Written by Cameron Bartolini, Walker Hayes, Josh Jenkins, and Shane Stevens
I have no interest in assessing the overall quality of “Fancy Like,” but I do want to talk about it.
Because I love that it exists, even if it’s not something that I’m terribly interested in listening to.
It’s been a very, very long time since I’ve been fully engaged in mainstream country music. Much of it seems to go out of its way to let me know that I don’t belong because of where I live or how I vote or my odd desire for women to be seen and heard.
But I’m not fully engaged in Americana either. I like some of it, but it’s usually the kind that would have made it on to country radio in an alternate timeline where women weren’t exiled and great songwriters still pitched their best songs to the best singers.
I’ve spent so much time in retro mode lately, between Sirius and the nineties No. 1 series, that it’s been reminding me of why I fell in love with country music in the first place. It was comfortable in its own skin, and it trusted itself to have something to say that would resonate with small town folk and city folk, the young and the old, and even the right and the left.
“Fancy Like” has that same spirit. I think it’s resonating because real life, when you’re holding down a job and raising kids and trying to make ends meet, means going through a drive through some nights to make sure everyone gets fed. Date night involves whatever fast casual restaurant is in your immediate neighborhood, and buying the alcohol that gets you the most bang for your buck. Natty Lite in the song, but it could just as easily have been Barefoot Wine or a case of White Claw.
But it’s not the details that matter. It’s finding the joy in the mundane, and celebrating what you have and choosing to be grateful for it.
I didn’t bother writing about “The Worst Country Song of All Time” or “Am I the Only One.” They appeal to an anger and resentment of some bizarre caricature of what it means to be a person who lives in the city and votes Democratic. I’m not the target audience, but I think that both songs show more contempt for the ones they’re singing to than the ones they’re pointing at, assuming that they hate those “other people” who don’t cross their mind throughout the day anymore than us city folk spend time thinking about people in small towns while we’re navigating our days.
“Fancy Like” loves its target audience, and it connects beyond it because American life itself has become so homogenized. No matter where you are in the country, you aren’t that far away from a Wendy’s or an Applebee’s. We don’t have Wal-Mart in NYC proper, but there are Targets everywhere, and they sell Natty Lite. We may imagine yawning cultural gaps that can’t possibly be crossed, but consumer culture does so with ease.
If I was going to critique “Fancy Like” and turn this into a proper single review, I’d say something about how country music continues to struggle in its attempts to incorporate older top 40 music trends, as it has since hip-hop became a dominant force a generation ago. Country radio has historically sounded like the top 40 radio of ten or fifteen years earlier, but there are very few artists today who can make that work. On first listen, I thought “Fancy Like” was a parody of Kane Brown, when it’s really just a pale imitation of Brown’s ability to effectively blend elements of country with elements of R&B and hip-hop.
But I love the sensibility of “Fancy Like” and I’m happy that Walker Hayes is having success with it. For a guy who worked at Costco’s between record deals and is balancing a music career with providing for six kids, it’s a much needed breakthrough. And his EP, Country Stuff? I’m not going to review that either, but it has some solid songwriting moments and welcome appearances from Carly Peace and Lori McKenna, even if most of it sounds like those cheap pop crossover remixes of late nineties country songs and it kept reminding me of Marcel.
Marcel’s album wasn’t great. But I’m happy that it exists.
If disco had become the dominant music genre for 40 years, would you dismiss those country aficionados as backward hicks who weren’t hip enough to like disco infused country?
The fact you think of the 90’s as retro tells me you have no sense of proportion in the history of country music.
This song sucks. Rap/hip hop sucks. It’s truly unbelievable such talentless hacks make money “performing” this junk.
Kevin, I think you’re gonna get some backlash for this one, but I just want to say that as a longtime reader and infrequent commenter on this site, I think this may be one of the best things you’ve written, and something that only Country Universe could publish.
I’ve seen A LOT of negative reviews of this song, and I definitely agree with you that I have no interest in listening to it, but I also agree that there’s something really charming and judgement-less about it. And that Marcel comparison is very apt!!
I dismissed this song early on as a grossly calculated attempt to snag a brand deal from Wendys and Applebees – and it very well may be, Walker Hayes has a history of doing this (see “Shut Up Kenny”), but the fact that the Nashville bureaucrats at country radio STILL haven’t seemed to realize that this is a smash hit tells me that the powers that be weren’t expecting this to take off. And the fact that it has (and has stuck around WAY longer than that Aaron Lewis song) means that it’s appealing to SOMEone very genuinely. And I gotta respect that!
Ha, Steve! You must not really be a long time reader of Kevin’s writing here. To suggest that he has “no sense of proportion in the history of country music.” is just pure silliness on your part.
You missed the point entirely on this one. Country music has historically incorporated older trends of pop and rock music into their current sound. Even the most traditional nineties artists incorporated elements of seventies rock and pop into their sounds. Your favorite, Travis Tritt, would’ve been categorized as southern rock if he had come along twenty years earlier.
Disco never went away. They just started calling it dance music. And country jumped on the extended dance mix bandwagon right on schedule, to the point that the dance mix of Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochee” is the one remembered today. Reba is putting out a three cd set in October and one of the discs will be entirely made up of remixes.
Country artists just haven’t successfully incorporated hip-hop very often, despite many attempts. The ones who have made it work have tapped into the genre’s history of spoken word songs, but that’s a long discarded tradition that hasn’t been kept going. They try to pick up the cadence of a hip-hop record, but that doesn’t work because it’s not a natural flow for them. Kane Brown is great at doing what Walker Hayes is attempting to do.
The 90s are retro now. I lived through them. I love that era. But it’s very much in the past now, as far away as the sixties and seventies country were back then.
You can make the claims that I don’t know country music history, but it’s about as credible as claiming rap/hip-hop collectively sucks in the year 2021.
What’s funny is that I am not celebrating the music itself in any way, shape, or form! But it has a point of view and a spirit that is a refreshing antidote to the myopic and angry identity anthems that screech to the choir. I’ll go to bat all the live long day for Kane Brown, though.
My first instinct was to be dismissive of Hayes’ intent, but the details were a bit too specific for me to buy into my own cynicism. A guy who has had only a little success and is providing for six kids – six kids! – would totally go to Applebee’s on a date night and share an Oreo shake.
I shared it with a friend of mine who likes modern country music. Just sent the video to her without comment. She responded with “OMG we just went to Wendy’s the other night!” She lives in Long Island. This thing resonates.