A few years ago I shared my list of the top ten Nine Inch Nails songs. Well, as it is bound to happen from time to time, it’s time to revisit the list. Some songs are off the list, others are added, and new entries are worked and squeezes in alongside modern classics. This list is short on obvious hits, so if you’re expecting it to be a countdown of their biggest hits, you’ll end up mistaken. Either way these songs are all just as relevant to a nin fan as some of the other more obvious ones. Today to celebrate the upcoming three night Saenger stand by Reznor and the boys, I give to you the Ten best nin songs. Enjoy!
10. BURN, NATURAL BORN KILLERS SOUNDTRACK
Easily in the top five moments of Reznor at his angriest. Originally meant as part of the “Downward Spiral,” and eventually included on the B – Sides, you can clearly understand it’s placement. The buildup is epic, and seeing it live for the first time was awesome. At the breakdown of “I’m gonna burn this whole world down,” you couldn’t even hear the band over the capacity crowd. It sent the crowd into an even crazier frenzy then we were already in. Speaking again of videos, this one is very, very strange. While Trent has maintained his place in music innovations, sometimes I wish he’d come out with a song like this again, if not just to remind people he still can fuck shit up.
9. WISH, BROKEN
Another angsty song, I see a pattern. This is always a sure fire killer at the concerts. I may be wrong, but for this song I believe they have consistently used similar lighting patterns at every show I’ve seen. It’s a whirlwind, and the video, set in a very dark, slavery like cage, is appropriate. Also, seeing them perform this song alongside Dillinger Escape Plan at Bonnaroo 2009 was the perfect amount of destruction. Dillinger clearly has learned well how to wreck instruments.
8. JUST LIKE YOU IMAGINED, THE FRAGILE
I’ve never seen song used better as an accompaniment to a film trailer until I saw it in the 300 trailer. It works perfectly, in terms of the trailer and in terms of the Spartan warriors themselves. Once it has its mind made up, it doesn’t stop, and it will never let up. It will keep coming until it gets what it deserves. In short terms, it’s just like you imagined. Over the running time of the song it launches you high speed into tense moments, and the song is better for it. Of all the shining moments represented on “The Fragile,” one of the most consistently entertaining is when we enter into a situation where everything is “Just Like You Imagined.”
7. SOMEWHAT DAMAGED, THE FRAGILE
Of all the great opening songs in the Nin catalogue, this certainly has to be among the best. The rising drums, accompanied by the ever evolving synth beats makes for a marvelous beginning track for the phenomenally deep “The Fragile.” The song signifies tragedy at the realization that the world isn’t what it’s supposed to be. That we can always try to posses the best qualities and be the best people we want to be, but sometimes it doesn’t happen that way. We’re all “Somewhat Damaged,” and because of that knowledge we have, the song is all the more powerful and regrettable in its content.
6. GAVE UP, BROKEN
Of all the songs on the violently fast paced “Broken,” “Gave Up” is likely the most powerful. Again using an ever aggressive beat as the backing track, the track is pushed forward by the early minimum usage of classic Reznor whispered spoken word. By the chorus though, the track is operating on all cylinders, using the drum machine in conjunction with the overall beat and Reznors “steady systematic decline” of anger to propel the song. On this list it comes in at number six, and proves an early indicator of the kind of layered, noisy brilliance Reznor is capable of. A true classic track.
5. LESS THAN, ADD VIOLENCE
Clearly a newer song on the list, and perhaps a surprise to those reading, but trust me the song deserves a spot on this list. It has everything a nin fan could want. The beats are as great as the production value, but the magic lies in the lyrics. Initially thought to be a rebuke of our current trump issues, the song instead revolves around the general attitude of right and left wingers, who thrive to push their agenda, whether good or bad on the mass population. I imagine the heat coming from the pot when listening to this song, and the dialogue throughout is genuine and also heartbreaking. I believe the moral of the song is not to force our wants on opposing viewpoints, but to instead try to be the best we can be, and to of course not be Fucking assholes to those if there’s another way around it.
4. MARCH OF THE PIGS, THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
March of the Pigs,” to this day, remains a rabid favorite among fans and it’s inclusion during shows has become the standard by which you measure the intensity of the crowd, and the band overall. It’s a shorter more intense song than many of their others, but in this immediacy the song is able to move like a beast, exacting it’s revenge on those who have spurned it. It’s wildly chaotic with no give, but it’s because of that quality and it’s placement in the tracklisting, it provides its best assets to use. You get crazy vocals, gut wrenching beats and drums, and the wild brutality that is nine inch nails in its most raw form.
3. RUINER, THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL
I really don’t know what this song is about, but it reminds me again of dominance. TDS album as a whole is about a man slowly losing his sanity and seeking destruction, in many different forms. The great part about the album is that you’re never sure exactly at what point his mind betrays him, and if you’re even hearing the same person. As the album progresses (This song is right in the middle) you can clearly see the forces working against our main character, but he simply is no match for whatever he’s facing. Some albums slow down towards the middle. It helps to give listeners a rest. For this album, a rest is simply not an option. There’s a reason this album is still one of the best from the 1990’s. Reznor brought us, and showed us a place that was cold, and wretched, and we loved him for it.
2. IN THIS TWILIGHT, YEAR ZERO
One of my favorite time periods of being a nin fan was without doubt the YZ ARG campaign. Finding new clues all over the internet, looking at images in a post apocalyptic United States was the perfect way to get fans pumped. This song is more hopeful again, but in it hopefulness there's a certain amount of hesitance. The album is about a very close future that we could see ourselves involved in if we keep on with our current lack of priority and care for our system and care of our environment. It’s a grim fucking place. I always imagined this song as an amazing opener, but for people who saw the “ Lights in the Sky” tour, it also is an amazing closer.
1. WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER, THE FRAGILE
This album suffered from what I call the Pinkerton effect. It’s a brilliant album, but for the more casual fans wanting a Downward Spiral 2, it simply wasn’t enough. Having said that, the Fragile builds on the sounds and technologies of TDS and goes further. For one, this song is one the first time we hear anything even remotely positive and reassuring. It’s not a mellow song, but it accomplishes its tasks. I’ve probably heard this song two thousand or so times, and it still makes me smile and giddy like a child. It overshadows all of the other songs on the album, yet still it’s one of the least played songs in the NIN live catalogue. Years ago I remember an interview where TR said it was the best song he ever wrote, and he knew he couldn’t do it justice in concert, so he let it be. Maybe one of these days I can stop spending endless amounts of money seeing them live. But first, I must have my WITT live.
Landon Murray is a New Orleans native, who thrives on painting the world he interprets through the useful forms of all types of art he feels connected to. He's seen over 1000 bands, and had loved mostly every minute of it. He has an amazing 10 year old dog, and is loving life.
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