Music Video Meaning


All the things you don't know about rock music videos and more

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Closer, the most controversial video of Nine Inch Nails

“Closer” is one of the most famous songs of the American rock band Nine Inch Nails. It is part of their second album “The Downward Spiral” and was released as a single in 1994. You can also find it with the titles “Closer To God” and “Halo 9”.

Why “Halo 9”? It is a numbering invented by the band for their singles. Closer is the ninth single released on the market. The single Halo 1 is “Down in It” from 1989. The most recent of 2018 is “Bad Witch” or Halo 32, from the album “The Trilogy era”.

The new albums of March 2020 by Nine Inch Nails

The two albums released in March 2020 seem to have a unique Halo numbering, probably because they contain instrumental versions and they are the continuation of the 2008 “Ghosts I-IV” album. They are “Ghosts V: Together” (Halo 33 with 8 tracks) and “Ghosts VI: Locusts” (Halo 34 with 15 tracks). Available as a free download as a gift for fans during the lockdown. You can find them on the YouTube channel and on streaming platforms. On their website you can take a look at the official discography.

The meaning of Closer of Nine Inch Nails

Many consider “Closer” one of the most beautiful songs of the 90s, including VH1 which in 2003 included it among the 100 best songs of the past 25 years. However, this song aroused many controversies at the time of its release, both for the lyrics and for the music video.

“Closer” is an industrial alternative rock genre with elements of electronic music. It contains many vulgar words that at the time of release on radio and on MTV were censored.

Reading the text, one might think that it is about an exaggerated sexual desire or a relationship based only on the physical side. In reality, Nine Inch Nails wanted to talk about self-hatred and obsessions.
The protagonist is an individual who has lost everything and feels empty. He does not find fulfillment even in the sexual act. His existence is similar to that of an animal and for this reason he tries to get closer to God to find his identity. But without success.

The Closer video by Nine Inch Nails

The accompanying music video shows us a scientist’s old laboratory. In the first scene there is a heart attached to a chair that continues to beat thanks to a machine with electrodes.

All around there is decay and dirt: dust, scattered glass bottles, a cathode ray tube TV, skeletons, cockroaches, stuffed animals, an 80s telephone.

Some characters also appear. A woman completely without clothes, bald, with a bandana on which a crucifix stands. A man observes the scene through a hole. We also see several actors spinning on a dais, wearing bizarre clothes.

There is a buffalo head hanging from a rope and swaying, a pig’s head with an apple in its mouth and a live monkey tied to a crucifix. This scene has sparked protests among animal rights activists, although producers have reassured that the animal has not suffered violence.

Singer Trent Reznor appears in many scenes. We see him twirling in the air supported by invisible threads, playing a piano hanging on the wall, with aviator glasses and also tied as in a bondage session.
Many situations are reminiscent of bondage or a satanic rite.

For these issues, the song and the video aroused many controversies, because they seem to negatively bring up religion, sexuality, animals, politics.

The video is from the early 90s and later, thanks also to Marilyn Manson and other artists, this style will become very common.

The director of the video Mark Romanek

The director is Mark Romanek. This producer made the videos of “Rain” and “Badtime Story” for Madonna. He has also worked for David Bowie, Lenny Kravitz, Keith Richards, R.E.M., Janet Jackson, Weezer, Audioslave, Mick Jagger, No Doubt, Johnny Cash, Thirty Seconds To Mars and many others. We find his signature on another Nine Inch Nails video, “The Perfect Drug”.

For the video “Closer” he seems to have taken inspiration from the works of American photographer Joel-Peter Witkin, who worked extensively on subjects of corpses and deformed people. Other inspirations came from the Brothers Quay directors, experts in stop-motion animation.

Closer in the film Se7en with Brad Pitt

The song Closer by Nine Inch Nail also appears in the main titles of the film “Se7en” with Brad Pitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey.

Closer in the Limp Bizkit song “Hot Dog”

Fred Durst, the lead singer of Limp Bizkit, used parts of the song “Closer” in his “Hot Dog”.

“You wanna fu ** me like an animal?” in the original NIN song is “I want to fu ** you like an animal”. And then again in “Hot Dog” we find “… bring you closer to me”.

Nine Inch Nails seem to have authorized Limp Bizkit for this use. However, between Reznor and Durst in the late 90s and early 2000s there was a relationship of “love and hate”.

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