Closer (Nine Inch Nails song)

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Closer to god US.jpg
US CD single cover
Single by Nine Inch Nails
from the album The Downward Spiral
  • "March of the Fuckheads"
  • "Memorabilia"
Released May 30, 1994 (1994-05-30)
Recorded 1993–94;
Le Pig (Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles)
The Record Plant, A&M Studios (Hollywood, Los Angeles)
Length 6:13
Writer(s) Trent Reznor
Nine Inch Nails singles chronology
"March of the Pigs"
"The Perfect Drug"
Halo numbers chronology
"Halo 8"
"Halo 9"
"Halo 10"
Music sample

"Closer" is a 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 NIN release.

A promotional single provided by the label to radio stations included both long and short vocal-censored-i.e.: silenced profanity-versions.[5] 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"'s drum track features a heavily modified bass drum sample from the Iggy Pop song "Nightclubbing" from his album The Idiot.[6] The song makes use of the Roland TR-808 drum machine, along with a bass squelch, synth echo, and feedback growl.[7]

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

Lyrically, "Closer" is a meditation on 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".[8] 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 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. Since I'm engaged now [to Mayte Garcia], I'll just say that the most memorable episode that I remember with 'Closer' took place on a swing."[9]

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.[10]

Music video[edit]

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:

  • A heart connected to some sort of device; the beat of the heart corresponds to the beat of the song
  • 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 seem to be inspired by the art of Joel-Peter Witkin, as well as Francis Bacon and George Tooker. The video is also very heavily inspired 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 director Mark 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.[11]

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 graphic 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." [12]

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."[13]

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.

Music charts[edit]

"Closer" had some radio airplay before it was released as a single. This factor increased within weeks, leading Interscope to release the song 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 number 41). It crawled to number 11 on the Modern Rock Tracks, and went on to reach number 35 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, number 29 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles, and number 29 Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales, this is the band's first crossover hit and remains their most popular song to date. The single's highest peak is the Top 5 on the Canadian Singles Chart. "Closer" didn't top any of these charts, and failed to reach number one.[14] However, it didn't gain enough success in the US, it was a massive success in Canada on the Canadian pop charts and the Alternative 30 charts both hitting number 5.



Chart (1994–95) Peak
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 performance[edit]

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 this appear on Beside You in Time.

The single[edit]

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 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 album art was done by photographer Joseph Cultice.[15]

U.S. CD[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Closer to God" (Remixed by Trent Reznor, Sean Beavan, Brian Pollack) 5:05
2. "Closer (Precursor)" (Remixed by Coil, Danny Hyde) 7:16
3. "Closer (Deviation)" (Remixed by Jack Dangers, Craig Silvey) 6:15
4. "Heresy (Blind)" (Remixed by Dave Ogilvie, Anthony Valcic, Joe Bisara) 5:32
5. "Memorabilia" 7:21
6. "Closer (Internal)" (Remixed by Bill Kennedy, Scott Humphrey, John "Geetus" Aguto, Paul Decarli, Eric Claudiex) 4:15
7. "March of the Fuckheads" (Remixed by Adrian Sherwood) 4:43
8. "Closer (Further Away)" (Remixed by Kennedy, Humphrey, Aguto, Decarli, Claudiex) 5:45
9. "Closer" 6:26

U.K. CD[edit]

Disc 1: Further Away
No. Title Length
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. Title Length
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[edit]

Side A
No. Title Length
1. "Closer" 6:25
Side B
No. Title Length
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[edit]

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

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

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

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

Cover versions[edit]


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  2. ^ Dyer, Richard (1999). Seven – BFI Modern Classics. British Film Institute. p. 12. ISBN 0-85170-723-8. Retrieved 9 April 2014. 
  3. ^ McGovern, Kyle. "The 100 Best Alternative Rock Songs of 1994: #1 (Nine Inch Nails – Closer)". Spin. Retrieved September 12, 2014. 
  4. ^
  5. ^[dead link]
  6. ^ Greg Rule (April 1994). "Trent Reznor". Keyboard. 
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  8. ^ Huxley, Martin (September 1997). Nine Inch Nails: Self Destruct. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-15612-X. 
  9. ^ Blender, November 2002
  10. ^ "Pitchfork Top 200 Tracks of the 90s". 2010-09-02. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  11. ^ Daniel Robert Epstein (2005-09-06). "Mark Romanek". Retrieved 2012-08-27. 
  12. ^ "70's, 80's & 90's Classic Rock, Soul & Pop Music Videos | VH1". VH1 Classic. Archived from the original on 2010-09-23. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  13. ^ The Work of Director Mark Romanek DVD
  14. ^ "The Downward Spiral > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-09-13.
  15. ^ "Closer to God album art". Pop Is Personal. 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2015. 
  16. ^ "WebCite query". Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved 2012-12-04. 
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  18. ^ "Music Review: Running With Scissors, by Weird Al Yankovic". Entertainment Weekly. 
  19. ^ "Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine Review". sputnikmusic. 2005-01-14. Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  20. ^ "Internet Archive: Details: Asylum Street Spankers Live at Milestones, on 2005-05-14". Retrieved 2012-05-12. 
  21. ^ "Nine Inch Richards "Closer To Hogs"". YouTube. 2010-06-29. Retrieved 2012-02-09. 
  22. ^ Renshaw, David (15 April 2016). "Father John Misty covers Nine Inch Nails' 'Closer'". NME. Retrieved 15 April 2016. 
  23. ^ Alona Wartofsky (2000-10-18). "Limp Bizkit, Stuck in Orbit Around Its Star" (fee required). Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-03-23. "Hot Dog"... takes on Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor in what Durst has described as a parody of NIN... 
  24. ^ Interview with Fred Durst by K-Rock New York. 2000.
  25. ^ Hector Saldana (2000-11-30). "Raw rules with Limp Bizkit" (fee required). San Antonio Express-News. pp. 4F. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  26. ^ "This tour needs some new anger" (fee required). Telegram & Gazette. 2000-10-24. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  27. ^ "CD Reviews New Releases" (fee required). The Hartford Courant. 2000-10-19. 

External links[edit]