Album Review: Walker Hayes’ ‘boom.’
Leave it to Walker Hayes to drop an album full of quirks, sick beats and plenty of heart, all wrapped around thought-provoking lyrics unlike anything you’ll hear on country radio today.
Unafraid to say “shit” and “hell” amidst intriguing story topics ranging from his son to a benevolent man that changes his life, boom. is engaging on all fronts. While it’s easy to draw comparisons to Sam Hunt with his strong mix of hip-hop and R&B, Hayes manages to branch out and tell stories all his own. The intriguing “Halloween” isn’t what you think it is. The captivating track pays homage not to the spook-filled holiday, but the trials of growing up and having to pretend to be something you’re not, detailing the struggles of hiding behind a fake façade. “Hell I don’t know why I’m like this, but what would it change if I knew, maybe my parents messed up, but hey they’re just dressed up kids too,” he sings with pure honesty. The up-and-coming singer says goodbye to “all the people I pretended to be” before meeting his wife, the one person he feels comfortable in his own skin with, thanking her “for being somebody I’m not ashamed to introduce my skeletons to,” making the song a standout for its deep twist on an unlikely topic.
He shows off his witty side on the playful “Beckett,” which is more than just a shout out to his young son. The song finds Hayes admiring the innocence and youthful spirit of his little one, saying he wants to be just like him when he grows up, making you feel like you know Beckett after just two minutes and 55 seconds. His ability to handle serious subjects with grace is prevalent on “Beer in the Fridge,” which goes against the beer-heavy, party-induced songs on country radio today. Instead, Hayes tells the somber (and somewhat personal) story of a man who gives up drinking following a devastating breakup while showing off a sincere sense of emotion in his voice. “It’s gonna be there in the morning, even though you won’t, you’re the reason I quit drinking, and the reason I want to get drunk,” he sings earnestly.
“Craig” makes for one of the album’s most compelling tracks that introduces a man Hayes meets at church while he and his family are going through a particularly difficult time. Hayes doesn’t hold back, opening up about the hardships he dealt with after losing his record deal, and his car in the aftermath. Craig steps in like a guardian angel and gifts Hayes and his family a new vehicle. “When a cop pulled up beside us at the light, they didn’t have to duck, ‘cause thanks to Craig, they were all buckled up,” Hayes sings in the song that keeps you hanging on to the very last note, wanting to know how the story ends.
The album demonstrates Hayes’ true gift for painting a distinct image in the listener’s mind that fully immerses fans in the journey of each song. The fact that he can naturally weave from light-hearted tunes to heavy subject matters in a way that’s both clever and poignant proves his talent as a songwriter, clearly using every part of his imagination to create such clever tracks.
Don’t be fooled by Hayes’ swagger, boom. is the type of album that is built on thought-provoking lyrics that are worthy of a sincere listen, as each song is layered with depth. He’s one of the few males in country music not relying on the clichés of beer, trucks and girls in his songwriting, rather having a special way of pulling inspiration from life and turning it into a song in the most unique of ways, a talent that is sure to only grow as his promising career does.