Home > Uncategorized > “Ho Hey” and the Scourge of Mainstream Folk

“Ho Hey” and the Scourge of Mainstream Folk

I’m hard-pressed to think of a song in recent years that I’ve hated as much as “Ho Hey.” It has to be one of the most inexplicable hits ever. For one thing, just on the most basic level, the song is annoying to listen to: it has people saying “ho! hey!” in the background after every line, which makes me want to punch all of them, something I believe is a rational, human reaction to anyone saying “ho! hey!” But like any song I truly despise, what makes “Ho Hey” so detestable is a unique combination of being overplayed, loved by people who should know better, and the musical trends that the song represents.

What’s most frustrating about “Ho Hey” isn’t necessarily that it’s popular, but it’s the people that it’s popular with. A few years ago, The Current was a station that offered a reprieve from the overplayed music that we were forced to listen to when we went to shopping malls or grocery stores or parties. Now, its listeners just voted “Ho Hey” as the number one song of 2012. Interestingly, they didn’t have other pop songs on there like “Call Me Maybe” (which is an actual good song), indicating that the same people who love “Ho Hey” also think of themselves as educated listeners with discerning tastes. It’s easy to picture a Lumineers fan scoffing at those who listen to corporate pop artists while simultaneously listening to the most overplayed song in music today.

In this respect, The Lumineers (along with other folk bands like Mumford and Sons) have pulled off the biggest trick of all: they’ve become massively popular while somehow maintaining a certain amount of “indie cred.” Music critic David Greenwald dubbed this genre “festivalcore,” calling Mumford and Sons, despite their popularity, “the kind of band your friends might not know if you ask, the kind that feels like a secret.” The Lumineers seem similar: despite the fact that they’re literally everywhere on the radio, people who listen to them still perceive themselves as special, as if they’ve uncovered a diamond in the rough.

The success of “Ho Hey” is really just the chilling and horrific end-game of our unfortunate national love affair with mopey bland white guy folk. It takes popular trends in indie music (guys wearing silly antiquated clothing! soft guitars! non-threatening vocals!) and boils them all down to a nonsensical two-word catch phrase. One gets the impression that literally thousands of bands in the country could have written this song, but The Lumineers were the only ones willing to stoop to this level of pandering simplicity. Credit to them I guess: they seem like decent enough people, and I’m sure this has been a wonderful, unexpected surprise for them.

That doesn’t make the bewildering success of “Ho Hey” any less annoying. It just really bums me out to see this kind of deliberate mediocrity become huge while many more deserving indie bands remain underground. And this isn’t some indie snob thing: I can appreciate a well-written, mainstream-oriented pop song. But “Ho Hey” is none of those things. It’s a dashed-off, stupid song that is only popular because it shamelessly caters to our culture-wide fascination with sad, goofy white guys that play the banjo. (I keep saying dudes or guys because this genre is completely male-dominated, which makes it even worse than it already is.) Surely we can do better than this.

It’s almost like “Ho Hey” is popular in part because it’s so terrible. The Lumineers are “real” because they can’t write a hook and use gibberish instead of real words for lyrics, unlike those fancy pop stars who have legitimate talent and write songs in actual English. Sort of like how some people worship Adele because she doesn’t look like the other pop stars, maybe people worship The Lumineers because they don’t sound like the other big-name musicians (because they’re horrible)?

Whatever. I’m done trying to figure this one out. This one’s on you guys. I had nothing to do with it.

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  1. jerome
    April 4, 2013 at 3:19 pm

    You hit the nail on the head. This is the stupidest song I have ever heard next to Bruno Mars and his grenade tossing,

    I have my remote beside me and as soon as i hear either song I turn it off.

    Any idiot could make ho hey….just a bunch of noise.

    Glad to see someone else thinks like me.

    I hate it !!!!!

  2. chimney
    April 9, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    Great article. Check this interview out, your not the only one who can’t stand this bland excuse for folk music from the likes of the Lumineers and Mumford: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00z28mp

  3. May 3, 2013 at 9:34 am

    thank you.
    I cannot stand this effing song. I’m in france. It is overplayed x overplayed times.
    Ready to start thumping people. AMEN.

  4. miko
    June 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

    You are right, its an awful bore of a song. In the UK, its has featured on numerous grating tv commercials and promos for tv shows. I therefore cannot help but associate it with bland zombie consumerism. Music is supposed to elevate your spirit, transcend your soul, but this is too flat, too timid to do that. Definitely the favourite of pretentious middle class white kids.

  5. mike
    July 29, 2014 at 10:28 pm

    The first time I heard it I thought it sounded like the musical embodiment of pretentiousness and that hasn’t changed. First have a crowd sing parts of the song to make it come across like a beloved classic, when it’s not. Then put an accent on an unexpected syllable – sweetHEAA-AART to make it sound “smart,” when it’s not, and so on. It’s beyond bad. It’s an insult. And it makes me want to wretch.

  6. Jesse Michael Munson
    September 3, 2016 at 9:51 am

    The first time I heard this song I was shopping at a Home Depot. My skin crawled. I got physically ill and considered stepping outside until the track was over. My mind got progressively more blown as YET ANOTHER VOLLEY OF “HO”s and “HEY”s spewed forth. I despised this song immediately. Makes me want to put my guitar down forever.

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