Crate Dig: Nine Inch Nails – The Perfect Drug

Song: “The Perfect Drug” by Nine Inch Nails
Year Release: 1997 – Year “Discovered” By Me: 1997
Reason Discovered: Music video on MTV

Why a fan?
In 1997, I was your average, slightly nerdy, suburban teen. I had a passing interest in music, but my CD collection at the time didn’t go much further than The Presidents of the USA, No Doubt, Weird Al, and the Batman Forever soundtrack. Growing up, there was always music around or in the car, but it wasn’t a defining characteristic in my life.

That all changed after I saw the video for Nine Inch Nails’ “The Perfect Drug” (insert snarky video-on-MTV comment here). Mark Romanek, director of the infamous video for “Closer,” spent $1 million on the gothic, blue-tinted homage to Edward Gorey. In it, Trent Reznor confronts the death of a child and falls into an absinthe-fueled abyss.

The video, like the song, is menacing, bold, and aggressive. All things that spoke to my barely-teenaged self. In the pre-mp3 age, I spent hours analyzing the song in a Midi file, breaking down the various tracks: the simple, repetitive guitar riff, the battling synth lines, and the staticky, drum-and-bass backbeat. Reznor’s lyrics are classic Nine Inch Nails: questioning self-worth, twisted desire, and loss of control.

I was hooked, and soon picked up the Lost Highway soundtrack and Pretty Hate Machine. Other alternative rock staples would follow. Returning to school in the fall of ’97, I was newly outfitted in band tees, JNCO jeans, and Airwalks (I tended more towards standard 90s skater gear than goth. No makeup or fishnets for me!). “The Perfect Drug” is the song that opened my eyes, not just to particular genres of music, but to a worldview and music-infused lifestyle that are still very much part of me, over a decade later.

Ironically, “The Perfect Drug” is Reznor’s least favorite creation, due to the hurried production and overwrought video. Nine Inch Nails never played the track live. Still, the song is centrally important to who I am today, because it started my musical addiction.

Part of the True Genius Requires Insanity Crate Dig series.

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