Hurt (Nine Inch Nails song)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Single by Nine Inch Nails
from the album The Downward Spiral
Released April 17, 1995
Format Promotional CD
Recorded Le Pig, Record Plant Studios, A&M Studios
Genre Industrial rock,[1] gothic rock[2]
Length 6:12
Label Nothing, Interscope
Writer(s) Trent Reznor
Producer(s) Trent Reznor
Nine Inch Nails singles chronology
"The Perfect Drug"

"Hurt" is a song written by Trent Reznor first released on Nine Inch Nails' 1994 album The Downward Spiral. It received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Rock Song in 1996 but lost to Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know". In 2002, "Hurt" was covered by Johnny Cash to critical acclaim; it was one of Cash's final hits released before his death.


Originally recorded by Nine Inch Nails, the song "Hurt" has been adapted and covered by several artists, including Johnny Cash and Leona Lewis. The song clearly includes references to self-harm and heroin addiction, although the overall meaning of the song is disputed. Some listeners contend that the song acts as a suicide note written by the album's protagonist, as a result of his depression, while others claim that it describes the difficult process of finding a reason to live in spite of depression and pain.[3]


Nine Inch Nails original[edit]

A promotional single was distributed in April 1995, containing censored and uncensored mixes. The disc, Interscope Records PRCD 6179, is labeled 'Halo Ten', like the earlier 'Piggy' promotional disc. Neither is considered an official Halo, Further Down the Spiral being the official Halo Ten.

Track listing[edit]

No. Title Length
1. "Hurt (Quiet version)" (Clean) 5:04
2. "Hurt (Live version)" (Clean) 5:15
3. "Hurt (Album version)" (Clean) 6:20
4. "Hurt (Quiet version)" (Soiled) 5:21
5. "Hurt (Live version)" (Soiled) 5:15
6. "Hurt (Album version)" (Soiled) 6:14

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1995) Peak
Canada Alternative Songs (RPM)[4] 8
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[5] 8
U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Airplay[6] 54

Music video[edit]

The music video for "Hurt" is a live performance that appears on Closure and the DualDisc re-release of The Downward Spiral. The audio portion appears on the UK version of Further Down the Spiral. The version released on Closure differs slightly from the video originally aired on MTV. In addition to using an uncensored audio track, the Closure edit shows alternate views of the audience and performance at several points during the video.

To film the video, a scrim was dropped in front of the band on stage, onto which various images, such as war atrocities, a nuclear bomb test, survivors of the Battle of Stalingrad, a snake staring at the camera, and a time-lapse film of a fox decomposing in reverse, were projected, adding visual symbolism to fit the song's subject matter. A spotlight was cast on Reznor so that he can be seen through the images. Compared to the live renditions performed on future tours, this version most resembles the studio recording with its use of the song's original samples.[citation needed]

There are also official live recordings on the later releases And All that Could Have Been and Beside You in Time. Each version features distinct instrumentation by the varying members of the band in the respective eras.

Live performance[edit]

During the Dissonance tour in 1995, when Nine Inch Nails opened for David Bowie, Bowie sang "Hurt" in a duet with Reznor, backed by an original melody and beat. This served as the conclusion to the dual act that began each Bowie set.

During the Fragility tours, the progression was performed by Robin Finck on acoustic guitar rather than on piano.

Since the 2005–06 Live: With Teeth tour, Nine Inch Nails has been playing "Hurt" in a more toned-down style, featuring only Reznor on keyboard and vocals until the final chorus, when the rest of the band joins in.

The song was brought back to its original form during the Lights In The Sky tour in 2008, before returning to the toned down style on the 2009 Wave Goodbye tour.

In popular culture[edit]

The song appears in an episode of Homicide: Life on the Streets and the Season 2 Rick and Morty finale episode entitled "The Wedding Squanchers." The song was also used in the film The Hangover Part III.

Johnny Cash version[edit]

Single by Johnny Cash
from the album American IV: The Man Comes Around
B-side "Personal Jesus"
"Wichita Lineman"
Released March 2003
Format CD single
Recorded 2002
Genre Acoustic rock,[7] alternative rock,[8] country
Length 3:38
Label American Recordings, Universal Music Group
Producer(s) Rick Rubin
Certification Gold (RIAA)
Johnny Cash singles chronology
"The Man Comes Around"
"God's Gonna Cut You Down"
Music video
"Hurt" on YouTube

In 2002, Johnny Cash covered the song for his album, American IV: The Man Comes Around. The line "crown of shit" was changed to "crown of thorns", not only removing profanity from the lyrics, but also more directly referencing Christ and Cash's devout Christianity. Its accompanying video, featuring images from Cash's life and directed by Mark Romanek, was named the best video of the year by the Grammy Awards and CMA Awards, and the best video of all time by NME in July 2011.[9] The cover was released on a single with the B-side 'Personal Jesus', a cover of the Depeche Mode single.


When Trent Reznor was asked if Cash could cover his song, Reznor said he was "flattered" but worried that "the idea sounded a bit gimmicky." He became a fan of Cash's version, however, once he saw the music video.

I pop the video in, and wow... Tears welling, silence, goose-bumps... Wow. [I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn't mine anymore... It really made me think about how powerful music is as a medium and art form. I wrote some words and music in my bedroom as a way of staying sane, about a bleak and desperate place I was in, totally isolated and alone. [Somehow] that winds up reinterpreted by a music legend from a radically different era/genre and still retains sincerity and meaning — different, but every bit as pure.[10]

Music video[edit]

The music video was directed by former NIN collaborator Mark Romanek[11] who sought to capture the essence of Cash, both in his youth and in his older years. In a montage of shots of Cash's early years, twisted imagery of fruit and flowers in various states of decay, seem to capture both his legendary past and the stark and seemingly cruel reality of the present. According to literature professor Leigh H. Edwards, the music video portrays "Cash's own paradoxical themes".[1]

Romanek had this to say about his decision to focus on the House of Cash museum in Nashville.

It had been closed for a long time; the place was in such a state of dereliction. That's when I got the idea that maybe we could be extremely candid about the state of Johnny's health, as candid as Johnny has always been in his songs.

71 years of age at the time of filming (in February 2003), Cash had serious health problems and his frailty is clearly evident in the video. He died seven months later (September 12);[12] his wife, June Carter Cash, who participated in the video (she is shown gazing at her husband in several sequences), died three months after filming (May 15), closely preceding him in death.

In July 2011, the music video was named one of "The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos" by Time.[13] It was ranked the greatest music video of all time by NME.[14]

The house where Cash's music video for 'Hurt' was shot, which was Cash's home for nearly 30 years, was destroyed in a fire on April 10, 2007.[15]

In popular culture[edit]

The version was used in the movie Colombiana as well as in several TV series, including Criminal Minds ("Elephant's Memory"), Smallville ("Shattered"), Person of Interest ("The Devil's Share"), and Parashat Ha-Shavua ("BeShalach"). It has also been used in documentaries, such as Why We Fight.[16]

The song was also used in the trailer for the 2012 video game Prototype 2.

The song appears in The Hangover Part III, albeit in two forms. The Cash version is performed by the character Leslie Chow in a karaoke bar, while the original Reznor version appears in the final scene of the movie where upon Alan and Chow say their goodbyes.

The song was sampled in the Westside Connection song The Gangsta, The Killa And The Dope Dealer.

The song was used in a video tribute to Eddie Guerrero on the November 14th, 2005 episode of WWE Monday Night Raw. Eddie had died of heart failure the day before.[17]

The song was covered by Sevendust on their Southside Double-Wide: Acoustic Live album.


  • The Johnny Cash cover was given the Country Music Association award for "Single of the Year" in 2003. It ranked as CMT's top video for 2003, #1 on CMT's 100 Greatest Country Music Videos the following year, and #1 on the Top 40 Most Memorable Music Videos on MuchMoreMusic's Listed in October 2007. As of January 2011, the single occupies the number one spot on Rate Your Music's Top Singles of the 2000s.[18] The song is also Cash's sole chart entry on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, where it hit #33 in 2003.[19] In June 2009, the song was voted #1 in UpVenue's Top 10 Best Music Covers.[20]
  • "Hurt" was nominated for six VMAs at the 2003 MTV Video Music Awards. The only VMA the video won was that for Best Cinematography. With the video, Johnny Cash became the oldest artist ever nominated for an MTV Video Music Award.[21] Justin Timberlake, who won Best Video that year for "Cry Me a River", a song on his Justified, said in his acceptance speech: "This is a travesty! I demand a recount. My grandfather raised me on Johnny Cash, and I think he deserves this more than any of us in here tonight."[22]
  • The music video won the 2004 Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video.
  • In July 2009, Cash's version of 'Hurt' was voted in at number 60 on Triple J's Hottest 100 of all time, Australia's largest music poll.
  • Rolling Stone ranked Johnny Cash's 'Hurt' as number 15 of the 50 best songs of the decade (RS 1094/1095).
  • In May 2010, 'Hurt' was voted the fifth most influential video of all time by MySpace.[23]
  • CMT had it ranked as the number 2 song of the decade on their November 13 show 'Songs of the Decade'.
  • In October 2011, NME placed it at number 35 on its list "150 Best Tracks of the Past 15 Years".[24]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Hurt" – 3:38
  2. "Personal Jesus" – 3:21
  3. "Wichita Lineman" – 3:06

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (2003) Peak
U.S. Billboard Modern Rock Tracks[25] 33
U.S. Billboard Hot Country Songs[26] 56

Leona Lewis version[edit]

British singer Leona Lewis covered the song and included it on her first EP, Hurt: The EP.[27] The song was met with mixed reviews. Lewis told Radio 1's Newsbeat, "People write music and the music is out there for people to interpret it how they want to. As long as it's coming from a genuine place. I actually am a big fan of that song and a big fan of the Johnny Cash cover. But that song in particular really speaks to me. Lyrically it's a song that is very intense and has painful lyrics."[28]

Background and development[edit]

Shortly after her The Labyrinth arena tour ended in July 2010, Lewis began to work on her third studio album.[29] It was reported that Simon Cowell had set a deadline for Lewis to complete the album for a Summer 2011 release.[30] After originally having been given a release date of November 28, 2011,[31] Glassheart was pushed back to March 2012.[32] Lewis' reason for delaying the release of the album was that after she met producer Fraser T Smith, she wanted to collaborate with him on new material for possible inclusion on Glassheart.[32][33] Lewis delayed the release of the album a third time, with Glassheart set for release on November 26, 2012.[34] As a result of her fans having to wait until November 2012, a year after the album was originally set to be released, Lewis decided to release an extended play entitled Hurt: The EP, as something to "bridge the gap" while she recorded new material.[32] Hurt: The EP consists of three covers: "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails, "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls and "Colorblind" by Counting Crows.[35] The EP was produced by Smith.[36] In an interview for In:Demand, Lewis explained why she chose to record the songs, saying that she thought female interpretations of them would provide a "powerful perspective", because of the how the originals were sung by male vocalists.[37]

Critical reception[edit]

"Hurt" garnered a mixed response from music critics. Lewis Corner for Digital Spy was complimentary of Lewis' rock interpretation of the song, which contains lyrics about heroin addiction, as it displays the singer's "emotive tones" on which she sings in "spine-chilling" falsetto notes.[38] He continued to write that "Hurt" has a "compelling beauty" and "haunting quality".[38] Rhetta Akamatsu for The Times of India wrote that Lewis' rendition was "powerful" and "spectacular".[39] Akamatsu described "Hurt" as a song which features "chills and thrills as the rawness of the lyrics meets the purity of Lewis's voice."[39] She also noted that Lewis' version is not based on the arrangement of the original by Nine Inch Nails, but rather that of Johnny Cash's cover, which was included on his 2002 album American IV: The Man Comes Around.[39] Akamatsu concluded her review of the songs with "All three performances feature intense, literate lyrics and are well-suited to Lewis's style."[39]

A 25 second sample of "Hurt". In the sample, Lewis displays "emotive tones" and "spine-chilling" falsetto notes, according to Lewis Corner for Digital Spy.[38]

Problems playing this file? See media help.

Priya Elan for NME was critical of Lewis' execution of the song "Hurt", writing that she sounds as though the singer took "too much Night Nurse the evening before."[40] Elan noted that the composition of "Hurt" was similar to that of Lewis' cover of "Run", writing "there's an awful lot of layered build up to the chorus before a full band and orchestra come in during the second verse."[40] However, Elan concluded her review saying that although she appears not to know the legacy of the song, Lewis sounds "pretty".[40] Katherine St. Asaph for PopDust described Lewis' interpretation of "Hurt" as being formulaic like a "template", writing that it is something that American Idol and The X Factor winners and contestants seem do when covering a song.[41] St. Asaph continued to explain her opinions with regard to Lewis and "Hurt", writing "For Leona, that's big notes in bigger arrangements, with a couple hushed sections for contrast."[41] She was also skeptical of Lewis' emotive abilities, writing "Either she knows that quiet-to-loud arrangements and whispered vocals can simulate gravitas pretty well regardless of whether you’re thinking of pain or grocery lists, or she’s genuinely feeling something that comes out in her voice."[41]

Due to the mixed response "Hurt" received from fans and critics alike, Lewis defended her decision to record the song in an interview with BBC Radio 1, saying "People write music and the music is out there for people to interpret it how they want to ... As long as it's coming from a genuine place. I actually am a big fan of that song and a big fan of the Johnny Cash cover. But that song in particular really speaks to me. Lyrically it's a song that is very intense and has painful lyrics. It's reflective of a place where I was at. When I recorded it, it was healing to get it out."[42]


As part of promotion for Hurt: The EP, Lewis performed "Hurt" on the eighth series finale of The X Factor on December 10, 2011.[43] The performance saw Lewis sing at Wembley Arena wearing a red full length dress.[43] Katherine St. Asaph for Popdust was critical of Lewis' interpretation of "Hurt" on The X Factor, writing "It's written right into the X Factor contract that in order to consent to being televised, you must permanently forfeit all ability to feel pain or any other emotion, making it somewhat difficult to interpret a song."[41] The following week, Lewis performed "Hurt" at the 2011 Royal Variety Performance.[44] Lewis held a competition for people to submit dress designs for her performance, with the singer wearing a black and beige coloured gown designed by winner Lilyana Maslenishka.[44] Lewis also performed "Somebody to Love" with Cee Lo Green, a tribute to British rock band Queen.[45] The show was recorded on December 5, 2011 in Manchester, and aired on December 13.[45] Lewis performed an acoustic version of "Hurt" during a live webcam chat with her fans via Ustream, which was uploaded to her official YouTube account on December 16, 2011.[46] In the United States, Lewis performed "Run" on the first season finale of The X Factor (U.S.) on December 22, 2011, whilst a montage of highlights of the season were screened behind her.[47] Season one judge Nicole Scherzinger was complimentary of Lewis' performance, saying "Leona blessed us with her beautiful voice."[47]


Credits adapted from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) and Broadcast Music (BMI).[48][49][50]


"Hurt" debuted at number 15 in Ireland on December 15, 2011.[51] The following week, it dropped to number 45.[52] Hurt: The EP debuted and peaked at number eight on the UK Singles Chart on December 24, 2011.[53][54] The EP attained at number seven position on the UK Digital Chart.[55] In Scotland, the EP debuted and peaked at number seven on December 24, 2011.[56]

Chart (2011) Peak
Ireland (IRMA)[51] 15
Scotland (Official Charts Company)[56] 7
UK Singles Chart (Official Charts Company)[53] 8
UK Digital Chart (Official Charts Company)[55] 7

Release history[edit]

Region Date Format Label
Canada[57] December 9, 2011 digital download RCA Records
Ireland[58] Syco Music
United Kingdom[59]
United States[60][61] January 17, 2012 RCA Records


  1. ^ a b Edwards 2009, pp. 59–60
  2. ^ Lewis, Luke (March 5, 2009). "Release The Bats - It's The 20 Greatest Goth Tracks". Retrieved February 19, 2013. 
  3. ^ Huxley (1997), p. 104
  4. ^ "RPM - Alternative 30". RPM (magazine). Retrieved October 7, 2015. 
  5. ^ "Nine Inch Nails - Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Nine Inch Nails - Radio Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2013. 
  7. ^ The Best Ever Acoustic Rock Songs: Top 40 Retrieved 20 October 2014
  8. ^ Top Ten Most Depressing Alternative Rock Songs Retrieved 5 January 2015
  9. ^ "NME names Johnny Cash's 'Hurt' the greatest music video of all time". NME. July 5, 2011. Retrieved December 27, 2011. 
  10. ^ Alternative Press #194. September 2004.
  11. ^ "Director Mark Romanek Tackles 'Never Let Me Go'". Fresh Air. September 23, 2010. Retrieved October 27, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Johnny Cash, 'Hurt' & Trent Reznor". Stagepass News. Retrieved December 11, 2011. 
  13. ^ Levy, Glen (July 28, 2011). "The 30 All-TIME Best Music Videos - Johnny Cash, Hurt". Time. Retrieved August 19, 2011. 
  14. ^ "100 Greatest Music Videos". NME. Retrieved 15 December 2012. 
  15. ^ "Fire destroys Johnny Cash home". BBC News. April 11, 2007. Retrieved August 23, 2009. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Top Singles of the 2000s". Rate Your Music. Retrieved September 17, 2009. 
  19. ^ Billboard - Artist Chart History - Johnny Cash
  20. ^ "UpVenue's Top 10 Best Music Covers". Retrieved August 23, 2009. 
  21. ^ "Johnny Cash - Memories Shared". Songstuff. Retrieved June 27, 2013. 
  22. ^ "Quotables "August 29, 2003 Justin Timberlake on Johnny Cash"". Retrieved April 5, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Sky News 03/05/2010". Retrieved December 11, 2011. 
  24. ^ "150 Best Tracks Of The Past 15 Years". Nme.Com. Retrieved December 11, 2011. 
  25. ^ "Johnny Cash - Alternative Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Johnny Cash - Hot Country Songs". Billboard. Retrieved August 21, 2013. 
  27. ^ "First Listen: Leona Lewis – Hurt: The EP". Pop On And On. December 9, 2011. Retrieved December 11, 2011. 
  28. ^ Published Thursday, December 15, 2011, 0 (December 15, 2011). "Leona Lewis defends 'Hurt' recording: 'No song is too sacred to cover' - Music News". Digital Spy. Retrieved August 3, 2012. 
  29. ^ Rick Edwards (February 28, 2010). "T4". 1:00 minutes in. Channel 4. Channel 4.  Missing or empty |series= (help)
  30. ^ Duncan, Amy (February 11, 2011). "Leona Lewis continues mission to upstage Lady Gaga". Metro (Associated Newspapers). Retrieved February 11, 2011. 
  31. ^ "Leona Lewis announces Glassheart album release date". BBC. September 6, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  32. ^ a b c Corner, Lewis (January 25, 2012). "Leona Lewis delays release of third album 'Glassheart'". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi Médias. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  33. ^ Corner, Lewis (August 5, 2011). "Leona Lewis working with Adele producer on new album". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi Médias. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  34. ^ "'Glassheart'". November 26, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  35. ^ Daw, Robbie (December 5, 2011). "Leona Lewis 'Hurt' EP To Contain Nine Inch Nails Cover". Idolator. Buzz Media. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  36. ^ Hurt: The EP (inlay cover). Leona Lewis. Syco, RCA. 2011. B006HD1T4A. 
  37. ^ "Leona Lewis Interview – In Demand" (video). In:Demand. Bauer Place & Passion. Retrieved March 24, 2011. 
  38. ^ a b c Corner, Lewis (December 11, 2011). "Leona Lewis: 'Hurt EP' review". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi Médias. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  39. ^ a b c d Akamatsu, Rhetta (January 21, 2012). "Music Review: Leona Lewis- Hurt: The EP". The Times of India (The Times Group). Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  40. ^ a b c Elan, Priya (December 9, 2011). "Leona Lewis, 'Hurt' – Review". NME (IPC Media). Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  41. ^ a b c d St Asaph, Katherine (December 12, 2011). "Leona Lewis' cover of 'Hurt' could have been a lot worse". Popdust. Retrieved March 25, 2012. 
  42. ^ Love, Ryan (December 15, 2011). "Leona Lewis: 'Hurt EP' review". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi Médias. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  43. ^ a b Bain, Becky (December 12, 2012). "Leona Lewis And Coldplay Perform On 'The X Factor' UK Finale". Idolator. Buzz Media. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  44. ^ a b Love, Ryan (December 13, 2011). "Leona Lewis showcases dress design winner at Royal Variety Performance". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi Médias. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  45. ^ a b Love, Ryan (December 6, 2011). "Barry Manilow, Leona Lewis at Royal Variety Performance: In Pictures". Digital Spy. Hachette Filipacchi Médias. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  46. ^ "Leona Lewis – Hurt (Acoustic) video" (Video). NME (IPC Media). Retrieved March 27, 2012. 
  47. ^ a b Thompson, Leah (December 23, 2011). "Here's one I made earlier: Simon Cowell's protege Leona Lewis lights up the stage at the X Factor USA final". Daily Mail (Daily Mail and General Trust). Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  48. ^ "ACE Title Search (Hurt, Nine Inch Nails)". American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  49. ^ "BMI – Iris (Legal Title)". Broadcast Music, Inc. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  50. ^ "BMI – Run (Legal Title)". Broadcast Music, Inc. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  51. ^ a b "Irish Singles Chart (December 15, 2011)". Chart-Track. Irish Recorded Music Association. December 15, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  52. ^ "Irish Singles Chart (December 22, 2011)". Chart-Track. Irish Recorded Music Association. December 22, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  53. ^ a b "2011 Top 40 Official UK Singles Archive – 24th December 2011". Official Charts Company. December 24, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  54. ^ "Chart Log UK: Chart entries update". Official Charts Company. December 24, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  55. ^ a b "2011 Top 40 UK Single Downloads Archive – 24 December 2011". Official Charts Company. December 24, 2011. Retrieved May 28, 2012. 
  56. ^ a b "2011 Top 40 Scottish Singles Archive". Official Charts Company. December 24, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  57. ^ "'Hurt: The EP' – Leona Lewis". iTunes Store (CA). Apple. December 9, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  58. ^ "'Hurt: The EP' – Leona Lewis". iTunes Store (IE). Apple. December 9, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  59. ^ "'Hurt: The EP' – Leona Lewis". iTunes Store (UK). Apple. December 9, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  60. ^ "'Hurt: The EP' – Leona Lewis". iTunes Store (US). Apple. January 17, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 
  61. ^ "'Hurt: The EP'". January 17, 2012. Retrieved March 24, 2012. 


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]