The Fragile (also known as Halo 14), released on September 21, 1999, is the fourth studio album by Nine Inch Nails.
The album features a rich array of electronic beats, ambient noise, and heavy guitar. While it received critical acclaim from many, it did not receive the commercial success that its predecessor, The Downward Spiral, did (attributed variously to the difference in musical climate, and insufficient promotion by Interscope Records).
Prior to its release, the single The Day The World Went Away came out on July 20; following The Fragile, We're In This Together was released in three parts on December 14. A collection featuring several remixes and new material from The Fragile was released as Things Falling Apart on November 21, 2000.
- "Somewhat Damaged" - 4:31
- "The Day The World Went Away" - 4:33
- "The Frail" - 1:54
- "The Wretched" - 5:25
- "We're In This Together" - 7:16
- "The Fragile" - 4:35
- "Just Like You Imagined" - 3:49
- "Even Deeper" - 5:47
- "Pilgrimage" - 3:31
- "No, You Don't" - 3:35
- "La Mer" - 4:37
- "The Great Below" - 5:17
- "The Way Out Is Through" - 4:17
- "Into The Void" - 4:49
- "Where Is Everybody?" - 5:40
- "The Mark Has Been Made" - 5:15
- "Please" - 3:30
- "Starfuckers, Inc." - 5:00
- "Complication" - 2:30
- "I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally" - 4:13
- "The Big Come Down" - 4:12
- "Underneath It All" - 2:46
- "Ripe (With Decay)" - 6:34
A1 "Somewhat Damaged" – 4:31
A2 "The Day The World Went Away" – 5:01
A3 "The Frail" – 1:54
A4 "The Wretched" – 5:36
B1 "We're In This Together" – 7:17
B2 "The Fragile" – 4:35
B3 "Just Like You Imagined" – 3:49
B4 "Even Deeper" – 6:14
C1 "Pilgrimage" – 3:41
C2 "No, You Don't" – 3:35
C3 "La Mer" – 5:02
C4 "The Great Below" – 5:17
D1 "The Way Out Is Through" – 4:17
D2 "Into the Void" – 4:49
D3 "Where Is Everybody?" – 5:40
D4 "The Mark Has Been Made" – 4:43
E1 "10 Miles High" – 5:13
E2 "Please" – 3:30
E3 "Starfuckers, Inc." – 5:00
E4 "Complication" – 2:30
E5 "The New Flesh" – 3:40
F1 "I'm Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally" – 4:20
F2 "The Big Come Down" – 4:12
F3 "Underneath It All" – 2:46
F4 "Ripe" – 5:15
- This release has several bootleg copies in wide circulation, including those pressed on red vinyl, and those with the white shrinkwrap sticker printed as part of the back artwork.
Differences To The CD Version
Many of the tracks on the vinyl release differ from their CD equivalent:
- "The Day the World Went Away" has a longer guitar intro
- "The Wretched" has an extended outro
- "Even Deeper" features an elongated middle section
- "La Mer" has a longer intro and an extended ending with more speech samples
- "Pilgrimage" does not fade in, but rather begins building without any volume adjusting
- "The Mark Has Been Made" does not feature the introduction of "10 Miles High" fading in at the end (the hidden bit of music in the pre-gap of "Please" on the CD version)
- "I'm Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally" begins with the full strings sample
- "Ripe" does not include the "With Decay" ending section, but rather fades out as the slinking guitars play the main riff
- "The Wretched," "We're in This Together," "Even Deeper," "Pilgrimage," "The Mark Has Been Made," "10 Miles High," "The New Flesh" and "I'm Looking Forward to Joining You, Finally" all do not crossfade as on the CD version, because these songs either end or begin their respective sides
The track list for the double cassette releases of The Fragile follow the CD track list, save for the insertion of "Appendage" onto the end of "Please" on US and EU copies. The first tape splits between "Just Like You Imagined" and "Even Deeper," while the second tape splits between either "Please (+ Appendage)" and "Starfuckers, Inc." (most US versions) or "Starfuckers, Inc." and "Complication" (non-US and also some US versions).
Early Track Sequences
Alternate tracklists for The Fragile
from the Fragility Tour Book
Prior to Bob Ezrin's treatment, the tracklist of The Fragile went through several transformations. Two of them were revealed within a photo from the Fragility Tour Book:
- Somewhat Damaged
- La Mer
- Into the Void
- The Wretched
- Even Deeper
- The New Flesh
- The Day…
- The Fragile
- The Mark…
- 10 Miles High
- La Mer
- Into the Void
- Even Deeper
- New Flesh
- The Wretched
- 10 Miles High
Alternate tracklist for The Fragile
from the Fragility Tour Book
Another image of a CD-R cover tracklist was included in the Fragility Tour Book:
- Somewhat Damaged
- La Mer
- Into the Void
- The Wretched
- [Even Deeper (crossed out)] Ripe (With Decay)
- The New Flesh
- The Day the World Went Away
- Star Fuckers
- The Fragile
- The Mark Has Been Made
Note that whilst "Anomaly" has been confirmed to be the working title of "The Way Out Is Through", the final titles for "Rotation" and "Stained" have not been revealed; "Underneath It All" may be the final title for the latter, based on its prominent lyrical use of the word.
The Lost Fragile Tracks
"The Lost Fragile Tracks"
A photo uploaded to nin.com during The Fragile era hinted at a collection of unused songs called "The Lost Fragile Tracks". No other information was given besides this title for the in-studio CD-R.
Interestingly, the same photo also shows another CD-R featuring "Please Part 2" (presumably renamed to "Appendage" for The Fragile cassette version) and "The New Flesh."
In a question and answer session with NIN fans, Reznor hinted at the reissue of The Fragile for early 2010, a statement repeated via the official twitter account, calling it an "ultimate reissue." Rob Sheridan has since mentioned that the project is delayed due to packaging decisions, and as yet there is no new reissue date. Alan Moulder has completed a 5.1 surround sound mix for the re-issue.
In a February 2014 interview with New Zealand's News 3, Reznor gave the following update:
"Yeah, we've done a lot of the work for that. Really what it's come down to is with all the other stuff going on, the Fragile thing in particular, I want to make sure I get it right. You know, we've mixed everything in surround, it sounds amazing, we have a great package ready to go. I just stumbled across 40-or-so demos that are from that era that didn't turn into songs, that range from sound effects to full-fledge pieces of music, and I kind of feel like - something should happen with that.
And I think it has something to do with that package, and I just need the bandwidth to kind of calmly think about it, and decide how much effort I want to devote into that and what to do with it. I have a lot of ideas that could eat up immense amounts of time and I'm trying to weigh out - just think it through. I don't want to pull the trigger on something and go, 'Man, I should have done it in this way.' And I just haven't had a chance to be in a calm place where I can think it through completely and make that decision."
For more information, see Fragility
The album was supported by a tour that visited North America, Europe, Australia and Japan. The chaos of earlier tours was beginning to subside and the shows were somewhat more focused on production and good performance. During the North American portion of the tour, three tall rectangular screens were lowered mid-set for showing pieces of film. Despite the fact that Trent Reznor was in the throes of addiction during this tour, it was well-received by fans and critics alike. The Fragility 2.0 tour was filmed and released as And All That Could Have Been on 2-disc DVD (both Dolby Digital and DTS versions) and VHS in 2002. It was also released as a live CD, at one point combined with a second disc of re-constructed material and new songs called Still.
Concept and Interpretations
Reznor described The Fragile in a 1999 interview:
"There's a general theme to the album of systems failing and things sort of falling apart. In keeping with the idea of making everything sound a little broken, I chose stringed instruments because they're imperfect by nature. Although it may not sound like it, most of the album is actually guitar - and that includes the orchestral sounds and weird melodic lines. When it came to instruments that I didn't really know how to play - like the ukulele or the slide guitar - we were able to get some really interesting sounds by making the studio the main instrument".
In terms of narrative, the album is an unofficial continuation of The Downward Spiral. Reznor compares the lyrical content of the two albums:
"I wanted this album to sound like there was something inherently flawed in the situation, like someone struggling to put the pieces together. Downward Spiral was about peeling off layers and arriving at a naked, ugly end. This album starts at the end, then attempts to create order from chaos, but never reaches the goal. It’s probably a bleaker album because it arrives back where it starts—[with] the same emotion”. The album begins “Somewhat Damaged” and ends “Ripe [With Decay]".
"From Machine To Man: An Interpretation of The Fragile"
This is a lengthy interpretation of the album's story written in 2000. Read it at:
Recurring themes and styles
- The main melody of "La Mer" is repeated in the intro of "Into The Void", and the bass line is reused on the entire track. A similar but much slower piano melody is played at the end of "We're In This Together".
- The piano melody of "The Frail" is repeated in the guitar solo of "The Fragile".
- The lyric "nothing can stop me now" appears in "La Mer" and "We're In This Together", albeit translated into French Creole on the former and altered to "none of them can stop us now" on the latter. The same phrase was previously used in "Piggy", "Ruiner" and "Big Man With A Gun" and would recur later in "Sunspots".
- The guitar melody played during the intro of "We're In This Together" is similar to the melody that occurs roughly halfway into "Complication".
Reznor on the different track sequencing for different formats:
"Hello everybody. I've been doing a lot of European press lately and they've been mentioning the various configurations of 'the fragile' and wondering if there was a reason (other than to make the hard-core fan buy them all) to have some different tracks on them.
If you're curious, here's why. We agonized over the sequencing of the record and focused solely on the CD config. as the definitive one. After the decision was made to move to two CDs the problem then became removing tracks to get the right feel and flow.
Taking the new flesh' off the CD was a tough call because Alan and myself really like the track, but it destroyed the balance and it just didn't fit.
When we assembled the cassette, we now had four beginnings and endings to contend with instead of two of each (for the CD) follow? It worked out pretty well just dividing the songs up, but we wanted the A sides of the cassettes to be slightly longer than the B sides (so that when the tape flips over you are not in the middle of the first song on that side). We added the 'appendage' to 'please' to make that work.
For the vinyl, the decision to move to three discs was based on fidelity. (you can only fit so many minutes on a side of vinyl before it degrades the sound)
So now we are faced with SIX beginnings and endings. Simply splitting the sides up didn't work as well this time so we decided to include the other two tracks we had been considering ('10 miles high' and 'the new flesh') as well as use the full unedited versions of all the other songs on the record. The vinyl sequencing has actually grown on me lately as a viable alternate! -just thought you might want to know…"
Alan Moulder on Songwriting
Alan Moulder wrote for the Fragility Tour program about the songwriting process.
"I got involved pretty early on. Trent had one song written and about 15 demos. He also had about sixty 'bits,' varying from a riff or noise loop to a more evolved drum pattern with a bass or guitar line. We sorted through these and decided which ones to work on. Sometimes we combined drums from one piece with a guitar loop from another and a piano piece from another to make one new track.
We also started a lot of tracks from scratch. This is unusual as I am normally brought in at a later stage when the songs have been written. It was great to be involved from the 'blank canvas' stage. We would go through the tracks and pick one to work on. Then we'd spend a couple of days evolving that and messing around with the structure, adding new sections and instrumentation.
Because there was so much material to work on we never labored over anything, taking the attitude that if something wasn't happening, or we'd reached a block, we would move on to the next track. We wouldn't listen back to what we had done to the tracks for weeks. Because we had been working quickly and constantly moving on, listening back later to what we had done was always a surprise. We quite often had forgotten what we had done. Every time we listened back, we got excited, as it was always a lot better than we remembered. We would carry on doing that and some tracks would get eliminated as we went on until Trent had vocal ideas and lyrics. These songs would be completed and not listened to for a couple of weeks to see if the ideas stood the test of time. If we were happy, we would start to mix the song, adding and refining....even lengthening or changing the structure as we mixed.
As my time on the album spanned over 2 years, it is difficult to describe a typical day, since that varied as we progressed. At the beginning, though, there were different types of days depending on how Trent was feeling. At this stage a lot of time was spent writing and creating songs. Obviously it is impossible for anybody to be in songwriting mode every day without going stale. So, to keep creativity up and vary things a little, we would have 'Art Days,' as they were referred to. This would involve forgetting about being tied down to creating within the usual 'song' structure and Trent would do anything that his mood took. Good examples of some things that came out of that way of working was "La Mer" and "The Day The World Went Away".
Other days, if Trent didn't feel like writing, we would have 'Sound Creating' days. This could involve starting the day off with a shopping trip to a music shop. One time we decided to make unusual percussion tracks. We went and bought lots of percussion instruments; the stranger the better. Then back at the studio these were put in a room with other things such as boxes, road signs, trash cans, water bottles, spades and badly tuned drums. Trent would then hit whatever took his fancy and would make a rhythm out of it. We got lots of great rhythm tracks from this that songs were written on top of, for example "The Fragile" and "I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally".
— Alan Moulder
Equipment Used on The Fragile
The Fragility Tour program contains a partial list of equipment used to record The Fragile.
Pro Tools / Logic Audio / Sample Cell / Studio Vision / Peak / Rebirth / Recycle / Turbosynth / MetaSynth / Reaktor / SonicWorx / Waves / Amp Farm / Wave Mechanics / GRM / DUY D-Spider / Pluggo
Pulsar / GigaSampler / AudioMulch / Generator
Clavia Nord Lead 1/2 / Clavia Nord Modular / Access Virus / Waldorf Microwave II XT / Waldorf Pulse+ / SCI Prophet VS / Kurzweil K2500/K2000 / Emu E4/E6400 / Emu Emax / Novation Supernova / Novation BassStation / Yamaha AN1x / Yamaha VL1m / Roland SP808 / Roland MC505 / Roland DR202 / Roland JP8080 / Roland Super Jupiter / Rave-o-lution 309 / Oberheim Xpander / Oberheim SEM / Moog Minimoog / Studio Electronics Midimini / Akai MPC3000/2000 / ARP 2600 Birotron / Mellotron / Obermoog prototype / Yamaha c7 Grand Piano / PPG Wave 2.3 / Waveterm / Roland MPC-3000
Line 6 POD / Sherman Filterbank / Digitech 2112 / Sans Amp / TC Fireworx / Eventide DSP 4000 / Eventide H3500/3000 / Mutator / Roland Vocoder / Roland ChorusEcho / Mesa Boogie Strategy 500 / Yamaha SPX1000
Mutron Bi-Phase / Mutron III / Lovetone: Big Cheese/Meatball/Doppelganger/ Prescription Experience / Danelectro: Daddy O/Fab Tone/Cool Cat / ZVex: Fuzz Factory/Machine / Moogerfooger Filter / Foxx Tone Machine / Sans Amp Bass Driver / Black Cat Ring Modulator / Way Huge Swollen Pickle / Electo Harmonix: Micro Synthesizer/Bass Micro Synthesizer/QTron/Big Muff Fuzz/Memory Man/Electric Mistress Flanger / Smokies / Digitech: SpaceStation/Whammy-Wah/UniFuzz/Tone Control
Parker Fly / Gibson Les Paul / Gibson 335 / Epiphone Semi Acoustic / Gibson Explorer / Fender Stratocaster / Fender Jazzmaster / Fernandes 6 String / Fender Telecaster / Fender Precision Bass / Epiphone El Capitan Fretless Bass / Fender 6 Bass / Takamine Acoustic Guitar / Epiphone Ukulele / Violin / Epiphone Mandolin / Engelhardt Upright Bass
David Carson's explanatory image of The Fragile
A look through David Carson's book Fotografiks reveals that the top section of the album cover is from a photo of a waterfall and the bottom section is from a closeup photo of the inside of some kind of seashell. The flowers on the back cover are widely assumed to be a variety of Indian Paintbrush. He explained further in an image on his website:
"packaging for trent reznor, back was going to be the front till the last moment. trent changed it saying it was kinda irritating yet something about it we liked so maybe it fit the music. front cover flowers i shot outside of austin texas. the 1 hour place called and said they messed up and used the wrong chemicals and the film was ruined. i said lemme see em anyway. this is how they came out. cover image is a waterfall in iceland and a seashell in the west indies."
Several other designs for the album cover were also created, and images of this concept art were posted on nin.com.
Bob Ezrin on Album Sequencing
Bob Ezrin posted on ETS about his experience working on The Fragile.
"Trent was anything but brain addled at the time we were completing the Fragile. He was brilliant and feverishly recording and mixing in 3 rooms at the same time to complete the project on time for its scheduled release. What he had realized was that he'd created a work that was much longer than was practical to release and that wasn't quite hanging together the way he had hoped when he created its individual parts. Remember, there are thousands of bits of music and lyric that went into this record and they were recorded asynchronously. So he called me for help. Luckily, I had just come off another project and was able to head to New Orleans immediately—supposedly for a few days.
My job was to take all of this work and reorganize it to more practically and effectively tell the story that originally generated all these bits. Sort of like editing a film. Trent had "shot" more than he needed and it wasn't hanging together the way he wanted. But he was also tied to the other studios recording and mixing while this was going on so he needed someone he trusted to come in and take over the "editing" process and help his "film" hang together better.
And it was a totally thrilling process. We had SO much stuff and so much to say but we needed to tighten it up and review the pacing etc. So we were literally working round the clock for what turned out to be weeks until we finally nailed it and I was able to go home.
I loved working with him - and his whole team in fact - on this project. It just increased my respect for him as an artist and a man."
— Bob Ezrin
- Tom Baker - Mastering
- Adrian Belew - Guitars ("Just Like You Imagined," "The Great Below," "Where Is Everybody?")
- Heather Bennet - Vocals (Background)
- Paul Bradley - Programming
- Buddha Boys Choir - Choir, Chorus, Chant
- Buddha Debutante Choir - Vocals (Background)
- Di Coleman - Vocals (Background)
- Charlie Clouser - Programming, Atmosphere, Synthesizers
- Melissa Daigle - Vocals (Background)
- Paul DeCarli - Programming
- Jerome Dillon - Drums (on "We're In This Together")
- Dr. Dre - Mixing Assistant (on "Even Deeper")
- Bob Ezrin - Album Sequencing Assistant
- Mike Garson - Piano (on "Just Like You Imagined," "The Way Out Is Through" and "Ripe (With Decay)")
- Page Hamilton - Guitar (on "No, You Don't") - uncredited
- Tracy Hardin - Vocals (Background)
- Leo Herrera - Engineer
- Keith Hillebrandt - Programming, Choir, Chorus, Sound Design
- Danny Lohner - Drum Programming, Ambiance, Synthesizers, Guitar on "Somewhat Damaged", "Just Like You Imagined," "The Great Below," "Complication"
- Clint Mansell - Choir, Chorus
- Alan Moulder - Producer, Engineer, Mixing
- Dave Ogilvie - Engineer
- Brian Pollack - Engineer
- Trent Reznor - Vocals, Guitars, Cello, Piano, Synthesizers, Programming, Producer
- Elquine Rice - Vocals (Background)
- Terry Rice - Vocals (Background)
- Bill Rieflin - Drums (on "La Mer")
- Barbara Wilson - Vocals (Background)
- Leslie Wilson - Vocals (Background)
- Steve Duda - Programming, Choir, Chorus, Percussion, Violin
- Eric Edmonson - Choir, Chorus
- Cherry Holly - Trumpet
- Doug Idleman - Choir, Chorus
- Marcus London - Choir, Chorus
- Denise Milfort - Vocals (on "La Mer")
- Judy Miller - Vocals (Background)
- Gary I. Neal - Vocals (Background)
- Matthew Nicholls - Vocals (Background)
- Christine Parrish - Vocals (Background)
- Adam Persaud - Choir, Chorus
- Martha Prevost - Vocals
- M. Gabriela Rivas - Vocals (Background)
- Nick Scott - Choir, Chorus
- Rodney Sulton - Vocals (Background)
- Stefani Taylor - Vocals (Background)
- Nigel Wiesehan - Choir, Chorus
- Willie - Cello
- Martha Wood - Vocals (Background)
- Writing and performance: Trent Reznor (except where noted on Song pages)
- Production: Trent Reznor, Alan Moulder
- Management: John A. Malm, Jr. for Conservative
- Engineering and mix: Alan Moulder
- Final continuity and flow: Bob Ezrin
- Programming: Keith Hillebrandt, Charlie Clouser, Trent Reznor, Paul Decarli, Steve Duda, Clinton Bradley
- Second engineering: Brian Pollack
- Additional engineering: Leo Herrera. Dave “Rave” Ogilvie
- Supplemental drum recording: Steve Albini at Electical Studio
- Additional sound design: Keith Hillebrandt, Charlie Clouser, Steve Duda
- Mastering: Tom Baker at Precision Mastering
Recorded and mixed at Nothing Studios, New Orleans
- Art direction and design: David Carson
- Photography: David Carson
- Artist relations: Jeff Anderson
- Publicity: Susan Swan for Nothing
- Legal necessities: Ross Rosen
- Booking: Alex Kochan for Artist & Audience and Emme Banks for Helter Skelter
- Merchandising: David "Khan" Johnson for Object
- Web integration: Rob Sheridan
- Being there provided by Jerry Meltzer
- Thank you for the continuing belief and support: Steve Berman, Chris Blackwell, David Cohen, Ted Field, Jimmy Iovine, Marc Marot, Jacqueline McPherson, Michael S. Toorock, Tom Whalley
- Thank you very much: Cemal Adiguezel, Gretchen Anderson, Simon Baeyertz, Roy Bennett, Nancy Berry, Michael Blum, Steve Bottomley, David Bowie, Steve "Coco" Brandon, Tim Buckley, Karen Ciccone, Paul Connolly, Melissa Daigle, Daisy May, Renee Dodson, Duane Fogg, Ernie Fortunato, Ken Friedman, Gerry Gerrard, Erin Gilligan, Robert Hales, Toni Halliday, Page Hamilton, Mike Harris, Dan Hill, Doug Idleman, Stuart Issleib, Leslie Kaufman, Martin Kierszenbaum, Sam Kirby, Paris Langford, John Lewis, Tim Lightfoot, Tiffany Luning, Clint Mansell, Denise Milfort, Tina Montalbano, Mike Montero, Chuck Ortner, Dean Parker, Mark Pellington, Lynn Pompey, Gina Pontius, Kim Prevost, Porter Ricks, Rodney Robertson, Lu Rojas, Mark Romanek, Rick Rubin, Barry Sanders, Trish Schultz, Nick Scott, Winston Simone, Jeff Slippen, Nick Stern, Rick Szekelyi, Tony Thompson, Tomato, Bob Uzzo, Ed Vigueira, Larry Weinstein, Nigel Wiesehan, Angele Ylisastigui, Dawn Zillich, Sioux Zimmerman, Aqua Marine, Brennan's, Clavia, DigiDesign, Jason Lamb and Dod, eMagic, Sean Wilhelmson and EMU Systems, Rob Timmons and Fernandez, Geoff Farr and GSF Agency, Id Software, Jens Gellhaar, K-Paul's, Brad Strickland and Korg/Parker, Tim Godwin and Line 6, Greg Perry, DK Sweet and Mackie, Musician's Friend (New Orleans), Bill Noll at Neoview, N.O. Music Exchange, Nola, Opcode, Pedalman, Solid State Logic, Sound Chek (New Orleans), Waves, Werlein's Music