Metallica – “Nothing Else Matters” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Brendan Briggs

Brendan is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. In 2022, he released his first album "Dive" under the name "Arctotherium".

“Nothing Else Matters” is about the importance of vulnerability. It’s an anthem that encourages us to express our inner feelings and stay true to them even when we are pressured by the outside world. The lyrics are written as one half of a conversation between two people in a close relationship, and it focuses on developing trust and emotional honesty. 

James Hetfield wrote the song in 1990 about a girlfriend he had at that time. Initially, the track was not intended to be shared with the rest of Metallica but was considered for the Black Album after Lars Ulrich heard it.

In this article, we’ll try to decode the hidden meaning behind the song by analyzing these poetic lyrics. We’ll also explore the universal themes in the lyrics that make this a true classic. Without further ado, let’s dive in!

“Nothing Else Matters” Lyrics Meaning

The song begins with Hetfield telling his listener he feels a close bond with them, “no matter how far” away they may be physically. He explains that his words will be “from the heart” and that he must trust in himself to proceed. To Hetfield,  “nothing else matters” besides this vulnerability and closeness.

Next, Hetfield humanizes himself. He says he’s “never opened” himself in the way he is about to. Even though it’s hard, Hetfield is willing to speak authentically. He won’t “just say” these words – he will mean them sincerely. “Trust I seek, and I find in you” is a hopeful confession.

Hetfield then adds another layer to the openness he’s trying to build with his listener. He encourages an “open mind” as well as an open heart. This means he wants the relationship to be open to new perspectives, which goes beyond just emotional honesty.

In an interview with The Village Voice, Hetfield explained that the song was indeed about looking for total vulnerability. He called it a “true testament to honesty and exposing yourself” and talked about how the track came during a time of loneliness in his own life.

After Hetfield lays the groundwork, the first chorus begins. The chorus shows that Hetfield doesn’t care what the outside world says about the connection he’s looking for. “What they do” and “what they know” are unimportant. Instead, “nothing else matters” besides the honest expression he talked about in the verse.

After this, the track repeats the first stanza, the chorus, and the second and third stanzas. Next, we get an expanded version of the chorus. In it, Hetfield mentions more distractions from the outside world, such as “what they say” and “games they play.” However, he doesn’t budge; he still cares only for the message of sincerity he’s sending to his listener.

With one last repeat of the first lines, the song comes to a close. To sum up, this track puts you on the line with Hetfield as he expresses a vulnerable desire to connect. Hetfield is unconcerned with the activities of the outside world and tells you he “never cared” for them. Instead, what he wants is a shot at a real human relationship based on authentic inner feelings.

It’s that last bit that we can all relate to. People everywhere want to be known and accepted, and we want our feelings reciprocated. That desire is what the song owes its success to. As we’ll see, it’s also what caused the song to be created in the first place.

The Story Behind “Nothing Else Matters”

While reflecting on the Black Album with The Village Voice, Hetfield explained the origins of “Nothing Else Matters” in simple terms. He explained that he was on tour and “bumming out about being away from home.” This created a feeling of longing in Hetfield, which ultimately resulted in the track’s creation.

The time was 1990, and Metallica was still known for its aggressive hits in harder metal stylings. In fact, when “Nothing Else Matters” did come out, there was a considerable backlash among purist fans.

Hetfield knew of this possibility when writing the song and originally kept the track private. However, his bandmates reportedly got him to “take it out of my [Hetfield’s] tape player and make it Metallica,” which Hetfield is now grateful for.

There are other factors that may have caused Hetfield’s bandmates to be open to the track. Interestingly, three out of four Metallica members were going through divorces at the time of the track’s creation. The pain from that may have made them more receptive to a slower power ballad and might have prompted them to encourage Hetfield.

It’s safe to say that the world is glad they did. “Nothing Else Matters” has received no shortage of accolades, reaching a peak position of 34 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and receiving critical acclaim. It still outperforms a lot of new metal in terms of sales today, despite being released decades ago. This iconic piece of music is a regular at Metallica’s live shows, and the fans can’t seem to get enough.