The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century

The greatest guitar songs of the 21st century – 2020

Swallowing The Rabbit Whole – Code Orange 

Our pals on recently proclaimed Code Orange’s Underneath “the greatest metal record in a generation”, and they might just have a point. One of the band’s three guitarists, Reba Meyers related to “[Swallowing The Rabbit Whole] probably had the most versions, probably around 20. 

“I like the songs we mess about with the most, finding the perfect movie-style arc for it to flow. Because it wasn’t just a repeating verse and chorus thing, it’s a very cinematic song. It felt like a fully Code Orange song, with all of our tools being used.” 

We're just looking forward to live shows resuming and seeing how Reba and co deliver those biting harmonics and ‘chopped’ breaks. For the Underneath sessions, Reba mainly used an ESP Custom Viper, telling TG that she never comes off of the guitar’s EMG 81 bridge pickup. 

For amplification, an EVH 5150 was chosen for its cutting, smooth response which needed no tweaking or gain. Soundtoys PhaseMistress, FilterFreak and Decapitator plugins provided guitar effects.

Mr Motivator – IDLES

The Bristol quintet may disagree with being labelled ‘punk rock’, but the Fenders on this year’s single are as biting as they come.

Kyoto – Phoebe Bridgers

The guitars here aren’t flashy, but they make the song work by leaving space for the evocative melodies and lyrics.

Betty – Taylor Swift

Pop princess Swift gets convincingly folky with help from The National’s Aaron Dressner.

Circle The Drain – Soccer Mommy

This century is now old enough for noughties revival songs. The hooks are so strong we don’t care about feeling old.

Lilacs – Waxahatchee

Demonstrating how a few hammer-ons can energise a simple chord pattern, this fresh slice of Americana is a great strum-along.

A Hero's Death – Fontaines DC

The bleak guitar creates the central tension here. “Life ain’t always empty”, say the lyrics. “Yes it is”, says the guitar.

Prosthetic – Haken 

Haken’s Charlie Griffiths told TG: “This is quite a nostalgic track for me, as it touches on my formative influences like Robert Fripp, Dimebag Darrell and Dino Cazares.”

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Total Guitar editors

Total Guitar is one of Europe's biggest guitar magazines. With lessons to suit players of all levels, TG's world-class tuition is friendly, accessible and jargon-free, whether you want to brush up on your technique or improve your music theory knowledge. We also talk to the biggest names in the world of guitar – from interviews with all-time greats like Brian May and Eddie Van Halen to our behind the scenes Rig Tour features, we get you up close with the guitarists that matter to you.