When I think of Metallica, the image that haunts me to this day is the 1991 music video for “Enter Sandman.” Pajama-clad bodies falling from the sky, semis running down sleepwalking children, snakes slithering through a kid’s bed, and all that mullet hair in slow-flow—it was all a provocative nightmare, almost as scary as the time the L.A. band invited Marianne Faithfull to sing on “The Memory Remains.” Almost.
So when news broke that the foursome would be the latest band to unveil a line of Vans shoes (yes, the skater kicks) this month, was I the only one scratching my head? Somehow canvas slips-on are a little more King Nothing than Master of Puppets. After all, this is the band so protective of their music they’d just as quickly sue Napster and hold out on pay-per-song sites like Apple’s iTunes—but designing shoes, creating a 3D movie with the man behind My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and hosting a night at the San Francisco Giants game (with collectible hat!) are all fair game.
Surely it’s not the first or last time a band has partnered with an iconic brand or created a product, but today’s Darwinian survival-of-the-most-exposed is beyond bizarre. Just last week, Billy Corgan premiered a ridiculous commercial smashing furniture with members of his wrestling league for local home good scions Walter E. Smithe. And then there’s the news that metal label Roadrunner Records recently announced a partnership with Six Flags to develop the first-ever song for a roller coaster (written by Australian band Airbourne).
I get it, it’s extra income, and Lana del Rey could sell the Nespresso coffeemaker to anyone—even a Mormon. Even the one-off liquor line like Marilyn Manson’s Mansinthe, Maynard James Keenan’s Caduceus Cellars wine label, and Motorhead’s selection of wines, beers, and vodka make some sense. If nothing else, they can stock their own tour buses. But at least let’s leave the shoe designing to Jessica Simpson.
Selena Fragassi is a contributing music critic for Chicago magazine.
Photograph: Courtesy of Vans