Music education always & always looking forward.

Changing Meter in Nine Inch Nails's "Just Like You Imagined"

An astounding classroom-safe song from industrial rock shock jocks.


NIN were alternative rock titans when I was in middle & high school, and although my middle school band director was a big Zappa fan, I cannot ever imagine her playing Nine Inch Nails in class and not getting fired.

This song, however? Play away!

And you can tell your students that Trent Reznor also played tuba & tenor sax, and even portrayed Judas (of course) in his high school’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

Link to Nine Inch Nails, “Just Like You Imagined” video recording

Intro: Nine Inch Nails was one of the most commercially & critically successful bands of the 1990s, as well as one of the most influential. The band, more accurately referred to as a project, has been helmed since its inception in 1988 by multi-instrumentalist (turned Oscar-winning film composer) Trent Reznor. NIN has released albums and toured since 1989, alternately featuring a live band and with electronics, and won two Grammys in 1992 & 1996 respectively.

Analysis: Beginning with the bass-driven riff (that is repeated throughout the song) at :39 in the linked video recording, the meter of the song changes frequently, primarily sticking with simple rather than compound meter.

Considerations for Teaching: Much of NIN’s discography is totally inappropriate for a K-12 school setting, making heavy & overt references to drugs & sex, but this song is instrumental, therefore presenting no lyrical threat to the classroom environment.

That is, unless little Timmy goes home, tells his family that his teacher told him about Nine Inch Nails, searches for the band on Spotify, and finds the uncensored versions of their biggest 90s hits (including Grammy-winning song “Happiness in Slavery”, based on the 1899 French novel The Torture Garden, an anti-capitalist and anti-government allegory novel; the video for “Happiness” features gore, torture, and murder, and was universally banned upon its release). Then you, dear teacher, might be in trouble.

Or you do like I do when I play The New Pornographers for my students, who do not feature anything even PG-13 in their music videos and rarely swear — simply play the music, don’t mention the name of the band, and move along.

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