Led by mastermind Trent Reznor, Nine Inch Nails took an underground genre known as industrial music and brought it to the mainstream by merging aggressive electronic-infused instrumentals with infectious rock hooks. As one of the most innovative bands of the past 30-plus years, NIN have released a myriad of classic songs.
Influenced by a wide range of artists that include David Bowie, Gary Numan, Kraftwerk, Depeche Mode, and Ministry, among others, Reznor crafted a magnificent debut with Nine Inch Nails’ 1989 album Pretty Hate Machine. Songs like “Head Like a Hole” and “Terrible Lie” quickly became industrial anthems. Then came one of the greatest EPs ever released, 1992’s Broken, an all-killer set that hinted at the direction Nine Inch Nails were moving in with standout tracks like “Wish” and “Happiness in Slavery.”
By 1994, NIN had already made a major name for themselves, but sophomore album The Downward Spiral propelled them to worldwide superstardom. With its profane chorus, “Closer” became an unlikely MTV hit, while the epic “Hurt” poured about as much emotion into one song as humanly possible.
NIN stepped back from the mainstream a bit with 1999’s double album The Fragile, as Reznor explored ambient sounds and experimental electronic music. A long break between albums saw Nine Inch Nails return in 2005 with the more radio-friendly With Teeth.
The past decade-plus has seen Reznor penning award-winning film scores with his musical partner and bandmate Atticus Ross, but NIN have continued to deliver a steady stream of releases in the 21st century, including Year Zero, The Slip, Hesitation Marks, and Bad Witch, along with the instrumental series Ghosts.
With Nine Inch Nails now members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, what better time to look back at the band’s music by counting down their ten best songs to date.
Managing Editor, Heavy Consequence