Walker Hayes' path to stardom in country music hasn't always been easy, but it all paid off when "Fancy Like" became one of the biggest viral sensations in recent years from any popular music genre. He's since proven to be no one-hit wonder with subsequent songs that reflect his way with words and his genuine focus on faith, family and being a good neighbor.
The Alabama-born singer-songwriter signed his first record deal with Capitol shortly after moving to Nashville in 2005, but after being dropped by the label, he worked at Costco to support himself, his wife Laney and their six children.
He pressed on, however, signing a publishing deal with Shane McAnally and releasing successful singles on Monument Records. Now in 2022, he's at the peak of his career behind the multi-platinum Country Stuff The Album.
Here's Wide Open Country's playlist of Walker's eight best songs so far.
8. "Beer in the Fridge" (Boom, 2017)
Though it lacks the streaming numbers and cultural imprint of other selections here, "Beer in the Fridge" might be the most powerful --and most personal-- song in Hayes' catalog. The single candidly addresses the victory over alcoholism that allowed Hayes to maintain the work effort and positive mental attitude that kept him professionally afloat during less certain times.
7. "You Broke Up With Me"(Boom, 2017)
Hayes first made a name for himself in 2017 with "You Broke Up With Me." His now-famous talk-singing style was first introduced to the masses here, via a contagious beat made up of whistling and guitar picking. Its lyrics are aimed at an ex-girlfriend who misses the narrator though ironically, she's the one that broke up with him.
6. "90's Country" (2018)
Hayes released an ode to one of country music's most storied decades in 2018 as a standalone single. It employs his rhythmic singing and genre-crossing musical style as he seamlessly ties together titles of different '90s country songs, such as Deana Carter's "Strawberry Wine," George Strait's "Check Yes or No" and more to tell the story. It's one of the better selections from the nostalgic trend that's brought us Blake Shelton's "No Body" and Cole Swindell's "She Had Me at Heads Carolina."
5. "Don't Let Her" (8Tracks (Vol. 3): Black Sheep, 2019)
Hayes continued his streak of memorable singles in 2019 with the sentimental "Don't Let Her," a song in which a man passes away and his wife remarries. The tune directs tips on how to keep his wife happy toward the man who takes its narrator's place. At the top of the list is this: "If she ever misses me, please, don't let her." Although the song's subject sounds sad, it's surprisingly upbeat and full of personality as it includes funny pieces of advice such as "Don't ever say she's acting just like her mother" and "Don't ever watch 'The Office' without her."
4. "Craig" (Boom, 2017)
Hayes' musical style and candid lyrics suit carefree tunes, but the singer has also applied this approach to songs with deeper subject matter. "Craig," also from his Boom album, tells an autobiographical story about Craig Cooper, whom Hayes met at church. Hayes sings about losing his record deal and his mini-van, forcing him to squeeze his family of eight into a small car. In the middle of Hayes' struggle, however, Cooper comes through with a meaningful gift for the family. This heartwarming song landed just inside the Top 60 on the charts, but it's a perfect example of Hayes' depth as a songwriter.
3. "AA" (Country Stuff The Album, 2022)
After "Fancy Like" threw Hayes into superstardom, he followed it up with "U Gurl," and later with the crowd pleaser he was in search of, "AA." It's an intentionally silly tune about such dead-serious topics as sobriety and fatherhood. The acoustic guitar-heavy, country-flavored tune was a spiritual successor to "Fancy Like" beyond its light-hearted tone, with both songs getting a boost by a TikTok dance created by Hayes and his oldest daughter, Lela.
2. "Y'all Life" (2022)
The 2022 single "Y'all Life" added to the long list of modern country singles about the hometown experience, from parking lot hangouts with lifelong friends to local buzz over this coming Friday's high school football slate. Hayes flavors it with his usual charm, rhyming Dolly Parton with the name of NBA player James Harden and hat-tipping kindred spirit Nelly. Though it's not as pivotal to Hayes' rise as "Fancy Like" by any stretch, it's a stronger example of how his skills have elevated the country-rap game.
Just as Hayes brought in Kesha to revamp "Fancy Like," he's retackled "Y'all Life" with country music enthusiast Ciara.
1. "Fancy Like" (Country Stuff The Album, 2022)
Up until 2021, Hayes was enjoying a successful-enough career with a solid fan base thanks to several of the songs listed above, with one viral song released in August 2021 skyrocketing his career to the next level. That song, of course, is "Fancy Like" from Country Stuff The Album, which started a viral dance craze on TikTok and made its way to country radio. The song itself is relatable, as Hayes sings about his not-so-fancy life of going to "Applebees on a date night" and enjoying "Natty in the styrofoam." The triple platinum single became a pop culture sensation, landing at No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts and No. 3 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100
Hayes has also released a remixed version with pop star Kesha. "Fancy Like" even landed a Grammy nomination, which aren't givens for commercial country hits.
This story was previously published in December 2021.
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