Sunday, November 20, 2011

90's Hit Parade #13

Nine Inch Nails - Head Like a Hole

The sole criteria for inclusion on this list is my personal taste. These are my favorite songs from the 90's. I'm not taking into account their sociological significance or their influence or whatever. For the most part, the same applies to the rankings, but, as I mentioned when I was starting out, there are a handful of songs in the top 15 here that I ranked higher than my personal feelings would allow. This is one of them, because it's absolutely one of the best songs of the decade, far beyond my personal enjoyment.

I've had sort of a love-hate relationship with NIN over time. I like them alright, but as I mentioned before, I've never quite been able to warm up to that industrial, goth-y sound. And maybe I felt a little less charitable toward them back in the 90's, because I was surrounded by people who really worshiped the band. Almost everyone I knew in the 90's was a fanatical NIN fan. Which means I spent a lot of time listening to them, rather against my will.

Anyway, like I said, they have some really great stuff. The Downward Spiral is a great album, they do a killer cover of Queen's "Get Down Make Love," and then they have this song, which is just an incredible single.

"Head Like a Hole" is a rowdy dance song, probably as energetic as industrial music ever gets. The song has a central tension between its two choruses sung in two different voices. One, perhaps a parody of Depeche Mode's "Master and Servant," demands submission: "Bow down before the one you serve/You're going to get what you deserve." The other refuses, screaming "I'd rather die than give you control." Eventually, the two voices overlap, control and rebellion locked in an eternal struggle. Perhaps the two voices are coming from the same head: when Trent Reznor removes Number One's mask, does he find Number Six underneath?


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