On Jan. 21, Walker Hayes released “Country Stuff The Album,” a bold title considering his single “Fancy Like” is heavily criticized by many country music lovers who deem the song as pop, not country. 

This 13-track album is a perfect blend of traditional country music and pop-country hybrid pieces, featuring a variety of high tempo, repetitive tracks as well as slower, storytelling songs. Personally, I feel that this album helps restore Hayes’ reputation as a country artist after the controversy surrounding “Fancy Like” these last few months.

The two strongest songs on the lineup are “Briefcase,” which features Lori McKenna, and “Delorean.” “Briefcase” is a powerful song that tells the story of Hayes’ relationship with his father. Growing up, he would dread the moment his dad picked up his briefcase to go to work. Now that he’s grown up and has kids of his own, he realizes the similarities between his and his father’s lives and sums up the message of the song in just a few words. 

“I guess a guitar doesn’t fall too far from a briefcase.” 

In addition to impactful lyrics, McKenna’s voice beautifully compliments Hayes’ on the track, and the beat is simple but pleasant, helping elevate the vocals. This song is the perfect example of conventional country music. 

“Delorean” is a slightly more upbeat song with repetitive lyrics and catchy rhythms that get stuck in your head. The track is a good representation of Hayes’ pop-country hybrid side. Reflecting on when he and his wife first started dating, the words take you back to memories you don’t have and make you feel like you were there, too. It’s safe to say that I’ll be driving around to the beat of “Delorean” this summer pretending I’m in a music video.

Other notable songs on this album include “What You Don’t Wish For,” “I Hope You Miss Me” and “What If We Did,” featuring Carly Pearce. Each of these tracks are on the backend of the album, which is slower in contrast to the fast-paced, upbeat nature of the songs making up the first half of the set. 

The theme of “What You Don’t Wish For” is that you shouldn’t let what other people think or say stop you from chasing after your dreams. “I Hope You Miss Me” has a very different message, focusing on an idea given to Hayes by his daughter Loxley, that he can hold on to her, but not for forever. On the other hand, “What If We Did” is all about defying the odds and making it to forever with the person you love. 

While each of these songs make a different point, they share the same style of storytelling and imagery woven in the words and accompanied by uncomplicated back tracks, making them true to the origins of country music. 

Although “Country Stuff The Album” presents several quality pieces, it also features a few songs that could make a person’s eardrums bleed. “Fancy Like,” “U Gurl” and “Life With You” are my personal least favorites from the set. 

“Fancy Like,” which was first released as a single in August 2021 and took the world by storm, is the country music equivalent of “Baby Shark.” When it first came out, kids loved it, and anyone over the age of 15 thought it was reasonably catchy. Then, it was too overplayed and started to get on everyone’s nerves except for the younger audience, who are the reason the song has managed to stick around and continues to chastise adults everywhere.

“U Gurl,” while not nearly as bad as “Fancy Like,” is certainly not the best that this album has to offer. The beat is punchy and the lyrics aren’t clever or well thought out. Additionally, in between the chorus, there’s a lot of talk-singing, which can be used effectively, but wasn’t in this song because it felt forced and unnatural with the music. 

Similarly, “Life With You” isn’t the worst song I’ve ever heard, but the words are too simple and the music accompanying them is unsatisfactory. There’s a spruced-up, country version of “Canon in D,” the classic old wedding song, hidden in the beat that’s unsettling and feels cheap, throwing off the dynamic of the entire track.

The remaining five songs from the set, “Drinking Songs,” “Craig,” “AA,” “Make You Cry” and “Country Stuff,” fall somewhere in the middle of my list from best to worst on the album. Although they aren’t my personal favorites, they’re still worth checking out. 

Overall, I think “Country Stuff The Album” has something to offer for every type of country music listener. Whether you like slow and traditional country, upbeat country with elements of pop or even country with a bit of a rock feel to it, Hayes’ new album has a song for you. Although some of the tracks aren’t my style, I think the collection as a whole goes well together and truly embodies the past, present and future of the country genre.