Closer (Nine Inch Nails song)
US CD single cover
|Single by Nine Inch Nails|
|from the album The Downward Spiral|
|Released||May 30, 1994|
|Studio||Le Pig (Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles)|
The Record Plant, A&M Studios (Hollywood, Los Angeles)
|Nine Inch Nails singles chronology|
|Halo numbers chronology|
"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.
A promotional single provided by the label to radio stations included both long and short vocal-censored-i.e.: silenced profanity-versions. 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.
"Closer" has been described as industrial rock, techno, and alternative rock. "Closer" uses elements of funk, avant-garde, and electronic music. 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. The production features sound effects such as a bass squelch, synth echo, and feedback growl.
Radio edits of "Closer" were created by muting the vocal track for the duration of each deleted obscenity.
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". 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. "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."
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:
- A heart connected to some sort of device; the beat of the heart corresponds to the beat of the song
- A little girl lounging on a chair
- A nude, bald woman with a crucifix mask.
- A monkey tied to a cross.
- A severed pig's head spinning on some type of machine.
- A diagram of the vulva/vagina.
- Reznor wearing various fetish gear, such as an S&M mask, ball gag, and long leather gloves while swinging in shackles.
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, as well as by the Brothers Quay's animated short film Street of Crocodiles. 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). 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.
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 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."
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.
"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. 
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.
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.
- TVT Records / Interscope Records / Atlantic Records 95905–2
- TVT Records / Interscope Records 0694959052 (Reissue)
|No.||Title||Remixers / contributors||Length|
|1.||"Closer to God"||5:05|
|7.||"March of the Fuckheads"||Adrian Sherwood||4:43|
|8.||"Closer (Further Away)"||5:45|
|Disc 1: Further Away|
|3.||"Closer (Further Away)"||5:45|
|Disc 2: Closer to God|
|1.||"Closer to God"||5:05|
|4.||"March of the Fuckheads"||4:43|
|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
- Island Records 12IS 596 854 059–1 – UK 12" Vinyl 1
|2.||"Closer (Further Away)"|
U.K. 12" vinyl – Part 2: Closer to God
- Island Records 12ISX 596 854 061–1 – UK 12" Vinyl 2
|1.||"Closer to God"|
|2.||"March of the Fuckheads"|
Other versions in other formats and countries have the same track listing as the U.S. CD release.
- Trent Reznor – vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboards, synthesizers, programming
- Chris Vrenna – drum samples (drum sample taken from Iggy Pop's "Nightclubbing")
- Flood – hi-hat
|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|
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.
- "Closer" has been covered by many musical acts, including MGMT, Blood on the Dance Floor, Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine, Eric Gorfain, Maroon 5, Maxwell, The Asylum Street Spankers, Asking Alexandria, Rosetta Stone, In This Moment and Japanese Voyeurs.
- Thirty Seconds to Mars uses samples from "Closer" when they perform "The Fantasy."
- Toronto-based Alternative R&B act The Weeknd samples "Closer" in the song "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls."
- "Weird Al" Yankovic has paid tribute to "Closer" twice: in "The Alternative Polka" on his album Bad Hair Day, a section of the song was used in which the word "fuck" is replaced with a cartoon sound effects. "Germs" on his Running with Scissors album is a style parody of several Nine Inch Nails songs.
- The Asylum Street Spankers occasionally perform a bluegrass version, available at the Live Music Archive.
- In 1995, the Australian novelty act Nine Inch Richards covered the song under the title "Closer To Hogs". Sung in a southern drawl, it combined Trent Reznor's sexually charged lyrics with barnyard animal samples, humorously implying that the song is about bestiality. A video clip of the parody was taken at the Sydney Royal Easter Show. This single peaked at #51 in Australia.
- In 2008, Sy Smith performed the song as part of her "Conflict Tour". In August 2010, Smith performed the song again at "Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Heights Plaza".
- In 2014, from the compilation album in the Punk Goes 90's 2 has been covered by British metalcore Asking Alexandria.
- In 2016, singer-songwriter Father John Misty covered the song live in Chicago during two separate performances.
- Fellow Interscope act Limp Bizkit parodied "Closer" (as well "The Perfect Drug" and "Burn") in their song "Hot Dog". The chorus goes, "You wanna fuck me like an animal, You'd like to burn me on the inside, You like to think that I'm a perfect drug, Just know that nothing you do will bring you closer to me." Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst said he was a big fan of Nine Inch Nails, who has additionally inspired his music.
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No less than director Terry Gilliam has called Crocodiles the greatest animated film of all time, and it served as a direct inspiration for the music video for “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails.
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"Hot Dog"... takes on Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor in what Durst has described as a parody of NIN...
- Interview with Fred Durst by K-Rock New York. 2000.
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