Trent Reznor’s tortured, angry persona got old for me pretty quick for a couple of reasons. One; a performative aspect began to creep into it after Nine Inch Nails achieved massive mainstream success, and two; the bloat of 1997’s The Fragile was a major turn-off. It just seemed like too much to get through).
With that said, 1989’s Pretty Hate Machine and 1994’s The Downward Spiral still hold up as classic material. While Spiral‘s closing track,“Hurt”, has become better known as Johnny Cash’s audiovisual swan song, Trent’s original is an unbelievable emotional musical experience (granted, with significantly less pathos than Cash’s version…but still). “Hurt” takes the soft/loud dynamic that marked so much of the grunge era (which Reznor was perhaps unfairly designated as a charter artist of) and turns both ends up to 11. If a song can sound equally haunting coming from a tortured twenty-something and a seventy-something contemplating the winter of their life, that says a lot for the song, no?