NIN Oeuvre Blog: The Becoming

The clowns over at can debate all they want about who the Annie mentioned in “The Becoming” is, but I know the truth. She’s not Tori Amos, regardless of whether or not LittleUrantiaGirl is right about Annie being Ms. Amos’s childhood nickname. She’s not an ex-girlfriend of Trent’s, Ana99. And she’s certainly not a character from the work of Jean Paul Sartre, mr.anthrope. No, the Annie that Trent Reznor sings about in “The Becoming” is another Annie entirely.

She’s the Annie from Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal.”

Yes, you heard me right. The proof is in the pudding. Or, well, the lyrics, at least.

I can try to get away but I’ve strapped myself in
I can try to scratch away the sound in my ears
I can see it killing away all my bad parts
I don’t want to listen but it’s all too clear
Hiding backwards inside of me I feel so unafraid
Annie, hold a little tighter…
I might just slip away

— Nine Inch Nails

Annie, are you OK?
So, Annie are you OK?
Are you OK, Annie?
You’ve been hit by
(You’ve been struck by)
A Smooth Criminal

— Michael Jackson

Don’t you see it? The protagonist in the Nine Inch Nails song is very obviously the eponymous “Smooth Criminal” of the Michael Jackson track. He comes in through the window of the girl he once prayed would save him, would hold him a little tighter. The scene is like a crescendo, a rising argument between two former lovers. And when she refuses to hold the pieces of him together, when she refuses to rescue him from the noise inside his head, the noise that wants him dead, he beats her. He comes into her apartment, and he leaves her bloodstains on the carpet.

It’s really simple, and it’s all right there for the interested listener to pick up on. If you can’t hear it… well, I feel sorry for you. You are missing out on one of the truly great lyrical crossovers in pop music history.

So, until next time, when we discuss whether or not the window that the smooth criminal came in through was the bathroom window, and what the implications of that might be, this is ChrisClark (ecc1977 on Twitter) signing off. Good night, and good luck.