As the grunge wave started to hit the airwaves, the age of guitar solo started to go out of style right along with hair metal. The days of Eddie Van Halen and Yngwie Malmsteen were out the door, and the next few years were more about playing from the heart than playing a million notes per second. There was still room for playing something a little bit more complicated than just straight chords.
Even as the music scene was progressing by leaps and bounds, the alternative sphere was still interested to see what could be done with the electric guitar, using the solo as a way to play with the normal confines of what a solo could do. Some of these may involve something fairly simple, but it also meant creating new sounds that no one had heard before, either by using different intricate effects or going off the rails to try and make this six stringed instrument in your hand sound as un-guitar-like as possible.
Along with the different approaches, it became almost against the grain to put a normal guitar solo in the mix, and the ‘90s still had their fair share of guitar heroes willing to put their own fire into songs. The guitar still had a firm place in pop culture…it’s just that the rest of the scene looked a little different these days.
10. Larger Than Life - Backstreet Boys
So this is probably one of the last places that you would look for one of the greatest guitar solos of all time or anything. Even though the likes of nu metal didn't delve into guitar solos that often in the late '90s, the boy band buzz felt like the exact opposite of what rock and roll represented, with pin ups that were more focused on dancing than writing any good songs. For all those millions of vocal layers though, the Backstreet Boys didn't skimp out on some amazing session players.
While Larger Than Life might be more known these days as the kind of song that you whip out during '90s night karaoke, the actual guitar in the back is doing a lot of the heavy lifting, taking the opportunity to grandstand right before any of the vocals come in. Coming out of the old school of shredding, the runs on this track are actually far more intricate than even some of the grunge rockers of the day could have matched, feeling like a relic from the days of virtuosos like Joe Satriani and Steve Vai.
This is a party song though, and the solo doesn't forget that freewheeling vibe, almost like they're taking all of the complexity that comes with an Eddie Van Halen lead break and sprinkling in the care free vibe that you would find in an AC/DC song. Even though the next guitar god is probably not going to come out of One Direction or anything, sometimes the music world can play a few clever tricks on you as well.