Year Zero Is a concept AlbuM released in 2007 by Nine Inch Nails. SeT in the yeaR 2022 (dubbed 0000 or Year Zero), the album tells the story of a corrupted aMerican government bent on absolute control on the remaIning people of the world. by usiNg the drug, known as parepin as an alleGed belief That it wOuld protect the people from future BiotErrorist, the government added the drug into the drinking and water suppLy of all the general publIc. However, the side Effects from parepin came at a much higher threat instead of a use of help, some reporting a Vision of a ghostly hand, callEd "The Presence".
The album is Reznor's uncompromising vision of a dystopian future he saw as the Foregone Conclusion of the current policies of the American government (based on a dream he had about what would lead to the world's end). He began work on it while touring for his previous album, With Teeth, completing it in around five months. The limitations his work environment brought him — namely mostly being arranged on Reznor's laptop — were instrumental in defining the considerably more electronic sonic direction of the album.
However, you simply can't talk about Year Zero without mentioning its extensive usage of Audience Participation and Adaptation Expansion through an Alternate Reality Game, using variations of websites that were scattered through the album/concerts/USBs left at concerts and slew of creative ways to create the album's world. These methods took a lion's share of the album's reported $2 million budget, and while the websites aren't active anymore (due to the websites expiring with the ARG company that worked on them), fans still consider them to be the key element behind the album's success.
- HYPERPOWER! (1:42)
- The Beginning of the End (2:47)
- Survivalism (4:23)
- The Good Soldier (3:23)
- Vessel (4:53)
- Me, I'm Not (4:52)
- Capital G (3:50)
- My Violent Heart (4:19)
- The Warning (3:38)
- God Given (3:50)
- Meet Your Master (4:08)
- The Greater Good (4:52)
- The Great Destroyer (3:17)
- Another Version of the Truth (4:07)
- In This Twilight (3:33)
- Zero-Sum (6:14)
- Trent Reznor: vocals, guitar, drums, keyboards, production
- William Artope: trumpet
- Matt Demeritt: tenor sax
- Josh Freese: drums
- Jeff/Geoff Gallegos: brass, wind musical arrangement, baritone sax
- Elizabeth Lea: trombone
- Saul Williams: backing vocals
Another Version of the Tropes:
- Alliterative Title: "God Given", "The Greater Good".
- Alternative Calendar: The story takes place in the United States in the year 2022; or "Year 0" according to the American government, being the year that America was reborn.
- Audience Participation: The project is intended as a wake-up call to the audience about the way current politics and society at the time were going. For instance, in the liner notes a warning from the fictional United States Bureau of Morality (USBM) can be found, complete with a phone number to report people who have "engaged in subversive acts." When you dial it a recording is played with the message:By calling this number, you and your family are implicitly pleading guilty to the consumption of anti-American media and have been flagged as potential militants.
- Comedic Sociopathy: An instance of pitch-black comedy in "Capital G":I pushed a button and elected him to office, and uh
He pushed a button and it dropped a bomb.
You pushed the button and could watch it on the television.
Those motherfuckers didn't last too long. Ha, ha!
- Corrupt Church: The government has installed a Christian fundamentalist theocracy.
- Drugs Are Bad: Parepin, Opal and Copper. Some side effects from the Parepin include: complacency, dulling of emotions, muscle spasms, and not be able to reach orgasms anymore. Copper is worse, it could kill you if you try to kick it.
- Dystopia: The story is set in the future year of 2022 to criticize contemporary American politics in the year the album was made.
- Earth-Shattering Kaboom / The End of the World as We Know It: "In This Twilight" and "Zero-Sum".Watch the sun,As it crawls across a final timeAnd it feels like,Like it was a friend.It is watching us,And the world we set on fireDo you wonder,If it feels the same?
- Eldritch Abomination: The Presence, a giant, ghostly hand that reaches down from the sky, thought to be a side effect from the drugs, Parepin and Opal. But it turns out to be the cause for the end of the world.
- Epic Rocking: The 6:14 minutes "Zero-Sum".
- Excited Show Title!: "HYPERPOWER!"
- Extinct in the Future: A letter in the Mailstrom shows an advertisement for killing the last black bear to obtain the title of "Omega Man," a title which is given to the person who kill the last of a species. It also mentions that the lynx, snow leopard, and orangutan have already gone extinct.
- Fun with Acronyms: "Capital G." Some fans have speculated that the "G" stands for George W. Bush, though Trent Reznor has explained it stands for "greed".
- The Future Will Be Better: Averted in Headstuff's reflection of the album ten years later:With Donald Trump in office and in our minds every day, with white nationalism surging David Duke celebrates, with climate change denial having a new day, Trent Reznors deepest fears that are so methodically documented and illustrated through the lens of dystopic science fiction are now becoming more realized than ever, and Year Zero seems like a fitting soundtrack to our current times a decade later. If he released it now, wed call it on the nose, but as a document of once-imaginary extensions of fears, its a sobering, frightening artifact from a time that reminds us that all of this was predictable, that our current mess should not come as a shock.
- Gaia's Lament: The first verse of "Survivalism" details just how badly humanity has corrupted the earth:I should have listened to her
So hard to keep control
We kept on eating
But our bloated belly's still not full
She gave us all she had, but
We went and took some more
Can't seem to shut her legs
Our Mother Nature is a whore.
- Large Ham:I am the GREAT DESTROYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH
- Miniscule Rocking: "HYPERPOWER!" (1:42).
- My Country Tis of Thee That I Sting: The album criticizes the American government, especially the administration of George W. Bush.
- Ominous Message from the Future: The entirety of the ARG is this, with the earliest quantum computers suddenly receiving a bunch of websites from their future selves, depicting a dystopic future and the end of the world in 2022. Unfortunately, the messages sent back were partially corrupted by the future computers being damaged during the upload, either by government agents or The Presence. Nonetheless, the implication remains that having received the messages has changed the timeline and averted the events of the story.
- One-Word Title: "HYPERPOWER!", "Survivalism", and "Vessel".
- Oppressive States of America: The United States has become a totalitarian police state with a side of The Theocracy.
- The Oner: You could say that "Survivalism" could be counted as one, as it still one shot.
- Properly Paranoid: The music as well as the packaging give the audience the unnerving feel that the government watches them in every step they take.
- Rearrange the Song: "Survivalism" was remixed by Music/deadmau5 on his album while (1 < 2).
- Record Producer: Trent Reznor.
- Stop and Go: "God Given".
- Textless Album Cover
- "World of Cardboard" Speech: "The Great Destroyer" has a speech like that printed in the liner notes: "I hope they cannot see the limitless potential / living inside of me to murder everything / I hope they cannot see I am the GREAT DESTROYERRRRRR..." Coming out of the guy who created The Downward Spiral and wallowed in angst and depravity for much of The '90s, this is kind of a triumphant moment for Trent Reznor.
- Year Zero: Duh!
- 0's and 1's: Word by word on "Zero-Sum".Shame on us, doomed from the startMay God have mercy on our dirty little heartsShame on us for all we have doneAnd all we ever were. Just zeroes and ones