"Closer" is a song written by Trent Reznor and featured on the 1994 Nine Inch Nails album The Downward Spiral. In mid-1994, the song was released as the second single from the album. 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 NIN release.
A promotional single provided by the label to radio stations included both long and short vocal-censored-i.e.: silenced profanity-versions. In spite of 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.
- 2 Music video
- 3 Music charts
- 4 Chart performance
- 5 Live performance
- 6 The single
- 6.1 U.S. CD
- 6.2 U.K. CD - Disc 1: Further Away
- 6.3 U.K. CD - Disc 2: Closer to God
- 6.4 U.S. cassette
- 6.5 U.K. 12" vinyl - Part 1: Further Away
- 6.6 U.K. 12" vinyl - Part 2: Closer to God
- 7 Cover versions
- 8 In popular culture
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Radio edits of "Closer" were created by muting the vocal track for the duration of each deleted obscenity.
Lyrically, "Closer" is a meditation on self-hatred and sexual 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". 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. "Come on dude: 'I wanna fuck you like an animal'?" remarked Mötley Crüe drummer and 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. Since I'm engaged now [to Mayte Garcia], I'll just say that the most memorable episode that I remember with 'Closer' took place on a swing."
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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. The video shows events in what appears to be a 19th-century-style mad-scientist's laboratory that deals with religion, sexuality, animal cruelty, politics, and terror. Its imagery was controversial and included:
- A heart connected to some sort of device; the beat of the heart corresponds to the beat of the song
- A nude, bald woman with a crucifix mask.
- A monkey tied to a cross.
- A severed pig's head spinning on some type of machine.
- A diagram of the vulva/vagina.
- Reznor wearing an S&M mask while swinging in shackles.
- Reznor seated in front of a wall covered in fetish gear, wearing a ball gag.
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 seem to be inspired by the art of Joel-Peter Witkin, as well as Francis Bacon and George Tooker. The video is also very heavily inspired by the animated short film Street of Crocodiles, with much of the video being a live-action recreation of the sets and scenes from that film. 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). According to director Mark 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.
The unedited version of this video was shown on Playboy TV's music video show Hot Rocks in 1994. In mid-2002, the unedited version of this video was 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 graphic imagery of "Closer" and several other videos.
In retrospect, Reznor commented about 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."
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.
"Closer" had some radio airplay before it was released as a single. This factor increased within weeks, leading Interscope to release the song 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 number 41). It crawled to number 11 on the Modern Rock Tracks, and went on to reach number 35 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks, number 29 on the Dance Music/Club Play Singles, and number 29 Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales, this is the band's first crossover hit and remains their most popular song to date. The single's highest peak is the Top 5 on the Canadian Singles Chart. "Closer" didn't top any of these charts, and failed to reach number one. However, it didn't gain enough success in the US, it was a massive success in Canada on the Canadian pop charts and the Alternative 30 charts both hitting number 5.
|Canada RPMAlternative 30||5|
|Canadian Singles Chart||5|
|U.S. BillboardModern Rock Tracks||11|
|U.S. BillboardHot 100||41|
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 this appear on Beside You in Time.
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.
In addition, the U.S. CD single contains five 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".
- TVT Records / Interscope Records / Atlantic Records 95905–2
- TVT Records / Interscope Records 0694959052 (Reissue)
- "Closer to God" (Remixed by Trent Reznor, Sean Beavan, Brian Pollack) – 5:05
- "Closer (Precursor)" (Remixed by Coil, Danny Hyde) – 7:16
- "Closer (Deviation)" (Remixed by Jack Dangers, Craig Silvey) – 6:15
- "Heresy (Blind)" (Remixed by Dave Ogilvie, Anthony Valcic, Joe Bisara) – 5:32
- "Memorabilia" – 7:21
- "Closer (Internal)" (Remixed by Bill Kennedy, Scott Humphrey, John "Geetus" Aguto, Paul Decarli, Eric Claudiex) – 4:15
- "March of the Fuckheads" (Remixed by Adrian Sherwood) – 4:43
- "Closer (Further Away)" (Remixed by Kennedy, Humphrey, Aguto, Decarli, Claudiex) – 5:45
- "Closer" – 6:26
- Island Records CID 596 854 059–2
- "Closer" – 6:26
- "Closer (Deviation)" (Remixed by Dangers, Silvey) – 6:15
- "Closer (Further Away)" (Remixed by Kennedy, Humphrey, Aguto, Decarli, Claudiex) – 5:45
- "Closer (Precursor)" (Remixed by Coil, Hyde) – 7:16
- "Closer (Internal)" (Remixed by Kennedy, Humphrey, Aguto, Decarli, Claudiex) – 4:15
- Island Records CIDX 596 854 061–2 – UK CD 2
- "Closer to God" (Remixed by Reznor, Beavan, Pollack) – 5:05
- "Heresy (Blind)" (Remixed by Ogilvie, Valcic, Bisara) – 5:32
- "Memorabilia" – 7:21
- "March of the Fuckheads" (Remixed by Sherwood) – 4:43
- "Closer" – 6:25
- "March of the Pigs (Live)" – 3:12 (appears to be the live rerecording from the music video)
- Island Records 12IS 596 854 059–1 – UK 12" Vinyl 1
- "Closer (Deviation)"
- "Closer (Further Away)"
- "Closer (Precursor)"
- "Closer (Internal)"
- Island Records 12ISX 596 854 061–1 – UK 12" Vinyl 2
- "Closer to God"
- "March of the Fuckheads"
- "Heresy (Blind)"
Other versions in other formats and countries have the same track listing as the U.S. CD release.
- "Closer" has been covered by many musical acts, including Spiralmouth, MGMT, Blood on the Dance Floor, Richard Cheese and Lounge Against the Machine, Eric Gorfain, Maroon 5, Maxwell, The Asylum Street Spankers, Rosetta Stone, In This Moment and Japanese Voyeurs.
- Thirty Seconds to Mars uses samples from "Closer" when they perform "The Fantasy."
- "Weird Al" Yankovic has paid tribute to "Closer" more than once: in The Alternative Polka on his album Bad Hair Day, a section of the song was used in which the word "fuck" is replaced with a cartoon sound effects. "Germs" on his Running with Scissors album is a style parody of several Nine Inch Nails songs.
- The Asylum Street Spankers occasionally perform a bluegrass version, available at the Live Music Archive.
- In 1995, the Australian novelty act Nine Inch Richards covered the song under the title "Closer To Hogs". Sung in a southern drawl, it combined Trent Reznor's sexually charged lyrics with barnyard animal samples, humorously implying that the song is about bestiality. A video clip of the parody was taken at the Sydney Royal Easter Show.
- In 2008, Sy Smith performed the song as part of her "Conflict Tour". In August 2010, Smith performed the song again at "Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Heights Plaza".
- In 2013, a cover was done by an independent artist named Kawehi. While many other covers alter the song, this cover follows the original very closely in structure though she appears to improvise many of her own effects through the aid of Ableton_Live.
- In 2014, from the compilation album in the Punk Goes 90's 2 has been covered by British metalcore Asking Alexandria
- The remix "Closer (Precursor)" is featured in the opening credits of the movie Seven. The same version was also used in The Fan.
- Fellow Interscope act Limp Bizkit parodied "Closer" (as well "The Perfect Drug" and "Burn") in their song "Hot Dog". The chorus goes, "You wanna fuck me like an animal, You'd like to burn me on the inside, You like to think that I'm a perfect drug, Just know that nothing you do will bring you closer to me." Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst said he was a big fan of Nine Inch Nails, who inspired his music. However, reviewers and even Reznor have often interpreted the lyrics as negative.
- The 2007 remake of The Hitcher uses the song in the background of a car chase scene.
- Santino Rice sang the song in season 2 of Project Runway as Tim Gunn.
- The first few seconds were used as the intro to Extreme Championship Wrestling's show ECW Hardcore TV. The beats would match each of the letters to the word "Extreme", before the main music kicked in ("Thunder Kiss '65" by White Zombie).
- The song was used in the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "Lady Heather's Box".
- The song was used in the Cold Case episode "The Hitchhiker".
- Paul Shaffer and the CBS Orchestra have played it a number of times on the Late Show with David Letterman.
- The song appears as a downloadable track in Guitar Hero: Warriors of Rock part of the Mega Track Pack.
- The song appeared as a downloadable track in Rock Band 3
- The American rock band Umphrey's McGee perform a "mash-up" of the song and the Beatles' "Come Together," which is entitled "Come Closer" .