Guns N’ Roses’ New Song Strategy With Slash: Risks And Gains (Opinion)

I want to begin by stating that I am a huge Guns N’ Roses fan. Last June, I had the privilege of seeing the band live, an experience that was nothing short of extraordinary. To me, Slash stands as one of the most significant guitarists in history, and I relish every project he’s involved in. His role in GNR? He transformed a band that could have been at best on par with Skid Row into one of the greatest global hard rock bands in history. His impact on the band is profound.

Slash’s return to the band was undoubtedly one of the most crucial events in the rock world over the past decade. First came the tour announcement, followed by news of new album preparations. Naturally, we were all excited. Having witnessed a concert on this tour, I can attest that they are still perfect on stage. However, the synergy in their new songs is a bit questionable in my view.

Three years ago, ‘Absurd’ was released, marking the first song recorded with GNR’s lineup including Slash. From its release, it was clear that ‘Absurd’ was different from a classic GNR song, and it would be an exaggeration to say it was greatly loved. It was a neutral approach by fans, containing new, radical elements, such as a synth-keyboard style differing from the classic Axl Rose piano.

A year after ‘Absurd’, ‘Hard Skool’ was released, which was a complete reflection of GNR’s old school style. Four months ago, another new song, ‘Perhaps’, was released. Both ‘Hard Skool’ and ‘Perhaps’ offered significant insights into the new generation GNR sound, prominently featuring Axl’s keyboards and Slash’s guitar solos. These tracks are thrilling and akin to the band’s prime era.

Ten days ago, the band released ‘The General’, another new single with Slash. My initial thought was that the song was somewhat bland, but I wanted to give it some time. Sometimes, songs grow on you. After waiting for ten days, I observed that it had barely reached 500,000 listens, and the comments were predominantly lukewarm. It seems my initial thoughts were correct. With ‘The General’, the band attempted something more radical, but in my opinion, it wasn’t very successful.

In the rock world, there are fundamentally two types of bands. The first type, like AC/DC, never changes its sound and maintains a certain standard in every album. The second type, like Metallica, undergoes radical fundamental changes every 2-3 albums. Metallica’s success is attributed to emerging stronger from each of these changes, while AC/DC’s success stems from mastering a single genre.

I believe there is some confusion in Guns N’ Roses’ new work with Slash. So far, the band has released four songs, with two reflecting the old school GNR vibe and the other two incorporating more experimental and radical elements. Looking at online statistics, we see that songs closer to the old school style have more views, while those with radical elements haven’t attracted much attention. I agree with this sentiment because we, as rock listeners, desire songs in the style of GNR’s prime era.

It’s premature to judge the entire new album. However, the dual nature of the new album might be a strategy, aiming to capture both the fans nostalgic for the old days and those seeking something experimental and new. This approach obviously comes with its opportunities and risks. On the one hand, it could be seen as a step to minimize existing risks. For rock fans longing for the past, it’s like a taste of honey, while offering a completely different beauty for the new generation of rock listeners. GNR might be promising us a garden of musical diversity. We’ll see how it unfolds.