I never really liked Guns N’ Roses. As a dumb kid I felt it was necessary to declare allegiances between Nirvana and GNR*. I chose Nirvana and have steadfastly denied the California band and all things hair metal. As an 11-year-old I believed hair metal was not a very good genre and though GNR were the best of the hair metal bands, they were still hair metal**. They represented all of the bad things all of the worst bands did, just with better musicianship. Their front man, Axl Rose, seemed like the pinnacle of a pointless rock star: big hair, big piano, bloated productions, incredibly expensive music videos starring his real life supermodel girlfriend, anger issues. appearing hours late at concerts, etc. The redeeming factors of GNR, mostly Slash, faded into the background as Axl’s ego ran rampant, slowly eliminating each member while working on the most disappointing record of all time***, Chinese Democracy.
Axl made it easy to not like Guns N’ Roses, even though each time they were played on classic rock radio I’d keep it on. As I aged, I was slow to concede maybe GNR wrote some great songs and just had an asshole as their singer. Maybe I could fully embrace the band. Maybe assholes change.
When Guns N’ Roses appeared on the 2002 VMA’s with a different guitarist to replace their most likable member, Slash, most people thought it sucked. But the guy they replaced Slash with, Buckethead, is a guy that wore a chicken bucket on his head. This made me like GNR and Axl a bit more. You can’t take yourself too seriously when a man with a chicken bucket on his head is responsible for your band’s solos. Also, guitarist Robin Finck from Nine Inch Nails joined the band and I love Nine Inch Nails and Tommy Stinson from The Replacements played bass and 17 years later that still makes no sense.
Then in 2012 Axl was rumored to be dating Lana Del Rey. This made me like him more because he was dating Lana Del Rey and I like sad music that sounds like you’re contemplating big questions on a beach.
Then in 2016 Axl reformed the ‘original’ lineup of GNR. This made me like them a bit more because even though a guy with bucket on head is cool, Slash is cooler.
Then Axl started shows on time. This made me like him more because my time is more important than patience.
Then Axl started using Twitter for good, occasionally releasing Cher-like anti-Trump messages with humor and emojis. This made me like him more because Axl is a straight, white 56-year-old from Indiana and most guys like that aren’t using Twitter for good.
Vote Blue… Bitches!!🇺🇸🔵🔷💙 pic.twitter.com/vciYbuvWpt
— Axl Rose (@axlrose) October 29, 2018
Now Axl has released his first new music since 2008’s Chinese Democracy (which is really more like 1997-1999 since that’s when the songs were written then re-recorded starting in 2000 when they brought in the guy with the bucket on his head). It’s not a Guns N Roses song. It’s not a solo song. It’s a song in an upcoming episode of the New Looney Tunes called “Rock the Rock.”
32 years after the release of Appetite for Destruction, I am finally a fan of Guns N’ Roses and Axl Rose. Axl changed. I can change too. Those big songs with bloated productions are really great (I know I’m not in the minority, but I still need to say I was wrong). Axl is a magnetic performer and now that he’s on time, I’m more than willing to spend money on tickets to see him do his excellent dance. And maybe most importantly, he’s collaborating with cartoons. Axl Rose is living his best life.
*I listened to Use Your Illusion I after writing this first draft. I chose correctly. Nevermind is immensely better and way less problematic. Nirvana fans don’t have to cringe about songs like “Right Next Door to Hell” and “Back Off Bitch.”
**Guns N’ Roses is equal parts hair metal and whatever Meat Loaf is considered. “November Rain” would have fit perfectly on Bat Out of Hell. Meat Loaf rules.
***Not disappointing because it’s a horrible record, it’s actually just eh, but because of its decade plus production and anticipation.