Headbangers Brawl: About that Lady Gaga/Metallica collaboration…

Posted by on February 8, 2017

When it was discovered earlier this week that Metallica would be joined by Lady Gaga during their Grammy performance this Sunday, it led to some consternation from at least one of our contributors. Zenae Zukowski said she was pissed off about it on Facebook. After a little back and forth, we figured we’d put it to our contributors to see what they thought about it. 
Bram: I think it’ll be interesting to say the least. It’s not like the Grammys have really ever respected metal, so just the fact that Metallica are playing is impressive enough. Factor in the fact that they’ve played Kimmel and Fallon in the past three months, fans have had enough opportunities to see them play on national television without special accompaniment. There’s also the fact that your average younger pop music fan might not even know or care who Metallica is. Aside from “Enter Sandman,” the typical non-Metallica fan might not even know any songs by them. Pairing them up with a current superstar makes sense from a demographic standpoint.
Then there’s Lady Gaga herself. She claims to love metal, and considering she’s quoted Saxon, seen Maiden, and even taken in a late night set by Lazer/Wulf at SXSW a few years back, there’s no reason to believe otherwise. After playing the Super Bowl (and crushing it by most accounts) on Sunday, of course she’s not going to turn down an opportunity to play the Grammys a week later. The fact that she’s willing to share the spotlight with the biggest band in metal proves she’s not a diva, and probably has tons of love for Metallica. Bieber says he likes Metallica, but Gaga writes her own music and can sing, so at least it’s her and not some other pop flavor of the week.
Dan Kozuh: It shouldn’t matter if Lady Gaga likes metal or not for her to perform with Metallica. And for metalheads to expect the Grammy’s to do anything legitimately “metal” is ridiculous. So, the question being asked is “Why did Metallica agreed to this?” I think the colossal ego and failure “Metallica Through The Never” answers that question. These are multi-millionaires that somehow still garner the respect of blue-collar metal fans. But then again what is more metal than saying, “Fuck all of you, I am doing what I want!”

Matt: The pairing itself isn’t shocking by any stretch of the imagination, at least to me. Even if Gaga wasn’t a metal fan, pairing Metallica up with a pop superstar is just another day in the life for the band considering 1) their history of unorthodox collaborations (S&M, Lou Reed, Lang Lang), and 2) they’re not just a metal band; they’re one of the biggest bands in the world and have been for a long time. And big bands are no strangers to collaborations. Also 3) it’s the Grammy’s, they love doing collaborations, certainly more than they love metal. Any Metallica fan that’s been paying attention since The Black Album shouldn’t be surprised by this announcement. They don’t have to like Lady Gaga, but this certainly this isn’t out of character for Metallica at all. 

For myself, I think it should be cool to watch. I appreciate Gaga more than many of her contemporaries, and not just because of her love for metal. She knows how to put on a show as evidenced by her halftime performance, the first since The Who in 2010 that wasn’t stacked with special guests. She’s also actually a very good singer and you don’t have to like her music to acknowledge that. And hey, who knows? Metallica might score cool points with some of Gaga’s “little monsters” who are younger or otherwise unfamiliar with the band. 

Nick: I’ve talked about this before at length, so for what it’s worth – Metallica have been legitimate celebrities both in and out of the metal world for pretty much as long as myself and some of the other contributors have been alive. This kind of huge, star-studded bombastic thing isn’t actually out of their wheelhouse, and we shouldn’t let the fact that they played some clubs last year distract from that. I literally just had this Gaga conversation while watching the Superbowl. I’m not a fan of her actual music; she was a child prodigy and remains an extremely talented vocalist and instrumentalist from an objective standpoint, so it seems like a real waste of skill to put all that education and natural talent into thudding, pandering pop shit when evidence of her playing jazz to great effect in her younger years is all over Youtube. It’s a shame on that level, but ultimately she’s true to who she wants to be – and is a rare popstar who actually writers her own songs – and on that level I respect her very much. Who knows, could be cool.

Zach Shaw: I admit that I might be a little biased because while Metallica is one of my all-time favorite groups ever, I also really like Lady Gaga. So upon hearing news of this duet, all I can keep thinking is “AWESOME!” Lady Gaga’s love of metal has been very well documented, and there’s no denying how talented of a performer and musician she is. So unless the performance just ends up being a performance of “Bad Romance” with Metallica simply serving as the back up band (which actually could still be pretty good… again, this is a biased Lady Gaga fan saying that), it’s hard to imagine the duet won’t be an interesting collision of worlds between two very different artists who not only are well noted as performers, but also have loads of respect for each other.
Plus as Bram mentioned, Metallica now just guaranteed themselves a performance that’ll be seen by a ton more people than is they simply performed by themselves, especially since Gaga is still riding the buzz off of her Super Bowl performance. It really is a win win for everyone. Metallica gain more exposure and continue to do things only the biggest rock band in the world could possibly do, and Gaga gets to do something fun that shows pop fans another dimension to her. Hell, if the performance turns just one pop fan into a metalhead just by introducing them to Metallica, then the performance was worth it. If it just turns out to be an excuse for Lady Gaga to sing a song off of the Black Album (and Metallica just so happens to be hanging out on stage), then that’s more than fine too.  


Zenae: I’m going to be brutally honest about this: I can’t stand the thought of Lady Gaga sharing the same stage with my favorite band of all time, Metallica. Over the years while I have been trapped at certain clubs playing non-stop Gaga music, I get a bad taste in my mouth whenever her music appears. I respect that she is one of the few artists who write their own music; she’s a great performer and continues to reinvent herself. Her Super Bowl performance brought the halftime back to the basics with one pop star singing hits and doing a great job at it along with her overly dramatic flying stunt. Aside from that, not much.

As Bram stated, Gaga says she likes bands such as Saxon and Iron Maiden. However, it doesn’t mean anything to me. Her reference to Iron Maiden was more about her wishing her fans would worship her the way fans worship Iron Maiden, despite having a hit song. That is exactly what I can’t stand about her the most, which makes me wonder if she even knows her true identity. Is she too busy wanting the world to love her that her poker face is Gaga’s iwb personality? Or does she, in fact, like metal? I wonder if she would put on some Insomnium or Gojira in her playlist and just dance to it. I doubt it. She reminds me of those pop stars that claim to like metal. With metal t-shirts the new fashion in the pop world, in reality she might not even know what she likes anymore. Other fashion trends of hers, including the disgusting meat outfit at the MTV VMA’s and her paper dress a few years later make her constantly in search of the perfect illusion.

The Grammys are known to shun metal. We’ve seen performances get cut off, artists left out of the in memoriam section and a live album featuring 40 year-old-tunes winning the Best Rock Album award. The Grammys are attempting to “appreciate” metal by bringing in the biggest band in the world, mixing in the most lovable pop artist in hopes of boosting ratings. Of course, it will work and in that sense, it’s the perfect combination. However, as someone who cares for metal and to not see Metallica “sellout” any further, it would be better off to leave them as is and have Lady Gaga do her own thing wearing a lettuce, shrimp, or crayola outfit. Metal doesn’t have a real place at the Grammys anymore and I have learned to accept it. We would be better off to move past the charade and leave it be.

Zach: Zenae, as someone who (as stated before) likes Lady Gaga, I completely understand why you (and many others, for that matter) don’t like her and you do have solid points that make me somewhat question her status as a metalhead. So let me ask you this, would you feel less upset if it was any other pop star performing with Metallica, or do you think it should just be Metallica by themselves or nothing at all? You mention that metal no longer has a real place at the Grammys anymore. But couldn’t the argument be made that at least one of metal’s biggest names is getting some sort of attention on a mainstream program (even if they have to share it with another artist)? Or should we say screw it, and forgo any sort of placement on a national TV program if a metal band can’t get their own 5 minute slot?
Alix: We all know Metallica is arguably the biggest metal band in the world and the success of Hardwired…to Self-Destruct in the mainstream market is proof of that. Therefore it isn’t that surprising or outrageous that they share a stage with an artist of the same level of success so to speak. Lady Gaga is nowhere near my playlist and anything I would be interested on reading about her is “what metal shirt was she wearing this time?,” But you have to be dense to ignore her talent. Aside from her apparent appeal towards heavy music, she is an actual musician who writes her own songs. That’s as rare as seeing Puddle of Mudd finishing a set with a sober Wes Scantlin. At least they share that integrity that has been lost in the pop industry for decades, so if there’s any artist that should share stage with them, should be her.
Sure, the Grammys acknowledge metal music the same way my grandma does but Metallica has gained a status to become relevant like they did back in the 90’s. It is a stepping stone for the music industry to damp itself with the idea that metal can be profitable if delivered by the right set of individuals. I don’t see this becoming a recurring theme for this or any award show but certainly shouldn’t be shocking to anyone following Metallica’s career. If MTV managed to have Avril Lavigne cover them back when was still relevant, Lady Gaga should be able to do a better job this time around.
A better question would be, who should they bring next to their stage to represent metal? 
Zenae: Let’s not fool ourselves, Zach, award ceremonies tend to fall into politics. Do I personally agree with it? Definitely not. For example, the Academy Awards tend to shun women in the Best Director category yet. It wasn’t until Sofia Coppola received a directing nomination (not win) for 2004’s Lost in Translation and until four years later that Kathryn Bigelow took home the award for 2008’s “manly” film, The Hurt Locker. Since then, I don’t recall any female to receive a nomination or win in that category. That is just an example for non-mainstreamers and I’m sure this can turn into a larger subject, with no real solution.
Moving back to the Grammys, I do understand Metallica is the closest act that the mainstream can relate with that will help boost ratings. It would be interesting if Gojira was added with Metallica or an act that not too many are familiar with, to gain some sort of exposure. However, that would risk many viewers shutting off the Grammys completely and I doubt certain artists even want that amount of spotlight. Your question is tough to answer since I never want to see a metal slot turned off, at the same time, I don’t want to see that metal slot mixed with a pop artist to help boost views. It seems we are stuck with an endless battle and even the Grammys doesn’t fully know how to handle it either. It seems that everyone will only relate to metal with Metallica, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Nine Inch Nails, Tool, or even Coldplay. The reality is, metal is no longer considered mainstream, and what is, includes artists (not all) that don’t even write or sing their own tunes. We’re at a sad time in that area, and if there was some way to magically convince people how relevant and important metal is, the world would be at a better and peaceful place.
To answer Alex, I wish it would be Trollfest who would bring a conga line at the Grammys. However, that will never happen. I guess you can say, Tool would be set for next year or Nickelback, Linkin Park or Alter Bridge.
Zach Fehl: I’m not sure if there is much I can add to this conversation without repeating what everybody above me has already said, so I’ll keep this pretty short. In contrast to other Zach’s ecstatic “AWESOME” response, I fall more on the “meh” side of the spectrum. Gaga’s infatuation with metal is pretty well known, and she even brought Babymetal to the US for the first time to open for her. This shouldn’t be a big surprise that one of the biggest metal bands in the world and one of the biggest pop stars in the world would share a stage at the biggest music award show in the world for some overblown, theatrical publicity stunt. At the very least this should be a pretty interesting performance, and I’m curious to know what they will actually play. That said, every year I vehemently avoid watching the Grammy’s because of personal biases I have no intention of getting over, and I’m not one to break tradition. If I see the performance at all it will be on YouTube (with AdBlock engaged). 
A Grammy haiku by Chip McCabe
Metallica and
Lady Gaga will perform
I give zero shits

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