New Video Exposes Excessive Use of Clap & Snap Tracks in Country
A lot of people define true country music by the presence of traditional instrumentation such as steel guitar, fiddle, mandolin, or banjo. The truth is that even though these things can help make a song country, they’re not essential elements to defining what a country song is. Willie Nelson never used any of these instruments during his heyday, nor did some other defining legends of the genre such as Johnny Cash.
But the one thing you can point to that makes a song decidedly not country is the presence of electronic drums. The human operated element of country music is one of the last great differences between country and the rest of popular music, and more frequently electronic beats have been creeping into the popular country soundscape. They first started a few years ago in just the introductions to popular country songs. Now it’s often the entirety of a track where the beat is electronic driven.
A new video by journalist Grady Smith delves deep into this phenomenon, and helps illustrate just how pervasive it has become, and how it’s blurring the lines between pop and country like never before. “Nashville seems determined to sell its own fans down the river in its quest to become pop music, and hell bent on destroying what makes country music, country music,” Grady Smith proclaims in the video. “That’s not a good long-term play.”
By going through many of the top popular country songs at the moment, and then illustrating them beside pop songs, it shows just how similar pop and country have become. Grady Smith also spends time giving examples of actual country music, and some folks like Tyler Childers, Tami Neilson, and The Cactus Blossoms get some cameos. He also rightly points out that these electronic beats distract from the storytelling of country music.
“This narrative we’re being sold right now that all the boundaries between genres are coming down and that music is becoming so much more diverse, it’s a lie,” Grady Smith says. “Because what’s actually happening is that all music is starting to sound the same, and it’s boring.”
Grady Smith makes numerous videos reviewing music and commenting on certain subjects, including a video that went viral a few years ago called “Why Country Music Was Awful in 2013.” The new video can be seen below.
December 15, 2018 @ 8:51 am
It would be great to see you and Grady make a video-review of an album together.
December 15, 2018 @ 10:31 am
Love this idea! Two great perspectives in country music journalism.
December 15, 2018 @ 8:55 am
Love this! This video needs to be shared far and wide: social media and even good ole fashion email. The editing is great. The contrast with Dolly Parton’s “Coat of Many Colors” and this garbage is remarkable. I want Grady to do an in-depth look at why — demographically speaking — this is happening. Who is consuming this garbage? It obviously sells or else the fat cats on Music Row wouldn’t be making it.
December 16, 2018 @ 10:48 am
“…good ole fashion email”.
Goodness I’m 31 and I feel old.
December 15, 2018 @ 9:44 am
Never underestimate the capacity of the American consumer to be conned and manipulated into buying total garbage. Music and otherwise. People that come to this site put a lot of thought and discernment into their choices of music consumption. That ain’t most people.
December 15, 2018 @ 12:25 pm
People that come to this site… Except for the Kane Brown faithful, that is.
December 15, 2018 @ 9:53 am
Nice article, but to be pedantic, Willie did use that sort of instrumentation at times while he was at or near his peak – I’ve just checked the booklet for my copy of Phases and Stages and it lists all of those instruments.
December 15, 2018 @ 2:44 pm
The most static lineup of Willie’s Family Band for over 40 years has been nylon string acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, piano, harmonica, snare. Not saying there isn’t other stuff mixed in here and there. But this is the sound of Willie Nelson.
December 15, 2018 @ 9:53 am
Absolutely dead on target Grady. I tuned out of so called “country” radio years ago preferring my own choices or Willies Place on Sirius.
As a pedal steel player in country club bands for 30+ years I’m biased and ok with that.
December 15, 2018 @ 11:44 am
Yes sir, I ‘d have to agree with you on that. In my amateur opinion, country music died in the late 80s. But then, I grew up in the 60s, so I was weaned on Johnny Cash, The Statlers, Jeannie Pruett, and the like.
North Woods Country
December 15, 2018 @ 1:10 pm
You aren’t biased–you’re just smarter than the average American music listener.
I’m not sure if I just complimented or insulted you
December 17, 2018 @ 4:59 am
“As a pedal steel player in country club bands for 30+ years…”
So today you are essentially, a unicorn?
Bill from Wisconsin
December 15, 2018 @ 9:57 am
Wow that video nailed it. Lucky for my ears I don’t listen to radio so I don’t have to hear that stuff! I’m thankful there are younger artists that still know there are boundaries that define the country genre. Yes there are gray areas in those boundaries, and my listening boundaries also, but still distinct from pop music.
December 15, 2018 @ 10:11 am
”Never underestimate the capacity of the American consumer to be conned and manipulated into buying total garbage. Music and otherwise. People that come to this site put a lot of thought and discernment into their choices of music consumption. That ain’t most people.”
”Who is consuming this garbage? It obviously sells or else the fat cats on Music Row wouldn’t be making it.”
if you look at who’s standing at the front of the stage at ANY ” country ” awards show you’ll see who’s ‘consuming this garbage ‘ and who its continually marketed to : Young women/girls . You will also notice that there is NO dancing going on because this is an un-danceable overused rhythm designed for the syncopation of lyric ( rap -style ) and not the dance floor . Couples cannot dance to it . These kids even look to be at a loss as to how to move to it . Yet …they are sold on the ‘ hipness ‘ and trendiness of it and , of course , all of the gym-rat manufactured ‘country’ singers attempting to sing it . THAT is what the industry is selling . An image , eye candy for young women, a trendy urban sound .
Trashville and radio has long since had anything to do with a great , substance -driven country lyric or appealing to a dance crowd at a honky -tonk . They’ve found a demographic that mostly lives on a phone where they watch , listen to , read about ,purchase impulsively , download and store this stuff to listen to with headphones on a bus . Easy prey in every way . Why try harder ???
December 15, 2018 @ 12:30 pm
We now have a couple of generations that have no link to the dance halls and honky tonks in Tx. and Ca. No links to the juke joints of the Delta. No links to the Cajun and Zydeco clubs of the Gulf Coast. No links to the South and East side clubs and lounges in Chi-Town. These are the places the community would get together on Friday and Saturday nights to let off steam from the work week. Bring your spouse, get together with friends, drink and dance to the best regional and national bands. If there was a stage at all it was pallet high.There was constant dialog between band and audience. All the music I love was fermented decades ago in gut bucket joints like these. How is the commercial Country music of today fermented? Songs put together by a half dozen “writers” that pull cut and paste lyrics out of a drawer. Music laid down by all manner of digital hocus pocus. Then it gets played to crowds separated from the band by concrete barriers and 100 yards away. The fan gets to pay a couple hundred dollars plus for a ticket, stand in line twenty minutes for a $12 beer, then stand in one place for a couple of hours with thousands of other people in sports arena. Sorry, I don’t see this as music evolving. I call this an industry of con artists that have found and cultivated a generation or two of easy marks. The hell of it is there are still a lot of great Country and Roots artists out there and still small to midsize venues that present them. $10-$20 can get you into a great night of music if you look for it.
December 15, 2018 @ 10:16 am
Man, nothing about this video I don’t like. Really, it was well thought out. It pretty much addresses everything around this topic in an informed way. Good job.
December 15, 2018 @ 10:17 am
Just re-watched his video from 2013 and it’s surprising to hear how much mainstream Country has evolved in the past five years..
December 15, 2018 @ 10:21 am
Same video from 2013 to 2018…we complain about all the songs sounding the same but all the articles and videos complaining are the same. I would say every era kind of sounds the same when grouped together. It seems like you can identify the decade of the song just by the style. But yes, it is time for something new we can all be sick of…
December 15, 2018 @ 12:01 pm
Bottom line it’s dishonest and is not art it’s a formula for unsophisticated consumers.
December 15, 2018 @ 8:02 pm
It’s a reflection of our modern day culture as a whole.
December 15, 2018 @ 1:44 pm
Wow, he explained everything I feel about current country music but could never find the words. Like all my comments, if you like this kind of music good for you. More power to the artist to make as much money as they can. For me it all sounds like the same old crap.
December 15, 2018 @ 2:12 pm
It’s not just radio…
Another difference between now, and the past, (sixties, seventies) is that big record companies had room for good music as well as the other stuff.
The managers/owners actually seemed to have some idea that it was important to put out some good, new, and different music.
and some of those albums still well sell fifty years later.
December 15, 2018 @ 2:26 pm
Trigger (or anyone who has an opinion really),
When is it acceptable and when is it not? Because I think of songs like “Sooner or Later God is Gonna Cut You Down” by Johnny Cash or “Sleeping on the Blacktop” by Colter Wall as being very, VERY country songs, but they use “fake claps”… so when is it ok and when is it too far?
December 15, 2018 @ 3:05 pm
First off, I think there is a HUGE difference between drum beat claps, and people actually clapping into a microphone, even if it’s looped for efficiency/consistency. Sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference, but I could almost guarantee that when it comes to Johnny Cash/Rick Rubin, and Colter Wall/Dave Cobb, these are actual people clapping, not a digitally-generated signal.
This came up when I reviewed Johnny Cash’s grandson Thomas Gabriel recently. Some complained they couldn’t stand the production because they thought he was singing over a drum machine, which is not the case at all.
However, the fact that hand claps have become such a pervasive element in EDM and pop music, it hurts the integrity of hand claps altogether. People are going to assume they’re coming from a drum machine. It’s similar to how Bro-Country ruined list songs forever. Sometimes there are good list songs (Hank Snow’s “I’ve Been Everywhere”).
When I nominated my Song of the Year candidates last week, a lot of folks thought “Beaches of Biloxi” by Mike and the Moonpies should have been included. I really like the song, but the hand claps throw me off. Again, nothing wrong with hand claps, but after having heard so many of the songs that Grady Smith highlights in his video, it’s about the last thing I want to hear in a song. It ruins it for me.
In country, hand claps hearken back to the Gospel and sermon roots of the music. They have a place in the music. But there needs to be some dirt and grit in there made by actual human hands.
December 15, 2018 @ 3:44 pm
You know Trig I know I just put the Moonpies in regular rotation but those hand claps in Beaches of Biloxi never even caught my attention until you pointed them out. Maybe because they’re done tastefully, sparingly, and most of all not on the 2 and 4 count of the entire song or most of the song like Grady and many of us have noticed in all these others. No problem with the Moonpie claps but the song would just as good without em.
Saving Bro Country Music
December 15, 2018 @ 4:20 pm
So there’s probably an extent to which Grady goes TOO FAR in criticizing hand claps (he seems to have an inherent problem with this form of percussion).
But I think the bigger, more important takeaway is that so many songs are using the same type of percussion. Even if you like snaps or hand claps, you probably don’t want to hear the exact same beat in EVERY SONG ON THE RADIO.
December 15, 2018 @ 7:53 pm
There’s no good comparison there whatsoever. Listen to those shitty rap pop country whatever songs and then listen to Colter and Cash. They don’t sound anywhere near the same to me.
December 15, 2018 @ 2:27 pm
We must protect brother Grady at all costs.
December 15, 2018 @ 4:03 pm
Grady is not only the hero we deserve…but also the hero we need right now!!!
December 15, 2018 @ 4:43 pm
Call BS, I have grown up with Real country music not bubble gum crap they call country now. Willie & Johnny both used steel guitars & twin fiddles. Hollywood should have stayed out of our music!! Its no longer how good you sing, but about the look, lol not even country. All the good singers left cause they wil not play & want to sing real stuff. Ya know song Whose Gonna Fill There Shoe, way it looks now not one, so sad to see a great style die!!!
The Original WTF Guy
December 15, 2018 @ 4:54 pm
“Nashville seems determined to sell its own fans down the river in its quest to become pop music, and hell bent on destroying what makes country music, country music”
Trigger, care to respond?
This is occuring “due to pandering to the demographics of the people that make up their fan base, namely country radio listeners who aren’t from the country at all, and instead dwell in the suburbs and live this romantic backroad bonfire life vicariously through country radio.”
In other words, Nashville is giving the people what they want. Unfortunately, what many of them want is something they can play in their minivan/SUV while ferrying the kids back and forth from soccer practice and school. These people are evil.
Billy Wayne Ruddick
December 16, 2018 @ 10:47 am
The whole suburban, non-country folks being the target audience of crappy pop “country” is where he is a bit off base. Unfortunately, by and large the biggest consumers of this crap are people from the “country” who just have abhorrent tastes in music. Look at the parking lot at any bro “country” concert and you will find way more jacked up pickup trucks than mini vans.
December 15, 2018 @ 5:42 pm
When I watched his video last night it had 998 views. Now it’s up to 23000. This total needs a few million. I laughed my ass off when he talked about Walker Hayes sounding like he was trying to pick-up a pastor in a church.
December 15, 2018 @ 6:08 pm
Speak the truth brother. I won’t even hardly listen to country music anymore. It’s what I grew up on and it’s just become plain awful. Skipped a country concert last year that I usually go to every year. The main show was soon fella in skinny jeans be boppin around the stage. What a disappointment.
December 15, 2018 @ 6:26 pm
Look at all the artists. I don’t know if it has anything to do with you tube singers given a chance or what. So many of artists are around for a few years and then where did they go. Miranda Lambert, I loved all the weight of my wings album. The sounds were from the heart. I saw her video for “I got my name change back” .It was so trashy. I still go back to rock solid country.
Jason L Johnson
December 15, 2018 @ 7:23 pm
Crank up the fiddle and steel guitar, PLEASE!
December 15, 2018 @ 7:36 pm
Grady Smith is a treasure. Would that we had 50 more like him.
December 15, 2018 @ 8:00 pm
As long as basic human emotions exist and there are those that crave songs that cater to said emotions, traditional music will live on. All the other nonsense will fade away and leave no legacy to speak of, as it should be.
December 15, 2018 @ 8:11 pm
This is so hilarious and so true. Keep up the good work!
December 16, 2018 @ 1:03 am
My current playlist includes:
Cody Jinks, Whiskey Myers, Sturgill Simpson, Whitey Morgan, Turnpike Troubadours, Tyler Childres, Brent Cobb, etc. Long live real country music. Folks are still out there making it, it’s on you to seek it out and stop listening to/purchasing this prepackaged b.s.excuse for country coming out of Nashville.
December 16, 2018 @ 1:51 am
Ain’t no King of the Road
December 16, 2018 @ 5:16 am
This video pretty much is the perfect explanation as to why country isn’t what it used to be. These electronic snaps amaze me because personally, if you won’t use a drum machine in a live show, why use it in the studio? Doesn’t make sense.
December 16, 2018 @ 6:42 am
One of the things that makes pop country so backward and stupid is that it doesn’t come from a desire to communicate anything.
When Dolly sat down to write Coat of Many Colors, she had something to say to people. When pop country songwriting teams sit around, they don’t start with something to say to us: their starting point is that they have something to sell.
Obviously there’s a grey area between. Obviously. But the initial starting point is different, and this helps to explain why pop country lyrics are so idiotic. Pop country writers are not trying to communicate. What they’re doing is more like emotional herding for money.
Pop country is devolving music and making it stupider and less communicative.
December 16, 2018 @ 7:07 am
As a singer songwriter myself, it is my opinion that there’s two kinds of music… canned and homemade. Country music should sound homemade. The other kind sounds more like the electric can opener.
December 16, 2018 @ 9:37 am
Had to keep my finger on the volume knob to get through the video. The sh*t trashville is putting these days is beyond revolting.
Loved everything Grady said. Will share with the bros back home.
December 16, 2018 @ 10:31 am
The day and night difference could be heard between Dierks Bentley’s last two albums. “Black” sounded so processed with programming and snap tracks it deterred some of the stronger tracks. “The Mountain,” by comparison, even though it has some programming involved, still sounded much more organic and real.
December 16, 2018 @ 10:53 am
Black was so bad and I love Dierks. You are so right
December 16, 2018 @ 11:48 am
Is it just me? Or does Dustin Lynch look like Justin Beiber and Fire Marshal Bill had an illegitimate love child???
Shane McAnally, Scott Borschetta, and Bobby Bones
December 16, 2018 @ 11:50 am
Where is your God now, cretins???
December 16, 2018 @ 2:01 pm
Watched the video & what Grady is saying is absolutely on the mark. You hear that stupid click/clap/fingersnap track on almost every single song on mainstream radio. Country music truly is having a major identity crisis.
Personally, I hate the snap/clap tracks because it’s a total distraction. What happened to learning how to play an instrument & taking pride in knowing how to play the hell out of it?
December 16, 2018 @ 4:32 pm
It doesn’t scale, it’s slow, and it’s expensive.
Pop music is drag and drop.
December 16, 2018 @ 8:36 pm
You used to be able to tell what song it was by the first opening note. Now they all sound the same and I have to wait til the song starts to decide if I am listening or turning it off.
December 17, 2018 @ 10:52 am
Why are there still mainstream country radio stations? It’s just morphed so far from
what country is based on (a certain kind of instrumentation, clever lyrics, stories, substance).
Why are country stations still called “Country”?
You’re hard pressed to find a rock station these days, barring a few classic rock channels.
What if they started playing triangle in an oil drum and playing it on rock stations? Does that make any sense? It’s so far away from the genre and belongs in a different category.
Modern country stations need a new genre tag that doesn’t use “country” IMHO.
Those stations are hideously mislabeled at this point.
December 17, 2018 @ 11:44 am
Clap/snap tracks. I call ’em crap tracks.
December 17, 2018 @ 1:27 pm
Well said. I can’t believe a genre that’s long built itself on fiddle-and-steel-based instrumentation and solid storytelling is literally turning into pop music with a banjo. I mean, last night I took a listen to Old Dominion’s “Break Up With Him” and I’ve already forgotten it. Thank God for people like Chris Stapleton – at least SOMEBODY’s out there trying to preserve tradition.
December 17, 2018 @ 7:27 pm
Thank goodness for guys like Grady Smith!
As a one-time drummer myself (of very limited talent, I might add), I have had it up to here with the machine-beat thing, Country music should be a refuge from drum machines, as far as I am concerned.
The big record companies are just lazy and greedy. They think “why pay a drummer (or bassist or whatever) when we can use these machines”. The problem is obvious – it all sounds exactly the same! I think this largely explains why they prefer solo artists to bands, because bands have too many members to deal with. A solo artist can be manipulated much more easily. The machines have really robbed the soul from country music and made it into generic pop.
December 17, 2018 @ 9:26 pm
Petition to separate Electronic Pop Country with no instruments into a separate genre from Country.
March 21, 2019 @ 5:05 am
I loved this, THANK YOU! …and it strikes every truth we’ve been trying to articulate!
My husband pointed me on to your videos.
Here’s a very unique song about songwriting — lyrics & story FIRST!
yes, I’m biased, but I think these lyrics are anthemic!
May 30, 2019 @ 11:10 am
Like a dog returning to its own vomit,
country music is simply seeking its origin
Hey…maybe Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass can fix this new void….
Everbody quick go buy a white coat and white belt
All together, everybody…..hurl beads of enjoyment for snap tracks–the new Danny Davis!