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.