It was a really tough decade for the electric guitar. He was pronounced dead several times as rock fell off mainstream radio almost completely and pop moved ever closer to hip-hop and dance. Even electric guitar consumption has declined with sales dropping from 1.5 million a year to just over a million, leaving giants like Fender and Gibson in debt (via The Washington Post). Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, one of guitar music’s greatest champions of the past two decades, believes rock manifests itself in other ways through artists with a “punk” attitude like Billie Eilish and Lil Pump, but neither are heavy on the guitar.
Against all odds, guitars are returning to pop and diversifying the genre as we see dance and electronic music loosen their grip. While the charts may be telling a different story right now, dominated by hip/hop and dance/pop, there are signs that we’re in the midst of a guitar revival.
The last time guitars were in fashion
In 2008, Katy Perry broke through with kissed a girl with a guitar screeching through the chorus. That same year, Kings Of Leon recorded their biggest hit with sex on fireP!NK threw a middle finger with the guitar So what! and Miley Cyrus broke up with Hannah Montana with See you next time with a rock-ready chorus.
We largely owe Max Martin to blame for this. He made the powerful electric guitar choir the model for pop for almost a decade. by Kelly Clarkson since you’ve been Gone kicked it all off and was followed by The Veronicas 4 Neverby Avril Lavigne The best fucking thing and almost all of P!NK’s fun house registration. In 2010, he retired the guitars of Katy Perry’s huge band teenage dream record, launched Kesha’s career with an EDM aesthetic and later convinced Taylor Swift to put down the guitar, taking her from country to pop.
The good news is that pop/rock is not back. It’s unlikely we’ll hear a chorus like since you’ve been Gone soon, but it finds its place in the genre in other ways.
The guitars have already started their uprising
Last year the biggest selling single in Australia was 5 Seconds Of Summer’s young blood, a song that effortlessly blended pop and rock, putting together dance-inspired beats with an arena-ready chorus. Still, it was an anomaly. There wasn’t a single other song in the top 20 best-selling singles that featured an electric guitar prominently, although acoustic guitars are incredibly popular.
Because young blood, there were some changes in the charts in favor of the guitar. Last year, Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper released their world-conquering song Shallow from A star is born which is unlike anything else on the radio. Interestingly, Gaga tried to put the guitars back on Joan but it didn’t quite work. The only success of this disc was million reasons which was primarily an acoustic affair. Given Shallowsuccess, it would seem that she had a few years in advance.
As EDM and the prominence of electronic music fades into the mainstream, producers continue to flirt with organic instrumentation. The most unlikely name doing this right now is the enigma of the Marshmello dance. 2017 wolves with Selena Gomez kicked off and he followed it with Bastille last year Happier. Now, he’s delved into Avril Lavigne territory of the early 2000s with CHVRCHES on here with me.
Everything seems to have rolled out the perfect red carpet for 2000s pop/rock purveyors, the Jonas Brothers. They came back with a world number one Suction cup. It’s groovy, goofy, and best of all, two of the brothers are wielding a guitar.
We don’t wish that on anyone, but we also predict that Post Malone will go further and further into guitar music. While his greatest hits are all influenced by hip-hop, Better now and I’m collapsing plus a tag team with the Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Grammys this year suggests he’s ready to take rap/rock a step further. Relaunched early on by Lil Peep and Lil Uzi Vert, Juice WRLD is leading the charge right now with the opening seconds of the current single. Fast sounding like it could be a Killers song.
RnB/pop also leans into the guitar. Frank Ocean played guitar for the majority of 2016’s Blond but that just dents the genre now from a business standpoint. HER performed his Grammys performance of Difficult part with a guitar slung over his shoulder. It was a powerful image and one that helped it become one of the most talked about performances of the night. Khalid is freshly released Free spirit also features guitars heavily on a number of songs, including runaway favorite out of my head which stars John Mayer. Almost every song on the record interpolates the guitars in some way.
We finally have big bands on top again
When you look at the festivals right now, most of the bands that occupy the top spots are veterans. There’s Foo Fighters, Arctic Monkeys, Muse, and The Killers, to name a few that have been making the rounds recently. Very few “rock” bands have managed to break through since guitar music took over the backseat, even Coldplay turned to EDM for inspiration at one point. That’s changing now thanks to two bands rising to the top – Tame Impala and The 1975.
Tame Impala’s hazy, hypnotic guitars have captured the attention of everyone from Mark Ronson to Travis Scott. Frontman Kevin Parker has become a sought-after producer over the past two years, particularly in the hip-hop world, working for Kanye West, Scott and A$AP Rocky over the past 12 months. Tame Impala will return to the stage as the headliner of Coachella this weekend, bringing her pop-infused psychedelia to the masses.
The 1975, meanwhile, finally nabbed a critical darling with their most guitar-focused project to date. A Brief Survey of Online Comments. They’re playing arenas right now, sharing the dizzying guitars of Give yourself a try and the groove-injected guitars of It’s not living (if it’s not with you). The hysteria surrounding them suggests they seem like the pop group most likely to deliver mainstream success and take over Kings Of Leon on the scale.
We could also mention Greta Van Fleet here, but we’re trying to stay positive about this guitar revival.
The new Love To Shred culture
While many of today’s mainstream guitar preachers look to grunge or emo for inspiration, there’s a new generation of upcoming popstars who look to ’90s fuzz and dream pop for inspiration. . Charli XCX has started a girl group that puts guitars at the forefront of their music. Their excellent first single To earn recalls everything from Garbage to Hole. It’s hard to imagine anything like Hole topping the charts these days, but he did it two decades ago and he still could.
Brooklyn band Charly Bliss channels a similar era with their new, lo-fi yet richly melodic music. They are about to release a new album Young enough in May and the singles from it so far are dripping with fuzzy, all-encompassing guitars. It’s Veruca Salt with a dash of Sixpence None The Richer and it’s sweet enough to find legs on the radio.
Thanks, in part, to triple-jis an unwavering support, guitar music never really died in Australia but now it’s finding its way into pop. Most of the top Australian pop makers currently do this with guitars.
Alex Lahey does that kind of sharp pop/rock that we’ve been missing since the debut of Natalie Imbruglia and her new singles Am I doing it right? and Don’t be so hard on yourself have doubled down on this style.
Hatchie stepped out with a glorious pop moment last week Stay with me which effortlessly mixes retro synths and guitars. It’s part of a debut album coming out in June that is shaping up to be one of the top Australian releases of the year. She cites everyone from Mazzy Star to Natalie Imbruglia as her influences, something we’re going to see a lot of as more ’90s kids come to prominence.
Last year, Jack River did similar magic with early ’90s guitars and synths. Sugar Mountain. These artists are all part of a very promising DIY pop scene in Australia that is going global right now.
What should we expect from now on
On the R&B/pop side, Khalid’s unwavering popularity will make him a great source of inspiration. It’s laid back and mixes the organic with the synthetic, bringing us back to 90s RnB songs like Lauryn Hill’s. Ex factor. On the rap side, nothing stops the movement towards emo and punk. After all, rap stars are the new rockstars.
There is unlikely to be a shift towards mid-2000s pop/rock, as the guitars will be smoother and more groovy without being used for smashing choruses. Portugal Man feel it again is likely to be a plan for many over the next year, especially on the back of Jonas Brothers Suction cup.
If we bring back an era in pop, it’s the late 90s. It’s likely that Charli XCX is onto something with Nasty Cherry and there’s going to be a lot of grungy, fuzzy pop that’s going around the underground and that might even make it into the mainstream. The wicked cherry To earn has enough teeth to take over the radio and if so, their influence could smear the charts.
We understand that all of this sounds very scary, but let it happen. The next No Doubt may be just around the corner.