Tear Jerker / Nine Inch Nails

Whenever this industrial rock band decides to make a melancholy, heartfelt instrumental song instead of the usual nihilistic rage — it can tug on one's heart strings.

  • Special mention goes to the Still version of "Something I Can Never Have". Trent is actually crying by the last verse, and it becomes rapidly more clear what he's talking about in the song: while the Pretty Hate Machine version was a wangst anthem about failed romance, the Still version is about him reminiscing about his prior life and lamenting his fall into drug addiction. The "something I can never have" in that version is a normal life, free of personal problems, like he used to have.
    • Pretty much all of Still is cry-yourself-to-sleep music, really.
    • The original "Something I Can Never Have" is generally sad, too.
    • Thankfully, this all proved to be untrue, as Trent is now happily married and a father.
  • "The Persistence of Loss" and "Adrift And At Peace" also count as this, though.
  • "All That Could Have Been" simply for the line "In my nothing, you meant everything to me".
  • Probably the most heart-wrenching is the instrumental "Leaving Hope": Written when Trent Reznor was "at his lowest", it's a simple piece that builds up layer upon layer of soaring, beautiful, uplifting music, that dies away... only to give way to a mesmerising chorus of voices. Breathtaking.
  • While being a nightmare fueled Concept Album, The Downward Spiral also does feature some very somber tracks:
    • "A Warm Place", especially at the end — when it starts fading into "Eraser" and you realize the brief glimpse of hope is over.
    • The slam cut from "Big Man With a Gun" to "A Warm Place" can be rather gut-wrenching as well when you understand what just happened in the context of the Concept Album: The character went insane and raped someone (or at least went into a grandiose, depraved mania and tried to do so, or believed that they were doing so), then has retreated into his mind, the only place where he can find any sort of peace (and even that peace doesn't last, as seen above).
    • "Hurt", especially in the context of the album — particularly because Trent's vocals are haunting. It only doesn't reach much Tear Jerker potential due to Last Note Nightmare... but those fucking lyrics....
    And you could have it all,
    my empire of dirt
    I will let you down.
    I will make you hurt...
    If I could start again,
    a million miles away,
    I would keep myself...
    I would find a way.
    • Johnny Cash's cover is even worse, if only because it was being sung by a man in the twilight of his years, reflecting on his real-life failures. Trent himself said that the song wasn't his anymore.
  • "Zero Sum" from Year Zero which, if you follow the Year Zero timeline, is about the end of the world.
    • Since we're talking about Year Zero, Hour of Arrival, a letter from a government worker to his soon-to-be-born child (from the ARG), certainly qualifies.
      Itís so stupid, Danny Jane. We get scared and our hearts dry up. Donít be scared. Please -God let me get home safe tomorrow and I swear I will quit my stupid government job and do nothing but fill you up with courage. I will take spiders out of the house for you, and buy you roller skates, and teach you how to catch crickets with your bare hands.
      • And this is to say nothing of the ending, which crosses this with Nightmare Fuel.
  • "In This Twilight" also near the end of that album, fits in that regard as well, doubly so since this was the final song the band performed at their final show in Los Angeles.
  • "La Mer". It was written by Trent Reznor at the low point of his depression, but it's not angry or angsty- it's just a quiet, resigned near-instrumental with a woman reciting a poem in French in the background:
    And when the day arrives
    I'll become the sky
    And I'll become the sea

    And the sea will come to kiss me
    For I am going

  • Others songs with lyrics that fall under this include "The Day The World Went Away" (especially the "Quiet Mix".) , "The Great Below" (and its sequel, "And All That Could Have Been"), and "Right Where It Belongs" (V2 is even sadder, and more stripped down).
  • "Head Down."
    And this is not my face, and this is not my life, and there is not a single thing here I can recognize. And this is all a dream, and none of you are real. I'd give anything. I'd give anything.
    • "Every Day Is Exactly The Same" doesn't sound like most other songs on this list but Trent sells it with lyrics like "I think I used to have a purpose but, then again, that might have been a dream". Anyone who has been through what the protagonist is going through can say how sad it is below the surface.
  • "Lights In the Sky". Just Trent and his piano, with lyrics like "Watching you drown, I'll follow you down, and I am right here beside you". Also doubles as a Heartwarming Moment, with its mixture of resignation and determination to stand by another's side even as the world ends (there are theories that this song and some others on The Slip continue or add to the Year Zero plotline in some way...).
  • "1" and "2 Ghosts I".
  • "While I'm Still Here," particularly the chorus. The lyrics along with the simple, strangely poignant synth melody easily make this penultimate track of Hesitation Marks qualify. Unfortunately, it's potential vanishes when it fades into the closing track "Black Noise", though.
    A little more
    Every day
    Falls apart and
    Slips away
    Well, I don't mind
    I'm okay
    Wish it didn't have to end this way
    • And that's just the first chorus; in the second chorus, which begins the same as the first, another simple yet oddly moving melody, this one on clean guitar, enters the mix, along with these lyrics:
    Nothing ever
    Stays the same
    While we can
    Remember when
    Always were, yeah
    Even then
    Stay with me
    Hold me near
    While I'm still here
  • Even Trent's soundtrack works have a few of them. Most notably "A Minute to Breathe", good Lord. It was the first thing Trent had put out (with vocals) since Hesitation Marks....and it became one of his most emotional songs that he ever wrote, on par with "Leaving Hope".
  • In January 2017, around the anniversary of David Bowie's death, a mysterious remix appeared on a soundcloud account titled "I Can't Give Everything Away (Farewell Mix) - Uncredited. Redditors speculated whether or not the remix came from Trent. 7 months later, on the first NIN show in 3 years, Trent performs a cover of "I Can't Give Everything Away", confirming the remix was indeed his own creation. Knowing the special connection between Bowie and Reznor, this can cause even the most seasoned NIN fan to tear up a little, as well as hearing Reznor's and Bowie's voice harmonising together for perhaps the very last time.
  • Although a somewhat small track, a lot of people tend to have a emotional reaction with "This Isn't The Place" from Add Violence. The tone is quite somber and quiet compared to the rest of the EP (and even the first 2 EPs in the trilogy).
    • Though currently only speculation, the unreleased With Teeth era song "My Dead Friend" seems to have a strong connection to the song's lyrics which were supposedly rumoured to be about a friend Trent lost to addiction. Furthermore, it is also speculated that the song may be written as a posthumous note to David Bowie.
      "I thought we had more time."