Arts & Entertainment, Music

Exploring Dynamics: The Song “One”


Lesson time 07:32 min

Metallica reflects on the making of the song “One”: the inspiration for the song, its structure, and its accompanying video—the band’s first foray into making music videos.

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Topics include: Structuring a Ballad · Deconstructing “One” for the Bass


[MUSIC - METALLICA, "ONE"] - James and I would often sit and talk about the topic. What's the topic of the song going to be? We would talk about what would it be like if you were in a situation where you could not talk, you could not see, you could not hear, you didn't have arms and legs, and you basically couldn't communicate? - The cerebrum has suffered massive and irreparable damage. - You never know what has happened to him. - Had I not been sure of this, I would not have permitted him to live. - Where am I? Father? - The song is based on the movie "Johnny Got His Gun". But aside from that, the song, the music, the arrangement, it's very cinematic, I mean, you can close your eyes and just very easily visualize what James is singing about, what the lyrics are suggesting. Every part of the song has a visual component to it, I find. And it just keeps on adding visual components through music, and builds and builds. So when you get to the end, you know, you're hearing it. But you're also kind of seeing it in your mind. [MUSIC - METALLICA, "ONE"] - And I was really into coming up with these kind of drum patterns and sort of like drum riffs, and then James would kind of just play something super percussive along with the drum patterns. And certainly bu-lu-lu-cat, bu-lu-lu-cat was not "oh, machine gun," it was some pattern that was just kind of in my head. [MUSIC - METALLICA, "ONE"] - Things happen for a reason, and then you come back and you go, oh, that is machine gun fire, you know? - (SINGING) Darkness imprisoning me! All that I see, absolute horror! I cannot live, I cannot die, trapped in myself, body my holding cell! - It's Morse code. - For what? - S-O-S. Help. - The song "One" represents one of our called "ballad food groups." These songs are, I guess, unique in the way that they start melodic and mellow, and then go through many different moods and dynamics, and usually get mellow, heavier, heavier, heavier, crazier, more relentless and completely out of control. - I know the end of the song, very different than the beginning, obviously. There's a couple of cycles of picking, and more of a heavy open chord thing. And then at the end of the song, it goes to the da-la-la-la-la, da-la-la-la-la. And then from there on out, it's OK, you're in full physical mode. And the picking part, you know. (SINGING) I can't remember anything. So going along with the melody, but also putting in extra words, extra things here and there, that are moving it along. And then in the heavy part-- (SINGING) Landmine has taken my sight, taken my speech! And you're right on with it, you know? It's an instrument on its own that's helping move certain parts along, and then you get to join up with the stuff where you just can't sing anything else there. Everything is just going (VOCALIZING). You know, you have to just join that, or else you kind of get lost. Or yea...

About the Instructor

With 28 albums, 8 Grammy Awards, and a home in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Metallica have been creating iconic music together for over 40 years. Now, they’re teaching what it takes to build and sustain success as a group. Get an exclusive look into their process for songwriting, building an album, and performing, and how they took charge of their creative destiny so you can do the same.

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8x Grammy Award–winning rock band Metallica teaches you the keys to communicating, collaborating, and successfully creating as a group.

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