Song of the Day #5,046: ‘Hurt’ – Nine Inch Nails

Before he was a two-time Academy Award winner (for 2010’s The Social Network and 2020’s Soul), Trent Reznor melted brains and faces with his hardcore industrial music as the sole member of Nine Inch Nails.

The Downward Spiral, released in March of 1994, was NIN’s second full-length album, following the critical and commercial favorite Pretty Hate Machine.

I was and remain a fan of Pretty Hate Machine, which pairs solid songcraft with hard-edged musical experimentation. But I remember hearing and discarding The Downward Spiral pretty quickly.

It surprised me, then, to realize this album ended up performing even better than its predecessor, going 4X Platinum and reaching #2 on Billboard’s album chart. It also receive effusive critical acclaim. So what was I missing?

Nothing, as it turns out. The Downward Spiral is ear-splitting and ugly almost from start to finish. It baffles me that it found a wide audience given how unpleasant a listening experience it offers. I guess people in the mid-90s were just into the rough stuff.

The Downward Spiral does have one worthy moment, and that is closing track ‘Hurt.’ This haunting song was covered by Johnny Cash in 2002, a year before his death, and became a surprise hit.

[Verse 1]
I hurt myself today
To see if I still feel
I focus on the pain
The only thing that’s real
The needle tears a hole
The old familiar sting
Try to kill it all away
But I remember everything

[Pre-Chorus]
What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

[Chorus]
You could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

[Verse 2]
I wear this crown of shit
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

[Pre-Chorus]
What have I become?
My sweetest friend
Everyone I know
Goes away in the end

[Chorus]
And you could have it all
My empire of dirt
I will let you down
I will make you hurt

[Outro]
If I could start again
A million miles away
I would keep myself
I would find a way

One thought on “Song of the Day #5,046: ‘Hurt’ – Nine Inch Nails

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Thank you for featuring the one song from Nine Inch Nails your loyal listeners can tolerate.😀

    And I am endlessly fascinated by the choices Johnny Cash made both with regard to covers and artists with whom he associated or collaborated.

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