Remember the guy who gave high school kids everywhere cause to shout, “I wanna f*** you like an animal?” Remember that he used to scream into a microphone from a cage while covered in dirt? That goth guy that you thought was super hot but made your mom wince whenever you watched MTV? That guy just won an Oscar.
Not to say that this is the first time that the glitz and glamor of Hollywood has transformed a rock star into a “score composer.” Danny Elfman was once the eccentric lead singer of Oingo Boingo who sang about weird science, tender lumplings, and dead men’s parties. Now he’s “Oscar nominated composer Danny Elfman,” thanks in no small part to Tim Burton recognizing his genius early on, plucking him out of eighties new wave obscurity, and handing him a set of keys to his creepily fantastical film empire. These days Elfman is so prolific that you’d be hard pressed not to hear his work in at least one or two films every year, no matter what movie genres you prefer. And yet, even with numerous other awards and four nominations under his belt, that precious Oscar has eluded him.
Not so with Trent Reznor, aka the bleeding heart and blackened soul of the industrial band Nine Inch Nails. As of last night he has one of those precious golden statues to adorn his bathroom, and it all happened so (seemingly) quickly! True, he has flirted with the film industry in the past, having produced the soundtracks for both Natural Born Killers and Lost Highway as well as providing Nine Inch Nails songs for both albums in the nineties. Then in 2004 he was credited as a musical consultant for the film Man On Fire. Otherwise, he seems to be relatively disconnected to Hollywood, and certainly to the world of film scores. In 2001 he was asked to score the icky Robin Williams movie One Hour Photo, but the music didn’t work with the film and ended up instead on the limited edition Nine Inch Nails album Still. Fast forward to 2010: Trent Reznor collaborates with Brit buddy Atticus Ross (who has been listed as a producer and/or programmer on the four most recent NIN albums) on the score to The Social Network, and they strike Oscar pay dirt.
It was pretty inspiring, in my opinion, and more than a little poetic. Trent Reznor has been a strong supporter of connecting to his fans online and using the internet to distribute music, and he continues to explore the best ways to utilize the medium (as opposed to those artists who have balked at the idea or even gone so far as to try to halt the natural evolution of music *cough*Metallica*cough*). Then he wins praise and distinguished awards for making music for a film about the internet and social networking. That’s kind of brilliant. Sure, I wish he’d worn something slightly more badass to the Academy Awards than the usual black and white tuxedo. I mean, when Coraline was up for an Oscar, Neil Gaiman commissioned Kambriel to design a cool gothy tux to wear to the ceremony, complete with Coraline-esque buttons on the jacket. Classy and spooky are not mutually exclusive terms!
Even so, I’m proud of the ol’ boy. He accepted his award with eloquence and humble dignity. In years past he has seemed less than impressed with all things Hollywood-related (see his video for “StarF**kers Inc.” and note that he even steals the “Courtney Love” figure’s Oscar) but I hope that Trent has no inner conflict within himself. If anything he has proven that we all have the potential to do vastly different yet equally extraordinary things with our lives. And so, for old time’s sake, here’s Trent in concert circa ’94 as part of Nine Inch Nails, doing what we first loved him for doing: