@trent_reznor Let’s write a Nine Inch Nails rock opera together. Here’s what I’ve done so far...

I know how you love oh so much for people to redefine the meaning of your songs but bear with me…

I’m tentatively calling it Year Zero, but it draws from several Nine Inch Nails albums besides that one.  It’s such a great title, and you’ll see it actually describes the piece fairly well.

I found sixteen of your songs which fit into a narrative.  I’ve sketched a simple story around them and added in some cue dialog where appropriate.  Here is the output from yWriter that shows “the book” so far.  The lyrics to your songs are, obviously, copywrite you but I found them on various websites, so I hope it’s cool I reproduce them here.

That said, the careful reader will note that I’ve made some extremely minor changes to pronouns and verb tense to better fit into the story.  For these I hope I may be forgiven.

Obviously, there are a lot of holes in how the plot moves, and the character names, etc, are subject to change.  For instance, I named the president “G” as a placeholder, since that’s who the rebels are singing about in “Capital G” in the first scene, but his name could be anything, as long as he signs it “with a capital G”.  Obviously.

I have no distinguishing qualities as a writer, producer, musician, or fan, but I do so love your work, and imagining a show like this has given me a whole new way to love it.  With your (hopefully temporary) retirement of the Nine Inch Nails brand, I think a lot of people feel the same way.

If we time it right, we can open on Broadway, just as everyone gets sick of American Idiot.


The fictional national capital Capital City, present day.

Capital City houses the seat of the State’s government, which is headed by G, the reigning monarch, and his queen Josephine.  Their reign has turned as ineffectual as their marriage, and  it is only by the brutal actions of the Chief of Police and his gangs of headbusters are the citizens kept in line.

But there is a subversive movement afoot.  Every day the street preachers harangue the multitudes with complaints about the incumbent monarch, and the greatest of these demagogues is John and his right-hand man James.  John is a brutal idealist and a passionate man in all his pursuits, including in his storybook marriage to Alice.

When the report goes out that G has raped the pregnant Josephine and sent her to a mental institution, the rebels see their chance and storm the palace, overpowering the imperial guard and tossing the drunk, beaten G into the street.

G is abused by the street denizens, who have been agitated by the rebels.  In a debilitated state, G is discovered by Josephine, somehow nightmarishly out of the institution and grotesquely not pregnant anymore.  She exacts her revenge for the perceived injustices against her, but cruelly leaves him alive.

Meanwhile, John, now seated in power, finds himself poorly equipped for the stress and banality of public office, and he sees the sacrifices made on the road there as too high a cost.  He laments to Alice about the death of his idealism as they go through the motions of governing.

James, practically forgotten by the new power structure, watches from the street as John and Alice appear to be enjoying their new privileges, and he reveals that he has secretly been in love with John for years. 

G, living in fear on the streets, overhears James’s lament and gradually wins him over to the side of a counterrevolution.  Over time, they agitate the street denizens into the belief that John is no better than G was, and that he must be thrown out as well.

On the day of the deciding battle of the counterrevolution, John knows that his cause is doomed and writes a farewell letter to his wife.  He goes into battle and is killed.

James, while fighting for the other side, comes across John’s corpse, and realizes that his aim had been untrue.  He wished no harm for John, and unable to swallow this new, awful reality of his own making, he takes his own life and falls next to John.

The play ends with a bittersweet song of determination and change, sung by Alice, Josephine, and the new female-oriented society that Capital City will become. 

Songs (in order of appearance)

“Capital G”

“The Collector”


“The Line Begins to Blur”

“Demon Seed”


“My Violent Heart”

“Me, I’m Not”

“Right Where It Belongs”


“All the Love in the World”

“God Given”

“The Hand That Feeds”

“And All That Could Have Been”

“Lights In the Sky”

“In This Twilight”

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