The most popular rock genres embody the rollicking, freewheeling spirit of rock ’n’ roll in unique and fascinating ways. Whether it’s the head-banging riffs of metal or the drone of goth rock that makes you want to run and put your eyeliner on, all types of rock music connect with audiences on a personal, visceral level.
Rock music genres have always been fluid, with the best artists mixing and matching and forming new styles by forging ahead and just making the music they want to hear. Artists like Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, and Nirvana, for instance, took the parts of punk rock and metal that appealed to them most and helped launch the whole grunge rock movement of the early 1990s.
The list of rock genres is as long as the list of musicians willing to pick up a guitar and try something new. Rock music is not necessarily defined by the driving bass lines and pounding drums of thrash metal, just as it is not defined by the synthesizers and drum machines of the new wave. There is a genre of rock music for any music fan.
So which are the rock genres that best capture the spirit of rock ’n’ roll? Which genres get your heading bobbing to the beat and your fist in the air with devil horns up? Vote below on the best subgenres of rock music.
Popular artists: Tame Impala, The Doors, Grateful Dead, The 13th Floor Elevators, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, Love, The Byrds, Iron Butterfly, Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band
Popular artists: Rush, Dream Theater, Soft Machine, Porcupine Tree, Kansas, Gong, Supertramp, Spock's Beard, Roger Waters, The Nice
Popular artists: Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, Eloy, Ozric Tentacles, Gong, Failure, Porcupine Tree, Farflung, Nektar, Spiritualized
Popular artists: Billy Joel, Air Supply, Hall & Oates, Chicago, Elton John, Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, Phil Collins, Rod Stewart, Carpenters
Popular aritsts: Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Rolling Stones, ZZ Top, The Allman Brothers Band, The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Muddy Waters, Gary Clark Jr.
Popular artists: Beck, Weezer, R.E.M., Foo Fighters, The Cure, Muse, The Smashing Pumpkins, Oasis, Pixies, The Smiths
Popular artists: Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Pantera, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Led Zeppelin, Slipknot, Deep Purple
Popular artists: Genesis, Kate Bush, Yes, The Moody Blues, Brian Eno, Electric Light Orchestra, Greg Lake, The Who, Talking Heads, Lou Reed
Popular artists: Dead Kennedys, The Clash, Ramones, Misfits, Black Flag, The Stooges, Bad Religion, Bad Brains, Rancid, NOFX
Popular artists: David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Queen, Slade, Sweet, Motley Crue, Poison, The Darkness, Quiet Riot, Def Leppard
Popular artists: Nirvana, Hole, Stone Temple Pilots, The Smashing Pumpkins, Alice in Chains, Everclear, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Melvins, L7
Popular artists: Grateful Dead, The Doors, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Iron Butterfly, Blue Cheer, Steppenwolf, The Seeds, Grace Slick
Popular artists: Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Paul Simon, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Jethro Tull
Popular artists: Journey, Queen, Styx, Europe, Boston, Foreigner, Bon Jovi, Kansas, Night Ranger, Survivor
Popular artists: John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Ry Cooder, Los Lobos, Dire Straits, Tom Petty, Wilco, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Chris Isaak, The Doobie Brothers
Popular artists: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Living Colour, George Clinton, Faith No More, Primus, Lenny Kravitz, Wild Cherry, Bootsy Collins, Dan Reed Network, Grand Funk Railroad
Popular artists: The B-52's, The Human League, Blondie, The Police, Elvis Costello, The Cars, INXS, Culture Club, The Pretenders, Simple Minds
Popular artists: Tool, Korn, Alice in Chains, System of a Down, Deftones, A Perfect Circle, Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, Stone Sour, Three Days Grace
Popular artists: David Bowie, Death Grips, Tom Waits, Björk, Frank Zappa, Throbbing Gristle, Swans, Portishead, The Residents, Nurse with Wound
Popular artists: Steely Dan, Frank Zappa, Soft Machine, Miles Davis, Nucleus, Weather Report, Return to Forever, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Chicago, Mahavishnu Orchestra
Popular artists: Green Day, blink-182, Sum 41, Paramore, New Found Glory, Jimmy Eat World, Yellowcard, All Time Low, Taking Back Sunday, The Offspring
Popular artists: The White Stripes, The Sonics, MC5, Black Lips, The Kingsmen, The Raconteurs, The Kinks, The Kills, Kings of Leon, FIDLAR
Popular artists: The Beach Boys, The Ventures, Dick Dale, The Surfaris, The Bel-Airs, The Lively Ones, Brian Wilson, The Challengers, The Atlantics, The Trashmen
Popular artists: Johnny Cash, Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris, The Milk Carton Kids, The Band, Alison Krauss, Alabama Shakes, Van Morrison, John Mellencamp, Guy Clark
Popular artists: Gwar, Alice Cooper, GG Allin, Kiss, W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister, Plasmatics, Dwarves, Beefcake the Mighty, Murderdolls