Closer (Nine Inch Nails song)

Last updated
"Closer"
Closer to god US.jpg
US CD single cover
Single by Nine Inch Nails
from the album The Downward Spiral
B-side
  • "March of the Fuckheads"
  • "Memorabilia"
ReleasedMay 30, 1994 (1994-05-30)
Format
Studio Le Pig (Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles)
The Record Plant, A&M Studios (Hollywood, Los Angeles)
Genre
Length6:13
Label
Songwriter(s) Trent Reznor
Producer(s)
Nine Inch Nails singles chronology
"March of the Pigs"
(1994)
"Closer"
(1994)
"The Perfect Drug"
(1997)
Halo numbers chronology
Halo 8
(1994)
Halo 9
(1994)
Halo 10
(1995)
Audio sample
"Closer"
Music video
“Closer” (Director’s Cut) on YouTube

"Closer" is an industrial rock song by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails from their second studio album, The Downward Spiral (1994). It was released on May 30, 1994 as the album's second single. Most versions of the single are titled "Closer to God", a rare example in music of a single's title differing from the title of its A-side. ("Closer to God" is also the title of an alternate version of "Closer" featured on the single.) Labeled "Halo 9", the single is the ninth official Nine Inch Nails release.

Industrial rock music genre

Industrial rock is an alternative rock genre that fuses industrial music and rock music.

Nine Inch Nails American industrial rock band

Nine Inch Nails, commonly abbreviated as NIN, is an American industrial rock band formed in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio. Singer, producer and instrumentalist Trent Reznor was the only permanent member until the addition of English musician Atticus Ross in 2016.

<i>The Downward Spiral</i> 1994 studio album by Nine Inch Nails

The Downward Spiral is the second studio album by American industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, released on March 8, 1994, by Nothing Records and Interscope Records in the United States and by Island Records in Europe. It is a concept album detailing the destruction of a man from the beginning of his "downward spiral" to his death by suicide. The Downward Spiral features elements of industrial rock, techno and heavy metal music, in contrast to the band's synthpop-influenced debut album Pretty Hate Machine (1989), and was produced by Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor and Flood.

Contents

A promotional single provided by the label to radio stations included both long and short vocal-censored-i.e.: silenced profanity-versions. [1] In spite of misinterpretations of the song as a lust anthem, "Closer" became Nine Inch Nails' most successful single up to that time, cemented Reznor's status as an industrial rock icon, and remains arguably his best-known song. Censored versions of the song and its Mark Romanek-directed music video received substantial airplay on radio and MTV.

Mark Romanek American film director

Mark Romanek is an American filmmaker whose directing work includes feature films, television, music videos and commercials. Romanek wrote and directed the 2002 film One Hour Photo and directed the 2010 film Never Let Me Go. His most notable music videos include "Hurt", "Closer", "Can't Stop", "Bedtime Story" (Madonna), "Scream", "Criminal", and "Shake It Off". He also co-directed "Sandcastles" from Beyoncé’s Lemonade album. Romanek's music videos have won 20 MTV Video Music Awards, including Best Direction for Jay-Z's "99 Problems", and he has won three Grammy Awards for Best Short Form Music Video - more than any other director.

A music video is a short film that integrates a song with imagery, and is produced for promotional or artistic purposes. Modern music videos are primarily made and used as a marketing device intended to promote the sale of music recordings. There are also cases where songs are used in tie-in marketing campaigns that allow them to become more than just a song. Tie-ins and merchandising can be used for toys or for food or other products. Although the origins of the music video date back to musical short films that first appeared in the 1920s, they again came into prominence in the 1980s when the channel MTV based their format around the medium. Prior to the 1980s, these kinds of videos were described by various terms including "illustrated song", "filmed insert", "promotional (promo) film", "promotional clip", "promotional video", "song video", "song clip" or "film clip".

MTV American pay television channel

MTV is an American pay television channel launched on August 1, 1981 that serves as the flagship property of the Viacom Media Networks division of Viacom headquartered in New York City.

Composition

"Closer" has been described as industrial rock, [2] [3] [4] [5] techno, [6] and alternative rock. [7] [8] "Closer" uses elements of funk, [9] avant-garde, [10] and electronic music. [11] The drum track of "Closer" features a heavily modified bass drum sample from the Iggy Pop song "Nightclubbing" from his album The Idiot . The bass drum in "Nightclubbing" was from a Roland drum machine. The samples were produced using two Akai S1100 samplers, each with an expander (essentially four samplers). The samples were then combined with beats produced by a Roland R-70 drum machine. [12] The production features sound effects such as a bass squelch, synth echo, and feedback growl. [13]

Techno is a form of electronic dance music that emerged in Detroit, Michigan, in the United States in the mid-to-late 1980s. Techno is generally repetitive instrumental music, often produced for use in a continuous DJ set. The central rhythm is often in common time (4/4), while the tempo typically varies between 120 to 150 beats per minute (bpm). Artists may use electronic instruments such as drum machines, sequencers, and synthesizers, as well as digital audio workstations. Drum machines from the 1980s such as Roland's TR-808 and TR-909 are highly prized, and software emulations of such retro instruments are popular.

Alternative rock is a style of rock music that emerged from the independent music underground of the 1970s and became widely popular in the 1980s. In this instance, the word "alternative" refers to the genre's distinction from mainstream rock music. The term's original meaning was broader, referring to a generation of musicians unified by their collective debt to either the musical style or simply the independent, DIY ethos of punk rock, which in the late 1970s laid the groundwork for alternative music. At times, "alternative" has been used as a catch-all description for music from underground rock artists that receives mainstream recognition, or for any music, whether rock or not, that is seen to be descended from punk rock. Although the genre evolved in the late 1970s and 1980s, music anticipating the sound of the genre can be found as early as the 1960s, with bands such as The Velvet Underground and artists such as Syd Barrett.

Funk is a music genre that originated in African-American communities in the mid-1960s when African-American musicians created a rhythmic, danceable new form of music through a mixture of soul music, jazz, and rhythm and blues (R&B). Funk de-emphasizes melody and chord progressions and focuses on a strong rhythmic groove of a bass line played by an electric bassist and a drum part played by a drummer, often at slower tempos than other popular music. Like much of African-inspired music, funk typically consists of a complex groove with rhythm instruments playing interlocking grooves that created a "hypnotic" and "danceable feel". Funk uses the same richly colored extended chords found in bebop jazz, such as minor chords with added sevenths and elevenths, or dominant seventh chords with altered ninths and thirteenths.

Radio edits of "Closer" were created by muting the vocal track for the duration of each deleted obscenity. [5]

Lyrically, "Closer" is a song about self-hatred and obsession, but to Reznor's dismay, the song was widely misinterpreted as a lust anthem due to its chorus, which included the line "I wanna fuck you like an animal". [14] In 2003, VH1 ranked the song at number 93 in its countdown of the "100 Greatest Songs of the Past 25 Years." The song was ranked at the number 2 position on AOL's "69 Sexiest Songs of All Time," mostly due to the explicit frankness of the chorus.[ citation needed ] "Come on dude: 'I wanna fuck you like an animal'?" remarked Mötley Crüe drummer and The Downward Spiral contributor Tommy Lee. "That's the all-time fuck song. Those are pure fuck beats – Trent Reznor knew what he was doing. You can fuck to it, you can dance to it and you can break shit to it." [15]

Self-hatred refers to an extreme dislike or hatred of oneself, or being angry at or even prejudiced against oneself.

Fixation is a concept that was originated by Sigmund Freud (1905) to denote the persistence of anachronistic sexual traits. The term subsequently came to denote object relationships with attachments to people or things in general persisting from childhood into adult life.

VH1 American cable television network

VH1 is an American pay television network based in New York City owned by Viacom. It was originally created by Warner-Amex Satellite Entertainment, at the time a division of Warner Communications and the original owner of MTV, and launched on January 1, 1985, in the former space of Turner Broadcasting System's short-lived Cable Music Channel.

In July 2009, the song was voted in at number 62 on Triple J's Hottest 100 of all time, and in 2010 it was number 42 on Pitchfork Media's Top 200 Tracks of the 90s. [16]

Music video

One of the many controversial images from the "Closer" music video. Closer Monkey.jpg
One of the many controversial images from the "Closer" music video.

The music video was directed by Mark Romanek and first aired on May 12, 1994, having been filmed in April of that year. It was cut down from its original length to 4:36. The video was popular and helped bolster the success of the band. Set in what appears to be a 19th-century mad scientist's laboratory, the video's imagery involves religion, sexuality, animal cruelty, politics, and terror, including:

Several times, Reznor, wearing leather pants, floats and rotates through the air, suspended by invisible wires. There are also scenes of Reznor being blown back by a wind machine while wearing aviator goggles.

These images were inspired by the work of Joel-Peter Witkin, [18] as well as by the Brothers Quay's animated short film Street of Crocodiles . [20] For the television version, certain removed scenes were replaced with a title card that read "Scene Missing," and the instances of the word fuck being edited out were accompanied by a stop in the video motion, making it appear as if the stop was a result of defective film (this was supposedly done to make sure the flow of the song was not affected). [21] According to Romanek, the video was filmed using "a slightly out of date film stock but it was still a contemporary film stock."

They had stopped making it three years before and we found some of it. All the new color film stocks have this T-Grain, like little Ts that are interlocking. The film stock we used had the original old granular grain. The new stocks are just really modern looking, really sharp, really contrasty, very fine grain. We didn't want that. Normally you don't want to use that kind of stock because the colors will be off. It does have a shelf life but in this case we didn't care, the more fucked up it was the happier we were. [22]

The unedited version of the video was shown on Playboy TV's music video show Hot Rocks in 1994. In mid-2002, the unedited version aired on MTV2 as part of a special countdown showcasing the most controversial videos ever to air on MTV. This countdown was only shown late at night due to the sexually explicit imagery of "Closer" and several other videos.

In 2006, "Closer" was voted number one in a VH1 Classic poll titled "20 Greatest Music Videos of All Time." [23]

In retrospect, Reznor said of the video that "The rarest of things occurred: where the song sounded better to me, seeing it with the video. And it's my song." [24]

The unedited video is included in Closure , The Downward Spiral (DualDisc), Directors Label Volume 4: The Work Of Director Mark Romanek and VEVO, and it is available for download from the United States iTunes Store under the band's page. Behind-the-scenes footage with commentary by Romanek is included in Closure (DVD) and Directors Label. It is also available on YouTube, and was previously flagged there before this restriction was lifted.

Chart performance

"Closer" had some radio airplay before it was released as a single. This factor increased within weeks, leading Interscope to release the song as a single in May 1994.

When it premiered, the single charted on several Billboard magazine music charts; debuting near the bottom spot of the Billboard Hot 100 , it missed the Top 40 spot (peaking at No. 41). It crawled to No. 11 on the Modern Rock Tracks, and went on to reach No. 35 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, No. 29 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles, and No. 29 Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales, this is the band's first crossover hit and remains their most popular song to date. It was a massive success in Canada on the Canadian pop charts and the Alternative 30 charts both hitting No. 5. [25]

Formats and track listings

The version of "Closer" on the single is 13 seconds longer than the album version; on the album, the piano tune at the end of the song is abruptly cut off in order to segue into the next track, "Ruiner". On the single, the piano and background sounds of "Closer" are allowed to play out longer. [5]

In addition, the U.S. CD single contains five guest remixes of "Closer", a remix of its fellow The Downward Spiral track "Heresy", an instrumental track "March of the Fuckheads" (unrelated to "March of the Pigs"), and a cover version of Soft Cell's song "Memorabilia", from their 1982 EP Non Stop Ecstatic Dancing . The UK single releases contain the same tracks split between two discs (each sold separately). A cassette single was issued in the U.S. and Australia, pairing "Closer" with a live-performance version of NIN's previous single, "March of the Pigs".

The single’s cover artwork was done by photographer Joseph Cultice. [26]

U.S. CD

No.TitleRemixers / contributorsLength
1."Closer to God"
5:05
2."Closer (Precursor)"7:16
3."Closer (Deviation)"
6:15
4."Heresy (Blind)"
5:32
5."Memorabilia"
7:21
6."Closer (Internal)"
  • Bill Kennedy
  • Scott Humphrey
  • John "Geetus" Aguto
  • Paul Decarli
  • Eric Claudiex
4:15
7."March of the Fuckheads" Adrian Sherwood 4:43
8."Closer (Further Away)"
  • Kennedy
  • Humphrey
  • Aguto
  • Decarli
  • Claudiex
5:45
9."Closer" 6:26

U.K. CD

Disc 1: Further Away
No.TitleLength
1."Closer"6:26
2."Closer (Deviation)"6:15
3."Closer (Further Away)"5:45
4."Closer (Precursor)"7:16
5."Closer (Internal)"4:15
Disc 2: Closer to God
No.TitleLength
1."Closer to God"5:05
2."Heresy (Blind)"5:32
3."Memorabilia"7:21
4."March of the Fuckheads"4:43

U.S. cassette

Side A
No.TitleLength
1."Closer"6:25
Side B
No.TitleLength
2."March of the Pigs (Live)" (appears to be the live rerecording from the music video)3:12

U.K. 12" vinyl – Part 1: Further Away

Side A
No.TitleLength
1."Closer (Deviation)" 
2."Closer (Further Away)" 
3."Closer" 
Side B
No.TitleLength
4."Closer (Precursor)" 
5."Closer (Internal)" 

U.K. 12" vinyl – Part 2: Closer to God

Side A
No.TitleLength
1."Closer to God" 
2."March of the Fuckheads" 
Side B
No.TitleLength
3."Heresy (Blind)" 
4."Memorabilia" 

Other versions in other formats and countries have the same track listing as the U.S. CD release.

Personnel

Charts

Chart (1994–95)Peak
position
Australia ARIA Charts 3
Canada RPM Alternative 30 5
Canadian Singles Chart 5
UK Singles (OCC)25
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks 11
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 41

Live performances

During the Self Destruct and Fragility tours, bassist Danny Lohner and guitarist Robin Finck joined Reznor on keyboards for the song, with Reznor performing an extended synth solo.

There are performance videos of "Closer" on And All that Could Have Been and Beside You in Time .

In the tours following the release of With Teeth , Nine Inch Nails performed a shorter version of "Closer" with the keyboard solo played as a guitar solo and a breakdown incorporating a portion of "The Only Time," a track from Pretty Hate Machine . Two performances of this version of the song appear on Beside You in Time .

Cover versions

Related Research Articles

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