2021 News of the (Guitar) World
Guitar World|February 2022
Lean back, crack open that broadsheet and get ready for the splashiest guitar-centric news stories of 2021!
By Brad Angle, Photography by Damian Fanelli/Future; Erika Goldring/Getty; Frank Hoensch/Redferns; Jim Dyson/ Getty; Steve Jennings/Wireimage

YOU REMEMBER 2020? Yeah, that sucked. But the world (guitar and otherwise) pulled itself up by its bootstraps (and, ahem, guitar straps) and made it to the finish line. Of course, 2021 wasn’t without its challenges. The coronavirus pandemic is still disrupting many facets of life, and political divisiveness is as prevalent as ever. For many of us, the past couple of years have hammered home the fact that change and uncertainty are, well, certain. But, readers of this magazine, there is one message we can all steadfastly rally around: thank god (or the devil, depending on who you hail) for the guitar. Our instrument of choice has been a crucial creative outlet and reliable source of balance, inspiration, connection and respite throughout 2021. But don’t take our word for it… take your word for it!

Over the past year-plus more people than ever have picked up a guitar for the first time (16 million, by Fender’s recent estimates), and engagement on our own website, GuitarWorld.com, and social media accounts has gone through the roof. We’ve witnessed tons more six-string fanatics clicking, congregating and commenting to keep up with the whole universe of guitar-related news, gear, lessons, artist profiles, song premieres, live show announcements and much more. As we close the books on 2021, we’re taking a moment to revisit the news stories that most captivated your attention online. So, kick back, crack a cold one (or a hot one, if that’s your thing) and read on to see what stories united us this year. Cheers to 2022!

LIVE MUSIC RETURNS!

WE’RE JUST GONNA say it: screw Covid. Since the coronavirus engulfed the globe in early 2020, the pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives, from health to finances and so much more. For musicians and fans, Covid-19, and the ensuing social-distancing mandates, also effectively killed live music — halting one of our main avenues for expression, community, catharsis and, for some, income. Thankfully, 2021 also saw the emergence of a few vaccines, which proved effective enough that restrictions began to lift. By summer, live shows had returned — and we were all about it. The Eagles restarted their Hotel California 2020 Tour, Guns N’ Roses kicked off their reunion run, Slipknot hit the road with Killswitch Engage and Code Orange, Green Day filled stadiums, St. Vincent packed concert halls, and stacked-bill festivals including Welcome to Rockville, Aftershock and Louder Than Life featured a host of crushers like Metallica, Gojira, the Misfits and more. If the vibes at these first post-Covid shows are any indication of what’s on the horizon, 2022’s live circuit is going to be legendary!

2021’S DISTORTED CONSPIRACY THEORY

SPEAKING OF COVID-19 and vaccines… Did you know that everyone’s not quite on the same page? (If you can read, hear or absorb information in any way, we’re guessing the answer is yes.) One of your favorite stories touched on this exact topic. One viral theory that spread this year was that the Covid vaccines contained an injectable 5G chip, which governments could use as a tracking tool. In early January a schematic appeared online claiming to depict the diagram for the supposed chip. It even featured a section labeled “5G Frequency.” It wasn’t until Mario Fusco, an eagle-eyed software engineer at Red Hat, spotted the diagram’s other telling designations like “MT-2 Gain” and “Footswitch” that he took to Twitter to flag the misinformation. “Here in Italy, people started to share this figure claiming [it’s] the diagram of the 5G chip… in the Covid vaccine,” Fusco tweeted. “In reality it is the electric circuit of a guitar pedal.” The guitar pedal in question? The iconic Boss Metal Zone distortion!

Gojira's Jean-Michael Labadie (left) and Joe Duplantier are among the many musicians — pro and/or otherwise — who returned to live performances in 2021

FENDER FINDS A COVID SILVER LINING

IN OCTOBER, FENDER published the results of their exhaustive New Guitar Player Landscape Analysis survey, which revealed a striking fact about how the pandemic impacted guitar culture: approximately 16 million Americans started to learn the instrument over the past 24 months. To support this new crop of players, Fender launched a new online tool called Beginner’s Hub that aims to (along with existing resources Find Your Fender, Fender Play and Fender Tune) enable “new players to enjoy the process of learning to play music… and perhaps go on to create music we all love,” said Fender CEO Andy Mooney.

The iconic Boss Metal Zone pedal made a strange cameo in 2021

THE GRAMMYS FUMBLE THEIR EVH TRIBUTE

THE GUITAR WORLD lost a game-changing musical giant when Eddie Van Halen passed in October 2020. His approach to the instrument was a revelation that influenced countless players. So how did the Recording Academy pay their respects during the Grammy Awards’ March 2021 ceremony? They dedicated less than 30 seconds to his memory in a segment that featured archival footage of Van Halen playing “Eruption.” Fans, understandably, were not pleased — neither was Van Halen’s son, Wolfgang. “I didn’t realize they would only show Pop for 15 seconds in the middle of four full performances for others we had lost,” he wrote in an Instagram post. Wolfgang eventually revealed via Twitter that he was approached to perform “Eruption” himself, and later explained to Rolling Stone’s Brian Hiatt that he declined the Grammys’ “tone-deaf ask” because it “didn’t feel right.” In an interview with Variety’s Jem Aswad, Grammys executive producer Ben Winston offered an apology. “I felt that was an appropriate tribute to [Edward Van Halen], but if Wolfgang didn’t, I’m sorry about that, of course,” Winston said. “It’s such a horrific thing to lose a parent. We did the best that we felt we could.”

Children of Bodom's Alexi Laiho performs in Berlin in early 2017

RIP, ALEXI LAIHO

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