Top Ten Thursday: Best Nine Inch Nails Songs
After a hiatus of nearly 4 years, (Has it really already been four years?!) Trent Reznor announced this week that he and a new lineup of all stars will be bringing Nine Inch Nails back to life for a 2013-2014 world tour. (Pause for applause.) If there is one thing we love here at LxL it is our NIN, so we were quite excited to hear this news. Reznor has proven to still show value to the music community in his time off from Nine Inch Nails, especially in the cinema soundtrack world – Reznor teamed up with Atticus Ross to create the scores for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Social Network, which earned him a Golden Globe. However, we are glad to have him back in full-on NIN form. So to celebrate, we have listed our top ten favorite Nine Inch Nails tracks. This was a difficult one to order, especially because after you have seen some of these songs live, you literally aren’t the same person anymore. And unfortunately nothing from The Slip, slipped it’s way into the list. Which it took a lot to leave tracks like “1,000,000” and “Echoplex” off. Nonetheless, we pushed through the disagreements and landed on a list we are quite happy with. We hope you feel the same, but if not, let us know.
10. “Terrible Lie”
When looking back on songs from Pretty Hate Machine, they certainly are not quite as dense as NIN’s newer material. It’s almost as if it was a minimalist version of Nine Inch Nails in some respects. But that doesn’t mean it is any less brilliant. It’s mind blowing that a skinny little punk from Cleveland, Ohio was basically able to create this entirely new genre of music out of thin air and make something like industrial-electronica rock sound so appealing to such a massive audience. This song is a perfect example of why everyone was so drawn to it in 1989, when this sound didn’t exist beforehand.
People who think that just because a song is a popular single that it is incapable of being good are, simply put, quite stupid. Nobody would have guessed in a million years that “Closer” would make it as a single, blasting on public airwaves across the globe, but it did. And it ruled, as did the music video. This is one of the most controversial singles of all time, and a masterful work of art from the seemingly sexually frustrated Reznor. This song will get you closer to God.
8. “The Wretched”
To many, The Fragile is NIN’s magnum opus. It definitely dives down into the darkest and dirtiest of depths for Nine Inch Nails. It reaches levels of complete suffocation at some points before it releases you into a spiral of dizzying, even more darkness. It’s played out slowly, but still holds a lot of intensity that makes for a good Nine Inch Nails album. “The Wretched” is a perfect example of what the album is made up of and equates to one of the best representations of the album.
Year Zero’s greatest gift to the Nine Inch Nails fan base. The album was used as an anti-Bush vessel, conceptualizing a futuristic and near demonic government, and it really spewed out some much ramped up tracks. It was also the first time Reznor didn’t stick with his depressed introspective lyrical format and sang about something else. “Survivalism” brought back a few of the fast-paced/high-intensity elements used in Downward Spiral mixed with this non-introspective lyrical style. This makes for a very fun time and an easy scream-along track that will have you going ape shit at a live show.
6. “Right Were It Belongs”
When Reznor returned from his first hiatus on With Teeth, his voice didn’t change much, but his demeanor, and even his music, did. It came back with more clarity and less aggression, but still carried the intensity. With the insane amount of energy Reznor has the ability to pump out, he also has always been good at slowing things down and emotionally destroying the listener. Whether singing about personal or sociological issues, he always seems to be able to strike a chord on these tracks. This track is one of his best examples of doing this.
Thanks to Johnny Cash for allowing Nine Inch Nails to provide us with one of the better covers to ever exist. (We wrote this description as a test to see if anyone reads our descriptions. Please don’t let us get away with this.)
4. “Into the Void”
I still remember sitting at a middle school basketball game and having a good friend wrap his headphones, connected to a Sony disc man, around my head with this song blaring through them. This was the first time I ever heard this song, and it was also when I really finally realized how much I loved Nine Inch Nails. This song has stuck with me ever since, and is another quintessential Nails song. Perfectly mixed with crazy distorted bass lines, synth riffs, and a disco-pop vibe that will destroy you. It is also one of the most danceable NIN songs, which also somehow equates to one of the more enjoyable.
3. “Mr Self Destruct”
The end all, be all of album openers. It serves its purpose as a show opener as well. Get ready to rage!
2. “Head Like A Hole”
The little track that could. There is no way in hell Reznor himself could have predicted what this song would do for him. One of the most classic Nine Inch Nails songs, and all that raw fury and Cleveland industry that was pent up in this gifted punk came spewing out like the wrath of Kahn. This track is responsible for launching Reznor’s career. He has never been doubted since (Aside from his David Lynch collaboration with “The Perfect Drug”. David Lynch just makes everything terrible). One of the most memorable live moments I have ever seen in concert was witnessing Reznor go bat-shit insane onstage, punching through his amp, while the guitarist at the time smashed his ax to bits on stage to this song.
1. “March of the Pigs”
Step right up. We feel this song belongs at the top of the list because of its ability to perfectly display both sides of Reznor. It loses control instantly, slowly gains its composure, then releases into a beautifully calming climax. Then repeats! Everything we love about Nine Inch Nails, summed up in three minutes of genius.
The “Just Missed Our List” List:
Wes – “All the Love in the World”
Wes is a very selfish person, and doesn’t like seeing love shown to anyone but himself. This is why this song resonates so well with him.
Todd – “Only”
I know I keep ranting on about how incredible this live show is, but trust me it’s warranted. Once while at Lollapalooza, I was in the midst of a mosh pit going crazy to this very very fun and bouncy NIN tune. As the bridge builds into the chorus it’s impossible to not get swept away and just begin SCREAMING “There is no YOU, there is only ME!” While doing this, I couldn’t help but notice a cute little beauty to my left doing the same thing. As soon as eye contact was made, we shared an extremely brief and violent make out, just in time to rejoin the mosh pit at the climax of the song. It was dirty, and it was weird. And it was one of the better concert moments of my life, and this song has stuck with me ever since.
Austin – “Love Is Not Enough”
Love may not be enough for Austin, but this raw and rancid track is. Sometimes you can find Austin sitting in his parked car, windows up, just blasting this song as he takes his “angers of the day” out on his steering wheel. Twice he’s had an airbag deploy on him. One time “Mr. Self Destruct” came up on his genius playlist and he had to total out his car afterwards. It wasn’t pretty.