King Nothing

Album: Load (1996)
Charted: 90
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  • "King Nothing" is about getting everything you ever wanted (or thought you wanted) and finding out that it sucks. The song comes across as an angry condemnation of someone in that scenario, but that might have more to do with the Metallica sound than it does with the actual intent; in the Metallica emotional range, even compassion sounds kind of nasty.

    The lyrics clearly paint the scene of a person who is obsessed with wealth and fame.

    Dig for gold
    Dig for fame
    You dig to make your name
    Are you pacified?

    To be pacified means "to be put at peace." The word is at the root of the Pacific Ocean's name, by the way. The Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan dubbed that water the "Mar Pacífico" (the "peaceful sea") in 1521.

    Anyway, getting back to "King Nothing," the unnamed person in the song discovers that their ambition has led them to lose themselves in an empire of emptiness. The song contains a warning to those who might try to follow this path to personal happiness.

    Careful what you say
    Careful what you wish you may regret it
    Careful what you wish you just might get it
  • With this song, frontman James Hetfield may be referring to Metallica themselves, or at least to himself. Though the band was riding high at this point, behind the scenes Hetfield was dealing with his lifelong anger and substance abuse issues. Later, after entering rehab during the recording of St. Anger in 2002, he began talking openly about the stress that came with fame, but also about his own persistent issues around his overly controlling personality, his temper, and his drinking. In that way, Metallica's monstrous fame and success didn't bring him any inner peace, and he did indeed resemble the character in King Nothing.

    The self-analysis thesis is further bolstered at the 5:17 point in "King Nothing," when Hetfield quietly sings, "We're off to never-never land." That line is a reference to "Enter Sandman," which was an earlier (1991) hit for Metallica. This self-referential lyric suggests Hetfield was indeed thinking about Metallica, himself, or both.
  • Drummer Lars Ulrich and guitarist Kirk Hammett wrote the song with Hetfield, but Hetfield did the lyrics, as he did for the vast majority of their songs.
  • Matt Mahurin filmed the song's music video in Park City, Utah, during December of 1996. He did many of the era's most memorable videos. For Metallica, he also did "The Unforgiven" and "The Unforgiven II." Some of his other '90s videos of note are "Numb" by U2, "Gold Dust Woman" by Hole, and "Everything Zen" by Bush.
  • The US/Canadian version of the "King Nothing" single includes a live version of "Ain't My Bitch" on its B-side.
  • "King Nothing" can be heard in the 22nd episode of the HBO Mafia drama The Sopranos, released in 2000. It plays in the background while the main character, Tony Soprano, talks with his associate Paulie in a strip club called Bada Bing! This doesn't appear to be an inconsequential choice but rather a deliberate one that fits he theme of the show.

    In that episode, one of the other characters has a near death experience and comes back to talk about how he saw fellow gangsters in hell. This has everybody a little shook. It basically takes the concept of "King Nothing" to its extreme - they have built empires of wealth and power but lost their souls in the process.
  • On November 30, 1994, Metallica did a demo of the song titled "Load," which is the title of the album this song appears on.
  • Load had a conflicted reception, with many casual fans loving it and many of the hardcore faithful hating what they saw as musical and philosophical compromise. On November 16, 1996, however, the band proved they still had heavy metal hearts when they were called on to play "King Nothing."

    MTV had invited Metallica to play at their Europe Music Awards show, and Metallica agreed, specifically to play "King Nothing." Everything was set to go off without a hitch until executives told the band they couldn't use any curse words. Metallica said "screw that," and, without notifying anybody in the production, switched out "King Nothing" with a performance of "Last Caress" by the horror-punk trailblazers the Misfits and "So What?" by a UK punk band named the Anti-Nowhere League. Both songs are heavy with things that nice people don't say in public.

    The awards show broadcast kept Metallica out completely, acting like they were never there. Maybe the funniest thing about this is that "King Nothing" doesn't even have any expletives in its lyrics.
  • "King Nothing" was the fourth and final single released off Load. It was issued on January 7, 1997. The album and the other singles all went out in 1996.

Comments: 40

  • Smalls from UsaI know this isn't what its about but I do like how similar it is to the story Frankenstein. Victor becomes enraptured by the idea of playing God and creating life. When he does so the creature that he has created horrifies him and the monster toys with him, eventually leading to Victor's demise. The moral of the novel is be aware of ambition and playing God and I think King Nothing has a very similar meaning and sequence of events.
  • Locoluis from Santiago, ChileSic transit gloria mundi. All that bling is worthless. All these achievements are in vain. Mundane power is foolish and ephemeral.

    Fools are those impressed by these things, and even more so those who seek these fake glories.

    You want it all until you've got it. Then you get used to it and take it from granted, and want more and more. A never ending hunger.

    The best clothes. The best car. The best house. The best food. Expensive vacation trips. And lots of other things. Nothing is enough.

    Eventually, you hit the roof. It's lonely at the top, huh? Don't worry, for you won't stay long there. And then you fall, hard.

    And you see yourself overcome by nostalgia of the things you used to have. And you're surrounded by the pile of junk that you threw away while you looked for something greater.

    Look through the window. See the children play outside, playing with a ball, playing with a rope, playing with dirt.

    They're happier than you ever were. Wish you could be like them? But that not possible, because happiness can't be bought.

    They don't want your gold. They don't want your power. They're happy with very little. But nothing will ever fill your hunger.

    Your time has come. No, you can't take your belongings to the grave. Your rusting car, your ruined palace, your moth-eaten clothes. No one wants them.

    You left no legacy. You're nothing.
  • Tay from Scranton, PaLove it. Good song for anything greed related. Go Metallica!
  • Jacob from Jackson, TnThe music video is actually very depictant of the song, which is something not always prevelant in music videos. And it does it in a very theatrical way. The guy going around picking up all these crowns he finds in the snow (why snow, I don't know), but he then tires of the one he's wearing. Then he sees another one, and puts it on. This represents a person just trying to get everything, and doing anything to do so. At the end, every place where he threw away the crowns he wore, forms of him rise from the ground from under them, and they all surround him and close in on him. This represents how his demise is his own doing by trying to obtain everything he wants. It's a very odd music video, but it's packed with meaning.
  • Ryan from Cleveland, OhThis song LeBron James
  • Adam from Clinton Township, MiA pretty good song. Not the best on either of these albums though. Load and ReLoad, imho, don't deserve all the crap they get. Yes, Metallica is one of the greatest bands, and yes, these albums aren't hardcore shredding, but neither are The Black Album or St. Anger (which IS a bad album). It's not hardcore like their old stuff (which is better), but they're still Metallica.
  • Matt from White Bear Lake, MnGreat song about greed and trying to become famous (Dig for gold, dig for fame, you dig to make your name) but because he got greedy, he lost everything and tries to blame it on others (And it all crashes down, and you break your crown You point your finger but there's no one around).

    One of only two good songs from Load.
  • Gage from Lancaster, OhIts about someone who wants to be famous or wealthy, and they will do anything to get that. They either get what they want and lose it all in the end, or just waste their life trying to accomplish this(you decide).

    Where's your crown, King Nothing?
  • Erin from Needham, MaThis song is about gangs and how they are bad to get into. This song writes metaphorically using things the symbolize gangs song it says "Have this wish I wish tonight I want that star I want it now I want it all and I don't care how" a star is the symbol for folks nation and peoples nation. "I dont care how" people beaten up to get into gangs. Then they are talking about a crown metaphorically which is a gang symbol also. And a king can represent a leader.
  • Jon from Ma, MaSorry Jesse but this song is not inetionally realated to Lear in any way. Good thought though.
  • Andrew from Lexington, Scmaybe metallica went back in time and made king nothing before megadeth made kill the king?!? O_o ever think about that?
  • Matthew from Glenolden, PaAaron, Kill the king was made 6 years after king nothing, how could metallica respond if they did it first
  • Aaron from Candler, NcIf no one ever noticed, King Nothing is one of two songs aimed towards Dave Mustaine. Since he was kicked out and joined Megadeth, he produced a songs entitled "Kill the King". Listen to the lyrics and it describes Dave Mustaine being the king. Metallica replies by making King Nothing, as well as "The Memory Remains." Where's your crown, King Nothing?
  • Hetfield from Port Louis, MauritiusThis song is O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G!!! Long live METALLICA.
  • Nick from Cairns, AustraliaHas anyone ever sayed how much of a remake of Enter Sandman this is? It has the whole same structure of the Enter Sandman song. The only thing that could be different, compared to Enter Sandman, is where Enter Sandman's guitar riffs revolve mostly around the main riff you hear. That is probably what doesn't get used much in "King Nothing". Anyway its a great song, like the part that breaks down halfway.
  • Brian from Camden, ScThe song is about being on top, having it all only to lose it all because of your own decisions. The only one to blame is yourself.
  • Rob from Northfield, IlKing Nothing describes the insanely power hungry psychiatrists who call themselves doctors but are really doctor nothing. Shawn, Tom and Mike generalize the type of person who King Nothing applies to, and this applies to the 40,000 members of the American Psychiatric Association more so than anyone else. They don't care how patients suffer and point to their crown, "doctor" and when it all crashes down and the fraud of their destructive medications and other forms of witchcraft are uncovered, all that psychiatrists will be left with is just a name, doctor nothing.
  • Mohammad from Bandarabbassbe careful what you wish you may get it,be careful what you say you may regret it,a very good line that could change one of my friends opinion about metallica.long live metallica
  • Chris from Philly, PaI agree with kevin,but regardless of it being greek,roman or german mythology,the song still kicks a**.
  • Aj from Mumbai, IndiaInspired by King Lear.
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandLast line in this song - "off to never never land" - True story
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScKevin the sibg diesn't seem to be about the story of king Midas, but that story might have inspired the song. That story, after all, is an example of greed.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScSeems like Seth has hit the nail on the head here. Haven't heard the song or read the lyrics, but from the description, and also havving read the story, seems like Seth nis right. King Midas is a character who wants everything to turn to gold. Therefore, he wants lots of gold, and that, is an example of greed.
  • Seth from Simpsonville, Sccrown*
  • Seth from Simpsonville, ScMr. Dustin from Chattanooga, you sir are the dumb one, not Kevin. Actually if the song isn't directly about King Mitus/ Midas, the mythic story of the king wishing everything he touched would become gold is a prime example of greed, which is in fact what the song is about. in the end of the myth the king dies or is left lonely because EVERYTHING becomes gold therefore any food he touches he cannot eat and i believe in one version he turns his wife into gold and is left lonely, so where is your crow king nothing?
  • Steven from Viking, CanadaThis song was on after MTV Icon for Metallica. The music video RULES!!
  • Alex from El Paso, TxI heard that the song was actually about Axl Rose, (heard it on the radio)
  • Jesse from Bowmanville, CanadaI don't know how many of you studied Shakespeare... but this looks like it is infact about King Lear and not Midus...

  • Matt Daigle from Portland, MeThis Song Rocks Probably The only Good song on the Load Album
  • Rob from Perth, Australiaafter watching some kind of monster... this song could almost have been a preminition of James Hetfields life...
  • Shawn from Pasadena, MdIt's about soemone who likes to be ontop. They play being the boss. But when everything goes wrong and threatens him, he blames someone else. However noone else is there to take a blame. Now he's stuck with nothing.

    It's a very accurate portrayl nowadays about people who try to climb on top but don't act like leaders. They just like to lead, but when things go wrong they're stuck with it.
  • Chad from Talladega, AlI have always heard that this song was about Dave Mustaine and his futile attempt to overtake Metallica as the World's biggest metal band.
  • Dustin from Chattanooga, TnKevin you are dumb... im sure James Hetfield doesnt care anything about greek mythology... it is about greed
  • Hildur from Reykjavik, IcelandWhere's you crown, King nothing?
    Love it love it love it.
  • Ian from New York, NyThis song has a sick baseline. Ohter wise it's an O.K song.
  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandThe Greek King is called Midas, not Mitus
  • Tom from Billericay, EnglandKing Nothing is about someone who wants everything but as a consequence, is left with nothing (Be careful what you wish etc./Where's you're crown, King Nothing)
  • Kevin from El Dorado Hills, Cai think this may be about a greek mythology story about King Mitus now if you dont know the story its about a king who wishes to Apollo in his sleep that everything he touches will turn to gold and he dies of misery and lonelyness, or the other version he starves to death. Im not totaly sure but i think it might be think what you want.
  • Mike from Drayton Valley, CanadaThis song is about someone who is insanley greedy, and must have everything at any cost, and the reprocussions must be paid by others because he will not take the blame for these hanous crimes he has comitted.
  • Brian from Mayfield Heights, Ohamazing
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