Here’s a song that needs no introduction. Depending on who you ask, METALLICA‘s “Nothing Else Matters” is either a bona fide modern rock classic, or the deathnail on what was once one of the all-time greatest thrash metal bands. Me, personally, I think the overall mood and melody are quite nice. So today we’re looking at one of the many covers of this song, as executed by a plethora of well-known artists.
METALLICA were already a punchline for metalheads when I got into them in the early 2000s, so I never found it all that offensive. The lyrics, however, I could never stand. I assumed “Couldn’t be much more from the heart” was sarcastic when I first heard it. The chorus is even worse: “Never cared for what they do, never cared for what they know, but I know.” First of all, that’s clunky as hell. You’re not only reusing the same words in every line, but also rhyming “know” with “know.” What does it even mean? The storyteller never cared for what they do, know, say, or what games they play. Yet in the very next line, assures us that he knows. Knows what? And how is his knowledge relevant? People perceive this to be an aspirational song, but I genuinely never understood why. If we are to disregard what other people “know” then why are we supposed to be invested in what the storyteller “knows”?
This new version comes to us courtesy of the (in)famous self-titled album (often dubbed The Black Album) celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Fans were treated to a comprehensive remaster filled with extras, demos, alternate takes, etc. On top of that, we got “The Blacklist,” a 4-CD compilation of covers of the album tracks, including no less than twelve renditions of “Nothing Else Matters.” The version I’ve chosen to write about is the most widely promoted, with quite the pedigree behind it. On vocals, we have Miley Cyrus: pop star, former Disney channel darling, Hanna Montana, daughter of Billy Ray “Achy Breaky Heart” Cyrus. Sir Elton John is on keys, WATT is presumably producing, though he may be providing some of the instrumentation. WATT is an accomplished producer, having worked with an impressive array of today’s biggest stars, including Justin Bieber, Cardi B, Dua Lipa, Post Malone, as well as last year’s fairly good Ozzy Osbourne album, Ordinary Man. METALLICA‘s own Robert Trujillo is on bass, while RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS‘s Chad Smith mans the drums. And that’s not all folks! To cap it off, we have arguably the world’s most accomplished solo cellist, Yo-Yo Ma.
The song opens with sir Elton John on piano, adlibbing a few nuances that add a little something to it. Next comes the guitar, which is noticeably reverb-y and twangy. Then the vocals start and – oops, it seems I may have accidentally opened up the Alvin and the Chipmunks version. Wait. No. No… it can’t be. So it seems this is the actual thing, surely, as I double-checked by referencing the recent live performance on The Stern Show. The verses are beyond horrendous. Who thought this was a good sound to go with!? She does a more recognizably human voice for the choruses – so what’s with the awful rodent in a massage chair delivery? On top of that, you have THE Elton John on hand! You could have used him. No amount of sublime Yo-Yo Ma-ing can salvage this shipwreck. Or Chipwreck if you’re so inclined.
There’s an obvious question that I’m quite sure many of you thought to ask once you saw the title of this article: Who is this for? On paper it might sound like a good idea to bring together a lineup of acclaimed rockstars to reinterpret a classic rock ballad. But then, they didn’t utilize Elton John properly, even though we heard him absolutely slay it on “Ordinary Man” with Ozzy Osbourne. Instead we got this. Why not Lady Gaga? She did a pretty good job on “Moth into Flame” a few years back. I just can’t understand this. But I suppose that’s in line with how I’ve always felt about the song. I don’t get it – never will. If you can somehow stomach this, good on you? I guess nothing else matters.
“The Blacklist” is out now on digital and streaming. CD and LP on 1.10.2021, through Blackened Recordings ltd.