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Alternative History

The 10 Best Songs by Guns n’ Roses

axl rose guns n roses best songs

Guns n’ Roses was the last outpost of dirty, lecherous trad rock in a modern, idealistic alt-rock world. But Axl Rose had a secret. He, too, loved the indie bands and their ideas and couldn’t help but integrate them into some of Gn’R’s best songs.

Time has gone easy on the legend of Guns n’ Roses. Once the antithesis of Nirvana, they are now mentioned in the same breath as the most innovative alternative acts of the 1990s.

It’s largely due to the sheer quality of the songs. Because of that, I will today be looking at the 10 best songs produced by Guns n’ Roses, shamelessly ranking them.

The 10 Best Songs by Guns n’ Roses

10. “Catcher in the Rye” from the album “Chinese Democracy” (2008)

What’s the worst song by Guns n’ Roses? It’s “My World.” No question about it. But even that had its charm. For a heavy metal band, Guns n’ Roses didn’t fail to be interesting.

After AXL W. Rose had fired or had been abandoned by all original group members of the original line-up, he was finally free to do what he wished. As he turns out he had a lot of ambitious ideas. Thankfully, most were far more musical sounding than “My World” but equally as daring.

Notoriously, it took nearly two decades and countless backing musicians to lead his vision to fruition. When released in 2008, the album “Chinese Democracy” confounded many listeners.

These weren’t Izzy Stradlin’s Stonesy jams. This wasn’t Slash’s love of blues-rock jam bands. No, this was a modern approach to making rock music. And, I gotta say, I personally felt the wait for, at least partly, worth it.

“Catcher in the Rye” is the most satisfying listen off of the album, with its brilliant melodies, wall of lead guitars, and strange lyrics about Mark Chapman, the killer of John Lennon.

Axl Rose had dreamed of Gn’R as an industrial, proggy, soft-rock hybrid. Yes, even the pyramids of Giza got built quicker, but he pulled it off. Reviews be damned!

axl rose guns n roses in the 2000s

9. “Civil War” From the Album “Use Your Illusion II” (1991)

The success of “Appetite for Destruction” meant that Guns n’ Roses were immediately elevated to the status of stadium headliners. They responded to their newfound status with songs like “Civil War.

This showcases the band’s new-found love for long epics in which most band members get a chance to shine. It’s a strategy that had worked for Led Zeppelin and Gn’R were of a similar weight class.

Lyrically, Axl Rose touches on more serious issues than he had before. It’s a song about violence and briefly references Martin Luther King’s murder.

“Civil War” is also a great opportunity for Slash to flex his lead guitar skills, for Axl to exercise his whistling, and for drummer Steven Adler to play on his final song with the band before being ejected.

8. “Estranged” From the Album “Use Your Illusion II” (1991)

Few bands that reach the pinnacle of the rock charts show as much determination as Gn’R to dazzle their audiences.

Estranged” was one of three gigantic rock power ballads accompanied by elaborate music videos. The songs, like the videos, were a personal examination of Axl Rose’s psyche.

This may sound outrageous. But the public really cared. Their interest in Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, Alice in Chains‘ Layne Staley, or Rose was sincere.

But all of this wouldn’t matter if this was not a great song. Slash’s lead lines are memorable, Axl’s tenor is more tortured than ever, and the band glides through a number of musical changes like Queen at the height of their prog-rock ambitions.

It may have been easy at the time to call Axl Rose a self-obsessed young artist. But “Estranged” is a song that has stood the test of time.

7. “Nighttrain” From the Album “Appetite for Destruction” (1987)

Before being world-famous, Guns n’ Roses were notorious around a small area of Hollywood. Unlike many of their peers, their love of excess wasn’t merely meant to fuel tabloid headlines. It was their raison d’être.

Because of this, few expected the band to survive past one album, their debut, “Appetite for Destruction.”

With this in mind, Gn’R attempts and succeeds at capturing the full extent of their debauchery. “Nighttrain”, an ode to cheap wine, is one of their best songs. It features brilliant melodies, great dynamics and the excellent interplay between guitarists Izzy Stradlin and Slash.

It’s not necessarily one of the greatest hits. But, if I could, I’d pay Izzy Stradlin to write Stonesy hard rock jams for as long as possible. The world misses something when he doesn’t.

guns n roses double talkin jive 2

6. “Paradise City” From the Album “Appetite for Destruction” (1987)

At heart, Guns n’ Roses were punks. But they also loved arena rock, funk, hip-hop, and blues. To many people’s surprise, they’d be using all of those musical elements soon enough.

Duff McKagan, formerly of notorious punks The Fartz, came up with the anthemic chorus of “Paradise City.” When played live, it showed that the band had range.

Plus, the numerous shows played together had helped them interact on instinct. The manic guitar-solo-lead outro is a chaos-shuffle that made Guns n’ Roses hard to deny.

5. “You Could Be Mine” From the Album “Use Your Illusion I” (1991)

Guns n’ Roses’ success seems to have surprised many of the band’s contemporaries. But how could a band led by Axl Rose’s vocals not succeed?

In his prime, Rose’s singing abilities rivalled those of Chris Cornell, Mike Patton, or any of the great rock singers blessed with a multiple-octave range.

“You Could Be Mine” attempts to bring some of the intensity of the band’s debut to the “Use Your Illusion I & II” project. It features some of Axl Rose’s most convincing screams and a great guitar solo from Slash. Plus, it references Elton John and was featured in Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator II”.

4. “Don’t Cry (Original)” From the Album “Use Your Illusion I” (1991)

“Don’t Cry” is one of the first songs written by Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin for Gn’R. Suffice to say that the power ballad format didn’t quite fit the energy of the band’s riotous early live shows. Therefore, it appeared on “Use Your Illusion I” under its original form and “Use Your Illusion II,” with new lyrics.

It was one of the biggest hits that Guns n’ Roses ever had. Yes, the band was taking advantage of the public’s insatiable love for rock ballads. But they were more earnest and better at them than most.

The excellent vocal track benefits from the vocal harmonies provided by Blind Melon’s Shannon Hoon.

Since its release, “Don’t Cry” has become something of a rock standard.

guns n roses doubl

3. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” From the Album “Appetite for Destruction” (1987)

Guns n’ Roses was a band that could share the stage with any of the loudest heavy metal bands and blow most of them away.

In their earliest days, Gn’R was a chaotic live band propelled by strong musicianship. This may have translated to concerts, but it wasn’t something that would break them.

“Sweet Child O’ Mine” made them globally famous. Yes, it’s a power ballad, a format that many heavy metal bands had used to their advantage. But it’s a notch above the kinds of tunes that rivals like Motley Crue or Poison could produce.

Slash’s opening riff is striking. Adler and McKagan create a strong, funky bass backing. Izzy Stradlin adds a great rhythm guitar track. And Axl’s vocals are magnificent.

But it’s in the dynamic outro of the song that the band really shines. Few groups were as inventive or had the almost telepathic understanding that this five-piece possessed.

2. “November Rain” From the Album “Use Your Illusion II” (1991)

November Rain” is the definitive 1990s power ballad, an exercise into taking Elton John-type songs and delivering them to rock audiences.

This may all sound a bit conceited, but Axl Rose was ready to add everything but the kitchen sink by the time of their second full-length release.

Verses flow moodily as Rose backs himself from the piano, and lyrics about love and forgiveness are added with the singer’s familiar grit.

But the song’s outro balances the tune-out. Here, the rest of the band leads a charge on Rose’s beautiful composition. It all ends with Slash’s guitar leads and Rose’s tortured screams closing out the track.

“November Rain” was part of a trilogy of songs that also included “Don’t Cry” and “Estranged.” The release of each of these came accompanied by a movie-like music video. The one for “November Rain” is the most iconic of the three.

Gn’R earned fame for a lot of things. “November Rain” is their best stadium-pleasing power ballad.

1. “Welcome to the Jungle” From the Album “Appetite for Destruction” (1987)

Great bands know how to make powerful statements. “Welcome to the Jungle” is the perfect introduction to Guns n’ Roses, a manifesto for the band.

Off the bat, Axl Rose positions the group as outsiders. He was himself, after all, an Indiana native who’d struggled to get by in Los Angeles.

It’s also one of the most menacing-sounding tracks that earned heavy radio airplay, a mix between pop-metal theatrics and thrash’s intensity.

Axl Rose screams his way through lyrics about LA’s decadent way of life, while Duff McKagan provides an excellent funk-like bass line.

It got Guns n’ Roses banned from MTV and convinced many to view them as the heirs to Sex Pistols. Their career would turn out to be just as violently chaotic.

But to everyone’s surprise, they survived to tell the tale, to reunite, and to tour the world in 2024 and beyond.

“Welcome to the Jungle,” however, remains a singular moment in rock music. While massively overplayed, it still retains its acerbity.

The Origin and Meaning of The "Guns N' Roses" Name
About author

Eduard Banulescu is a writer, blogger, and musician. As a content writer, Eduard has contributed to numerous websites and publications, including FootballCoin, Play2Earn, BeIN Crypto, Business2Community, NapoliSerieA, Extra Time Talk, Nitrogen Sports, Bavarian FootballWorks, etc. He has written a book about Nirvana, hosts a music podcasts, and writes weekly content about some of the best, new and old, alternative musicians. Eduard also runs and acts as editor-in-chief of the alternative rock music website www.alt77.com. Mr. Banulescu is also a musician, having played and recorded in various bands and as a solo artist.
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