The Death of the Guitar Solo: How New Music Genres Drove Its Decline

Prepare to take a nostalgic journey through the music of the 1990s and 2000s as Noah Lefevre, the insightful essayist behind Polyphonic‘s “Axe to Grind” series, explores the declining popularity of the guitar solo. In this thought-provoking sixth episode, Lefevre delves into how new musical genres began to overshadow the iconic guitar solo, despite the immense talent of the guitarists of that era.

The emergence of the grunge scene in Seattle during the early 90s marked a turning point, challenging the indulgences of hard rock and paving the way for a decline in guitar-centered music. However, it is important to note that guitarists like Brian May, David Gilmour, Carlos Santana, and Prince continued to leave their indelible marks during this time.

Lefevre highlights Prince’s legendary solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” as a triumph, but acknowledges that its celebration at a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction in the 80s demonstrates the declining popularity of guitar solos by the early 2000s.

The essayist also commends the exceptional guitar work of Kurt Cobain, Tom Morello, Dimebag Darrell, John Frusciante, Adrian Utley, and particularly Jack White. By embracing a raw and minimalist approach, White was able to bring the electric guitar back into the spotlight, with “Seven Nation Army” becoming a last true rock anthem and one of the final solos to have a profound impact on popular music culture.

While guitar solos may have disappeared from the mainstream consciousness, Lefevre finds hope in the underground guitar scenes of the 2000s and 2010s. He believes that some of the greatest guitarists of all time are currently shaping the foundations for a potential rebirth of the guitar solo, albeit in niche scenes away from the radio airwaves.

Join Noah Lefevre on this insightful exploration of the decline and potential resurgence of the guitar solo, as he sheds light on the changing landscape of music and the enduring power of this iconic instrument.

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