Nothing Else Matters is one of the most popular songs in not just Metal/Rock but the music industry. With today’s numbers, it has more than 620 million listens on Spotify, almost a billion views on YouTube. Even before we had digital libraries to listen to music, Nothing Else Matters was a huge hit. Originally released in 1991 with Metallica’s self-titled album, or with the other name “Black Album”.
Nothing Else Matters was a bit surprising for classic metal and Metallica fans. Especially if we consider what Metallica has been doing for that time around, fans really got confused when they first heard this song. That’s because Nothing Else Matters was a touchy, more emotional, ballad. Written by frontman and vocalist James Hetfield. Hetfield was with Kristen Martinez back then. And we can say that Kristen Martinez is the reason that we got this very iconic Metallica song.
It all started when Hetfield was on phone with his girlfriend. Hetfield was on a “bumming” moment and this song is really a personal, honest piece for him. During his interviews he explained his back-then emotional status as below:
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.”
Actually, if we look back at those days, this song is really an important point for Metallica and Hetfield’s songwriting. Before Black album, they did live their days with 1988’s …And Justice for All. That album hit a lot of international charts, become mainstream, and even get them a Grammy Award in 1990 with the Best Metal Performance category. But even that success came with some drawbacks just as for almost every Metal band back in those days. Almost all their lyrics were about, War, Horrors, and such topics. But with Nothing Else Matters, Hetfield tried something else. He wasn’t comfortable with it at the beginning but after all, it was a success.
“At first I didn’t even want to play it for the guys. I thought that Metallica could only be the four of us. These are songs about destroying things, head banging, bleeding for the crowd, whatever it is, as long as it wasn’t about chicks and fast cars, even though that’s what we liked. The song was about a girlfriend at the time. It turned out to be a pretty big song.”
That new way of song-making wasn’t only on the lyrical part. Guitarist Kirk Hammett told the story about how he learned to play the song back in that days. They were putting the song on to list and taking it out until they learn how to play it. This was a bit of a challenge for him since the intro part was quite different from other Metallica songs before.
And yeah, a love ballad, a very different attempt for Metallica was a success and even today millions of people are listening to this piece. We are ending our words with Hetfield’s thoughts when he wrote the song.
“You know, to see if these people just look at each other and throw up! I was wondering how much peer pressure people were going to put on each other; people going, ‘Do you like this?’ ‘I dunno – do you like it?’ But people were pretty into it, which was pretty amazing.”