In my last post, I discussed the differences between covers of an obscure 70s song, the meaning of which can be different for everyone. This time, the song and its meaning are a little more clear cut:
The final track of the 1994 Nine Inch Nails album, "The Downward Spiral," "Hurt" is a song clearly written from a dark place, darker then most men dare to go. The haunting feeling one gets from the first line, "I hurt myself today/to see if I still feel" is not like any other. Trent Reznor was a heroin addict, and the effects of his addiction can be clearly felt in this song. Hearing him sing this song does not give one the impression that he would survive to make another five or six albums, but he overcame. Nevertheless, this song is conjures up some of the darker feelings that one can have.
And now for a completely different song:
Almost ten years later, an aged and dying Johnny Cash recorded this song for his album, "American IV: The Man Comes Around." While Reznor's version comes from a place of darkness and hopelessness, Cash's comes from a somewhat different angle. Cash sings the song applying the poignant words not to an addiction, but rather to his age. The same lyric, "I hurt myself today/To see if I still feel" brings about the same emotional response, but for a different reason. Reznor sings the song as a dead man, Cash sings it as one who can feel his death approaching. After hearing the cover and having people constantly mistake him for covering a Johnny Cash song, Trent declared, "It's not my song anymore."
One last thing I'd like to point out is the video for Cash's version. Apart from being brilliantly and disturbing shot with June by his side, the video makes for one of the sadder I've seen in a long while. But there's one thing about the video that evokes an emotion in me that I've never felt. Around the 2:53 mark, Cash picks up a goblet and starts erratically spilling wine while looking directly into the camera. I find that more bone chilling than many other things I've seen on the internet, and I've seen some things. I don't know, maybe it's just me.
It's almost unfair to ask which song is better in this case because in my opinion, they're two completely different songs.