...To Be Loved: Why Papa Roach ditched nu metal and went glam to save their career

Papa Roach in 2006
(Image credit: Photo by Paul Mounce/Corbis via Getty Images)

By the end of 2003, the writing was on the wall for nu metal. That summer, Limp Bizkit had been chased offstage at a Metallica gig in Chicago by a hostile crowd chanting “Fuck Fred Durst!” A few months later, they’d struggled to replicate the success of 2000’s Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water with its Wes Borland-less follow-up, Results May Vary. Onetime running mates Korn had received a lukewarm reception with their sixth album, Take A Look In The Mirror, and one-hit wonders like Crazy Town, Soil and Adema had, erm, failed to get another hit.

More astute bands, though, had read the signs. Like Deftones and Slipknot, who’d jumped ship years before, Papa Roach had also clocked the finite nature of the genre’s jock strap posturing. Aware they would need to mix up their formula to survive the inevitable, steadily approaching nu metal cliff-drop, the band had already started putting in the groundwork, embracing a harder rock edge on 2002’s Lovehatetragedy. By 2004’s Getting Away With Murder, they’d ditched the rapping, oversized Dickies and wallet chains completely, transitioning to a sound designed to ensure that when the end came, they would be clear of the debris.

“To be honest, I didn’t like 80% of the ‘nu metal’ bands,” admitted frontman Jacoby Shaddix in an interview with Metal Hammer years later. “I was like, ‘This is fucking weak.’ When we were dubbed nu metal, we hated it. We did everything we could to rebel against it [Jacoby's stance on nu metal has since softened]. I didn’t want to be compared to every other band and be stigmatised. I wanted to prove myself as a valid rock singer and Getting Away With Murder was a turning point for our band, especially with a song like Scars. You listen to that song and you don’t think of nu metal. You think, ‘Fuck that’s a great song!’”

Not everyone was convinced that there was life after nu metal; for one, the band’s label, Geffen Records, was far from enamoured when Papa Roach turned in Getting Away With Murder. “DreamWorks Records got bought out so we went over to Universal and got pushed over to Geffen,” Jacoby recalled. “The president of the company was not impressed with the album. He was like, ‘I think this band’s had its time and is essentially over.’ We did not feel that way. We’re always evolving – that’s been something even before we put out [2000 breakthrough] Infest. We were like, ‘We think we’re sitting on an album that’s amazing and you are using your preconceived notions about a dying genre and I’m not dying with the genre, period.’”

Despite the misgivings of the label, Getting Away With Murder went on to sell 1.5 million copies: success that not only bought the band a vindicating degree of artistic freedom, but finally won them Geffen’s full support. So much so that, when it came to writing and recording the next record, The Paramour Sessions, in December 2005, the label agreed to let them spend the next six months living in Los Angeles’ Paramour Mansion. The band had wanted to create something dripping in rock’n’roll superfluity – and let’s be fair, nothing screams “excess” more than a 15-bedroom, 15-bathroom residence atop the highest hill overlooking Los Angeles, in the celebrity neighbourhood of Silver Lake.

Jacoby Shaddix interacting with the crowd at a Papa Roach gig

(Image credit: Michael Buckner/Getty Images)

“At this point in our career we were just off to the races, anything goes, we weren’t trapped,” remembered Jacoby, grinning. “We said, ‘Let’s go live a fucking rock’n’roll dream in a crazy mansion,’ but we didn’t live out a fantasy, we lived out a fucking reality. The owner of the home had the coolest taste. There was a stuffed polar bear in one room, a fucking stuffed lion in another… a taxidermy tiger… all this antique furniture. Being in that type of space brought something new out of us. We just went nuts and recorded an over-the-top rock record.”

At the time, Jacoby was listening to a ton of Queen and Mötley Crüe, which had manifested in both the band’s music and his image. By the time the album was released, Papa Roach looked like a band reborn. Out were the sullen teens mired in angst. In was bollock-throttling leather and a lot of guyliner. They’d done the hard work by shaking off the nu metal tag, now they needed a song to secure the longevity of their sonic evolution… and they struck gold with …To Be Loved.

During the Getting Away With Murder tour, Jacoby had been walking about backstage, singing a melody he’d cooked up months before as part of his warm-up. The rest of the band had latched onto the tune, keen to see if they could fit it onto a riff and with the hook already in place, it was one of the first tracks to be laid down at the Paramour Mansion. That snippet became …To Be Loved’s irrepressible chorus, packing that now-iconic, swelling, gang chant: ‘WOOOAAAHHH, I never give in. WOOOAAAHHH, I never give up, WOOOAAAHHH, I never give in, and I just wanna be, wanna be loved.’

“It just had that vibe, we knew it from the beginning,” remembered Jacoby. “I remember jamming that song [at the Mansion], looking out this, I guess the window was at least 20 feet tall, over LA. We sent it to the record company and they were like, ‘This could be huge.’”

This time their label got it spot on; the song went balls-to-the-wall massive and it gave Papa Roach a new lease of life, firmly establishing them in a new age where emo and metalcore bands like My Chemical Romance and Killswitch Engage were the reigning kings. Granted, the album itself was a patchy affair, the product of a band still feeling their way around a new sound, but …To Be Loved was a moment where they resolutely nailed it. A shameless, glammed-up rock’n’roll banger, it positively burst with Papa Roach’s now-trademark take-on-the-world exuberance.

Of course, it’s the chorus that everyone remembers, but the verses too pack a punch, all fighting talk wrapped up in glossy anthemia with Jacoby firing back at everyone who had ever doubted him and affirming you can never lose when you listen to your gut ‘I gotta follow my heart,’ he sings. ‘No matter how far. I gotta roll the dice. Never look back and never think twice.’ Even now, it’s still one of the most triumphant hooks they’ve ever written. 

As rip roaring as the song is, though, it’s the video that takes it to the next level, a revelation that was completely removed from anything we’d seen from Papa Roach before. Reflecting the exaggerated environment in which it was made, it has the band committing high sacrilege by turning a cavernous church into the kind of club even Poison wouldn’t take their mothers to. The band are surrounded by partying, fire- breathing models and, in the middle of it all, Jacoby commands the altar, kitted out in leather and a shitload of hairspray while PVC-clad trapeze artists swing over his head.

Not long after its release, the WWE picked up the song and for three years used it as the theme tune for flagship show Monday Night Raw. The exposure brought Papa Roach to brand new audiences and not long after that, along with Mastodon, they supported Iron Maiden on their 2007 A Matter Of Life And Death tour. It gave the band the opportunity to find out just how successful their transformation had been, in front of the most exacting and intimidating of metal audiences.

“I was like, ‘Fuck, Maiden fans… I don’t know, man. Are they going to love or hate us?’” said Jacoby later. “We get up there and we play …To Be Loved and instantly the crowd just goes apeshit crazy. I’m going, ‘What?! I knew this song was a hit, but not this kind of hit. What’s going on?’” 

These days we're in the full swing of a nu metal revival and although Papa Roach will always be considered one of that genre’s greatest exports, they’ve now shut down the critics who had them pegged as rap- rock also-rans. Undoubtedly, though, …To Be Loved was the song that set them on a path they’re still on to this day, pushing their music in consistently new directions and confounding expectations. 

“It was definitely a pinnacle track for us,” agreed Jacoby in his Hammer interview. “It was like us staking our claim again, like, ‘We’re still here, we’re doing what we believe in and what we love.’ Every song and record is a statement like that and that was another one of those moments in our career when we said, ‘We’re not going away, you can’t get rid of us.’” 

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.