Walker Hayes has spent 17 years in Nashville, working his way up as a singer and songwriter thanks to songs such as “You Broke Up with Me,” “90s Country” and “Don’t Let Her.” But in 2021, the artist with the big personality finally hit the big time when he wrote a song about ... Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill + Bar?!

“I’m now becoming known as ‘the Applebee’s guy,'” Hayes states proudly during a recent interview. “I’m going to be known as the guy who brought the Oreo Cookie Shake back.”

Hayes lets out a laugh, but the irony of it all certainly isn't lost on him. Thanks to his viral hit “Fancy Like,” in which he sings of being ‘fancy like Applebee's on a date night’ and name-drops the restaurant chain's Bourbon Street steak and Oreo shake, Hayes has not only found himself in front of millions of new fans, but has also found himself in a new Applebee’s commercial:

“This was, hands down, the most uncalculated, expecting-nothing-in-return move I've ever made in my career,” says Hayes, who opens the new Applebee's ad featuring his song by starting the TikTok dance routine he and daughter Lela made up. "All I knew was that I loved this song. My daughter and I made up a dance. And it was fun. The rest is history.”

Featured on Hayes' newest EP, Country Stuff, the song “Fancy Like” is deeply rooted within Hayes’ own story, as it was in the booths of Applebee’s that his love for his wife Laney began.

“I had just turned 17 when we met,” remembers the Alabama native. “I guarantee you that within the first two weeks of our relationship, we went to an Applebee's. And I guarantee you that I had a Bourbon Street steak, and I know I had an Oreo shake, and I probably did use my dad's credit card that I'd stolen.”

Hayes laughs, then grows quiet.

“It’s crazy to me that, 20-plus years later, we would have six kids and one in Heaven and I would be singing a song about a restaurant chain that was dear to me and literally saying exactly what I used to order off the menu,” he admits explains. “And then, that restaurant would bring back the Oreo shake out of retirement, basically in response to the power of the song. It's mind-blowing to think that thousands of people would be doing a dance that me and my 15-year-old daughter did on our porch.”

For as much joy as "Fancy Like" continues to bring to him, Hayes says it’s the joy he sees in others that means the most. “The joy on people's faces when they do this dance with their loved ones — with their fathers, with their mothers, with their sisters and brothers and friends — or by themselves, it brings me to tears,” he says.

“Our world doesn't seem as joyful these days," Hayes adds, "but when you start scrolling through those dances, you realize that there’s still joy out there.”

At country radio, "Fancy Like" is in the Top 25 as of the chart week dated Aug. 27.

Top Country Songs of 2021, Ranked

You'll find much more than just the Top 10 Country Songs of 2021 on this list.

Our team has sourced fans to create 10 superlatives for this mid-year version of the year-end songs list. Best Country Tearjerker? Best Country Baby-Maker? Best Country Breakup Song of 2021? Keith Urban, Carly Pearce, Chris Bandi and more help make up this portion of the Top Country Songs list, while hitmakers like Thomas Rhett and Little Big Town lead the 10 best songs portion.

Did your favorite song of 2021 make this list? To be considered, the song must have been released in 2021 or have actively charted for a portion of the year (see "Wine, Beer, Whiskey"). New artists including Lainey Wilson, Breland and Triston Marez crack the Top 10. Let us know your favorite song of 2021 at Twitter or email, at staff@tasteofcountry.com.