Trent Reznor celebrates his 50th birthday on May 17, 2015, and we're saluting him with our picks for the 10 Best Nine Inch Nails Songs. One thing is for certain, Reznor has kept things interesting over the years. He's explored industrial dance tracks ('Down in It' and 'Sin'), worked through some thrashier moments ('March of the Pigs,' 'Wish' and 'Head Like a Hole'), and dug deep into the soul for some deeply emotional catharsis ('Hurt,' 'Something I Can Never Have'). He's questioned both political ('Capital G,' 'The Hand That Feeds') and religious ('Terrible Lie') leaders, and all the while sustained a loyal following always anxious to see where he's taking things next. So step right up and check out the 10 Best Nine Inch Nails Songs.
'Survivalism'From: 'Year Zero' (2007)
Trent Reznor not only adapted with the times for 2007 album, 'Year Zero,' he ventured beyond and incorporated a futuristic concept for the disc. The blips and beeps of electro-aggression of 'Survivalism' set the pace throughout, while Reznor tells a futuristic tale of processing the images we're presented on a daily basis. He exclaims, "I got my propaganda / I got my revisionism / I got my violence in hi-def ultra-realism / All a part of this great nation / I got my fist / I got my plan / I got survivalism."
'Sin'From: 'Pretty Hate Machine' (1989)
After 'Down in It' and 'Head Like a Hole' found success in the clubs, Nine Inch Nails chose the ultra-danceable, synth-led track 'Sin' as the final single from 'Pretty Hate Machine.' Reznor dips into themes of sexual control, belting such lines as "You give me the anger / You give me the nerve / Carry out my sentence / While I get what I deserve."
'The Hand That Feeds'From: 'With Teeth' (2005)
After years of railing against his own demons, Trent Reznor turned his attention elsewhere with 2005's 'With Teeth.' The breakout single from the disc, 'The Hand That Feeds,' turned the spotlight on the human race's following of political and social leaders, with Reznor challenging the listener, "Just how deep do you believe? / Will you bite the hand that feeds? / Will you chew until it bleeds? / Can you get up off your knees? / Are you brave enough to see? / Do you want to change it?"
'March of the Pigs'From: 'The Downward Spiral' (1994)
'March of the Pigs' is a must for the 10 Best Nine Inch Nails Songs, as it shows Trent Reznor's musical growth. The track delivers sleepy piano breakdowns, Chris Vrenna's percussive onslaught, and a blast of aggression that has made the song a circle pit favorite. In the one-shot video for the track, Reznor couldn't contain the adrenaline, thrashing about into his fellow musicians and tossing the microphone away on multiple occasions leaving stagehands to retrieve it for him.
'Down In It'From: 'Pretty Hate Machine' (1989)
'Down In It' is a perfect choice for the Top 10 Nine Inch Nails Songs, as it was the track the officially kicked everything off for the band. It was issued as a teaser cut prior to their breakout hit 'Head Like a Hole,' and gave a glimpse of how the band could find a blend between heavy industrial music and something more club-oriented.
'Closer'From: 'The Downward Spiral' (1994)
Nine Inch Nails hit on something in the summer of '94 when 'Closer' became a monster hit. The funky track with the morphed bass and drum line definitely hooked listeners, but both radio and TV needed edits for the profanity-laced lyrical and sexually explicit visual content that came with the song and video. Even with the edits, the track went on to become one of the biggest songs of their career.
'Terrible Lie'From: 'Pretty Hate Machine' (1989)
'Terrible Lie' has become one of Nine Inch Nails' live favorites over the years, with the track frequently either kicking off or near the front of the band's sets. Reznor's early angst is on full display here, asking the big questions about faith and religion, begging for a sign of a higher power, and becoming dismayed when his questions aren't answered.
'Wish'From: 'Broken' EP (1992)
Nine Inch Nails were in full industrial mode with 'Wish,' a thrashy gem of a track that blended Trent Reznor's tormented vocal delivery with a full on guitar assault. Oddly enough, Grammy voters got behind Nine Inch Nails ahead of their massive fame, rewarding the band with 1993's Best Metal Performance Grammy for 'Wish.' According to the book 'Nine Inch Nails: Self Destruct,' Reznor would later joke that his epitaph should read: "Reznor: Died. Said 'fist f---' and won a Grammy."
'Hurt'From: 'The Downward Spiral' (1994)
Not all of Nine Inch Nails' songs got their intensity from the instruments. The minimalist track 'Hurt' was every bit as heavy as the band's other work, and definitely packed an emotional punch. The track accurately portrayed isolation and depression, with Reznor often performing the song alone at the center of the stage with horrific images flashing on a screen behind him. The track took on even more resonance when legendary country crooner Johnny Cash made it one of his final recordings.
'Head Like a Hole'From: 'Pretty Hate Machine' (1989)
We bow down before the first big hit that Nine Inch Nails served. 'Head Like a Hole,' with its synth bass meets primal scream sound effects, proved to be an interesting concoction. It borrowed industrial influence from Ministry, but also had elements of thrash metal in it. Lyrically, Trent Reznor was in full snarl, raging against the almighty "God Money." Reznor says in the song, "You're going to get what you deserve," and what 'Head Like a Hole' deserves is the No. 1 spot in our Top 10 Nine Inch Nails Songs.