As far as most metalheads are concerned, pop music is, officially speaking, The Enemy. Chart-chasing, instantly-hummable, super-polished three-minute bangers with 200 producers and a monstrous amount of promotion just doesn't quite fit neatly in a world of Meshuggahs and Cannibal Corpses, does it?
Despite that (or perhaps because of it), any time a pop star flexes a little love for heavy metal, be it via the clothes they wear, a cover they unexpectedly produce or a collaboration we never saw coming, it makes an almighty commotion in our world. Some might scoff at the idea of seeing artists more likely to be seen at The Brits than The Rainbow trying to 'co opt' metal culture for themselves, but the fact is, many prominent pop acts have as vast an array of tastes as any other music fan - and metal is no exception to their palette.
With that in mind, here are ten times some of the biggest pop stars of our time have embraced their love of metal - and usually with pretty damn cool results.
Lizzo covers Rammstein (twice!)
Safe to say, this was a headline we were not expecting to write this week, let alone twice. After improvising an a cappella cover of Rammstein classic Du Hast at a show in Hamburg on February 20, Lizzo decided to repeat the trick a few days later in Berlin - except this time accompanied by her backing band playing a fully beefed-up version of the track. The result? Headbangs, booty shakes and the outrage of the more elitist quarters of the Internet Metal Community. Bless 'em.
Lady Gaga duets with Metallica
From expressing her love of Iron Maiden to wearing Anthrax shirts at her live shows, Lady Gaga's metal credentials have rarely been in doubt. She upped them even further, however, when in 2017 she duetted with Metallica at that year's Grammys, performing the metal titans' Hardwired...To Self-Destruct single, Moth Into Flame. While the performance was initially blighted by problems with James Hetfield's microphone, both parties rallied to put on a fiery showing unlike anything seen at The Grammys before or since.
Madonna plays Pantera
Pantera fans were sent into meltdown when, during a segment of her 2008 Sticky And Sweet tour, Madonna busted out a guitar and began playing the unmistakable Dimebag Darrell riff from A New Level. "She had gotten a new musical director," explained Madonna's live guitarist Monte Pittman to Decibel years later. "He wanted to do her song Hung Up with her playing guitar. But it's in D minor. That would be a great segue to me showing her drop D tuning on the guitar. So I was showing her the song, and I was like, 'You know what, I gotta teach you some Pantera.' So I showed her the riff to A New Level because I thought it would be easy to remember how the notes just move up chromatically, one at a time. She loved that. She kept playing that all the time." The riff ended up making its way into the set itself, and the rest is history.
Miley Cyrus covers Metallica...and teams up with Metallica to play her Metallica cover
It's probably not too surprising that Metallica are a go-to band for many 'mainstream' artists dabbling in metal given that they're literally the biggest heavy metal band of all time, but Miley Cyrus did it in style in 2021 when she teamed up with Elton John, Andrew Watt, Chad Smith and acclaimed cellist Yo-Yo Ma for a rousing cover of Nothing Else Matters. Appearing on Metallica's immense Blacklist project, Miley would perform the cover with Metallica themselves on The Stern Show later that year.
Robbie Williams covers Limp Bizkit
Depending on your personal opinions of a) Robbie Williams and b) Limp Bizkit, this could either be a big ol' laugh or the most offensive thing to have ever entered your ears. At two different shows in August 2001, the former Take That man decided to cover Limp Bizkit's Rollin', which had landed at number one in the UK singles charts the year prior. Funnily enough, in June 2001, Limp Bizkit famously cancelled their planned show at the Milton Keynes Bowl in England - the same venue Williams headlined a month later when his huge European tour steamrolled through the UK.
Ed Sheeran gets heavy courtesy of Bring Me The Horizon
Whatever you think of Ed Sheeran's music, it's probably safe to say that his simplistic, inoffensive brand of acoustic-led pop is about as far away from heavy metal as you can physically get. Imagine everyone's surprise, then, when, at the 2022 Brits awards, Sheeran brought on none other than Sheffield metallers Bring Me The Horizon for a beefed up version of his chart-smashing mega-hit Bad Habits. A few days later, an official new version of the track was released, and the unlikely team-up would happen once again at that year's Reading Festival.
Shakira covers Metallica
There's that band again! Latin pop megastar Shakira was ahead of the curve by covering Metallica's legendary ballad over a decade before the Blacklist reared its head. She played the song live on stage during her world tour across 2010 and 2011, and to be fair, her subtly flamenco-infused version of the hallmark anthem is pretty damn good, giving the song a different stroke by merging her cover with her 2008 track, Despedida.
Paul from S Club 7 quits the band to continue his nu metal project
Giving a gentle nod to your fandom of heavy music via a cover or a collaboration is one thing, but quitting your extremely high-profile day job to go and slum it in the world of nu metal also-rans? That takes some bollocks, but that's exactly what Paul Cattermole did when he shockingly quit S Club 7 in 2002 to focus on his nu metal band. While his intentions with Skua were clearly honourable, sadly, the music industry didn't seem to agree, with the St Albans band splitting a year later. Luckily, Paul's back in S Club now, so all's well that ends well.
Fergie and Slash become BFFs
Any fan of rock 'n' roll who's heard the Black Eyed Peas has almost certainly thought, "My god, this is silly", closely followed by, "But that Fergie has a hell of a voice, she should be in a rock band!" Evidently, Guns N' Roses legend Slash thought the same thing, and in 2010 he brought Fergie in to sing on Beautiful Dangerous, a fun, glam metal stomper that'd be released as the third single from his debut solo album. The duo would team up again a year later as the guitarist popped up in the middle of Black Eyed Peas' Super Bowl halftime show to bust out a cover of Sweet Child O' Mine. Sadly, that particular collab was just...um...well...not very good.
BTS roll with Limp Bizkit
Many BTS fans have accused the mainstream press of not giving the colossally huge K-pop boy band nearly as much coverage as their Western peers over the years, so the fact that the seven-piece are actually nu metal fans might surprise many. When the band performed a dance routine on South Korean music show The MBC Gayo Daejejeon in 2015, they snuck in a sample of Limp Bizkit's Rollin' to the mix, and to be fair to the lads, that segment goes particularly hard.