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Five Burning Questions: Walker Hayes’ ‘Fancy Like’ Hits Top 5 on Hot 100

With the Billboard Hot 100 being blanketed for the last two weeks by big-ticket releases from Kanye West and Drake, there hasn’t been much room lately for slow-growing hits to make their mark on the listing. But this week, we have a new top 5 hit from a first-timer in the chart’s top tier: country singer-songwriter Walker Hayes.

Hayes, who previously reached the Hot 100 in 2018 with “You Broke Up With Me,” jumps 21-5 this week with his viral hit “Fancy Like.” The track has been steadily scaling the chart for most of the past two months, after taking off on TikTok, scoring a big Applebee’s sync (due to a prominent reference in the song’s chorus), and now landing pop veteran Kesha for a new remix.

How has the song reached such heights in a crowded field? And which country star could be next up to the top 5? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

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1. Completing a climb to the Hot 100’s top 5 is rare for any new single these days, let alone a country one. What’s been the key to Walker Hayes being able to grow this song into one of the year’s biggest crossover hits? 

Katie Atkinson: Any time you can get someone to accidentally listen to your song, you’ve won. Between the song’s TikTok omnipresence and its too-good-to-be-true (for Walker and the restaurant chain) placement in Applebee’s commercials, this song is basically inescapable. And with pop culture as splintered as it is these days, there aren’t a whole lot of ways to get this many people to listen to your song without specifically seeking it out. So… Applebee’s ads are the new radio, basically.

Jason Lipshutz: He stumbled into the hook of his career! Similar to Maren Morris’ “The Bones” and Gabby Barrett’s “I Hope” in recent years, Walker Hayes’ “Fancy Like” possesses the type of irresistible chorus that can cross over to non-country fans, as well as work at different streaming and radio formats. As more listeners have been exposed to that hook — be it through a top 40 power block, an Applebee’s commercial, or elsewhere — the song has grown into the top 5 smash it is today, outperforming most of the more impressive country crossover hits of the past half-decade.

Jessica Nicholson: Walker tapped into TikTok’s power of discovery when he and his daughter Lela developed a dance for “Fancy Like” and created a TikTok video of themselves performing the dance. Within days of its release, the clip had earned millions of views, with other Tiktok users creating videos of themselves attempting the dance. That organic social media discovery element helped push the song to the top of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. The song celebrates the singer-songwriter’s love of the restaurant chain Applebee’s, and in late August, the song got a larger promotional boost from Applebee’s, which featured the song (and Hayes) in a national television commercial.

Kristin Robinson: Timing is everything for a single. This song epitomizes the carefree, windows-rolled-down feeling of summer, better than most of the other chart climbers of the past few months. Though we are now in September, I think this summer provided the perfect foothold for “Fancy Like.”

Andrew Unterberger: Hayes and his team have paced the spread of it really well — first on TikTok, then on radio, then in commercials — and he timed the song’s official remix to coincide with a week without a major new full-length release clogging the Hot 100, allowing him room to make a big jump. It might fall back a little from here, but getting to the top 5 is a huge coup for a still relatively unproven hitmaker like Hayes.

2. Promotional efforts aside, what do you think it is about “Fancy Like” as a song that has allowed it to really connect — not just with country audiences, but pop audiences, and younger listeners in general? 

Katie Atkinson: It’s fun. And catchy. And it doesn’t take itself seriously. And to be honest, after a year and a half of takeout on your couch or eating on a makeshift “patio” constructed in the middle of a road, maybe the idea of Friday night inside a chain restaurant all of a sudden sounds like a luxurious experience.

Jason Lipshutz: When you strip down the “Fancy Like” chorus to its nuts and bolts, it really is a thing of beauty — not only because of the tie-in-ready Applebee’s shout-outs, but the internal rhymes (“Got that Bourbon Street STEAK with the Oreo SHAKE”) are all a blast to sing along with, and then the hook is punctuated with the song title so it’s even easier to remember. “Fancy Like” takes one listen to burrow inside someone’s brain, and that Applebee’s order has become second nature by the final chorus.

Jessica Nicholson: While the song’s melody is certainly catchy, the lyrics also connect with a large swath of listeners. In addition to Applebee’s, the song’s lyrics namecheck several very accessible and familiar products and brands, including Wendy’s, Victoria’s Secret, and Maybelline. But the song is also about just being happy with yourself and not needing high-status items to be happy. Given everything the world has been through since early 2020, it seems people are connecting more than ever with the idea of finding contentment in the people you have around you, rather than in things.

Kristin Robinson: “Fancy Like” doesn’t take itself too seriously. What other love song has worked in allusions to Wendy’s and Applebee’s within 60 seconds? Country has the tendency to be accidentally corny sometimes. Those tracks don’t tend to land for pop fans, but I think some of the best country hits, “Fancy Like” included, lean into funny tropes and themes and are just unapologetically fun. Another example of a crossover hit that’s just pure fun is “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy” by Kenny Chesney. Both of those songs show such a great sense of humor, irreverence, and self-awareness.

Andrew Unterberger: There’s an all-ages appeal to it, as driven home by the video of Hayes dancing with his daughter that launched the song’s initial success. You can picture parents and their young kids blasting it in the car on the way to dinner — possibly at one of the chains discussed therein, but it’s also fairly all-purpose. And people are really loyal to their fast food favs, so to hear Hayes go to bat for such specific items in his hook is pretty relatable, and very clever.

3. This week’s boost on the charts is also assisted by a new remix featuring Kesha. Do you think choosing the pop singer-songwriter as a remix guest was a particularly inspired pick — and do you see the remix finding a life of its own, or mostly fading in favor of the original?

Katie Atkinson: It’s cute to choose an artist whose breakout hit was called “Tik Tok” (wink-wink) for the remix, plus you can definitely hear some inspiration from Kesha’s brand of talk-rap. And, of course, the girl who brushes her teeth with a bottle of Jack is probably also down with some boxed wine and Natty in foam cups. It’s not a stretch. But in the end, I think the original will be the one that endures.

Jason Lipshutz: Adding Kesha to “Fancy Like” was a savvy move on Hayes’ part, and while her contribution to the remix is inspired, it all comes back to that hook and how it’s originally deployed. I could see the remix picking up some radio play from pop PD’s who are a little hesitant to go full-on country, but in terms of streaming success and pop culture impact, the original likely has the longer legs here.

Jessica Nicholson: The song’s melody lends itself well to a collaborative effort, and Kesha (who was raised in Nashville) not only contributes vocals, but also contributed writing to the new version. I think this version will find its own space with music fans, but a large block of listeners will continue to gravitate toward the original.

Kristin Robinson: I don’t find this particularly inspired. I think Kesha’s voice works pretty well with Walker’s but I don’t understand why Kesha was the pick for such a big country crossover song. It feels very random. I would’ve liked to see Miley Cyrus on this one if I was able to pick. I think this Kesha remix will probably fade into the background in favor of the original.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s fine, but I wish she was given more room to really dig in on her part — It feels like she’s barely even gotten through half a verse by the time the song returns to the main hook. Maybe there’s an extended cut out there that would be more essential, but this version is a cute one-time listen that doesn’t really demand returning to.

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4. Though country stars visiting the Hot 100’s top 5 has been a pretty sizable rarity in the past decade, we’ve now seen it three times in the last two years, with Luke Combs, Gabby Barrett (with help from Charlie Puth) and Walker Hayes now. Which country artist this decade do you think might be next to chart a crossover hit that high? 

Katie Atkinson: Walker definitely came out of nowhere, so it could be another surprise. But I wonder if Niko Moon might be able to come up with another feel-good vibe after his top 20 Hot 100 hit “Good Time.”

Jason Lipshutz: Kane Brown keeps getting close, thanks to cross-genre collaborations with the likes of Khalid, Swae Lee, Marshmello and Blackbear; “Be Like That” in particular could have really taken off had its release timing been a bit more favorable. Brown is a brand name and a gifted country-pop specialist, so I wouldn’t be remotely surprised if he scores a top 5 hit in the next 12 months or so.

Jessica Nicholson: Kane Brown is no stranger to both the country and pop charts and has an ace record of collaborating with artists outside the country genre. He’s made his way to the upper echelons of the Hot 100 before, with “Heaven” reaching the Top 15 on the Hot 100 in 2018, while “Be Like That,” which featured Swae Lee and Khalid, reached No. 19 on the Hot 100 just last year. Each year seems to bring more and more crossover between country, pop and hip-hop, and Brown possesses a smooth, understated vocal delivery that sounds comfortable at the intersection of all of those genres.

Kristin Robinson: Dan + Shay would be my guess. They already did it once late last decade (with a huge assist from Justin Bieber on “10,000 Hours”), and have close ties to pop hitmakers like the Bieb through their association with Scooter Braun. I could also see Thomas Rhett making a run for it, and I think Morgan Wallen had a shot at this prior to the racist video of him that surfaced earlier this year. While Wallen has proven that he is still doing well on the Billboard 200 albums chart despite that racist video, I think he would struggle to gain a Top 5 single on the Hot 100, because I doubt mainstream radio would be as supportive of him at this point. Same with mainstream editorial playlists on DSPs.

Andrew Unterberger: I’ll cast my lot with Sam Hunt, who’s already come damn close — “Body Like a Back Road” peaked at No. 6 in 2017 — and seems to be back in the hunt for a similarly sized megahit with his undeniable new single, “23.” Once he figures out how to really weaponize TikTok for promotion, it’s game over.

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5. What fast food or chain restaurant item would you be most pleased to hear shouted out in a hit pop song next?

Katie Atkinson: I’m partial to Red Lobster, and while Beyoncé already gave them a (well-deserved) shout-out, she didn’t specifically mention the buttery perfection of the Cheddar Bay Biscuits. If Walker is looking for his next viral hit, the name already sounds like a country song.

Jason Lipshutz: As a Quizno’s lifer dearly missing their stores in the NYC area, I need a superstar to shout out the Chicken Carbonara on a track and bring this once-mighty sandwich franchise back to prominence. Looking at you, PostMates Malone!

Jessica Nicholson: Arby’s curly fries and Chick-fil-A’s waffle fries are pretty popular fast food choices.

Kristin Robinson: I’m a Texas girl so I’m biased, but I definitely want a Whataburger shout out next.

Andrew Unterberger: Call me when Hayes skips the Frosty and fries at Wendy’s and goes straight to the Baconator — I’ll happily chime in with backing vocals.