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Nothing Else Matters

Metallica

About “Nothing Else Matters”

On their controversial self-titled album which came to be known as the Black Album, “Nothing Else Matters” was perhaps the greatest example of the new Metallica sound that alienated core fans. Frontman James Hetfield had been taking classical guitar lessons and wanted to show off his fingerpicking skills in the introduction. The song grew out of an extension of a phone call James made with his girlfriend while on tour and he was picking his guitar while on the phone.

While the song does get heavy during the second guitar solo, it is for the most part, a ballad about expressing your feelings, like an Emerson poem:

It was a song for myself in my room on tour when I was bumming out about being away from home. It’s quite amazing, it’s a true testament to honesty and exposing yourself, putting your real self out there, and taking the risk, taking a gamble that someone’s either going to step on your heart with spikes on or they’re going to put their heart right next to it, and you never know until you try. That solidified, I think, that we were doing the right thing, writing from the heart about what we felt, and you can’t go wrong that way.

“Nothing Else Matters” has become a song that any complete beginner who has never picked up a guitar can feel like they are playing Metallica for a few measures.

Famed Hollywood composer Michael Kamen contributed an orchestrated part, which was mixed somewhat low in the song. To compensate, years later Metallica did the S&M concert and album with Kamen conducting the San Francisco Symphony, with “Nothing Else Matters” being a centerpiece.

  • What has James Hetfield said about the song?

    “Nothing Else Matters” was a song for me. It was not to be heard by the general public. It was a song written in hotel rooms on [‘Justice’] tour about missing friends at home, being out for such a long time. That was a song that was not meant to be played for other people, it was for me. I think that’s important—to write music that makes you feel good, I’ve got quite a few songs that are like that. “Nothing Else Matters” was heard by the band, they thought it was amazing. I thought, ‘You’re crazy. That’s just this sappy ballady thing that makes me feel OK.’ ‘No, that’s good!’ That just goes to show I have no idea what’s good [Laughs]. But it eventually made its way out there. It was a vulnerable, vulnerable song for me, and a real risk at that time, being where I was at that time to let that song go and be heard. I’m really glad they all pushed for it. I think it’s a vulnerable song that everyone can relate to. It doesn’t really mean one thing, it’s not just about relationship, I’ve seen that song show up for sport teams… It’s a belonging, belonging song.

    James Hetfield

  • What has Jason Newsted said about the song?

    We worked so hard on the record for so long, and to take that music around the world like we did was really, hugely powerful. “Nothing Else Matters” was No.1 in 35 countries the same week or some shit and all of a sudden there’s countries calling that never would’ve entertained the thought of an American metal band playing in front of their kids, and they’re calling us up because they know they can make a bunch of money because it’s so freakin’ popular at the moment. So we got to do a bunch of pioneering and be the first heavy band to go to a bunch of those places. That’s what I remember the most.

    Jason Newsted, Metal Hammer

"Nothing Else Matters" Track Info

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