Country singer Walker Hayes is no stranger to the world of music in advertising, having attended conferences and panels “where they try to help guide you on getting syncs,” he recalls. Nothing ever came of it. And then “Fancy Like” happened … the year’s most out-of-nowhere country smash, in which Hayes crows, “Yeah, we fancy like Applebee’s on a date night / Got that Bourbon Street steak with the Oreo shake,” among other references to no-frills food, fashion and fun.
Hayes actually backed into the tie-in. After years of slinging songs in the genre, even cracking the top 10 once, the chances of him making the big leap were diminishing. “We’d put out a few things that were really strong that didn’t get it done,” says Shane McAnally, Monument Records chief and executive producer. “I think programmers were a bit numb to him. Having gone to radio with Walker so many times and hit wall after wall, I said to our team that this song scares me — because if we can’t make this one happen, I don’t know that it’s going to happen.”
But listeners heard in the song what those programmers didn’t — immediately. Another single was being pushed by Sony Nashville, but a programmer at SiriusXM station The Highway heard “Fancy Like” as an album cut and immediately started playing it instead. Then Hayes and his 15-year-old daughter Lila, who often put up dance TikToks for his songs, came up with one for “Fancy.”
Says Walker: “I went for a run right after we posted it — I probably run 25 minutes, 30 at the most — and when I got home, I was like, ‘Oh, check it out, Lila, we got 6,000 views.’ And she was like, ‘Dad, that says 600,000.’” It exploded, and as of the third week of November, more than 880,000 different TikTok videos had been created using the tune, which has translated to 100 million Spotify streams.
The Applebee’s ad campaign was a very beneficial afterthought. “The song was out long enough where you could feel people saying, ‘You’ve got to do something with Applebee’s.’ And I’m sure Applebee’s could feel people saying, ‘You gotta do something with Walker,’” he recalls. “When we did it, it’s almost like we scored a touchdown, and the crowd went wild. It was more me and Applebee’s having fun with the momentum that already existed, as opposed to, ‘Hey, let’s cultivate something and manipulate people into going to Applebee’s.’”
As for the appeal of the song, which turned into an unlikely crossover hit on Adult Contemporary and Top 40 formats: “Some lady on socials said, ‘My husband doesn’t really like country music, but he loves this song, because he says it’s a love song for everybody with a mortgage and kids.’ And I was like, there it is, man.”