NIN Oeuvre Blog: Capital G

The drumbeat at the beginning of the Nine Inch Nails song “Capital G” is almost identical to the drumbeat at the beginning of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.” Don’t believe me? Listen to the beginning of “Capital G,” looping the beat if you can find some way to do so, and sing these words over it:

Hey, pretty baby, with the high heels on
You give me fever like I’ve never ever known
You’re just a product of loveliness
I like the groove of your walk, your talk, your dress.

Okay, take a minute to laugh, and then let’s get back to business.

You good? Good. Let’s move on.

“Capital G” is perhaps the most blatantly political song Trent Reznor has ever written, and it appears on what is most certainly the most politically-charged album that Nine Inch Nails has ever released (Year Zero). From the opening salvo (“I pushed a button and elected him to office and / he pushed the button and he dropped the bomb”) to the line where Reznor’s character alludes to his lack of concern about global warming by saying that he “[d]on’t give a shit about the temperature in Guatemala,” the listener is bombarded with images of a bleak future where even those of us who used to stand for something are now to be found on our hands and knees. But I’d argue that it’s the music that makes the song here, in particular the voice/accent that Reznor adopts in the verses.

The narrator’s tone in the verses is hard to pin down (as is the quasi-accent that’s being employed). He’s amused by the future he has helped wrought, certainly, but he also seems rather disinterested, not just in the temperature of Guatemala, but in everything. He seems like the sort of person who is only involved in the world when all it takes is a button click to be involved. In this way, the song seems as if it is not just an assault on the authority figure who signs his name with a capital G, but also on the lazy masses. Their/our refusal to think, and their/our refusal to become more personally involved in the world makes them/us just as culpable as good old George (and good old God). In fact, the song might be even more of an assault on those of us who were stupid enough to push that button and elect this guy to office than it is an assault on the idiot himself.

I think there are some who would rather Trent Reznor (and musicians and entertainers, in general) stay away from politics, but me, I don’t mind. As long as he sets his political statements to music that I can dance around like an idiot to, I’m fine with it.

Oh, and if you’re like me and you’re wondering if there are any other strange connections between Trent Reznor and Michael Jackson, come back next Tuesday for my look at “The Becoming.” How’s that for a tease?