Trent Reznor is…well, we can all agree he is an extremely talented man, yes? Okay, now that we’ve got that out of the way…
“Hurt” / Nine Inch Nails (1994)
In spite of the rising of the chorus, the dip of those minor keys and the solid, static melancholy of the lyrics, this song takes me in a horizontal direction. I am neither uplifted or downtrodden after listening. It’s something that needs to just sit and be digested over time, I guess.
That is to say, it’s good. It’s thick and chewy and satisfying.
So who better to take this song and slice through it?
“Hurt” / Johnny Cash (2002)
I often wonder if a song is made “good” (to me, in my own personal-est of opinions) by the performer, the writer or a combination of both. And is it fair to load an entire artist’s previous body of work onto each subsequent song he performs? Is everything he does the culmination of everything he’s done?
I can’t help but do this, particularly with the artists with whom I’m most familiar. The user who uploaded the video of Cash’s version writes “This poignant performance of Nine Inch Nail’s, ‘Hurt’ is almost haunting, as it was recorded just prior to Cash’s untimely death.” I agree, but it still resonated with me when it was first released. “Whether or not a Johnny Cash fan, this performance is powerful and deep with emotion,” the user adds. I’m not sure I can phrase it better, though I might add that the video, too, is haunting – almost uncomfortable to watch.
So which one’s better? I can’t play that game. They’re both incredibly powerful and effective at digging up your emotions – maybe even more powerful than Reznor originally intended, though that one’s another debate for another time.