Saturday, August 10, 1991

Metallica charted with “Enter Sandman”

Enter Sandman


Writer(s): Kirk Hammett, James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich (see lyrics here)

Released: July 29, 1991

First Charted: August 10, 1991

Peak: 16 US, 28 CB, 36 RR, 10 AR, 5 UK, 17 CN, 10 AU, 3 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.6 UK, 2.24 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 787.7 video, 1144.57 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Metallica steadily grew their audience from their 1983 debut to their self-titled fifth album in 1991. The latter topped the charts all over the world on its way toward more than 30 million in sales. The leadoff single, “Enter Sandman,” accomplished the rare feat of sending a heavy metal act into the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. It was only the band’s second entry on the chart, following the #35 success of “One” in 1989. It has since garnered, by far, more radio play than any other Metallica song. SF

The guitar riff by Kirk Hammett was inspired by Soundgarden’s Louder Than Love. SF In The Wah Wah Book, P.J. Howorth characterized the main riff as “sinister.” WK Hammett constructed the music for “Enter Sandman” with James Hetfield, the band’s rhythm guitarist and lead singer, and drummer Lars Ulrich. The song was the first to be written musically for the new album and the band has said it served as the “foundation, the guide to the whole record.” WK

Nonetheless, the song was the last to have lyrics, which were written by Hetfield about children’s nightmares. Blender’s Tim Grierson says the lyrics “juxtapose childhood bedtime rituals and nightmarish imagery.” WK Hetfield includes references to the bedtime prayer “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and the lullaby “Hush Little Baby.” The sandman is a character from Western folklore who makes children sleep. Rolling Stone’s Robert Palmer called the song “possibly the first metal lullaby.” WK

“Enter Sandman” was voted Song of the Year in the 1991 Readers Choice Awards for Metal Edge and was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Song. All Music Guide’s Chris True called the song “one of Metallica’s best moments” and “a burst of stadium level metal that, once away from the buildup intro, never lets up.” AMG

The video for the song included images of childhood dreams of drowning, falling, being covered in snakes, and being chased. Pop Matters’ Andrew Blackie said the video’s “narrative suits the sludgy riffs and James Hetfield’s twisted lullaby lyric.” WK It won Best Hard Rock Video at the 1992 MTV Video Music Awards.


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First posted 1/25/2021; last updated 7/23/2023.

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