On a Roll
August 2, 2019 9:47 AM   Subscribe

A recent episode of the near future sci-fi anthology show Black Mirror depicted a story involving pop icon Ashley O (played by Miley Cyrus). With Trent Reznor's blessing, the NIN classic Head Like a Hole was turned into an alternate universe version of itself: the high energy electro-pop chart topper On a Roll. The original lyrics about cruelty and corruption in modern society have been replaced with affirmations of success:
I'm stoked on ambition and verve / I'm gonna get what I deserve
posted by demiurge (71 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
 
I ...kinda like this...?

oh dear, my sense of irony which got me through so many decades, is totally miscalibrated to this new era. that makes me sad. kinda.

/me replays song.
posted by otherchaz at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


Is this the most crapsack of Black Mirror alternative universes? Heh.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:59 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Having my ears prick up during the first few moments of that episode and being all wait, what am I hearing? was one of the most satisfying experiences I've had with TV in a long time. The rest of the episode...ehhh. But I laughed every time they played the song.
posted by mittens at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2019 [18 favorites]


Also discussed on Fanfare.
posted by bfranklin at 10:02 AM on August 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


Black Mirror creator Charlie Brooker said he also reworked "Hurt" as "Flirt," but couldn't find a place for it in the episode (Mtv News) [via mochapickle's comment in the Black Mirror episode discussion on FanFare, where EmpressCallipygos noted Nine Inch Nails has commissioned a T-SHIRT tie-in with this, though it's now sold out :( ]

And I agree with others that I'd love a bubblegum pop rework album of NIN songs, if not a complete album re-work.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:03 AM on August 2, 2019 [22 favorites]


I wanna tuck you in like an animal! I'll put the fleece on the inside!
posted by Quindar Beep at 10:03 AM on August 2, 2019 [87 favorites]


If you've never heard some of the original demos for the first Nine Inch Nails album, look for the "Purest Feeling" bootleg and listen to some of them. The lyrics are mostly the same but the music is much poppier than what ended up on the album. I've often wondered what happened between recording the demos and recording the album for Trent to make that shift (Direction or suggestions from the label? Life events that brought him to a darker place? Sufficient practice and musical experience to finally produce the music that he was originally aiming for?).
posted by ElKevbo at 10:13 AM on August 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


House on a knoll, life's not too droll, the weather's alright, think I'll go for a stroll.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:17 AM on August 2, 2019 [38 favorites]


Now you all know how I feel about the NIN bootleg of Supernaut.
posted by bdc34 at 10:19 AM on August 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


I wonder if Brooker heard Call Me A Hole, which is really very good.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:23 AM on August 2, 2019 [7 favorites]




Great idea - a "bubblegum pop rework album of NIN songs" could be this era's equivalent to the 2004 gem Nouvelle Vague.
posted by PhineasGage at 10:28 AM on August 2, 2019 [11 favorites]


The existence of this song and it's success outside the show it was created for just makes the original song better.
posted by GoblinHoney at 10:30 AM on August 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Don't forget the other tie in song, Right where I belong.
posted by mrgoat at 10:37 AM on August 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


"bubblegum pop rework album of NIN songs"

Yeah we already tried this with DEV2.0... then Disney chickened out or someone figured out the scam....

I'd like to think it was the latter but it was probably the former. I think Mothersbaugh pretty much confirmed that.
posted by JoeZydeco at 10:38 AM on August 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


I wanna tuck you in like an animal! I'll put the fleece on the inside!

Help me
Set up this bed tray
Help me
It's your eggs I can smell
Help me
You made me pancakes
Help me eat this breakfast you've made
posted by Sangermaine at 10:41 AM on August 2, 2019 [26 favorites]


Without spoilers, the episode also contains an actual cover of the original (if you don’t care about spoilers, here’s the clip), and Miley Cyrus has performed both live at Glastonbury and pretty much rocked it (no video of that in youtube, but it’s in the highlights on the BBC site).
posted by bitteschoen at 10:42 AM on August 2, 2019 [10 favorites]


My alternative lyrics were always:
I want to calculate an integral
Approach the limit from the left side
posted by notoriety public at 10:42 AM on August 2, 2019 [37 favorites]


I wonder if Brooker heard Call Me A Hole, which is really very good.

That and "I Really Like a Hole." I regularly listen to the latter to cheer myself up.

(Looks like someone mused in the comments if that's where Black Mirror got the idea.)
posted by dlugoczaj at 10:47 AM on August 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


I think one of my favorite reactions to this was Trent Reznor's own.

Another favorite is his wife's reaction; apparently when Trent was listening to this in the car she sat bolt upright and demanded "what the fuck IS this???"
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:56 AM on August 2, 2019 [22 favorites]


I'm stoked on ambition and verve

I can't read that word without hearing Steve Martin's voice in my head.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Back in the late 1990s, when you could get paid to put up basic websites, my friends and I seriously underbid our time to make a website for a local rug store, in part because we also scanned a ton of photos of rugs to post online (the owner just went out and bought a scanner! Who does that? Our minds were blown! ;) )

Spending hours scanning photos can make you a bit loopy, so we joked about embedding a MIDI version of Perfect Drug and including lyrics for "Perfect Rug." We never actually wrote any, but I'm fixing that, here and now:

I'm in my bed 'cause my floor is cold, it's freezing
Can't get down, gotta shut the door, it's breezing
I got my shoes but my shoes are no good
The floor's freezing, that's understood

I come along but I don't know where you're taking me
I shouldn't go but you're wrenching dragging shaking me
Turn off the highway, go ahead, take a right
Here's the store, you say, let's go inside

And I want you
And I want you
And I want you
And I want you

You are the perfect rug
The perfect rug
The perfect rug
The perfect rug
posted by filthy light thief at 11:00 AM on August 2, 2019 [24 favorites]


I mean, it's not the perfect rug (song) yet, but it's a start :)
posted by filthy light thief at 11:04 AM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


Also:

oh dear, my sense of irony which got me through so many decades, is totally miscalibrated to this new era. that makes me sad. kinda.

If you haven't watched the episode and don't plan to, there's actually some interesting symmetry to this. The episode deals with two subplots, only one of which involves "Ashley O" (the other concerns two of her fans). Miley is basically playing herself; or, rather, she's playing a sort of synthesis of herself and Eugene-Landy-era Brian Wilson. "Ashley" is managed by her aunt, who keeps her in check with prescription medication designed to keep her in the bubblegum perky frame of mind. There are a few scenes where Ashley tries composing darker stuff, but her aunt huddles with the rest of Ashley's production team and they shift it to the perkier stuff. (The song she's "composing" in one scene actually cites NIN's "Right Where It Belongs", and it gets spun into an ode to the joy of partying called "Right Where I Belong").

By the end of the episode Ashley manages to break out from under her aunt's thumb, and the very last scene is of her in this grungy little club with a band behind her ripping into a cover of the actual "Head Like A Hole" and looking like she loves every minute of it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:06 AM on August 2, 2019 [10 favorites]


The sense of irony here is pretty spot on in my view. Reznor has never shied away from his pop sensibilities or how nakedly ambitious and competitive he was, how music-scene-minded. Cobain was much the same. They both wanted to make something different that reflected their values and interests, and they knew they could do it by mixing sugar into their songs. Black Mirror is the kind of amicable techno horror you'd expect in a media landscape that's had a few decades of NIN. Be the change you want to see in the world.
posted by es_de_bah at 11:25 AM on August 2, 2019 [9 favorites]


I'm gonna be that mefite and just say I'm not a fan of the "ticky ticky" drum sound that's everywhere these days. I am patiently awaiting for it to go out of style. I am a fan of everything else about this, though.
posted by frecklefaerie at 11:26 AM on August 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm not a fan of the "ticky ticky" drum sound

Trap Music.

Yeah, it's gonna be another year or two before it's gone.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:30 AM on August 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


Why is golf doing this to me?
Are my Martini tees not what they used to be?
Why is my ball sitting so precariously?
Titleist owes me a great big apology
Terrible lie
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 11:39 AM on August 2, 2019 [10 favorites]


Dance pop with dark as hell undertones, Isn’t this just Passion Pit?
posted by midmarch snowman at 11:46 AM on August 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


Am I the only person that hates this
posted by babelfish at 11:48 AM on August 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


This season of Black Mirror was pretty mixed for me, but I ended up loving this song. It's so damn catchy!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 11:56 AM on August 2, 2019


Next Black Mirror is about a guy who wakes up in a reality where no-one has heard that you can sing "Pinball Wizard" to the tune of "Folsom Prison Blues".
posted by Quindar Beep at 12:03 PM on August 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


Pretty Great Machine
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:14 PM on August 2, 2019 [28 favorites]


The Downward Trifle
posted by Beardman at 12:35 PM on August 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


House on a knoll, life's not too droll, the weather's alright, think I'll go for a stroll.

Also this is straight-up the Kinks circa Village Green.
posted by Beardman at 12:36 PM on August 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


Honest Bob & The Factory Dealer Incentives - Head Like a Hole

This is a smartass cover, but it is a [chef's kiss] magnificent smartass cover.

SPOKEN INTERLUDE:

Darlin' honeypie, you know I love you more than words can say...
But there's something I need to tell ya...
It's about your head.
Lately it's been looking a lot like -- well, kind of like a hole, actually.
It's all big and black and empty.
And to be honest... it kinda reminds me of your soul.
And then when you take all of that and combine it with the way you're trying to get me to give you control, well...
I'd rather die!

posted by DirtyOldTown at 12:40 PM on August 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


Can Miley Cyrus do anything wrong?
spoiler: nope
posted by signal at 1:40 PM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


March of the Puppies

I want to pet his ears
I want to give him treats
I want to rub his tum...
I want to go for a walk!

posted by mochapickle at 1:46 PM on August 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


I remember making a version of Closer that was content appropriate for us to sing at Muslim summer camp back in the day. Help me I've got to pray my Fajr is about the only line I remember though.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:20 PM on August 2, 2019 [6 favorites]


The Downward Trifle

The frown-turned-smile.

posted by BrotherCaine at 2:38 PM on August 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Now you all know how I feel about the NIN bootleg of Supernaut.

I was a lot older than I'd like to admin before I realized this was a cover. Same with Rapeman's Just got paid today.
posted by boo_radley at 2:42 PM on August 2, 2019


Am I the only person that hates this

No, it's pretty much what the phrase "thanks, I hate it" was invented for.
posted by sfenders at 2:57 PM on August 2, 2019 [2 favorites]


At the risk of pissing off my young Gen X/old Millennial peers... these lyrics aren't any more or less vapid than the original ones. Trent was great with production. He did cool shit with sound. But his lyrics were always godawful edgelord sing-songy nonsense.
posted by skullhead at 3:17 PM on August 2, 2019 [14 favorites]


I suppose that makes how apt the original lyrics feel at the end of the episode fitting
posted by flaterik at 3:57 PM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


For some reason, Ashley Too gave me a flashback to the Nabaztag internet-of-shit-connected rabboot.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:59 PM on August 2, 2019


I've never been a big NiN head, wasn't introduced to them until college (beyond singles). NiN was the favorite band of the girlwoman I sort-of dated (sort of relationship Facebook added "It's complicated" for) in college. Based on her and her friends, it is my understanding that the fact that my three favorite albums are Pretty Hate Machine, With Teeth, and Year Zero is unconventional, so the fact that the two adapted songs are from the first and second makes me happy.

I'm a little uncomfortable saying this because I don't know a lot about music production and don't want to start a fight, but I don't think the production on the adapted songs is very good. Maybe I just don't like minimalist stuff though and it's fine and I'm just ignorant.
posted by Caduceus at 5:03 PM on August 2, 2019


The reason this sounds in the same groove as Call Me Maybe is that Dave Ogilvie from Skinny Puppy mixed Call Me Maybe and used a lot of industrial music production techniques to make the drums, for example, sound so much more impactful than normal pop drums.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:38 PM on August 2, 2019 [19 favorites]


Am I the only person that hates this

I don't know if hate is the word. As music, yes, of course. As dark humor it's pretty funny.
With no context of the show I think this sums up how I feel about 2019 in a way I couldn't express.
posted by bongo_x at 6:33 PM on August 2, 2019 [3 favorites]


Cheers for the heads-up! I've lapsed watching Black Mirror, not yet seen Bandersnatch even. Heard the pre-release promo buzz about the Miley episode, but no specifics. Would have loved seeing this unexpectedly, but it's been a few months and definitely fair game for sharing. Might be my favourite (not-really-a) spoiler ever.

brb, NetFlix.
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 6:33 PM on August 2, 2019


Tell a lie, I saw Striking Vipers!
posted by I'm always feeling, Blue at 6:35 PM on August 2, 2019


The comments on iTunes for the song seems to be solit between it being a great song, and a shameless rip off of Head Like A Hole. Like they think Trent wasn’t aware of it.
posted by neilbert at 6:39 PM on August 2, 2019 [1 favorite]


The reason this sounds in the same groove as Call Me Maybe is that Dave Ogilvie from Skinny Puppy mixed Call Me Maybe

Hi. I am from Gen X and I am dead now after learning this.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:37 PM on August 2, 2019 [22 favorites]


Trying to imagine Carly Rae Jepsen insisting: "Get me that drum sound like on those Genitorturers records!"
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:40 PM on August 2, 2019 [12 favorites]


The edits on the vocal track (harsh cuts on "verve" and "-serve" during the chorus) are so jarring, it's all I can hear/focus on. It makes no sense! GAAAAAAAH
posted by onehalfjunco at 7:47 PM on August 2, 2019


The reason this sounds in the same groove as Call Me Maybe is that Dave Ogilvie from Skinny Puppy mixed Call Me Maybe

THIS IS AMAZING
posted by curious nu at 9:28 PM on August 2, 2019 [4 favorites]


The reason this sounds in the same groove as Call Me Maybe is that Dave Ogilvie from Skinny Puppy mixed Call Me Maybe

Everything makes sense now.
posted by migurski at 10:18 PM on August 2, 2019 [5 favorites]


..... Nothing makes sense now.
posted by webmutant at 11:14 PM on August 2, 2019 [7 favorites]


Basically its goths all the way down
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:15 PM on August 2, 2019 [10 favorites]


Look, man, we tried to tell you we were down here, but nobody listened. Nobody ever listens.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 12:47 AM on August 3, 2019 [16 favorites]


But his lyrics were always godawful edgelord sing-songy nonsense.

This is the same NiN what did the Quake music Yeah. Reznor's much better w/o words.
posted by mikelieman at 1:16 AM on August 3, 2019 [1 favorite]


I'm browsing the responses to Trent Reznor's reaction tweet I linked above, and someone has come up with the genius idea to have Trent cover "Wrecking Ball" and "Party In The USA".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:30 AM on August 3, 2019 [8 favorites]


I was totally prepared to love this, but the reworked songs just don't do much for me, and that sinks the concept for me personally. I'm a huge NIN fan but not at all pop-averse, and I like what eps I've seen of Black Mirror just fine. And Miley Cyrus played the character well. The idea was great for sure; I just wanted to love the songs more than I did after actually hearing them.

I especially dislike the lyrics to the reworks, but I don't consider the words to the originals to be sacred texts or anything; as others have noted, lyrics were never at the top of the list of Reznor's musical gifts. Maybe the part of me that still feels some small connection to my past as a self-serious 90's goth adjunct just won't allow me to; I'm too close to the source material.

Didn't Miley sing a fragment of the actual "Right Where It Belongs" (not the remake) in a solemn moment of the episode? Perhaps as an early version or demo of the remake, within the context of the story? If I'm not misremembering, I found it rather touching, and I'd be all on board for a Miley album of straightforward NIN covers, but I suppose that's mostly missing the point.
posted by kryptondog at 8:44 AM on August 3, 2019


I especially dislike the lyrics to the reworks,

I think that’s what they’re aiming for.

And that’s the beauty of it. They’re meant to be awful. Miley is trapped in an autotuned, fully choreographed bubblegum hellscape.
posted by mochapickle at 9:01 AM on August 3, 2019 [13 favorites]


Didn't Miley sing a fragment of the actual "Right Where It Belongs" (not the remake) in a solemn moment of the episode? Perhaps as an early version or demo of the remake, within the context of the story?

Yep - the in-world explanation is that that's a song "Ashley" is writing, and then later in the episode her aunt and the production team re-work it into another peppy pop anthem of the type that Ashley's brand is known for called "Right Where I Belong". (They debut it with a hologram version of Ashley O because Black Mirror.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:02 AM on August 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


After listening to the links in this thread, I had to retreat to the DEVO cover to find my happy place again.
posted by radwolf76 at 11:01 AM on August 3, 2019


Miley Cyrus is amazing, I mean that unabashedly.
posted by maxwelton at 7:17 PM on August 3, 2019 [4 favorites]


I like the idea of Miley doing a NIN cover album, but especially if it's a double—one disc Miley, one disc Ashley O's pop versions.
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 12:56 PM on August 4, 2019 [1 favorite]


It's time for The Erotics of Trent Reznor.
posted by smammy at 4:48 PM on August 4, 2019 [3 favorites]


I wanna tuck you in like an animal! I'll put the fleece on the inside!

excuse me pardon me don't mean to interrupt but by the way you need to smash this entire Rock-a-Bye Baby covers NIN album into your noise holes right the heckimus now
posted by FatherDagon at 1:56 PM on August 5, 2019 [1 favorite]


There's a fun note that was discussed in the Fanfare thread:

Since the world of the episode claims that it was Ashley O who "wrote" the actual songs "Head Like A Hole" and etc., someone asked what happened to Trent Reznor in that alternate world?

Someone else chimed in to state that they'd learned some years back that "Trent Reznor" spelled backwards is "Ron Zertnert", and speculated that in the Ashley O universe, there was no Trent Reznor, there was just a mild-mannered dude named Ron Zertnert who was like an accountant or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:07 AM on August 6, 2019 [3 favorites]


Great essay, smammy, thanks for posting it.
posted by Caduceus at 2:27 PM on August 6, 2019


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