Vampire Weekend Lose Their Religion With “Ya Hey”

vampire weekend

Videos by American Songwriter

Vampire Weekend
“Ya Hey”
(XL Recordings)
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Before engaging God in an arm wrestling match, you mellow him out a bit by soaking him down good with champagne. That’s Vampire Weekend’s approach on their video for the new single “Ya Hey,” from their latest, Modern Vampires of the City, out May 14 on XL Recordings.

Shot on a rooftop in NYC, the video features a gaggle of white robed celebrants (Druids? Apprentice chefs? Scientologists on a weekend getaway?) shaking up bottles of champagne and spraying the foam skyward while Koenig berates Yahweh about his fire fixation (the burning bush thing) and his arrogance: how dare He assume that everybody knows His name so He doesn’t have to say it? There’s so many muddled biblical references in this thing you’d need weepy televangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s Bible study guide to navigate it successfully.

After buttering Him up a bit, calling Him “sweet thing” and “Saint,” Koenig takes the Big Guy down a notch or two, telling the Almighty that “Zion and Babylon and America don’t love you.” He’d like to have a personal relationship with the Lord, but admits he could never love Him because “in spite of everything /You won’t even say your name/ Only I Am that I Am. Who could live that way?”

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Perhaps it’s his fault, Koenig admits. Maybe he made some mistakes, but he can’t help but feel that if the Big G sees our mistakes and lets them go, why can’t Koenig? Ya Hey!

There’s a reggae flavor to it, Koenig channeling a Jimmy Cliff vocal over a thumping kick drum and a stoned, stumbling reggae bassline. But the mood is shattered when he starts shouting “Ya Hey!” like a hysterical cowboy at his first rodeo, backed by an alien insect choir caught in a Katy Perry hiccup loop chanting a chorus of “why-uh?”

That’s tolerable for a few measures, but drawn out over five minutes, it gets a bit tiresome. By the three minute mark, he’s said all he has to say and starts repeating himself, and that K. P. hiccup and insect chorus thing really starts to get on your nerves. But with about a minute and a half to go, he redeems himself with a great voice over, a cool Rasta voice intoning, “My soul swooned as I finally heard the sound/ Of You spinning Israelites into 19th Nervous Breakdown.” Yowzah! Now there’s your next single. Ya Hey indeed.

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