The Downward Spiral Series Finale (#7): “The Downward Spiral” and “Hurt”

You can probably guess by the lack of post yesterday that the hotel didn’t have internet. Heck, they didn’t even have a pool. But I am back and ready to finish up The Downward Spiral Nine Inch Nails series. Here are the links for the other parts of the series: first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth.

#12 The Downward Spiral, the namesake of the album, is the song where everything comes together and everything falls apart. All the melodies from previous songs intertwine in the most interesting and beautiful ways. For being the “climax” of the album, it is very diminutive and devoid of the loud, emotional outburst in the previous songs. That however does not decrease the power; it augments it. Here are the lyrics for the song. Like “Eraser,” they are short but so raw and powerful.

he couldn’t believe how easy it was
he put the gun into his face
(so much blood from such a tiny little hole)

problems have solutions
a lifetime of fucking things up fixed in one determined flash

everything’s blue
in this world
the deepest shade of mushroom blue
all fuzzy
spilling out of my head 

It is obvious from the lyrics that the character in the album, after going through mental hell, decides that the only way to end the mental anguish is death. The most poignant line I feel is “a lifetime of fucking things up fixed in one determined flash.” I of course do not condone suicide. There are always other solutions. But I know how it feels to think that there are no solutions to the current problems. Everything seems unfixable; everything seems too hard. And when you are alone (or feel alone) these problems multiply and become almost unbearable. What has undoubtivly helped me through those times is asking people for help. Without my mother I don’t know what I would have done, nor do I even want to know.

(This video was made by a fan. I normally don’t post fan videos since they are not very good, but this one does a great job capturing the essence of the song.)

#14 “Hurt” is probably the next most well-know Nine Inch Nails song and rightly so. I have yet to listen to this song without tearing up. The pain, regret, and anguish portrayed in Trent Reznor’s voice is breathtaking and so sorrowful. Even sadder is the fact that the song (and whole album) prophesizes the next few years for Trent. Here is a man that has so much. He pioneered the industrial rock genre; he has influenced countless artists; he has created some of the most powerful music people will ever hear (his “empire of dirt”). But he struggled after the release of The Downward Spiral, slipping into alcohol and drugs. He isolated himself from his band members, his friends, his family. He let everyone down, he made them hurt. “Hurt” is frighteningly like a apology letter to his loved ones before his own downward spiral. (Side note: He did recover, go on to produce many other Nine Inch Nails albums, and recently win a Oscar for “The Social Network” soundtrack. However, the pathway for his recovery was difficult both physically and mentally.)

Many different theories have circulated about the ending of the song with the electric guitar blast and the ensuing white noise. Is it the character’s (and thus Trent’s, since they are so entertwined in the album) death followed the absence of life? Or is the last stanza promising a break from the self-destructive behavior? A belief that he is worth keeping. A belief that he is worth something.

Which ever the case, this song (and video) will always be a favorite of mine. It provides a perfect ending to one of the most amazing albums in existence. The Downward Spiral is so raw, powerful, rich in meaning, and strikingly beautiful. It has gotten me through battles with mental illnesses and “everyday” problems.

Thank you Trent. I doubt you will ever know how much of an inspiration (and not just musically) you are to your fans.



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

4 responses to “The Downward Spiral Series Finale (#7): “The Downward Spiral” and “Hurt”

  1. It is astounding how powerful music is, isn’t it? There are just some songs that send chills down my spine. I’m so glad the song helped you! 🙂

  2. John

    Just wow.
    I never known such music to have such an effect on any living soul before. it’s truly amazing how music can help you so much with your life.
    I feel sorry for Trent beyond words, and i love the guy for making this album.
    thank you for sharing this.

  3. Sam R

    I always saw Downward Spiral as sort of an out of body experience as he kills himself, and Hurt is a dead him regretting it afterward, wishing he could go back and fix things. Also, I’ve always loved the monotonous voice over the backing screams in Downward Spiral. Always thought that was a great way to represent depression.

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