September 9, 2013 by NowhereButPop
Girl: I have a boyfriend
Girl: Yeah, he’s right behind you watching us.
Boy: How’s it going between you two?
Girl: Not great; I don’t really like him that much.
Boy: So then why are you with him?
Girl: I don’t know; that’s just what people do.
2003 and 2004 were quite possible the worst years of my entire existence both personally and culturally. Personally speaking, I started junior high, which was equitable to the 5th circle of Hell as described by Dante in Il Inferno, the Yankees lost the World Series, and I was still listening to Public Enemy (un-ironically). Culturally speaking, the divide between political parties began to widen at an exponential rate, the U.S. did not win the gold medal for men’s basketball, Chuck Norris jokes were all the rage, and music was dominated by Nelly, Avril Lavigne, and Green Day. By my count there is exactly one good thing that occurred during these two years and that was the release of Outkast’s most recent album Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
The biggest single off the album, and of Outkast’s career was “Hey Ya” a song that was routinely played up until I was a sophomore in college, some eight years after the album’s release. Not only was it an incredibly catchy and memorable song, but it was also accompanied by one of the last great music videos in the final phase in the era of music videos. “Hey Ya” was everything a pop song should be; it was upbeat, light, catchy, and fun. There was also a (moderately) dark contradiction between the music and the lyrics. It is the quintessential pop song though because we don’t have to pay attention to the lyrics, we can just follow the beat and dry hump someone mercilessly on the dance floor.
If you listen to the lyrics however, you’ll realize it’s not a sweet song about a relationship or a nice ode to someone. The song is actually about judging the merits of a relationship and if it’s worth staying with someone you don’t have feelings for. The first verse of the song all but confirms this with the line “My baby don’t mess around because she loves me so and this I know for sho’…but does she really want to”. Already we’re introduced to a scenario of doubt as he’s not sure if she really loves him or if she just doesn’t have the guts to let go of something that she actually wants to let go of. The next verse goes into this with even more depth as Andre 3000 says “But got it just don’t get it when there’s nothing at all” implying that you can’t force love, you either have it or you don’t, and in this case there’s nothing at all.
Now, while everyone else was too busy simply enjoying the song for what it was, I was too busy trying to understand how such a cynical and realistic song could be such a major hit. The best reason I could come up with, was that not very many people understood the fact that this was a cynical and sarcastic song. The most sarcastic part of course comes from the line “Now what they say is nothing lasts forever, then what makes love the exception”. It begs the questions “what makes love so special that it is the exception to this adage” and “why”. As far as 3000 is concerned there’s absolutely nothing special about love, at least not within the confines of his present relationship. The question that 3000 poses to himself and his girl is “Are we still in denial when we know we’re not happy here”. This is the ultimate question that I’ve witnessed in all my observations of relationships both my own and as a purely speculative party. Is there a level of respectability at this modicum of self awareness, or should the two be ridiculed and labeled as immature for not splitting up even though they both want to? If no one’s happy, and they each know it, at least they’re not blinding themselves that the relationship is better than it currently is. But if they know that a) it’s not a worthwhile relationship, and b) there’s no semblance of self denial, any point of staying together is rendered moot and non-existent.
Staying together with someone you don’t want to is a commonality of most immature relationships. There’ve been two times in my life where this has happened, once where she stayed longer than she wanted to, and once where I stayed longer than I wanted to. I’ve seen it and heard it from other people countless times as well. But for one specific reason we still stay together with that one person, even though there is no emotional attachment, or an attempt to feign any such commitment. The reason is simple-as people, and especially when it comes to our feelings, we look before we leap. We don’t leap out of relationship that isn’t terrible more often than not because there isn’t anything else to plant our feet; we’re essentially floating in romantic limbo. We don’t leap until we look at what’s out there and deem it to be better than what we already have. The one thing people detest more than a loveless relationship is no relationship.
The most telling line in “Hey Ya” is when 3000 shouts out ad-libbing “Y’all don’t want to hear me, you just want to dance”. That’s exactly what we want, and that’s exactly what we did, and 3000 knows this, he just had to point it out to us. And exactly on cue we dismissed this, the most important lyric that acts as a self-fulfilling prophecy of the legacy of the song. No one wants to hear a song that reflects the vast majority of the relationships they’ve been in, we just want to dance. We don’t need Andre 3000 telling us about bullshit relationships as we’ll find out firsthand for ourselves. After all, that’s what people do.
 This is a crucial aspect of many beloved pop songs throughout history. “Every breath You Take” by the Police is a prime example of such a disparity between music and lyrics.
 This is why it is infinitely easier to hook up with someone who is already in a relationship than it is with another single person. All you have to do is convince that person that it is better to get with you in the here and now instead of not doing anything in order to remain true to someone who is not there at that exact moment. You’re not competing with a person, you’re competing with an idea.