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"We're giving out-of-fashion music a chance to shine": How Peacemaker made glam metal cool again

Peacemaker, Motley Crue and Wig Wam
(Image credit: Getty)

If the triumphant return of nu metal has shown us anything, it's that nothing is ever truly out of fashion forever. Give any genre enough time and it'll become cool again, whether it's via nostalgists reminding us why their era was definitely the best, honest, or a new generation discovering certain bands for the very first time.

That all said, it seems like a good while since glam metal was given another moment in the sun. It's been 13 years (yes, really) since Steel Panther gave the genre a lovingly silly kick up the ass with their debut album, and while the likes of Mötley Crüe and Poison remain big draws, glam metal as a movement is far from the hottest talking point in rock music right now.

Or at least, it was until January 13 of this year, when Peacemaker arrived. The TV spin-off of James Gunn's hit 2021 supervillain ensemble smash-up The Suicide Squad was a somewhat surprising choice to extend Gunn's voyage into the DCEU (that's the DC Extended Universe, DC Comics' somewhat hit-and-miss attempt at replicating Marvel's all-conquering Hollywood empire). But, Gunn was keen to explore more of the relatively unknown Peacemaker character, a C-list DC anti-hero with a penchant for achieving peace by any (often violent) means necessary.

Even with WWE legend John Cena's excellent turn as the character in The Suicide Squad, there was no obvious indication that a full Peacemaker series could be a major hit (it has been: the finale broke the record for viewership of a HBO Max-produced TV episode). What was clear right from the show's premiere, though, was that this was going to be a superhero series not quite like any other - rammed home immediately by what has already gone down as one of the greatest TV opening credit sequences ever.

Starring Cena's Peacemaker himself and his supporting cast of characters (some of whom aren't even introduced until later episodes), the sequence features a completely ridiculous and heartwarmingly awkward dance routine, set to a song by none other than, er...middling Norwegian glam metallers Wig Wam? The lads who represented Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2005? Really?!

"The Wig Wam song was just, to be completely honest, one of the first things I thought of," James Gunn told Rolling Stone in January. "I started collecting a list of Peacemaker music long before I started writing the show. And the Wig Wam song just seemed to be the one that had perfect lyrics for our show: 'Do you wanna taste it? Do you really wanna taste it?' And so there really was nothing else in consideration besides that song."

Titled Do Ya Wanna Taste It (obviously) and originally released on Wig Wam's fourth album Non Stop Rock 'n' Roll in 2010, the song has since taken on a new lease of life, having now racked up over 13 million streams on Spotify alone - twice the number of their aforementioned Eurovision hit and previous breakthrough track, In My Dreams - and that's before you take in the near-10 million people that have watched the Peacemaker intro on Youtube. Wig Wam are the first to admit it all came at a crucial moment for the band.

“Three days before the Peacemaker premiere, our [Scandinavian] booking agency dropped us from their roster, because there was too little interest in the band,” singer Åge Sten 'Glam' Nilsen told Billboard. After Peacemaker debuted, Do Ya Wanna Taste It flew to the top of the US iTunes Rock Chart and began racking up streams in the millions. Even TikTok went Wig Wam crazy: dance videos aping that credits sequence attracted hundreds of thousands of views. The band signed with a new agent, started booking gigs and haven't looked back since, Nilsen adding that their "phone lines are on fire right now”.

Peacemaker's glam metal love-in doesn't stop there, either. The entire show is soundtracked by glam metal, packing everything from classics by 80s OGs Mötley Crüe, Lita Ford and Hanoi Rocks to cuts from more modern names like Reckless Love, Band-Maid and Sister Sin. An official soundtrack playlist put out on Spotify by James Gunn himself has amassed 116,000 followers - by a distance the most-followed mix he's released (and he's released a few). Almost every time a new band was added to the mix following their appearance in a Peacemaker episode, the song quickly became the top-trending track in their respective discographies. 

"It’s taking hair metal, basically, or sleaze metal, or glam metal, and giving it a spotlight," Gunn told the official HBO Peacemaker podcast. "And it’s a mix between these old bands and new bands. There’s a lot of European sleaze metal bands today that are actually really good. They’re actually overall much better than the hair metal bands that I grew up with. Being able to give that music that’s so out of fashion in America a chance to shine a little is one of the fun things about this show.”

Glam metal doesn't just give the show a kickass soundtrack, either: it provides a pivotal plot device in helping us unwrap the title character's personality. Yes, Peacemaker is a humungous glam metal fanatic - something that's seemingly at odds with his hyper-macho posturing. A scene in the very first episode has John Cena dancing around in his pants singing along to Quireboys jam I Don't Love You Anymore, having just excitedly discovered another character's glam rock vinyl collection.

"You know, this was back when men were real men," he beams, "'cause they weren't afraid to be women!" It's a disarming take that begins the process of opening up a running theme in the show - one of toxic masculinity and how it drives at the heart of the relationship between Peacemaker and his dad, a racist, homophobic mega-prick, played with seething menace by Terminator 2 and X-Files alumni Robert Patrick. 

"I think that [glam metal] is the music that speaks to Peacemaker's spirit," James Gunn explained during a recent press roundtable. "He loves hair metal. But I also think that it speaks to a lot of the things that his dad is not. It's androgynous. I think of Peacemaker bringing home a Hanoi Rocks album with all the guys in the makeup, and the fishnet stockings, and everything else...those are direct affronts to who his father is."

As a big fan of Poison, Mötley Crüe, Def Leppard and Guns N’ Roses, John Cena didn't have to stretch his acting skills too far to display Peacemaker's love of all things glam. He has acknowledged, however, how important the dancing scene is in adding new, empathetic layers to a character who was, quite frankly, a massive dickhead in The Suicide Squad, giving great credit to "James Gunn and the entire cast for being able to let me explore being vulnerable."

That glam metal has been used to explore those themes of male vulnerability - and, indeed, help harness a bit of empathy for a fundamentally dislikable character - is a fascinating insight into its unique status within the metal scene. It is, after all, one of the few spaces in metal that encourages men to embrace their more glamorous, effeminate side, and it has incurred the wrath of many a metal elitist as a result. 

Of course, glam metal itself has issues to answer for. It's a major offender in rock's historic and problematic depiction of women as sex objects, and let's be real: for every Poison or Cinderella-penned banger, there has been a lot of also-ran-peddled guff, too. In Peacemaker, though, glam metal has not only found an unlikely new cheerleader, but a new layer of discourse in which to thrive. The only question that really remains is: do you really wanna taste it?

Peacemaker is out now on HBO Max in the US and on Sky Atlantic in the UK

Merlin stepped into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.