Outkast is a rap duo who go by the names Big Boi and Andre 3000. In 2003, they made a double album, with each member contributing half. Big Boi's album was called Speakerboxxx while Andre's was The Love Below. This was Andre's song, and the first single from the album.
This was a huge crossover hit, getting lots of play on hip-hop, Top 40 and R&B radio stations. For much of the time this was #1 in the US, an Outkast song from Big Boi's album Speakerboxxx called "The Way You Move" was #2.
This is a very upbeat and energetic song, but according to Andre 3000, it is about the difficulty in keeping a relationship together. The album is mostly about the quest for love.
Andre wrote the first version of the song around 1999, and it almost made it onto their 2000 album Stankonia. At the time the song was called "Thank God For Mom And Dad." He started working on it again in 2002, doing lots of experimentation along the way. A lot of lyrics he wrote for the song didn't make the cut.
Aaron Mills from the funk band Cameo was brought in to play bass, but Andre played all the other instruments. The guitar chords were the first ones he learned.
Andre is the only male voice on the song. He did each line over and over, and by the time it was edited together, it sounded like other people were singing with him.
The girls who respond to Andre when he says, "Hey Ladies..." are actually just one person. A woman working in the studio was recorded saying "Yeah," and her voice was layered to sound like many.
This was finished just in time to be released as the first single from the album. They were going to put out "She Lives In My Lap" when Andre called the record company and told them this was finished and should be released first.
The video was inspired by The Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, when the group came to America and created a frenzy. During that show, the audience was filled with screaming girls who went crazy for the group.
For the Outkast video, they made it as if an American band invaded England, played a TV show there, and created the same type of frenzy.
In the video, eight band members were played by Andre 3000, including the backup singers known as The Love Haters. Andre had to play the song through as each character three times so they could shoot it from different angles, and he was exhausted by the end. About 100 girls were brought in as extras to play the screaming fans.
The announcer at the beginning of the video is Ryan Phillippe, who has appeared in the movies Cruel Intentions and White Squall. He was married to actress Reece Witherspoon.
Polaroid pictures are instant photos taken with special cameras that spit out the picture right from the camera after it is snapped. You're not supposed to shake the picture, but most people did anyway because they thought it would help it develop. Andre 3000 found a new expression for dancing when he said: "Shake it like a Polaroid picture." He also helped sell a lot more Polaroid cameras, which had been mostly forgotten since digital cameras became popular. In the video, the girls shake Polaroid pictures.
Asked by The Huffington Post
how the line "Shake it like a Polaroid picture" came about, André 3000 replied laughing, "I have no idea! In rap, lyric writing is what comes to mind, that was just the visual I had. And you're apparently not even supposed to do that. Same thing with the line about 'all the Beyonces & Lucy Lius'…when I was writing, her video was on. It's great when that happens, you're not thinking, you're just going with it."
When Andre 3000 performed this on various TV shows, he and four dancers would dress with a different theme for each performance. On one show, they might be tennis players, on another, jockeys.
This was the last performance and the big show stopper at the 2004 Grammy Awards, where Outkast won for Album of the Year. They went with an Indian theme, complete with a teepee and dancers dressed like squaws. The USC marching band came on stage midway through the song and played along.
This was the most-downloaded song on iTunes when the service was just starting to pick up steam (it launched in 2001, but went Windows-compatible in 2003). This was a huge boon for both the service and the song, since folks could legally download it for 99 cents without buying the whole album - a very big deal at the time. This got the song on a lot of iPods and helped make it ubiquitous.
Thanks to the iTunes exposure, "Hey Ya" became the first song in history to rack up one million downloads, making it the first song to achieve Platinum status as a download.
In 2004, the London band Razorlight recorded this with the London Community Gospel Choir.
The underground UK Indie act Dan Le Sac VS Scroobius Pip reference the song in their 2007 single "Thou Shalt Always Kill," singing "Thou shalt not shake it like a Polaroid picture" amongst other references to popular culture (thou shalt not wish your girlfriend was a freak like me, thou shalt not scream if you want to go faster, etc.).
Andre 3000 told the Mail on Sunday October 19, 2008 that people are always commenting on the green tartan trousers that he wore in the song's music video. He explained: "I designed those before I had my own label - Benjamin Bixby - using fabric I found in my hometown. I got a seamstress to sew them up for me, and then the year the single came out I started to see more and more green in people's collections. I don't know if there's such a thing as a royal green, but that's what I like to call it."
Outkast were the first group or duo to top the Billboard album and pop charts simultaneously in the 21st century. Over a four week period in January and February 2004, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below led the former survey, whilst this song reigned on the latter list.
After André 3000 sang "Shake it like a Polaroid picture," Polaroid issued the statement, "Shaking or waving can actually damage the image."
Andre 3000 wasn't the first to portray every band member in a video set on a variety show: Phil Collins did the same thing in his video for "Two Hearts