Lulu (Lou Reed and Metallica album)

Last updated

Lou Reed and Metallica - Lulu.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedOctober 31, 2011 (2011-10-31)
RecordedApril–June 2011
StudioMetallica's HQ in San Rafael, California
Genre Avant-garde metal [1]
Lou Reed chronology
Hudson River Wind Meditations
Metallica chronology
Death Magnetic
Beyond Magnetic
Singles from Lulu
  1. "The View"
    Released: September 27, 2011

Lulu is a collaboration album between rock singer-songwriter Lou Reed and heavy metal band Metallica. It was released on October 31, 2011 by Warner Bros. in the U.S. and Vertigo elsewhere. The album is the final full-length studio recording project that Reed was involved in before his death in October 2013. [2] It was recorded in San Rafael, California, during April through June 2011, after Reed had played with Metallica at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary Concert which led to them wanting to collaborate. The lead single, titled "The View", was released on September 27, 2011. [3]

Rock music is a broad genre of popular music that originated as "rock and roll" in the United States in the early 1950s, and developed into a range of different styles in the 1960s and later, particularly in the United Kingdom and in the United States. It has its roots in 1940s and 1950s rock and roll, a style which drew heavily on the genres of blues, rhythm and blues, and from country music. Rock music also drew strongly on a number of other genres such as electric blues and folk, and incorporated influences from jazz, classical and other musical styles. Musically, rock has centered on the electric guitar, usually as part of a rock group with electric bass, drums, and one or more singers. Usually, rock is song-based music usually with a 4/4 time signature using a verse–chorus form, but the genre has become extremely diverse. Like pop music, lyrics often stress romantic love but also address a wide variety of other themes that are frequently social or political.

Singer-songwriter musician who writes, composes and sings

Singer-songwriters are musicians who write, compose, and perform their own musical material, including lyrics and melodies.

Lou Reed American musician, recording artist, singer-songwriter

Lewis Allan Reed was an American musician, singer and songwriter. He was the lead guitarist, singer and principal songwriter for the rock band the Velvet Underground and also had a solo career that spanned five decades. The Velvet Underground were not a commercial success during their existence, but are now regarded as one of the most influential bands in the history of underground and alternative rock music.


Conceptually, the album is based on the two "Lulu plays" by the German playwright Frank Wedekind (1864–1918). The majority of composition is centered on spoken word delivered by Reed over instrumentals composed by Metallica, with occasional backing vocals provided by Metallica lead vocalist James Hetfield. Reed wrote the majority of the lyrics. The album was released worldwide on October 31, 2011, and on November 1 in North America. [4] Upon its release, Lulu received mixed reviews from music critics, and an extremely negative response from many fans and several critics. According to several who knew him, David Bowie claimed Lulu was among Reed's best work or even his very best.

A playwright or dramatist is a person who writes plays.

Frank Wedekind German playwright

Benjamin Franklin Wedekind, usually known as Frank Wedekind, was a German playwright. His work, which often criticizes bourgeois attitudes, is considered to anticipate expressionism and was influential in the development of epic theatre.

Spoken word is a performance art that is word-based. It is an oral art that focuses on the aesthetics of word play such as intonation and voice inflection. It is a "catchall" term that includes any kind of poetry recited aloud, including poetry readings, poetry slams, jazz poetry, and hip hop, and can include comedy routines and prose monologues. Although spoken word can include any kind of poetry read aloud, it is different from written poetry in that how it sounds is often one of the main components. Unlike written poetry it has less to do with physical on the page aesthetics and more to do with phonaesthetics, or the aesthetics of sound.


Reed and Metallica had both been on the bill in October 1997 for the eleventh of Neil Young's Bridge concerts. [5] The conception of the collaboration project began in 2009 when both Metallica and Lou Reed performed at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 25th Anniversary Concert. [4] After that performance, they began "kicking around the idea of making a record together," [6] but did not start working together until two years later. In February 2011, Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett announced that in May 2011 the group would start working on something that's "not 100 percent a Metallica record. It's a recording project, let's put it that way." [7] The project was revealed to be a collaboration with Lou Reed once the recording of the album had been completed in June 2011. [4]

Neil Young Canadian singer-songwriter

Neil Percival Young, is a Canadian singer-songwriter and musician. After embarking on a music career in the 1960s, he moved to Los Angeles, where he formed Buffalo Springfield with Stephen Stills, Richie Furay and others. Young had released two solo albums and three as a member of Buffalo Springfield by the time he joined Crosby, Stills & Nash in 1969. From his early solo albums and those with his backing band Crazy Horse, Young has recorded a steady stream of studio and live albums, sometimes warring with his recording company along the way.

Bridge School Benefit music festival in California

The Bridge School Benefit was an annual charity concert held in Mountain View, California, every October at the Shoreline Amphitheatre from 1986 until 2016. The concerts lasted the entire weekend and were organized by musicians Neil Young and Pegi Young. An annual Bay Area highlight, the concerts were billed online as the primary means of funding for The Bridge School; over both days, the reserved seats alone brought in well over a million dollars every year.

Kirk Hammett American musician

Kirk Lee Hammett is an American musician who has been lead guitarist and a contributing songwriter for the heavy metal band Metallica since 1983. Before joining Metallica he formed and named the band Exodus. In 2003, Hammett was ranked 11th on Rolling Stone's list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. In 2009, Hammett was ranked number 15 in Joel McIver's book The 100 Greatest Metal Guitarists.

The collaboration was originally intended to be Metallica re-recording various previously unreleased tracks Reed had written over the years. [8] Among these unreleased demos was a collection of songs composed for a play called Lulu—a theatrical production of two plays originally written by the German playwright Frank Wedekind. [9] Reed shared the demos of these songs with the members of Metallica to help bring the "piece to the next level," [10] and the group provided "significant arrangement contributions" to the material. [11] David Fricke of Rolling Stone heard at least two of the songs from the project in June 2011—"Pumping Blood" and "Mistress Dread"—and described their sound as a "raging union of [Reed's] 1973 noir classic, Berlin , and Metallica's '86 crusher, Master of Puppets ." [11] All tracks were made available for listening on the official Lou Reed & Metallica website before its release. [12] Reed stated that "Everything is cut live – us staring at each other, playing". [13] The recording was problematic at times, with Lars Ulrich admitting that at one point Lou Reed challenged him to a "street fight". [14]

David Fricke is a senior editor at Rolling Stone magazine, where he writes predominantly on rock music. His career has spanned over 30 years. In the 1990s, he was the magazine's music editor before stepping down.

<i>Rolling Stone</i> American magazine focusing on popular culture, based in New York City

Rolling Stone is an American monthly magazine that focuses on popular culture. It was founded in San Francisco, California in 1967 by Jann Wenner, who is still the magazine's publisher, and the music critic Ralph J. Gleason. It was first known for its musical coverage and for political reporting by Hunter S. Thompson. In the 1990s, the magazine shifted focus to a younger readership interested in youth-oriented television shows, film actors, and popular music. In recent years, it has resumed its traditional mix of content.

<i>Berlin</i> (Lou Reed album) 1973 studio album by Lou Reed

Berlin is the third solo studio album by American musician Lou Reed, released in July 1973 by RCA Records. A concept album, Berlin tells the story of a couple's struggle with drug addiction and abuse. Initially, critical reception was mixed but appraisals of the album have warmed over the years: in 1973 Rolling Stone declared the album "a disaster" but in 2003, the album was ranked No. 344 on Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.


"The View" was released for streaming online in late September 2011. Examining reaction to the track and a previously released 30-second preview of the same, The New Zealand Herald reported that there was much negative reaction by fans online, and that the song had about twice as many "dislikes" as "likes" on YouTube. [15] Not all reaction to the song was negative; Rolling Stone gave "The View" a 4 out of 5 star rating [16] while the same song was rated 4.5 out of 5 by Artist Direct [17] and positively by One Thirty BPM. [18] The song's music video was directed by Darren Aronofsky, with cinematography by Matthew Libatique and produced by Scott Franklin through Protozoa Pictures, his and Aronofsky's production company. [19] Originally it was planned that Aronofsky should helm a performance video for the album's second single "Iced Honey" [20] but "when everyone got together, it became obvious "The View" was the way to go." [21]

<i>The New Zealand Herald</i> newspaper

The New Zealand Herald is a daily newspaper published in Auckland, New Zealand, owned by New Zealand Media and Entertainment. It has the largest newspaper circulation of all newspapers in New Zealand, peaking at over 200,000 copies in 2006, although circulation of the daily Herald had declined to 115,213 copies on average by December 2017. Its main circulation area is the Auckland region. It is also delivered to much of the north of the North Island including Northland, Waikato and King Country.

YouTube video-sharing service owned by Google

YouTube is an American video-sharing website headquartered in San Bruno, California. Three former PayPal employees—Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim—created the service in February 2005. Google bought the site in November 2006 for US$1.65 billion; YouTube now operates as one of Google's subsidiaries.

Darren Aronofsky Actor and productor

Darren Aronofsky is an American filmmaker and screenwriter, who is noted for his surreal, melodramatic, and often disturbing films.


Professional ratings
Aggregate scores
Metacritic 45/100 [22]
Review scores
AllMusic Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [23]
The Atlantic favorable [24]
The Daily Telegraph Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [25]
Entertainment Weekly D [26]
Montreal Gazette Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg [27]
NME 7/10 [28]
Pitchfork 1.0/10 [29]
Rolling Stone Star full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [30]
Q Star full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svgStar empty.svg [31]
Spin 6/10 [32]
Uncut favorable [33]

Upon its release, the album received mixed and polarized reviews by music critics. [22] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, Lulu received an average score of 45, based on 31 reviews. [22] Staff reviewer Joseph Viney of Sputnikmusic rated it one and a half out of five and commented "The fallout from this could have dire consequences. A lot of people, already placing Metallica at the best seat in the house at the Last Chance Saloon have now called last orders. It's genuinely difficult to guess what their next move will be. As for Reed, his legacy, whatever that means in his case, is cemented and this will have no real effect on him." [34]

Metacritic is a website that aggregates reviews of media products: films, TV shows, music albums, video games, and formerly, books. For each product, the scores from each review are averaged. Metacritic was created by Jason Dietz, Marc Doyle, and Julie Doyle Roberts in 1999. The site provides an excerpt from each review and hyperlinks to its source. A color of green, yellow or red summarizes the critics' recommendations. It has been described as the video game industry's "premier" review aggregator.

Standard score

In statistics, the standard score is the signed fractional number of standard deviations by which the value of an observation or data point is above the mean value of what is being observed or measured. Observed values above the mean have positive standard scores, while values below the mean have negative standard scores.

Sputnikmusic is a music community website offering music criticism and music news alongside features commonly associated with wiki-style websites. The format of the website is unusual in that it includes both professional and amateur content, distinguishing it from professionally written music websites such as Pitchfork Media and Tiny Mix Tapes, as well as collecting and presenting a wiki-style metadata database in a manner comparable to Rate Your Music and Discogs.

Pitchfork critic Stuart Berma assigned the album a rare 1.0 rating, writing "for all the hilarity that ought to ensue here, Lulu is a frustratingly noble failure. Audacious to the extreme, but exhaustingly tedious as a result, its few interesting ideas are stretched out beyond the point of utility and pounded into submission." [29] Essayist and pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman, in his review for the website Grantland, wrote, "If the Red Hot Chili Peppers acoustically covered the 12 worst Primus songs for Starbucks, it would still be (slightly) better than this." [35] Reviewer Julian Marszalek of The Quietus gave it a very negative review, commenting that "the effect is that of Lou Reed ranting over some Metallica demos that were never intended for human consumption." Marszalek summarized the review by suggesting that time spent listening to Lulu could have been better spent watching grass grow, "or perhaps wanking into a sock." [36] Furthermore, longtime reviewer Don Kaye, who had previously defended Metallica's much-maligned 2003 album St. Anger, wrote on that "Lulu is a catastrophic failure on almost every level, a project that could quite possibly do irreparable harm to Metallica's career." [37]

In the British avant-garde music magazine The Wire , David Keenan wrote "Metallica's unrelenting sledgehammer style works as the perfect complement to Reed's vision of compassionless love" and concluded "[a]gainst all the odds, Lulu functions as the ultimate realisation of Reed's aesthetic of Metal Machine Music, cruel vulgar, half in love with power and pain but with a bruised, beating heart at its centre." [38] Uncut gave the record a positive review, [33] singling out the closer "Junior Dad" for praise and calling it "breathtaking" and "astonishing", a "perfect ending to the most extraordinary, passionate and just plain brilliant record either participant has made for a long while." NME , scoring the record seven out of ten, [28] praised it as "a surprising triumph", and said that the offering's "breadth and ambition is to be applauded. Metallica have performed way beyond what many thought them capable; they improvise freely as Reed's musical bitch, while for him this marks his most outré offering since 'Metal Machine Music'". The Telegraph awarded Lulu three stars out of five, [39] stating that while it was "grueling, even by latter Lou Reed standards," the sense of "unrestrained folly" and sheer lack of commercialism made the album feel "important".

The German edition of Metal Hammer gave it four out of seven stars. The reaction of the reviewer, Metallica biographer Joel McIver, was mixed. According to McIver, Lou Reed and Metallica had created an "avant-garde theatrical" soundtrack which is "not easy to listen to" and recommendable for Lou Reed fans. However Metallica fans "will mostly ignore Lulu—and listen to Master of Puppets". In a review titled "Metallica and Lou Reed's 'Lulu' Is Actually Excellent", James Parker of The Atlantic wrote "I don't think the record is crap. In fact I love it", and recommended, "Give Lulu a shot. Give it another listen. Offer it what Lou would call your 'coagulating heart,' and you will be rewarded." [40]

In contrast with other sources, Lulu reached number nine on The Wire' year-end critics' poll. [41] Indeed, The Wire's Jennifer Lucy Allan commented about the bad reviews: "ultimately, the reaction to it is a testament to Lou Reed's ability to still get up the noses and under the skin of even the most open-minded listeners. He's probably laughing his head off at it all this very minute." [42] Mattin in his review of Lulu for Volcanic Tongue agrees when Lou Reed said "This is the best thing ever done by anybody" and he adds "Lulu is more Lou Reed than Lou Reed and that surely means that this is the best thing ever done by anybody." [43]

In a piece published on the day of Reed's death, Robert Christgau wrote that Lulu "probably didn't get enough" "mazel tov" from critics. [44]

At Lou Reed's 2015 posthumous induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Reed's widow Laurie Anderson announced that David Bowie had referred to Lulu as Reed's "greatest work". [45] LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy later said Bowie had told him Lulu was "some of the best writing Lou's done. People are making a snap judgment and they aren't listening." [46]

Response to criticism

Lou Reed stated that Metallica fans threatened to shoot him due to the collaboration on Lulu. In response to this and the overall negative reaction to the album, Reed commented, "I don't have any fans left. After Metal Machine Music (1975), they all fled. Who cares? I'm essentially in this for the fun of it." [47] Lars Ulrich also noted the negative reaction to Lulu, and stated that he wasn't surprised by the criticism due in part because, "In 1984, when hard-core Metallica fans heard acoustic guitars on "Fade to Black", there was a nuclear meltdown in the heavy-metal community," and also noted that Reed's poetry is "not for everyone." [47] Talking about the negative reactions, James Hetfield expressed understanding of "fearful people", who are "typing from their mom's basement that they still live in", stating that the band needed "to spread our wings" and try something new, [48] while Reed stated that it is for "literate people". [49] Robert Trujillo spoke about the album saying, "Love it or hate it, it was definitely something that we enjoyed and that we embraced." [50]

Following Reed's death, Ulrich wrote the following about Lulu in The Guardian:

I played the record for my kids yesterday in the car, and it sounded as relevant and more intense than ever; it sounded incredibly potent, very alive and impulsive ... Twenty-five years from now, you're going to have millions of people claiming they owned the record or loved it when it came out, of course neither will be true. I think it's going to age well—when I played it yesterday it sounded fucking awesome. In some ways it's almost cooler that people didn't embrace it, because it makes it more ours, it's our project, our record, and this was never made for the masses and the masses didn't take to it. It makes it more precious for those who were involved. [51]

Commercial performance

In the United States, the album debuted at number 36 on the Billboard 200 with first-week sales of 13,000 copies. [52] This made it Reed's highest-charting release since Sally Can't Dance , which reached number 10 in 1974. Lulu debuted in the top 10 of the charts in eight countries.

Track listing

All lyrics written by Lou Reed; all music composed by Reed and Metallica.

Disc one
1."Brandenburg Gate"4:20
2."The View"5:15
3."Pumping Blood"7:25
4."Mistress Dread"6:50
5."Iced Honey"4:35
6."Cheat on Me"11:25
Disc two
8."Little Dog"8:00
10."Junior Dad"19:30
Total length:87:05



Chart (2011)Peak
Australian Albums Chart [56] 33
Austrian Albums Chart [56] 11
Belgian Albums Chart (Flanders) [56] 17
Belgian Albums Chart (Wallonia) [56] 14
Canadian Albums Chart [57] 26
Croatian Albums Chart [58] 4
Czech Albums Chart [59] 4
Danish Albums Chart [60] 13
Dutch Albums Chart [56] 17
Finnish Albums Chart [56] 16
German Albums Chart [61] 6
Irish Albums Chart [62] 36
Italy Albums Chart [63] 9
Japanese Albums Chart [64] 14
New Zealand Albums Chart [56] 12
Norwegian Albums Chart [56] 11
Polish Albums Chart [65] 6
Portuguese Albums Chart [56] 8
Russian Albums Chart [66] 10
Spanish Albums Chart [67] 12
Swedish Albums Chart [56] 9
Swiss Albums Chart [56] 14
UK Albums Chart [68] 36
US Billboard 200 [52] 36

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