The Downward Spiral #3: “Closer”

This is the third part of my The Downward Spiral Series. Here are the links to the first and second parts if you  need to get caught up.

#5 The fifth song on The Downward Spiral album, “Closer,” is probably the most known Nine Inch Nail’s song. It was played excessively in the mid-90s and was know for its explicit chorus, “I want to fuck you like an animal.” Because of this line, many people describe it as one of the sexiest songs ever. However, in the context of the album, it has a completely un-sexy meaning. As the main character goes further down the spiral of depression, anxiety, and psychosis, he turns to meaningless, animalistic sex to make him feel again–to feel anything again. But this does not work. Throughout the whole song, we can see he is going further into his depression. He talks about how his “whole existence is flawed,” how he has no “soul to sell,”  how having sex is the only time he feels good about himself since it makes him “perfect” and “helps [him] get away from [his self].” This song is anything but sexy: it is a desperate cry for help and one of the saddest songs I have ever heard.

The music video fits the theme of the of the song perfectly. The raw sexual nature comes from Trent’s overt sexuality, the S&M paraphernalia, and the numerous freudian imagery. The animalistic nature and the idea of the decay of the body comes from the rotten carcasses and heads. The feeling of desperation and despair comes from the dark atmosphere and the emotion in Trent’s voice and body language. Yes it is disturbing and  banned from MTV and youtube, but portrays the message of the song flawlessly.

This song/video is my favorite Nine Inch Nails piece and one of my favorite songs/videos of all time. Never have a heard a song with such raw emotions, such heart-rending lyrics, and such a stunning musical backdrop. Never have I seen a video with such detailed and disturbing but surprisingly beautiful imagery. Trent, you have created a masterpiece that will never age.

Also, if you have 30 minutes to spare, their is an amazing video of the making of the movie that describes the director’s processes and the numerous homages “hidden” in the video.

It may be long but it is well worth your time. Plus, The Closure DVD that this “Making of” video is from is extremely hard to find. I have been looking for a year now and have yet to see it in stores or see someone selling it on Ebay, Amazon, etc.



Filed under Closer, Industrial, NIN, The Downward Spiral, Trent Reznor

4 responses to “The Downward Spiral #3: “Closer”

  1. Alenka


    Sorry about the caps, don’t know what that was about

    • I was going to include “Ruiner” in the post but I got to the end of discussing “Closer” and felt like anything I added on would not do “Ruiner” justice.
      And caps? Thats nothing to apologize for. I apologize for the probable comma splices, misspellings, dangling modifiers etc. (PS, I don’t even know what a dangling modifier is, it just sounded cool)

  2. I was really curious how you were going to interpret Closer.
    That song has always made me blush and cringe — such a visceral response. Anytime anything is that evocative, you gotta hand it to the artist.
    I’m just a prude.
    But how sick was that video? It was pretty groundbreaking for it’s time. The grainy footage and speed…and of course that microphone will always resemble a nipple.
    Reminds me of this Tool video – which was equally intense and amazing.

    • I had never seen the “Sober” video before but wow… so powerful and so dark. Plus, the stop-motion is well done. I will have to look up more Tool videos.
      And yes, the Closer video was groundbreaking. But it is interesting that they filmed it with an old reel camera. It gives the video an extra layer of intrigue and some how keeps it from seeming out-of-date. In fact, in many ways I still feel like the video is ahead of its time even now.

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