Music

The Soundtrack of College Football is a Million Middle Aged Dads Finding Out About Rap for the First Time

College football isn’t supposed to be this cynical.

Or at least, college football isn’t supposed to be this overtly cynical, which is kind of the same thing but when a collegiate sport decides that a head coach is worth over twelve million dollars a year, There’s a fine line that has to be walked here and “Y’all Life” triple jumps right over it.

Let me back up: last Friday (and I’m annoyed about this in large part because I had to wait seven whole days to talk about this crap) the official Twitter account for the SEC alerted the larger college football world to a truly terrible song by “Fancy Like” progenitor Walker Hayes. This feeble attempt at dad-rap and the video for it are awful for so, so many reasons that I will shortly get to, but in short, “Y’all Life” has collapsed some of the worst aspects of college football into a dense neutron star of garbage.

Let’s talk about “Y’all Life”

Product Placement

Walker Hayes is no stranger to product placement. “Fancy Like”, for example, mentions no fewer than twelve products or brands, Including Oreo, Applebee’s, Wendy’s, Alabama football, Skoal, Victoria’s Secret, and Tesla (among others). “Y’all Life” only rings the bell for around four different brands, which is kind of a disappointment, frankly. But don’t worry: the music video, which I won’t subject you to a link for, more than makes up for it.

clean as a whistle

Wait, I’m sorry Walker, what was on that sign behind your new Ford Bronco™?

smellin like a rose

Oh sweet, thanks.

This kind of weirdly overt advertising, completely decoupled from literally anything else that’s going on around it, is starting to become the norm and it completely skeeves me out. It’s like watching a World War II movie where a grizzled sergeant chomping on a stogie the hand of a private who just got his leg blown off, and just as Jimmy is about to hand Sarge a blood-stained letter to his Dear Momma, the camera pans to a can of Monster for five seconds.

Hayes has seemingly made a career out of begging brands for a shout-out, but given the current state of popular country music, this is probably the least of his sins.

The Hook and the Style

“Y’all Life” is a phrase conjured by lich-lords in the dank subterranean dungeons of whatever record label employs Walker Hayes for the express purpose of being slurred through about eight cans of light beer in an uncomfortably hot parking lot after double parking in a handicapped spot. It’s meant to be slapped on stickers and shirts and repeated ad nauseam until the next goofy Phrase To Get Drunk To is born from the same fetid vat.

hahaha

“Father forgive me, for I have y’alled”

Also: this is a rap song. I know Walker Hayes is ostensibly a country artist, but “Y’all Life” is just country-tinged rap. Which is fine in theory, and I do think it’s funny that Nelly gets a writing credit here (Hayes “Country Grammar” samples and also raps “Down in ‘Bama where they grammar got some country in it, y’all” which is even funnier because Nelly is from St. Louis by way of Texas), but somehow I doubt that “Y’all Life” will be marketed as such.

Did you think about this for five seconds?

This is where things get uncomfortable. The lyric “Y’all all them mamas tell them girls, ‘Better keep your legs crossed'” is… not great, but for the purposes of this section I’m more interested in the music video, which was filmed in tiny Chapel Hill, Tennessee, with a population of just over 1700 people, many of whom served as extras.

You might be wondering why this matters, and in general, the music video for “Y’all Life” is pretty boilerplate bro country bullshit. Football game, cheerleaders, church, driving a never-used truck on a dirt track in a circle, and that’s basically it.

But the high school football team that almost entirely white crowd is cheering for, the day before they all attend the almost entirely white church? That’s real-life Forrest High School, proudly named after Chapel Hill native Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate general and first Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. So I don’t know, if you’re going to film a music video in the middle of nowhere for some reason, maybe do a cursory Wikipedia search before you start. And then, if you find out that the town’s pride is a racist traitor who let his protesters Black people during the Civil War, find someplace else to film.


In truth, “Y’all Life” and the SEC’s initial endorsement of it is really just part of a long, proud tradition of terrible music made to capitalize on college football and its fans. The difference between “Gratingly endearing” and “absolutely informative” is that when a random fan decides to make a tribute to their favorite team, it might suck out loud but that song is at least an honest expression of love for something that they enjoy.

On the other hand, when a private university with a multi-multi-billion dollar endowment or an endorsement-seeking artist like Walker Hayes high fives the SEC and tries to buddy up to the college football fan, it feels like an invasive, cynical attempt to wring even more money out of people who already spend a significant amount of time, cash, and energy trying to just enjoy a damn game.

The good news is that the SEC tweet endorsing “Y’all Life” was lambasted by ear-havers on the internet, and they quickly deleted it in the face of an onslaught of memes and mean jokes. And that’s the way it should be: the people in charge of college sports (and hangers-on who want to profit from it) might have an endless number of ways to worm themselves into your wallet, but fans can always tune out and turn off . As the money involved in college sports keeps growing, it’s a power that we will need to exercise more often.

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