Out of all the chart-topping bands of the last half century, it’s hard to think of one that has had a more complex relationship with the phrase “selling out” than Metallica. The band rose to prominence in the early ’80’s at the same time as MTV, yet maintained a staunch anti-commercial streak that had them largely refusing to make music videos for years — until 1991’s “Metallica,” which yielded nearly a half-dozen videos. From the Napster lawsuit to Sportscenter commercials to a recent dust-up involving a cover band, never has there been a more anti-establishment band that seems so willing to adapt to establishment ways.
But there’s one line that Metallica still refuses to cross, and that is participating in the spectacle of the Super Bowl. On Friday (Feb. 5), James Hetfield not only shot down any hope of getting his band on the big stage, but seemed to belittle any group that does play as a “variety” act.
“We’re not a variety show,” the band’s 52-year-old frontman tells the Associated Press. “We’re not pop. We’re not sparkly, and all that kind of stuff that seems to be what’s needed for that.”
Of course, one could set the same expectations for a band that would play on the field during a baseball game, put their music in a car commercial or release a $400 box set of music. Although Metallica has done all those things, Hetfield implies that Metallica is still less “sparkly” than Coldplay, Bruce Springsteen and other bands that have recently played on football’s biggest stage.
Hetfield seems to also believe that Metallica is beyond the point where they would even be asked. “As far as us playing halftime for the Super Bowl,” he says, “I have a feeling that ship has passed.”