"WTF!" was produced and co-composed by Trent Reznor for Saul Williams' third studio album, The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of NiggyTardust!.
Saul Williams on "WTF!"
"This was the last song written for the album. The intro, Trents singing, came from the original version which was called War at Once. That song came about while we were on the road. One morning I texted Trent some lyrics which were
I'm fighting every war at once and I'm winning.
You can't think of me like u did in the beginning.
That afternoon he comes to me with a track he made that day with him singing my words as the chorus. I was very impressed. That night, instead of watching NIN perform after my set, which I usually did, I wrote and recorded a poem over the track. It was pretty cool and lasted as a demo up until the point of mixing the album. When we pulled it up to mix, Trent was trying to find a nice way to say, "this shit is too poemy" just as I was thinking the same thing. I instantly started singing song lyrics that I actually wrote for Amethyst Rock Star over the track and it worked perfectly. I asked Alan to mute the old vocals and set up a mic. It took a second to come up with the chorus. I took a cue from my daughter who always likes to write songs with three snare hits (like in Surrender on the self titled) and put WTF where the hits would go. I felt like the chorus was the most poppy thing I'd ever written (Niggy Pop?) and so thought "what the fuck" was the perfect way to add some edge back to the song. The second half of the track came about from the beat CX programmed for Black Stacey for our live shows. He heard the orginal track, War at Once, and instantly suggested incorporating those drums. They fit beautifully. That day in the studio I asked Trent to let the beat ride and tried a few things over it. I had been listening to a lot of the Joshua Tree album, especially With or Without You, and was really feeling a need and desire to just belt out some chants. I saw Trent get excited which is usually followed by him softly implying that I should leave the room so he could start playing with my vocals. Fine with me. When I came back I added the harmonies and we all cheered. It was our first day of mixing and we had completly transformed a song we felt ok about into something we really loved."
- Music by Trent Reznor (Leaving Hope) and CX KiDTRONiK (Boykins Bar B Que Music/SESAC)
- Words by Saul Williams (Punk Rock of Gibraltar/EMI)
- Vox: Saul Williams
- Background vox: Trent Reznor
This version is heard on The Inevitable Rise And Liberation Of NiggyTardust!.
I’m fighting every war at once and I’m winning. You can’t think of me like you did in the beginning… By the time you hear this song you’ve gone wrong. Caught in the labyrinths of time, in your mind. Unlearn. Unwind. But, not to worry, there is no hurry. “Come unto me”, says She. “You’ve been polluted uprooted by Time. You have been muted, computed, but I’m a living vessel of the Sun, of the Moon, of the One. Come.” Hey! You ain’t as dead as you seem (WTF?!) Hey! But you keep living your lies. Hey! Your life’s a bore but you dream. Bring yourself to be yourself tonight. I see evidence in how you hold your head. And I see evidence in how you say what’s said. I see it in your eyes, that you’ve been hypnotized. “You’ve been polluted, uprooted by Time. You have been muted, computed but I’m a living vessel of the One, of the Moon, of the Sun." Hey! You ain’t as dead as you seem (WTF?!) Hey! But you keep living your lies. Hey! Your life’s a bore but you dream. Bring yourself to be yourself tonight. (2X) Bring yourself to be yourself…
The second lyric of the first verse was changed on the actual recording:
You can’t think of me as you did in the beginning