbeat “shake it”s. The ending “hey ya”s are calling out for something. You decide what for.
EDEN – Hey Ya! (Outkast cover)
This cover starts by really leaning into the sadness, providing a recount of the singer’s baby, perhaps gone with no hope of return. The present tense sounds past. However, once the admission comes that the singer is not happy here, he breaks loose. The tone changes; some electronic old-school arcade gaming noises escalate. The vocals build in intensity, and a chorus joins in, the emotion swelling. The song then quickly ends with an original element, a self-preservation “I’m too cool for this” chant.
Cavedoll – Hey Ya! (Outkast cover)
Now we’re really changing it up, with a full-on techno cover. The sounds are stereotypical video game sounds (someone is definitely doing the robot to this version), yet the effect somehow isn’t cheesy. The “shake it” commands fit the theme. They are delivered almost as if the singer is slamming on a video game controller and ordering his character to “shake it” instead of “jump” or “run.” Another vocalist joins in; now their respective characters are dueling.
Ash Williams – Hey Ya! (Outkast cover)
On to a rock version. Some may think the vocals are too rough, but to me, they come off as emotionally raw and appropriate for the will they/won’t they duality this song evokes. The musicians don’t take themselves too seriously either. In the call-and-response section, the song becomes just some friends jamming. In this cover the final “hey ya”s sound like a freedom cry.
M&O – Hey Ya! (Outkast cover)
We’ll close with a dreamy, soulful cover that really stands out. This one forces us to slow down; it even eases us in with a little taste of their setup before they get started. We’re no longer frantically shaking anything. Instead, we’re swaying slowly, bobbing our heads to the laid-back beat. In the call-and-response, the “ladies” get their own chance to shine with powerful harmonies. After some light scatting and shimmering cymbal, we are left wanting more, with a fadeout worthy of an encore.