In May of 2003 Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor wrote lyrics that one youtuber called "lonely but alive." The lyrics formed a song, with gentle two note piano motifs and root-note octave jumps on a distorted synth. The song is called 'Right Where It Belong.'
Here is a video of the song:
Nine Inch Nails has produced 8 studio albums since their formation in 1988, while Reznor has been called one of the musical geniuses of our time. He described himself in a Rollingstone interview as "a snarling guy sweating on the mic," but in this song, the snarls turn to an existential loneliness.
The song begins in the minor, with a fuzzy, distorted synth behind Reznor's playful piano line. lready we have set the tone, with the piano characterizing a human side to a background of industrial breathing. Reznor's voice sounds faded and muffled, almost hidden behind some barrier. The lyrics depict an animal at the zoo, questioning, "Are you sure what side of the glass you are on?" Imagine Reznor, on stage, sulking over piano keys, staring out at the huge audience. He is that animal. He is unsure of which side of the glass he is on.
At 1:09 we get a tonal shift to the relative major as Reznor sings, "What if everything around you isn't quite as it seems?"
And then, around 3:10 into the song, the bass notes in the synth become clearer. Reznor asks, "Are you hiding in the trees?" His voice steps out to the front of the mix. You can literally imagine the lights on stage shining on him as he sings to the audience. You can even hear the audience as they scream; curtains up! This is Reznor's reality! College professors would used the term 'word painting', but whatever the lingo...it is poignant and clever.
"What if everything around you isn't quite as it seems?
What is all the world you used to know is an elaborate dream?"
With the audience surrounding him, onstage or off, Reznor digs into nihilistic and existential philosophies in an industrial modern era.
Fun Fact: There is an alternate version of this song!
Check it out HERE