Song Review: Walker Hayes, “Y’all Life”

Okay, I’ve officially had it with this meme lord wannabe.

On some level, I should feel sorry for Walker Hayes in the same way I feel sorry for Chris Janson: The man has shown some flashes of talent as a writer, and has even dared to release some half-decent material (“Craig,” “Don’t Let Her”) to country radio. The public, however, ignored him until he discovered TikTok and starting releasing dumb songs like “Fancy Like” and “AA,” riding his virality to country stardom despite his limited ability as an artist. He may be a complete joke in country music, but he’s also making bank off of his silly dance moves and terrible beats, which means *sigh* that even with the door closing on the Country Stuff The Album era, Hayes will continue dumping this sort of garbage on us for the foreseeable future.

Even by Hayes’s low standards, however, his latest single “Y’all Life” might be his worst creation yet. He basically took Blake Shelton’s “I Lived It,” dumped a bag of overused meta clichés, and turned it into a bad trap song with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever. It’s a colossal failure at every level, and the best thing I can say about it is that it doesn’t annoy me quite as much as Bailey Zimmerman’s “Fall In Love” does.

The production here barely qualifies as such: This track is pretty much all percussion, with a solitary electric guitar tossed in to carry the melody and try to tie everything together (and the guitar’s fuzzy audio effects pair awkwardly with the crisper drums). This is a cold, hard beat that features 808s, marching band drums, and Grady Smith’s favorite clap track, and they clash badly with the rural glorification theme of the writing. Generally, you’re looking for a warmer, more-natural feel from the sound to emphasize the country’s slower pace and more-personal touch, but when you pair this mix with generic “country” themes and imagery (we’ll talk about that more later), it comes across as a cheap, hollow attempt to sound hip or “gangster,” to the point where the song seems a bit self-aware and is just leaning into the absurdity anyway for the lulz. It makes listening to the song feel like a pointless exercise, and it does nothing to endear the narrator to the audience or make their tale more engaging. This mix is nothing but a series of bad decisions, and I’d rather rub sandpaper on my ears than listen to it.

There isn’t much I can say about Hayes that I haven’t said before, and unfortunately most of it still applies. “Flat, monotone, and completely lifeless”? “Sleazy and self-satisfied”? “His charisma is essentially nonexistent”? “Absolutely horrible behind the mic”? It’s all still true, and if there’s one thing this song proves, it’s that he’s not getting any better. While Hayes has a knack for coming across as a carefree meatheaded dudebro, this time around he feels like, well, himself: A clueless, out-of-touch dad trying to act cool and failing hard in the attempt. When he throws out the hook or tries to use words like “shawty,” he sounds like a total poser who wouldn’t know cool if it slapped him in the face, and going over-the-top to show us that you’re in on the joke doesn’t work when it’s not funny to begin with. He’s debasing himself in a bald-faced attempt to curry favor from the Internet, and it’s equal parts sad and pathetic, even if it’s not all his fault. We desperately need a meta shift in this genre to clear these kinds of songs from our playlists.

The lyrics here…well, let’s go back to my opening description. First, while beer and trucks are noticeably absent here (gotta make sure we’re PG for the kids on TikTok, although the Bronco name-drop covers the motor vehicle requirement), the other usual tropes are here: “football and Jesus” (these two are doubled-down on hard, with several similar lines sprinkled through the song), “mama’s sweet tea,” cruising “down, down…yo’ street,” and so on. While there are a few decent lines here (the Grinch line, the “Wiffle ball bat flip”), there are also some mind-numbingly awful ones (“ain’t no thing but a chicken wing”? “where they grammar got some country in it”? Is this a country song, or a Google Translate failure?), and the “y’all life” hook feels completely meaningless (it’s an empty phrase that sounds like something a poser would say). We’ve also got some disturbing lines celebrating backwards ideas like men repressing their pain (“Y’all all them dads tell them boys, ‘Son, walk it off'”) and men taking advantage of women who even remotely expressed their sexuality (“Y’all all them mamas tell them girls, ‘Better keep your legs crossed'”), bringing to mind Shelton’s dystopian wish to turn back the clock from several years ago. The whole thing feels like an ode to a generic (and bad) stereotype, and I find very little here to be worth celebrating.

“Y’all Life” is the dumbest song I’ve heard in a not-so-long time, and a song I never want to hear ever again. Walker Hayes is a poor excuse for an artist, the production is a poor imitation of a trap beat, and the lyrics are a poor imitation of the English language. It’s another sign that mainstream country has taken a sharp turn for the worse in Q3 of 2022, and the worst part about it is that based on the available chart data, this seems to be what the people want. I know I’ve questioned whether there’s a place for me in country music anymore, but given the massive number of lackluster scores I’ve given out over the last two years, I can’t help but wonder if I’ve finally reached ‘irredeemable curmudgeon’ status. Still, I don’t think I’d like this drivel in any era, and it’s going down as one of the lowlights of 2022.

Rating: 2/10. Nope.