When it comes to musical enjoyment, we are lucky to be a species born with various instruments. The human voice and its wide acoustic range is the most widely used innate instrument, but we can also use our hands to make percussion sounds and beats.
To this effect, we have even created instruments that emulate the sounds of hand clapping; to this effect, Spanish castanets and slapstick boards come to mind.
Many songs feature hand clapping as part of their underlying rhythm, but many others use claps to accentuate beat passages. With this in mind, here are 21 of the best songs that utilize clapping as part of their musical score:
Top Songs With Clapping
“We Will Rock You” – Queen
Legendary British band Queen is synonymous with stadium rock, which is a subgenre that aims to channel the energy of live performances by getting the audience to participate through singing or clapping.
The introductory rhythm of this song is a combination of forceful bass and snare drum strikes combined with equally strong hand clapping. Queen used to kick off concerts with “We Will Rock You” in order to fire up the crowd, and it worked every time.
“The Clapping Song” – Shirley Ellis
After the wild success of “The Name Game,” a novelty song recorded by American soul sensation Shirley Ellis in the mid-1960s, it only made sense for this song to be released as a companion.
As the name of the song suggests, there are instructions in the lyrics to clap along for maximum enjoyment.
“The Clapping Song” was so popular that it has been covered by dozens of artists over the years; even Queen drummer Roger Taylor, who is really into hand clapping, covered this song for an album he recorded in 2021.
“TV Party” – Black Flag
Some people say that hand clapping goes against the essence of punk rock, but this song by Black Flag has proved them wrong each and every time.
There are a few versions of “TV Party;” fans of Black Flag say that the first one recorded for the 1982 album of the same name is the best, but the band updated the list of television shows for subsequent recordings, and the most popular one can be found on the soundtrack to the science fiction film “Repo Man.”
“Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – Santa Esmeralda
It is truly a shame that this song was written specifically for Nina Simone, who performed it beautifully, but it did not catch fire until The Animals recorded a legendary cover a few months later.
Some people say that Joe Cocker recorded the better versions, but they are missing out on the clapping masterpiece of Santa Esmeralda, a French-American disco ensemble that incorporated flamenco beats into their epic recordings.
This song starts off with complex hand clapping that puts you right into a dancing mood.
“Close to Me” – The Cure
Goth and depressive rock are not known as musical subgenres that should feature clapping, but you have to leave it to The Cure to pull it off masterfully.
The beat of “Close to Me” is irresistible, and it is accentuated with a few hand claps.
“Give Peace a Chance” – John Lennon
The Beatles needed to split up in order to give John Lennon a chance to showcase his Flower Power and countercultural revolution sensibilities.
This song is a staple of the hippy movement, and it requires hand clapping because hippies were known for their fondness of campfire rock songs with uplifting messages.
“Hey Ya!” – Outkast
This is one of a few songs that capture the vibrant musical styles of the early 21st century.
Even though Outkast is a hip-hop duo, it is a bit difficult to place “Hey Ya!” within this genre because of its signature pop music melody, which features a clapping accent similar to the aforementioned “Close to Me” by The Cure.
This catchy song is silly, but it really puts you in a clapping mood.
“Us. vs. Them” – LCD Soundsystem
There is no question that James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem is the Quentin Tarantino of modern hipster dance rock.
Murphy formed this band because of the encyclopedic knowledge he acquired from managing DFA Records, and this really shows in each of the tracks he produces and records. “Us. vs. Them” is a perfect example of minimal dance rock production, and it features hand clapping to a great effect.
Murphy could have gone the digital drumming way to produce this beat, but he preferred natural clapping instead.
“Street Walkin” – Dan Auerbach
You know the kind of music you get with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys: Pure American blues stripped down to energetic performances, and this includes hand clapping as percussion.
“Street Walkin'” is not the most popular song in Auerbach’s extensive catalog, but it is definitely a catchy one.
“Jack & Diane” – John Mellencamp
Inspired by the country rock sensibility of John Prine, John Mellencamp often sets out to make records about American life that will sound good in a rock arena or on AM radio.
The clapping in “Jack and Diane” punctuate the storytelling flavor of this song, which these days is often played by classic rock stations.
“HandClap” – Fitz and the Tantrums
Hence the song name, the singers clap throughout with a deep-toned guitar strumming. The lyrics allude to a man and a woman’s sexual interactions that are so good that they can make the other person’s hands clap in applause. The lyrics have a dark undertone of loneliness, but the goal of the song, the band says, it to simply make you dance and enjoy the beat.
“Uptown Funk” – Bruno Mars featuring Mark Ronson
You will feel plunged into a 70s music montage listening to “Uptown Funk” by Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson. Clapping starts immediately with some “doo doo doo” that gives that 1960s to 1970s jazz feel.
The overwhelming feeling of how music influences a good mood with dancing and fun in the club is the song’s theme. The duo highlight the awesome club experience with the drinks on tap, music blaring all night, and endless dancing with like-minded party people.
“Yeah!” – Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris
“Yeah!” has clapping throughout the entire song in this modern-day R&B club song. A girl invites Usher to the dance floor to which he agrees to dance with her. Lil Jon hypes up the song with background “yeahs” and “heys”.
Ludacris highlights the more sultry side of visiting the club with many flirty women and how their bodies shake to the music. Allusions to a sexual after-party are mentioned as Ludacris desires a lady-like woman when they are out but a girl who can command in the bedroom.
“Make it Clap” – Busta Rhymes featuring Spliff Star
The first lyrics are the exact words of the song name with Busta Rhymes clapping to the beat as he leads into the song’s hook. Make sure to not listen to this song when the kids are in the room as the lyrics are sexually explicit and sprinkled with curse words.
Making it clap refers to people’s cheeks clapping to the beat of the music while they are dancing in the club. If you listen closely, you may unveil a deeper sexually explicit meaning behind additional lyrics.
“No Matter What” – Badfinger
Badfinger sings about a male song narrator that no matter how many times his woman messes up or does to him, he would stick with her in their relationship. He asks for her to give him everything as he gives her his all so that there would be no issues in the relationship. Nothing will deter him from wanting to continue his relationship with this girl.
“No Fun” – The Stooges
Along with guitar strumming, “No Fun” by the Stooges automatically opens up with clapping in the introductory lyrics. Later in the song, clapping combines with drum cymbal sounds before being met with electric guitar strums at the lyrical climax.
The song’s narrator reminisces how there is no pleasure in being alone without someone to share life experiences with. When he finds his lover, he proclaims that she should not let him go so that they can both have fun together.
“What I Like About You” – The Romantics
The Romantics combine bass, drum cymbals, clapping, and guitar playing into a catchy tune indicative of their band name. They highlight a loving relationship where a woman respects and holds on to her man physically and emotionally.
The male narrator loves it when she reminds him that he is the only man in her life and asks on a whim if he would like to come to visit her place. What he loves most is the woman telling him all that he wishes to hear while she shows her command on the dance floor.
“Sinnerman” – Nina Simone
Nina Simone’s “Sinnerman” features a clapping solo about four and a half minutes into the song where piano sounds join the clapping after the thirty-second solo. It’s a 10-minute-long soulful jazz song about how a sinner is going to plead to God one day when it is too late.
God proclaims for this sinner to return to the Devil. However, the sinner keeps coming back to God and waiting on His guidance because he is praying for a monumental miracle in his life.
“OMG” – Usher featuring will.i.am
The two male narrators in “OMG” are at a dance club and lay eyes on a girl while they are on the dance floor. Just by her looks and how she carries herself on the dance floor, Usher sings about falling in love at first sight. The clapping in the hook to the song before the chorus makes the lyrics more spunky and alluring, to the point you do not want to turn off the song.
While the lyrics allude to the female’s physical features as to the reasoning behind the male narrator’s attraction, listeners can tell that he wanted to court her and get to know her outside of the club.
“Handclapping Song” – The Meters
The Meters open their catchy R&B and soul masterpiece with guitar strumming combined with strategic clapping to the song’s beat. They rouse the people in the audience to clap their hands and get into the feel-good rhythm of the song. In the middle of the song, they let the clapping get softer to build up anticipation.
Eventually, the band passes priority to their guitar man for a solo as they do a small four-line commentary while shouting him out. The same lyrics at the beginning of the song are featured at the end as well.
“Andy Warhol” – David Bowie
David Bowie sings about the famous person that inspired him the most, Andy Warhol. In the song, he compares two paintings that he hangs on the wall including Warhol’s “Silver Screen”, but he cannot tell the difference between the two masterpieces.
When Warhol listened to the song dedicated to him in real life, someone reported that he did not like it at first. However, what brought Bowie and Warhol together was Bowie’s choice of footwear.