20 Best Guns N’ Roses Songs: Their Essential Tracks

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Rio de Janeiro, September 24, 2017. Singer Axl Rose and guitarrist Slash during Guns N 'Roses performance during the show at Rock in Rio 2017 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Image from Shutterstock.

Guns N’ Roses, who were inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2012, were among the biggest bands of the 80s and early 90s. Guns n’ Roses lead singer Axl Rose and lead guitarist Slash are rock n’ roll icons.

The seminal rock band has dozens of iconic songs. Check out our best Guns n’ Roses songs list.

20 Best Guns n’ Roses Songs

20. “Chinese Democracy”

To say that Chinese Democracy had a long and sordid gestation would be an understatement.

Recording began in the mid-90s. Fans and critics followed it closely, as a new album from GnR was highly anticipated.

Plus, Axl Rose had been vocal about wanting to update the band’s sound, having been interested in the more industrial sounds of Nine Inch Nails.

Chinese Democracy was finally released on Geffen Records in 2008 and featured a large cast of characters, including Replacements bassist Tommy Stinson and guitarist Buckethead.

Though not one of the very best Guns N’ Roses songs, the title track has that typical GnR swagger, though it has a slightly heavier, leaner feel. It has more of a 90s rock feel than anything.

Chinese Democracy was the last Guns N’ Roses studio album. They haven’t released an LP since the band’s reunion with original members Duff McKagan and Slash.

19. “Sympathy for the Devil”

GnR’s version of this Rolling Stones classic was featured in the 1994 movie Interview with the Vampire.

One of the more sinister Rolling Stones songs, it was a perfect fit for Axl and company. Slash provides a typically wild guitar solo. Stones lead guitarist Brian Jones would be proud.

“Sympathy for the Devil” originally led off their seminal 1968 album Beggar’s Banquet. Its social commentary seemed as relevant in the 90s as it did in the 60s.

Guns N’ Roses’ version of this classic was one of the rare songs they’ve released since The Spaghetti Incident? that features members of their classic lineup, including Slash and bassist Duff McKagan.

Related: The Rolling Stones: A Wild Story of Struggle and Success 

18. “Rocket Queen”

This song is well-known for a wild, very GnR-type reason: the orgasmic moaning at the end is Axl Rose actually having sex with Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler’s girlfriend, Adriana Smith.

One of the band’s best rock songs, it’s the sort of thing that showed just how much above hair metal bands GnR were.

You can imagine driving some nice sports car with the windows rolled down on the Sunset Strip cranking this one.

17. “Since I Don’t Have You”

Covers album The Spaghetti Incident?, the final Guns N’ Roses studio album featuring Slash and Duff McKagan, was released in 1993.

Many genres were covered, from oldies to punk to hard rock. They even covered a Charles Manson song. All it was missing was disco and funk.

The second single from the album, “Since I Don’t Have You,” was certainly an odd choice for the hard rock band. The 50s oldie was originally released by doo-wop band the Skyliners in 1958.

Though odd, it was undoubtedly successful. The band is clearly having a lot of fun. A good 50s cover hadn’t hit the mainstream since the Happy Days era of the 1970s.

We’re not sure if Gibly Clarke, who replaced rhythm guitarist Izzy Stradlin during the Use Your Illusion sessions, plays on this track or not. He replaced many of Stradlin’s parts for the album’s release.

Though interesting and somewhat successful, The Spaghetti Incident wasn’t a huge hit. It took until 2018 to sell a million copies.

16. “Nightrain”

One of the most muscular Guns N’ Roses tracks, “Nightrain” is led by a heavy-yet-smooth riff from Slash that is doubled by Axl Rose’s melody.

The verses have a fun, janky, funky feel. The bloozy rock of Appetite for Destruction is in full effect on “Nightrain.”

Guns n’ Roses didn’t have the complex musicianship of heavy metal bands like Iron Maiden, but I can imagine Bruce Dickinson singing this one.

Also, dig the cowbell.

15. “Used to Love Her”

“I used to love her/but I had to kill her.”

 I know what you’re thinking – that’s some dark stuff! Though not as twisted as it could be, bluesy acoustic rocker “Used to Love Her” is about putting a dog down.

It reminds me of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis, Tennessee,” in that you can’t really figure out the bit until the end of the song. Certainly one of the most clever Guns N’ Roses songs.

Velvet Revolver, which featured many GnR members in addition to late Stone Temple Pilots frontman Scott Weiland, were known to occasionally cover “Used to Love Her.”

14. “It’s So Easy”

The first single from Guns N’ Roses’ debut album Appetite for Destruction, “It’s So Easy” put the hard rockers on the map with a bang.

Its opening riff is almost surf rock sounding, but it quickly turns into one of those delightfully sludge-y, classic Guns N’ Roses songs.

More wonderful cowbell on this one.

 13. “My Michelle”

Rolling Stone called Appetite for Destruction ‘filthy, sexy, cool,’ and it’s easy to see why with songs like “My Michelle.”

 Like many classic Guns N’ Roses songs, “My Michelle” begins quietly before Slash comes in with one of his more underrated riffs.

“Your daddy works in porno/now that mommy’s not around” might be the most GnR opening line ever.

While they perhaps didn’t have the thrashy aspects of bands like, say, Metallica, they sure did have the speed, as “My Michelle” proves.

12. “Patience”

Many were thrown off by “Patience,” a downright tender ballad from the band’s second album, G N’ R Lies.

Axl Rose shows his versatility as a vocalist, proving that he can sound pretty just as well as menacing.

The acoustic ballad shows that Slash’s approach works as well when the amps aren’t plugged in.

More than one of the best Guns N’ Roses songs, it’s one of the best 80s ballads. Hair bands eat your heart out.

11. “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”

Guns N’ Roses’ hard rock take on Bob Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” is almost as iconic as Jimi Hendrix‘s version of his “All Along the Watchtower.

Though they covered Bob Dylan, they’d actually play with his Travelling Wilbury bandmate Tom Petty. They performed a medley of Petty’s “Free Fallin'” and Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.”

10. “Estranged”

Our list of Guns N’ Roses’ top 10 songs begins with “Estranged.”

 In the early 90s, many bands released big ballads with lush melodies. Aerosmith songs like “Amazing” come to mind.

While Guns N’ Roses weren’t the only rock band doing it, they were arguably doing it better than anyone, as “Estranged” shows.

The 9+ minute epic is featured on their 1994 album Use Your Illusion II.

9. “Don’t Cry”

Though definitely a rock band, Guns N’ Roses had several more low-key ballads, and “Don’t Cry” is among the best.

I listened to this one in my brother’s old Mustang over and over again when I was a kid.

There are two versions of the song with the same music but different lyrics, one on Use Your Illusion I and the other on Use Your Illusion II.

8. “You Could Be Mine”

Anyone alive in the early 90s will remember “You Could Be Mine” from its memorable inclusion in Terminator II. The official music video features scenes from the movie.

One of the most rocking, Appetite for Destruction-sounding songs the band released after that album, “You Could Be Mine” is classic GnR.

Check out this version of “You Could Be Mine” from the band’s comeback tour, “Not In This Lifetime.”

Related: 16 Best Movies About Music 

7. “Mr. Brownstone”

Rocker “Mr. Brownston” is certainly among Guns N’ Roses’ greatest hits.

Many of GnR’s songs deal with drugs, and “Mr. Brownstone” is no different.

“I used to do a little/but a little wouldn’t do it/so the little got more and more” – if you’re an addict, you get this.

Though it deals with addiction, it more smirks at it rather than condemns it. Rock n’ roll decadence at its most GnR.

Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler especially rocks on this one.

 6. “Live and Let Die”

As with their “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” cover, their version of Beatles bassist Paul McCartney’s “Live and Let Die” breathed new life into an old classic.

It’s one of the few GnR tunes that features a perfectly done orchestral arrangement.

Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagen shines on one of the best Guns N’ Roses songs.

5. “Civil War”

I’ve always been more of a fan of the slower, epic Guns N’ Roses songs. “Civil War” is their most affecting.

The anti-war song especially rang true when it was released, as America had just completed the first Gulf War.

4. “Sweet Child O’ Mine”

What was Guns N’ Roses’ most successful song? That’d be “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” their only #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100.

When you think of iconic Slash riffs, “Sweet Child O’ Mine” has to be the first that comes to mind. Interestingly, the “where do we go” now part was created because Axl actually didn’t know what lines should come next.

Is “Sweet Child O’ Mine” about his daughter? If you’re talking Axl’s, no (ew), but it was famously written about Erin Everly, daughter of famous Everly Brother Don Everly.

Simply, 80s rock music doesn’t get much better than “Sweet Child O’ Mine. Though the studio version is great, “Sweet Child O’Mine” really comes to life onstage.

3. “Welcome to the Jungle”

A classic rock staple, “Welcome to the Jungle” opens Appetite for Destruction with a bang.

The madness of city life, which inspired the song, is perfectly summed up in both the lyrics and fell of this all-time classic.

The overboard music video for “Welcome to the Jungle” was the sort of thing that made Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain think GnR was kind of embarrassing.

Despite that fact, “Welcome to the Jungle” is one of the best hard rock songs.

2. “Paradise City”

One of those one-in-a-million rock songs that shook the world, “Paradise City” came out of nowhere in the 80s rock scene.

The song was written in the early days of the band. It began in a rented van, with all the original members together.

Slash, Izzy, and Axl wrote it face-to-face, like Lennon and McCartney used to do in the old days of the Beatles.

“Paradise City” is a HUGE song. Its chorus is so big that they had to begin the song with it.

Def Leppard, eat your heart out. It’s hard to believe that Bon Jovi was considered heavy metal before Guns N’ Roses.

1. “November Rain”

“November Rain,” an ultimate rock n’ roll anthem, tops our list of the best Guns N’ Roses songs.

Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose lays it all on the line in this intense power ballad. His voice switches from tender to gritty and back before you can even realize it.

The real star of the show, of course, is Slash. His guitar solo at the end is one of Guns N’ Roses defining moments.

Finally, the “November Rain” video is one of the most epic in rock history.

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Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.


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