Metallica are the biggest heavy metal band in history. Their sheer ubiquitousness has granted them limitless opportunities to collaborate with musicians of all stripes, for better or worse.
It makes good sense for a band like Metallica to occasionally join forces with figures like Rob Halford, Ozzy Osbourne, and Lemmy Kilmister. However, the Four Horsemen’s sense of adventure often leads them to partnerships that defy conventional wisdom.
Here are the ten weirdest Metallica collabs of all time, ranked from best to worst:
- Metallica and Lady Gaga
The internet scratched its collective head when it was announced that Metallica and Lady Gaga would perform a duet at the 2017 Grammy Awards. As awkward as the pairing might have appeared on paper, it wound up being the band’s most natural sounding collaboration with a non-metal performer to date. Their rendition of Hardwired… To Self Destruct single “Moth Into Flame” was a straight forward, meat and potatoes kick in the heavy metal ass. If you are a Metallica fan, there is very little to complain about with this one.
- Metallica and Miley Cyrus
Pop superstar Miley Cyrus began covering Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” at concerts in 2019. The lyrics to the track resonated deeply with the singer, as she was going through a divorce and had just lost her home in the California wildfires at the time. Fast forward to 2021, when Miley joined Metallica in the studio to perform the song on Howard Stern, adding a startling new dynamic to an incredibly powerful song. At around the same time, Cyrus and legendary pianist Elton John appeared on the cover album The Blacklist with a new rendition of the song.
- Metallica and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra
With inspiration that stems all the way back to Cliff Burton’s love of classical music, Metallica teamed up with legendary conductor Michael Kamen and the San Francisco Symphony in 1999. The resulting live album, S&M, featured orchestral renditions of songs spanning from Ride The Lightning era through the 1990s. It’s an idea that would have sounded absurd a decade before, but fans who stuck around through the band cutting their hair were ready for anything.
- Metallica and Lou Reed
In the pantheon of rock and roll legends, it doesn’t get more challenging than Lou Reed. From his time spearheading the Velvet Underground in the 1960s until his death in 2013, the avant-garde Godfather of Punk pushed every artistic button possible. His body of work is not for everyone, and it’s not supposed to be. While a collaborative album between Lou Reed and Metallica might seem strange, it makes a lot of sense if you step back and open your mind to the intentions of everyone involved. Maligned by critics and fans alike upon its release, Lulu has stood the test of time as an artistic achievement of pure antagonism and spite. No, it doesn’t work at all if you think of it as a Metallica album with Lou Reed sitting in. However, flip that around and think of it as a Lou Reed album with Metallica as his backing band and you have a deliberately polarizing, towering work of limitless genius.
- Metallica and Neil Young
Few figures in rock and roll command as much awe and respect as Neil Young. When the folk hero invited Metallica to play the final installment of his annual Bridge School Benefit concert series in 2016, few people anticipated that he would ever join them on stage. To the shock and delight of all in attendance, Neil Young did indeed sit in with the heavy metal titans for an acoustic rendition of the Buffalo Springfield classic, “Mr. Soul.” For a band who made the Bay Area their adoptive home, it was a dream come true.
- Metallica and Ray Davies
Given their catalog of cover songs over the years, it should come as no surprise that Metallica are bonafide rock and roll fanboys. When they tackled The Kink’s classic “All Day and All of the Night” in concert, it served as a harbinger of things to come. Having assembled a crackpot team of musicians, Kinks mastermind Ray Davies issued the career-spanning See My Friends collaborative album in 2010. The ferocious duet between Metallica and Davies on “You Really Got Me” might sound a little awkward to metalheads, but it’s heart is firmly in the right place.
- Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, and Sebastian Bach
In the late 1980s, RIP Magazine dominated the world of metal journalism. The publication wielded enough power to convince Metallica (sans Jason Newsted), Guns N’ Roses and Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach to form the one-off unholy chimera to play their fourth anniversary party in 1990. This supergroup was called The GAK and they lasted for one show, in which they ripped through a few songs from each band and a Nazareth cover. Although it was a cool excuse to get drunk and play some low-stakes music with friends, the performance itself was a chaotic mess. The GAK were never heard from again, and RIP Magazine followed suit soon after.
- Metallica and Lang Lang
Metallica has a strange history with the Grammys. Although they’ve taken home their fair share of statues over the years, the shadow of their 1988 snub will always loom large over the ceremony. It almost felt like the band had their revenge when they brought out renowned classical pianist Lang Lang for a rendition of the …And Justice For All classic, “One” during their 2014 performance at the ceremony. Was playing a classed-up rendition of the biggest song from the record they lost the Hard Rock/Heavy Metal trophy to Jethro Tull a big “fuck you” to the Grammys? Probably not, but a boy can dream.
- Metallica and The Roots
If you are familiar with the Jimmy Fallon era of The Tonight Show, you know that the comedian and house band The Roots are ground zero for light hearted renditions of major hits. Having previously teamed up with the likes of Adele and One Direction, the late night champions got together with Metallica in 2016 to take on the band’s eerie lullaby “Enter Sandman.” While purists may balk at the sheer audacity of a metal song being played on children’s toys (let alone the cringe-inducing thematic juxtaposition on this particular track), it’s always a lot of fun to watch Metallica hang loose and not take themselves too seriously.
- Metallica and Swizz Beatz featuring Ja Rule
If you’ve watched the documentary Some Kind Of Monster, you might think that you understand how surreal the recording of St. Anger was. As hard as it is to watch the greatest heavy metal band of all time run the emotional gauntlet in that movie, just be glad that the segment where they work with Swizz Beatz and Ja Rule was left on the cutting room floor. Cobbled together with rejected riffs while James was in rehab, “We Did It Again” could very well be the weakest moment in Metallica’s entire career.