Nine Inch Nails

Head Like a Hole

Composed by Trent Reznor

Song Review by

The leadoff track on Nine Inch Nails' 1989 debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, "Head Like a Hole" became a cult favorite whose belated MTV exposure helped build Trent Reznor's fanatical underground following prior to his popular breakthrough. Although the song was a ranting diatribe against corporate and commercial greed, "Head Like a Hole" wasn't really a political critique; the song didn't revolve around carefully considered ideas as much as the force and drama with which Reznor expressed himself. His frothing invective against "god money" was delivered with a barely articulate rage -- growling, wailing, snarling, gnashing his teeth -- that made the song into grand theater. Plus, his backing music was immaculately crafted and produced, driven by a deliberate synthesizer bass riff and overlaid with various sound effects and treated guitars. Actually, aside from the roaringly distorted chorus, most of the instrumentation was electronic, but thanks to Reznor's performance, the intensity of the song's rage never lets up -- and it's that quality that made him a star just a few years later.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Pretty Hate Machine 1989 Bicycle Music Company / Spinefarm Records 5:00
Head Like a Hole 1990 Rykodisc 6:38
And All That Could Have Been 2002 Nothing 4:54
Beside You in Time 2007 Nothing
Mudstock! 2016 Zip City 4:58
No Image Blue Moon 5:24
No Image 4:13
No Image
Various Artists
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