When I hear a poor excuse from one of my group members in my English class, all I can think is:
"I don’t give a SHIT…about BEN!"
- Anatomy professor: "And this is a leg fracture...."
- Class: [silence]
- Anatomy professor: ".....in a dog."
- Class: What?! NOOOO!!!!
She’s wearing a pale pink T−shirt, Alice notes – a color Taylor used to make a point of hating. She always had to wear outspoken things, red purple, orange, sometimes all at once. Alice realizes something important about her daughter at this moment: that she’s genuinely a mother. She has changed in this way that motherhood changes you, so that you forget you ever had time for small things like despising the color pink.
Barbara Kingsolver, “Pigs in Heaven”
[pre-gifs] “…So, she [Paris Hilton] was a very wealthy woman, [initially] not that well known and then she gets to mega-stardom. How? The sex tape. Which was made by her boyfriend at the time, who was married, and thirteen years her senior. She sued to try and stop it [the tape’s circulation] and she couldn’t and it became the best selling sex tape for two years on the porn market.”
Nine Inch Nails - Closer
Saying that “Closer” is a song about sex is like calling David Bowie a guitar player. While the aspect is certainly there, it’s the least crucial part to its genius. There’s no mistaking that the song’s provocative surface has driven its popularity (when else do you have the excuse to say “I wanna fuck you like an animal” in public?), and it was certainly the first Nine Inch Nails song I sought out to listen to in its entirety. But on the topic of how he’d like to be remembered, Trent Reznor only half-jokingly told CBC Radio that he’d rather not go down as “the lucky guy that had a silly single with a bad word in it 20 years ago.”
Following the industrial metal EP Broken (1992), Reznor sought out to create an album that expanded NIN’s musical pallet beyond its aggressive synth and electric guitar-driven catalogue at the time. Reznor envisioned the project that became The Downward Spiral (1994) as a concept album about one man’s decent from sanity to suicide. Over the course of 14 songs, the protagonist becomes addicted to drugs, loses his lover, his faith, and then himself to excess and depression.
In this continuity, “Closer” is really about the protagonist’s failed attempt to run away from his isolation with sex. Anonymous, sadomasochistic sex. While the opening drumbeat sampled from Iggy Pop’s "Nightclubbing" sets the boudoir mood, the growing layers of guitars and synthesizers throughout the song build not to a point of pleasure, but of pain as the protagonist is consumed by his insecurities. Yes, he wants to fuck you like an animal, but only because the bedroom is the last place where he can feel in control of his life: “Help me tear down my reason / Help me it’s your sex I can smell / Help me you make me perfect / Help me become somebody else.”
The music video, a compelling work of art on its own, furthers the song’s connection to The Downward Spiral's overarching themes. Director Mark Romanek, who went on to direct the video for Johnny Cash's cover of “Hurt,” includes images of a monkey on a cross (the protagonist has no respect for religion), a decaying pig's head (spinning literally while the protagonist's spins figuratively), and a nude, anonymous woman (much like the protagonist's conquests) among other unnerving shots. Romanek purposely had “Closer” shot with hand-cranked cameras and burned certain portions of the film in post-production to give it an older look that also strengthens the imagery of decay, be it of the body in death or of the mind in mental collapse.
Just when the ending of “Closer” seems to be going out of control with endless electronic loops, the madness is cut off by a delicate piano outro. The motif appears throughout The Downward Spiral in various instruments and keys. My best guess of its meaning is that the interlude represents the protagonist’s sense of hope. Earlier in the album, songs like “Piggy” and “Closer” feature the motif prominently as a vibrant piano part. Hope is briefly regained. By the chorus of “Heresy,” the motif becomes buried in distortion. Hope is lost. By its final appearance, the motif can barely be heard until all hope is eclipsed by screams.