The Grammys have sandwiched together some unorthodox, yet delicious, combinations in the past. Each year, the ceremony seems to one-up itself with a radical recipe of rap and jazz, or country and R&B, or something wacky like polka and ska. Their pairings are like banana and bacon — you don’t think they’d taste well together, but they actually mesh pretty decently once you try them.
The 59th annual Grammys this Sunday has promised a Metallica and Lady Gaga mash-up, leaving us wondering how the queen of eccentric pop is going to fit in with the kings of metal. If you have any doubts, just remember that Metallica has duetted with everyone from Lang Lang to Ja Rule. Lady Gaga? Like I said, should be like banana and bacon — especially if Gaga brings back her meat couture.
Let’s take a look to see how versatile Metallica has been in the past:
1. Metallica and Lang Lang in 2014
This definitely isn’t the first time the dudes went outside their comfort zone at the Grammys. In 2014, Metallica linked with Chinese pianist Lang Lang for a little classical-metal fusion with the menacing “One.” Fans weren’t exactly thrilled with the combo, but nevertheless, the band went on to do the deed again in Beijing at the top for 2017 (above). With a glittery jacket and a fierceness that had him pounding the keys with his forearm at one point, Lang Lang added extra theatrics to the already dramatic hit.
2. Metallica and Ja Rule in 2002
Swizz Beatz brought unlikely pair Metallica and Ja Rule together in 2002 to cut a track for Biker Boyz, a movie about an underground motorcycle gang. And while Swizz is a mastermind producer, the song itself, “We Did It Again,” is a little on the questionable side. James Hetfield can barely be heard on the track (probably because he was in rehab at the time and the song was built almost entirely off pre-recorded riffs), while Ja Rule just whoops “Yeah, we did it” repeatedly.
3. Metallica and Lou Reed in 2011
Metallica purists (and, well, everyone except for David Bowie) were confused about the band’s joint album with Lou Reed. The project, conceived when both acts played at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary Concert, had the Velvet Underground legend laying spoken-word arrangements over the churning grunge of distorted guitars. Reed masterminded Lulu, an interpretation of two plays by German playwright Frank Wedekind. It got some positive reviews, but for the most part, it went over our heads.
4. Metallica and Neil Young in 2016
Never doubt that Neil Young can channel his inner-metalhead, but he can also get the most metal bros to reach for their retro singer-songwriter selves. At the 2016 Bridge School Benefit, Metallica invited the rocker onstage to cover Buffalo Springfield’s “Mr. Soul.” While everyone had an acoustic guitar strapped to them, Young encouraged an un-Metallica-like jam sesh by challenging Kirk Hammett to a guitar face-off. And while the acts represent two very different facets to classic rock, coming together for a good cause was all that mattered in this collab.
5. Metallica and The Kinks’ Ray Davies in 2010
Metallica updated The Kinks’ 1964 “You Really Got Me” for Ray Davies’ compilation album See My Friends in 2010. James Hetfield took a dark and twisted approach to “you got me so I can’t sleep,” turning the heartsick lyrics into a nightmarish whisper. A year earlier, they had performed The Kinks’ “All Day and All of the Night” at Madison Square Garden (above), but when it came time to cut the covers album, Billy Corgan called dibs on that one.
6. Metallica and The Roots in 2016
Oh the irony! Metallica and The Roots teamed up with Jimmy Fallon for The Tonight Show’s kookiest segment: playing “Enter Sandman” with kids’ toys. The song, which is a demonic reinterpretation of a bedtime lullaby (just so we’re clear), got a delightful kick of innocence with melodica, tiny drums, kazoo, glockenspiel, ukulele and an annoying toy trumpet. And while it wasn’t the burst of electricity that we’re used to with Metallica, somehow they rocked even harder.
7. Metallica and the San Francisco Symphonic Orchestra in 1999
One of Metallica’s most epic feats was recording an entire live album with the San Francisco Symphonic Orchestra, all thanks to the orchestral arrangements of composer-genius Michael Kamen. 1999’s S&M included beefed-up versions of the band’s existing songs, while adding on the intricately woven “No Leaf Clover,” which included woeful strings, a loon-like oboe solo and an aggressive horn section. The album was enough to make your palms sweat, if not have you headbanging at full speed.
8. Metallica and Lemmy in 2009
Metallica are definitely Motörhead fanboys, and over the years, they got close with the late Lemmy Kilmister. Introducing him as “the godfather of heavy metal,” the guys invited Lemmy onstage at a concert in Nashville in 2009. They cruised through “Damage Case” and “Too Late Too Late” with the added gravel of Kilmister’s Jack Daniel’s-medicated voice.
9. Metallica and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine in 2011
While Dave Mustaine brought Megadeth to life in the ’80s, he also helped usher Metallica into the world. He was fired from the band as their first guitarist, leaving on a bad note after an alcohol-induced rift with the guys, but when they reconnected for Metallica’s 30th-anniversary concert in 2011, it seemed their relationship was patched up. What was an incredible moment for fans also turned out to be an emotional reunion for the band as they busted through tracks from their Kill ‘Em All debut. At the same concert, they also brought out former members Jason Newsted and Lloyd Grant, and Hetfield’s old Leather Charm bandmates Ron McGovney and Hugh Tanner.
10. Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne in 2009
Metallica and Ozzy Osbourne go waaaay back (they opened for him back in ‘86). At the 25th-anniversary concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009, they shared a stage again when Metallica backed the Black Sabbath singer at Madison Square Garden. Trying desperately to amp up a weak crowd that was seemingly unaware of the metal history being made, the supergroup churned out Sabbath classics “Iron Man” and “Paranoid.”
11. Metallica and Judas Priest’s Rob Halford in 1994, 2013
Not exactly an out-of-the-box collaboration, but a legendary one at that. Metallica loves to cover Judas Priest’s “Rapid Fire” in concert, especially when they’re in the same town as Priest frontman Rob Halford. Footage from 1994 shows Hetfield introducing his friend onstage to kick-start the tune, and nearly 20 years later, he was invited back to do the same at the Golden Gods Awards in 2013. Halford even crashed Metallica’s 30th-anniversary concert with his iconic raspy vocals in 2011.
12. James Hetfield, Billie Joe Armstrong and Joe Satriani in 2014
You’d never see James Hetfield, Billie Joe Armstrong and Joe Satriani in a band together, but the unlikely trio made for a perfect surprise at a benefit for UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in 2014. Together, they mashed up Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” and Bob Seger’s “Turn the Page” (the latter was covered on Metallica’s 1998 album Garage Inc.). Rehearsal time was undoubtedly limited, but the three rock stars meandered in and out of the two hits with ease.
13. Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold and Trivium in 2006
Metal past and present came together in The Netherlands when Metallica brought up their two opening acts, Trivium and Avenged Sevenfold, to perform Misfits’ “Die, Die My Darling” in 2006. The younger guys served as backup singers for the morbid punk song, echoing “Don’t try to be a baby” after every Hetfield verse.
14. Metallica, Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses in 1990
It was a whole mess of flying hair when Metallica, Skid Row and Guns N’ Roses all performed on the same stage in 1990 at an RIP magazine party. Testosterone spiked the air and shirts were nearly nonexistent as Axl, Slash, Duff, Sebastian Bach, Kirk, Lars and James ripped through Skid Row and Metallica songs, adding in a Nazareth cover too. Slash even played with his teeth as one point. Mind-melting all around.