Nine Inch Nails
"Something's gonna get BROKEN!"
Nine Inch Nails is an Industrial Metal band who have been rolling around the musical scene since 1989, releasing music videos which have ranged from politically subversive to the sort of video which answers the question 'What if Hostel had been a set for music videos?'
They're somewhat unusual in that it's essentially one man, Trent Reznor, who's done all of it. Most members have come and gone, occasionally contributing to albums but mostly staying for the live shows. In 2009, Reznor announced that he retired from touring, though that he was going to continue to release albums under the Nine Inch Nails name; he ended up reneging on this four years later when he went on tour in assistance of the new album at that time Hesitation Marks. Also in 2016, Atticus Ross, a long time collaborator, was made an official member of the band.
The music is surprisingly varied, from ear-destroying screaming guitar-death on Broken to beautiful, mellow piano pieces on Still; but most of it falls squarely under True Art Is Angsty.
In contrast to his highly brutal Industrial Metal output, Reznor in person is more of a Mean Character, Nice Actor, being very active in his community and generally a pretty nice guy. Also in the same vein, he was friends with Tori Amos - he even sang backing vocals on one of her songs (the past tense is Courtney Love's fault).
In the past couple of years, though, Reznor has taken a break from new Nine Inch Nails work and instead focused on a project with his wife Mariqueen Maandig, called How to Destroy Angels, active from 2010 to 2013, as well as on film soundtracks. Along with Atticus Ross, Reznor has composed the score for The Social Network, for which the duo won an Oscar for Best Original Music Score, 2011's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and 2014's Gone Girl (all for director David Fincher). (Reznor also provided the soundtrack to Quake and recorded tracks for Doom 3 that didn't make it into the final game (although they can still be found in the game files)).
- Pretty Hate Machine (1989) - Nine Inch Nails' debut, at points showing the way towards the Industrial Metal that they'd popularize and at other points sounding like evil Depeche Mode.
- Broken (1992 EP) - This is where Reznor definitely adopted harsh Industrial Metal, updating his electronics, putting the guitars in the forefront and employing a more abrasive production.
- Fixed (1992) - A remix album of Broken.
- The Downward Spiral (1994) - A Concept Album, bordering on Rock Opera, about one man's anger, downfall and eventual suicide. Loved by critics, it's considered as one of the most important albums of the 1990s. And yes, it's the one with the "fuck you like an animal" song on it.
- Further Down the Spiral (1995) - The remix album of the above.
- The Fragile (1999) - A double album (and possibly another Concept Album, albeit one with a less tightly structured narrative than The Downward Spiral) beloved by fans. Famously debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts, then dropped to #16 the next week, the only album ever to have dropped that low from #1.
- Things Falling Apart (2000) - Remix album
- And All That Could Have Been (2002) - Live album recorded during the Fragility 2.0 tour.
- Still (2002) - Acoustic, stripped-down companion piece to the above, including alternate versions of older songs as well as some new and thoroughly depressing tracks.
- With Teeth (2005)
- Year Zero (2007) - A futuristic-dystopia-type Concept Album; accompanied by an extensive ARG).
- Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D (Year Zero Remixed) (2007) - After the clever names for the other remix albums, something of a let down, though it is a clever reference to the hackers and digital 1337-folk that discovered the Year Zero sites.
- Ghosts I-IV (2008) - Contains 36 instrumental tracks on four discs. Notable for being obtainable in about twenty different ways, and all the tracks not having proper names and being called by names such as '2 Ghosts I' and '22 Ghosts III'.
- The Slip (2008) - Released completely for free on the website as a "thank you" to fans. Theories exist among fans that this is another Concept Album, following the aftermath of Year Zero.
- Hesitation Marks (2013) - Released through major label Columbia Records.
- Not The Actual Events (2016 EP) - Self-released, the first entry in a trilogy. Digital versions bought from the NIN store came with a "physical component".
- Add Violence (2017 EP) - The second entry in a trilogy. Also came with a "physical component" for the NIN store digital version.
- Bad Witch (2018) - The third entry in a trilogy, first meant as an EP before being developed into a full album.
There have been five DVDs (sort of):
- Broken Movie (1993) - essentially one long extended music video for the Broken EP, made to look (very convincingly) like a Snuff Film. Never got released, though a handful of VHS tapes exist, and torrents were released by Trent in late 2006. Directed by the late Peter Christopherson.
- Closure (1997) - two-disk VHS/DVD set, one tape/disk chronicles the chaotic Self Destruct tour of '95-'96, the other is a collection of music videos that had been released thus far. (The DVD version got caught in red tape, so Trent got fed up and released torrents of that as well.)
- And All That Could Have Been (2002) - included with the "deluxe" album of the same name, it's the live concert DVD of the 2000 Fragility 2.0 tour, and is littered with Easter Eggs.
- Beside You In Time (2007) - live concert DVD of the 2005-2006 Live: With Teeth tour.
- Another Version of the Truth (2009) - an entirely free fan-created live concert film assembled from over 400 GB of clips Reznor released on the Internet. In response to the finished product, Reznor responded, "Nine Inch Nails fans kick ass. Blown away."
- Happiness in Slavery (obviously)
- The Fragile ("The Wretched")
- Prototype 2 ("Hurt", image caption)
- This very page, funnily enough.
Tropes used in NIN videos:
- Amusement Park of Doom: "Starfuckers, Inc."
- And I Must Scream: "Pinion".
- Ate His Gun: How the character in The Downward Spiral (both the song and the album) chooses to go. The Freudian imagery is everywhere.
- Bad Vibrations: "Only".
- Bound and Gagged: Trent in "Closer". Trent in "Sin," too, though only for the bound part. Also, the character in "Help Me I am in Hell".
- Bowdlerise: In the music video and radio edit versions, "Starfuckers, Inc." became "Starsuckers, Inc."
- Call Back: "In This Twilight" calls back to "Survivalism:" "...the world we set on fire..."
- Chorus-Only Song: "Closer".
- Deliberately Monochrome: "Survivalism", "We're in This Together".
- Fading Into the Next Song: Used frequently, especially on The Downward Spiral and The Fragile.
- Fan Disservice: "Closer", "Happiness in Slavery".
- Gorn: The Broken movie. Textbook Gorn. Also "Happiness in Slavery," to extremes.
- Hell-Bent for Leather: Many music videos include someone wearing leather. Trent himself wore leather (latex?) gloves quite often in earlier years.
- Jigsaw Puzzle Plot: "Deep".
- Last-Note Nightmare: "Hurt".
- Mind Screw: "The Perfect Drug", "Help Me I am in Hell".
- The Oner: "March of the Pigs".
- Performance Video: "March of the Pigs," "Gave up," "The Hand that Feeds," "Wish," "Survivalism."
- Rule of Symbolism: Both "Closer" and "The Perfect Drug", directed by Mark Romanek, hold symbolic imagery that mostly have to do with famous photos.
- Second Verse Curse: "Closer".
- Snuff Film: Broken, again.
- Spit Trail Kiss: "Deep", though it's technically a spit trail lick.
- Take That: "Starfuckers, Inc."`The song itself is a huge 'take that!' at celebrities and fame in general, and Word of God admits it had a lot to do with Marilyn Manson in particular. Manson realized this and made a video out of it, which took more specific shots at Pamela Anderson, Fred Durst, Gene Simmons, and Trent himself, among others. Oh, and it also portrayed a fat, ugly Courtney Love.
Tropes that generally apply to NIN:
- AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle: U-WIH-thu TEE-thuh!
- Addiction Displacement: After finally getting clean of drugs and alcohol, Reznor became a weight-lifting enthusiast.
- Alone in a Crowd: "All the Love in the World."
- Angst: Most songs.
- Ascended Fanboy: Trent is a huge Roger Waters fan, which only made it all the more amusingly tragic during a 2003 Guitar World interview that paired them up; Trent fell all over himself declaring how much he loved and respected Waters' solo work, only for Waters to apologetically state that he'd never heard any of NIN's music. Trent actually took it surprisingly well. It became a Running Gag on The Meathead Perspective.
- Author Vocabulary Calendar: The fact that this page exists.
- Awesome McCoolname: Trent Reznor. Just say it.
- The Backwards R: The Cyrillic И, often used to make the initials symmetrical.
- Badass Beard: Has been known to sport one on occasion and had a nice one at the Oscars
- Bishonen: Reznor was quite pretty in his younger years.
- Canon Discontinuity: Any release without a Halo number. Most of these were forced by the record company. Reznor is very open about how he feels about that.
- Careful with That Axe + Metal Scream: One must admit Trent's got a great voice for Industrial Metal.
- Cluster F-Bomb + Precision F-Strike
- Especially live.
- Concept Album: The Downward Spiral, Year Zero.
- Also, Word of God is that The Fragile is a loose concept album about depression.
- Continuity Nod: "Only" is basically this to "Down in It": the latter is halo 1 while the former is halo 20, the vocal delivery is very similar, and "Only" even refers to a lyric from "Down in It":
Just then a tiny little dot / Caught my eye it was just about too small to see / But I watched it way too long / It was pulling me down - "Down in It"
- Control Freak: Trent himself admits to being this, and it shows up in many songs.
- The character in The Downward Spiral appeared to be this, as well.
- Creator Breakdown: Oh, the Creator Breakdown... see The Downward Spiral for the results!
- Cut Song: Most notably, "Just Do It", which was left off The Downward Spiral at the advice of producer Flood, who considered it too "up front" about the act of suicide.
- From that same album, "The Beauty of the Drug."
- Cybernetics Eat Your Soul: "The Becoming," symbolically.
- Dark Is Not Evil: See above.
- Darkwave: Pretty Hate Machine is a bit more synth-heavy than later releases and sounds very much like twisted Synth Pop.
- Deliberately Monochrome: Lots of publicity photos.
- Digital Piracy Is Okay: Encouraged by Reznor himself, out of spite for the record industry.
- Not just subverted; subverted to the point where he actually encouraged fans to steal his own music due to his loathing of how badly his record company was screwing his fans.
- Downer Ending: The aptly titled The Downward Spiral ends on an excruciatingly depressing note with the character's suicide, while Year Zero ends with The End of the World as We Know It.
- The End of the World as We Know It: How Year Zero ends.
- Everything Is an Instrument: Trent has been exploring and exploiting the ways computers and samples can be used to make music from the beginning.
- God Is Dead: "Heresy".
- Happiness in Slavery: The song is the trope namer!
- Heterosexual Life Partners: From about 1985 until 1997, Trent had this kind of relationship with Chris Vrenna.
- This friendship spanned earlier than that; they became friends as teenagers, owing to the fact that they grew up within fifty miles (90 km) of one another (Vrenna is originally from Erie, Pennsylvania; Reznor is from a town called Mercer, about forty minutes south).
- Lately, he seems to be developing this type of relationship with Atticus Ross.
- "I Am" Song: "Mr. Self Destruct" and its remixes, "Big Man with a Gun," and "Sanctified."
- Important Haircut: Trent cut his trademark long, messy hair sometime after getting over his addiction problems and recording With Teeth. He's had a buzz cut ever since.
- Incredibly Lame Pun: This gem from "The Only Time": My moral standing is lying down (geddit?).
- Industrial Metal: The Trope Codifier, too.
- Industrial: Songs like "Heresy" and "The Becoming" off of The Downward Spiral show that Trent still (back then, at least) could make genuine Industrial music.
- Intentionally Awkward Title: Despite various apocryphal origin stories, Trent's basic story on how he came to "Nine Inch Nails" as the band name is simple: it sounded cool and abbreviated easily.
- Intercourse with You: So many of their songs.
- Last-Note Nightmare: "Hurt".
- Lyrical Dissonance: "Everyday is Exactly the Same" is one of NIN's softer and, quite frankly, more "mainstream" songs. It's also one of the most depressing.
- Madness Mantra: "Echoplex".
- From "The Becoming": "It won't give up, it wants me dead, and goddamn this noise inside my head". Also counts as Nightmare Fuel.
- Also, "Piggy" (and about half the songs on The Downward Spiral, really) and "Into the Void"... And more. Trent's very fond of this trope.
- Minimalistic Cover Art: Pretty Hate Machine, Broken, The Downward Spiral... ah hell, every one of their albums has this.
- Mondegreen: In one interview Trent Reznor wanted to drive home the point that in "Head Like a Hole" he is saying "God/money" and not "Got money?", and in "Down in It", he is saying "I was up above it" and not "Eyes of a puppet."
- There's a photo out there of one of guitarist Aaron North's setlists on the With_Teeth tour, that reads "Down In It, aka Eyes Of A Puppet", along with a few other jokes.
- Mood Dissonance: "The Becoming" contrasts ominous industrial sounds and lyrics about dehumanization with surprisingly low-key vocals.
- Mood Whiplash: "March of the Pigs," and "With Teeth." Also arguably "I Do Not Want this," especially if you agree with the popular theory that it's two different sides of the character speaking.
- Song-to-song transition example: on The Downward Spiral, the noisy and hyper-aggressive "Big Man with a Gun" is followed by the calm ambient soundscapes of "A Warm Place," which is then followed by the slow-burning aggression of "Eraser."
- Which is then followed by the pulsing, ripping sound of "Reptile."
- My God, What Have I Done?: Quite a few of Trent's songs are about regret; notable examples are "Gave Up" (After everything I've done/I hate myself for what I've become) and "Zero Sum" (Shame on us/After everything we've done.)
- Nietzsche Wannabe: The character in The Downward Spiral, to the point of actually quoting him. Trent himself had moments like these in earlier interviews.
- Obligatory Bondage Song: Subverted by "Happiness In Slavery".
- Quite frankly, Trent has many songs that seem like this unless you're following the continuity of the album they're in. "Meet Your Master" is a good example of this. Alternatively, you might not realize that songs like "Happiness in Slavery" or "Head Like a Hole" are actually about record labels unless you actually know about Trent's history with them. There's also "Sin," which sounds like a song about D/s, which really isn't helped by the ridiculously fetishistic Music Video...which is a lot like most of their videos. So really, it's more like Obligatory Bondage Music Video...
- Obsession Song: A few songs have themes of this, in particular "Closer to God," a remix of "Closer," and "Kinda I Want to."
- Piss-Take Rap: The weird, hybrid sing-rapping Trent does in "Down In It".
- Also, "Where Is Everybody" and possibly "Capital G" might count.
- Pop Star Composer
- Product Placement: Could easily be a coincidence, but in a film that Reznor worked on the soundtrack for a character is seen wearing a Nine Inch Nails t-shirt.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: "No, You Don't" is basically one big verbal bitch-slap to someone who may or may not be Courtney Love (she gets a more direct mockery in the video for "Starfuckers Inc."). Also, "You Know What You Are?", and arguably "Happiness in Slavery".
- Also, "Starfuckers Inc." itself counts as one (possibly also at Courtney Love, though it's also said to be directed at Fred Durst and Marilyn Manson as well- it even imitates Manson's apparent habit of having to record vocals in MANY takes... Funnily enough, he later joined Reznor on stage to perform it.)
- Those songs only really count as this outside the context of the albums they're part of (with the exception of You Know What You Are?", which does not come from a concept album). Within the context of the albums to which they belong, they mostly just reinforce said concept and are (or seem) much less directed at any one person...
- Record Producer: Trent's personally produced every single NIN album, with help from various others at some points, like Adrian Sherwood and John Fryer (Pretty Hate Machine), Flood (Broken, The Downward Spiral) and Alan Moulder (The Fragile, With Teeth). All the NIN albums since Year Zero have been credited to Reznor, Moulder and Atticus Ross.
- Recurring Riff: There's a descending melodic line that appears in several songs on The Downward Spiral, albeit in different keys.
- "La Mer" and "Into the Void" both share basslines, though on "La Mer", it's not the main riff.
- Recycled Trailer Music: Quite a few action movies use NIN songs in their trailers nowadays.
- Religion Rant Song: "Heresy" and "Ruiner" from The Downward Spiral, "Terrible Lie" from Broken, and judging by Word of God, "Capital G" from Year Zero as well.
- Sampling: Not only from the obligatory old horror and sci-fi movies, but also occasionally from other artists. Pretty Hate Machine's liner notes thanked Prince, Public Enemy and Jane's Addiction among others because Trent sampled them. "Big Man with a Gun" from The Downward Spiral begins with a sample of what is apparently a porn star having an orgasm, heavily processed so as to be unrecognizable. The album booklet gives the sample the Non-Indicative Name of "Steakhouse".
- Self-Backing Vocalist: Virtually all of the background vocals on Trent's songs are...well, Trent. The only songs with audibly non-Trent contributions from the band's entire career are "La Mer" (which is instrumental apart from Denise Milfrot's French mumbling) and "Pilgrimage" (which is instrumental with indistinct militaristic chanting in the background).
- Sanity Slippage Song: The Downward Spiral is 14 tracks of this.
- Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: "All the Love in the World."
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "A Warm Place"
- "Zero Sum," the last track on Year Zero, and "Lights in the Sky," from The Slip.
- Most of his piano pieces fall under this.
- Take That: Quite a few.
- The "eat your heart out, Steve" whisper at the start of "Physical" is directed at Steve Gottlieb, the head of TVT Records who tried to interfere with the recording of Broken and prevent Trent from moving to Interscope.
- The video for "Starfuckers Inc." mocks Courtney Love, and depicts Trent throwing copies of his own album and Mechanical Animals in the trash at a carnival attraction.
- Testosterone Poisoning: "Big Man With a Gun".
- Textless Album Cover: The Fragile (only a portion of the NIN logo is visible), Year Zero, and The Slip.
- The Plan: The entire game leading up to the release (and beyond) of Year Zero. It's complicated.
- Title-Only Chorus: "With Teeth," "Terrible Lie," "Starfuckers, Inc.," "That's What I Get."
- Title Track: The Downward Spiral and With Teeth are straight examples. Ghosts I-IV takes this trope to its Logical Extreme: every single song on that album (yes, all 36 of them) are titled with their track number, the word "Ghost" and either I, II, III, or IV.
- Uncommon Time: The verses of "March of the Pigs" are three bars of 7/8 followed by one bar of 8/8. Similarly, most of "The Becoming" takes the form of a bar of 7/4 followed by a bar of 6/4.
- Understatement: The song "Somewhat Damaged" is about a guy who's really, really damaged.
- World of Cardboard Speech: Good God, "The Great Destroyer."
- Vocal Evolution: Like it or not, Trent's voice and style has changed a lot from the beginning. This is most evident in Year Zero.
- Zeroes and Ones: The very last lyric on Year Zero.
Shame on us/for all we have done/and all we ever were/just zeroes and ones