Songs that have shaped my love life: Metallica, Enter Sandman

If you’ve read my previous installment in the “P is for Pop Songs” series, you already know that most of the bands I plan to write about start with the letter P.

But this one’s different. Because this one’s METAL.

Let’s talk about Metallica.

My very first boyfriend was a guy from New York. The Bronx, in fact, which he claimed was a much maligned borough, mostly because despite news reports to the contrary, it was much less frequently on fire than, say, Staten Island. (Which is, in fact, true, but possibly only because Staten Island’s dump often spontaneously burst into flames. Then again, this is true for most garbage dumps. Little known facts like this were his bread and butter.)

This guy – whom I shall refer to as Mark Antony because of his delusions of grandeur, having once portrayed the man in a high-school production of The Tragedy of Julius Caesar – believed in education. And, as such, he believed in educating me, typically in the ways of Good Music.

Mark Antony was into Metallica. And thus, he made me a Metallica Educational Mix Tape.

I cannot say how many times I listened to said mix tape, but it was certainly in heavy rotation whenever he came to visit me, and thus became inextricably linked with my image of him.

Though rather a nerdy type, more given to studying than partying hearty, his love for Metallica perplexed me at first. I wasn’t sure why he liked this band, each of the members with long, stringy hair that they seemed to think made them appear “tough.” Indeed, the more I learned about Metallica (and, please remember, this was back in the early days of The Internet, where one couldn’t simply look up the band’s Wikipedia page to learn “the truth” – we teens had to rely on monthly issues of Rolling Stone for our musical knowledge), the more I was confused by his obsession with them. The lead singer had recently cut his hair, gone to rehab, and returned with a kind of religious zeal – singing covers of Irish drinking songs, rather than heavy metal. The rest of the band was following suit, chopping their locks, pouring their alcohol down the toilet, and angling for a comeback.

Or should I say “cumback”? They released an album with blood and cum mixed together, illustrating their idea of art. Then they collaborated with Marianne Faithfull, one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most notorious groupies. What the hell?

Mark Antony insisted that only the original Metallica songs were worthwhile, despite slipping a few onto the mix tape from Load and Reload.

My favorite is still “Enter Sandman,” from the band’s eponymous 1991 album (also known as “The Black Album” for its all-black cover).

As with Pearl Jam’s “Better Man,” “Enter Sandman” is not a love song. It’s about a child’s nightmares, and is basically the metal equivalent of a lullaby.

I imagine “Enter Sandman” is what drug-addicted, psychotic parents blast on their stereos at night, to send their equally horrid children off to bed.

It’s also one of the (many) songs that American interrogators have used to torture people in recent decades.

This is not to say that “Enter Sandman” is a frightening song, at least not for me. Far from it. I found the song amusing back in high school, particularly after my BFF pointed out the band’s childlike, sing-songy melodies and ridiculous lyrics. I still giggle whenever the opening riffs hit the airwaves, as I always think of the following alternative lyrics for the chorus:

Exit light
Drink Bud Light
Take a can
Back to party in your van

Insert jugga jigga wuggas.

In the end, it’s this kind of nonsense that made me turn against Mark Antony. He was good for a laugh, usually because of the pure bullshit that frequently flowed from his lips. I remember once going out to dinner with him and his parents, and after telling many absurd stories – which his parents summarily ignored – he finally put down his knife and fork and smashed a fist against the table, shouting “I don’t know why there isn’t a video camera recording me at all times, so as not to lose a single pearl of wisdom!”

I snickered. They continued to ignore his outburst and finish their dinner in silence.

We broke up soon afterward. I threw a shoe at his head in order to make him leave my apartment, as he didn’t think I was being serious, despite stamping my feet, shouting at him to leave, and telling him repeatedly I never wanted to see him again.

Ah, young love. Is it always this ridiculous? I guess so, especially when your boyfriend loves a particularly ridiculous band and can quote every song lyric they’ve ever penned – much to your dismay.

Word to the wise: never date a dude who’s into Metallica. They’re not even real metal, after all.

Want more pop song insights?

What pop songs make you think about love? How have pop songs influenced your relationships? Check out Everything I Need to Know About Love I Learned From Pop Songs for more essays about love songs by the people who love them.