Welcome to "Behind the Lyrics" with Elise Chandler. Each week, I find a song that I feel is understated both musically and lyrically, and I analyze it through several critical lenses.
This week, we're looking at a Nine Inch Nails oldie "Head Like a Hole" This song may seem pretty transparent in its meaning. The chanting at the beginning stating:
"Bow down before the one you serve.
You're going to get what you deserve. Bow down before the one you serve. You're going to get what you deserve."
And then, many of the lyrics beginning with "God money". A main theme to pull from this whoever a person chooses to serve is the type of life they can expect to receive. The chanting at the beginning gives the listener a feeling of either a mob mentality or even a religious gathering. It's authoritative phrasing giving command and intimidation to listeners.
Since "God money" seems to be the warning of this song, the song begins to paint pictures of what happens if you follow money as your god instead of something bigger and more meaningful.
This song is an excellent example of the literary theory of "Marxism". This literary theory deals with materialism and the struggles seen within a society in regard to materialism and wealth.
Money has been personified in this song to give it more of an edge and authority. Money is God, and this god does not treat its worshippers well. We seen this in the first four lines of the song:
"God money I'll do anything for you.
God money just tell me what you want me to God money nail me up against the wall. God money don't want everything he wants it all."
And in the second stanza of the song:
"God money's not looking for the cure. God money's not concerned with the sick among the pure. God money let's go dancing on the backs of the bruised. God money's not one to choose"
In the first stanza, we see it doesn't matter what this worshipper chooses to do for its "god". This god is not happy until it has everything. Until it owns your "black soul".
In the second stanza, we see that those who donate for good causes are not always helping. That is just what they tell themselves to help themselves go to sleep at night. However, the narrator mentions again that it is the "god" that chooses to turn a blind eye to the poor. Oh no, it is those who worship the "God money".
This leads us to the title of this track "Head like a hole". Money empties us of everything and leaves us with nothing but desire. This desire controls us and manipulates us. Nothing will fill the void, no amount of stuff. No amount of throwing money at causes.
However, the narrator makes a bold claim, establishing his clear position on this topic - "I'd rather die than give you control". The first steps a society takes in making sure money is not the primary concern that people are -- these are the first positive steps in the right direction. Money by itself solves nothing. Good human acts behind donations of time AND money -- now that is something positive.
Good stuff! Until next time.