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Closer (Nine Inch Nails song)

"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.

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"
ReleasedMay 30, 1994 (1994-05-30)
StudioLe Pig (Benedict Canyon, Los Angeles)
The Record Plant, A&M Studios (Hollywood, Los Angeles)
Songwriter(s)Trent Reznor
Nine Inch Nails singles chronology
"March of the Pigs"
"The Perfect Drug"
Halo numbers chronology
Halo 8
Halo 9
Halo 10
Audio sample
Music video
“Closer” (Director’s Cut) on YouTube

A promotional single provided by the label to radio stations included both long and short vocal-censored-i.e.: silenced profanity-versions.[1] Despite 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,[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]

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]

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 videoEdit

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[17]
  • A little girl lounging on a chair
  • A nude, bald woman with a crucifix mask.
  • A monkey tied to a cross.[18]
  • A severed pig's head spinning on some type of machine.[19]
  • 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,[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 performanceEdit

"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 listingsEdit

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. CDEdit

No.TitleRemixers / contributorsLength
1."Closer to God"5:05
2."Closer (Precursor)"7:16
3."Closer (Deviation)"
4."Heresy (Blind)"
6."Closer (Internal)"
  • Bill Kennedy
  • Scott Humphrey
  • John "Geetus" Aguto
  • Paul Decarli
  • Eric Claudiex
7."March of the Fuckheads"Adrian Sherwood4:43
8."Closer (Further Away)"
  • Kennedy
  • Humphrey
  • Aguto
  • Decarli
  • Claudiex
9."Closer" 6:26

U.K. CDEdit

Disc 1: Further Away
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
1."Closer to God"5:05
2."Heresy (Blind)"5:32
4."March of the Fuckheads"4:43

U.S. cassetteEdit

Side A
Side B
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 AwayEdit

Side A
1."Closer (Deviation)" 
2."Closer (Further Away)" 
Side B
4."Closer (Precursor)" 
5."Closer (Internal)" 

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

Side A
1."Closer to God" 
2."March of the Fuckheads" 
Side B
3."Heresy (Blind)" 

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



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 performancesEdit

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 versionsEdit


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-07-01. Retrieved 2011-06-26.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Dyer, Richard (1999). Seven – BFI Modern Classics. British Film Institute. p. 12. ISBN 0-85170-723-8. Retrieved 9 April 2014.
  3. ^ May 6, 1995. "Song Of The Week: Filter's "Hey Man Nice Shot"". MTV. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  4. ^ Grierson, Tim. "Top 10 Essential Rock Songs". Archived from the original on January 13, 2013. Retrieved October 29, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c Richard Buskin (September 2012). "CLASSIC TRACKS: Nine Inch Nails 'Closer'". Sound on Sound. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  6. ^ "The Downward Spiral (Deluxe Edition) by Nine Inch Nails on Apple Music". iTunes. Retrieved January 6, 2017.
  7. ^ McGovern, Kyle. "The 100 Best Alternative Rock Songs of 1994: #1 (Nine Inch Nails – Closer)". Spin. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
  8. ^ Yglesias, Matthew (May 21, 2007). "The Ultimate Nineties Alt-Rock Playlist". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  9. ^ Childers, Chad. "23 Years Ago: Nine Inch Nails Unleash 'The Downward Spiral'". Loudwire. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  10. ^ "Nine Inch Nails and Coil: Recoiled". PopMatters. April 11, 2014.
  11. ^ Dan, Jen (September 24, 2007). "Nine Inch Nails – Year Zero". Delusions of Adequacy. Retrieved May 10, 2017.
  12. ^ Greg Rule (April 1994). "Trent Reznor". Keyboard.
  13. ^ McGovern, Kyle (August 14, 2014). "The 100 Best Alternative Rock Songs of 1994". Spin Magazine. Retrieved September 4, 2017.
  14. ^ Huxley 1997, p. 179.
  15. ^ Blender, November 2002
  16. ^ "Pitchfork Top 200 Tracks of the 90s". 2010-09-02. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  17. ^ Vernallis 2004, pp. 99, 169.
  18. ^ a b Dery, Mark (1999). The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink. New York: Grove Press. p. 150. ISBN 0-8021-3670-2 – via Google Books.
  19. ^ Vernallis 2004, p. 99.
  20. ^ Jef with one F (June 14, 2012). "Phantom Museums: The Short Films of the Quay Brothers". Houston Press. Retrieved May 15, 2018. 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.
  21. ^ Huxley 1997, p. 133.
  22. ^ Daniel Robert Epstein (2005-09-06). "Mark Romanek". Retrieved 2012-08-27.
  23. ^ "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.
  24. ^ The Work of Director Mark Romanek DVD
  25. ^ "The Downward Spiral > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". Allmusic. Retrieved on 2009-09-13.
  26. ^ "Closer to God album art". Pop Is Personal. 2011. Retrieved 20 July 2015.
  27. ^ "WebCite query". Archived from the original on October 26, 2009. Retrieved 2012-12-04.
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  29. ^ "Music Review: Running With Scissors, by Weird Al Yankovic". Entertainment Weekly.
  30. ^ "Nine Inch Nails – Pretty Hate Machine Review". sputnikmusic. 2005-01-14. Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  31. ^ "Internet Archive: Details: Asylum Street Spankers Live at Milestones, on 2005-05-14". Retrieved 2012-05-12.
  32. ^ "Nine Inch Richards "Closer To Hogs"". YouTube. 2010-06-29. Retrieved 2012-02-09.
  33. ^ "The ARIA Australian Top 100 Singles Chart – Week Ending 21 May 1995". (original document published by ARIA). Retrieved 2017-04-25.
  34. ^ Renshaw, David (15 April 2016). "Father John Misty covers Nine Inch Nails' 'Closer'". NME. Retrieved 15 April 2016.
  35. ^ Alona Wartofsky (2000-10-18). "Limp Bizkit, Stuck in Orbit Around Its Star". Washington Post. Archived from the original (fee required) on 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2008-03-23. "Hot Dog"... takes on Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor in what Durst has described as a parody of NIN...
  36. ^ Interview with Fred Durst by K-Rock New York. 2000.

External linksEdit