In Hear This, A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, we’re picking songs that feature the word “hey” prominently—either in the title or in the lyrics.
The Beastie Boys’ full-length debut, Licensed To Ill, is a hip-hop monument, but it’s an ugly one. The first rap album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, Licensed To Ill’s commercial and artistic successes are forever overshadowed by the cartoonish swagger of its content, a satire of the louche American male lifestyle that was taken at face value and embraced by louche American males. “There were tons of guys singing along to ‘Fight For Your Right’ who were oblivious to the fact it was a total goof on them,” Mike D later reflected. In a 2006 Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross, the trio recalled how the self-imposed West Coast retreat that inspired Paul’s Boutique began when Mike D, MCA, and Ad-Rock saw themselves transforming into the beer-swilling caricatures they played on TV.
If they adopted leisure suits and hair dryers before leather and giant Budweiser cans, maybe more people would’ve gotten the joke. There’s still plenty of macho posturing amid the kitchen-sink samples and thrift-store kitsch of Paul’s Boutique, but the record’s sole charting single, “Hey Ladies,” sells the humor of “Fight For Your Right” or “Brass Monkey” better than “Fight For Your Right” or “Brass Monkey” ever could. The skewering of lotharios comes across more clearly when those lotharios are name-checking Welcome Back, Kotter; the catcalls are more effectively deflated by one of the Dust Brothers’ all-time great crate-digging picks: the cowbell break from Jeanette “Lady” Day’s “Come Let Me Love You.” The wannabe players portrayed by the Beastie Boys in the song’s video are the type you can laugh at without guilt, their Tony Manero aspirations and outrageous boasts undermined by the loneliness that’s wrapped up in the final verse. (Cue Vincent Van Gogh impersonator.) And even though “Hey Ladies” was the dying gasp of the Beastie Boys’ Licensed To Ill-era personas, it still inspired imitators: You could trace the ’90s interest in all things polyester and ’70s to this one music video from 1989.