From nine inch nails wiki

Jump to: navigation, search
Album: Year Zero
Length: 6:15
Tempo: 74 BPM
Versions: Zero-Sum
Zero-Sum (Instrumental)
Zero-Sum: Stephen Morris & Gillian Gilbert
Zero-Sum (Fringe)
Live: Unperformed in full

"Zero-Sum" is the sixteenth and final track on the 2007 release Year Zero. The song uses what seems to be a slowed-down version of the drum pattern from "God Given".

Song title

In game theory and economic theory, zero-sum describes a situation in which a participant's gain or loss is exactly balanced by the losses or gains of the other participant(s). It is so named because when the total gains of the participants are added up, and the total losses are subtracted, they will sum to zero. The strategy game Go is an example of a zero-sum game.

As a reference to the end of the world, the title could also be alluding to the phrase "ashes to ashes, dust to dust". The phrase comes from the Bible passages "Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return" (Genesis 3:19) and "I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee" (Ezekiel 28:18), the relation to the song being that humanity was born from nothing and to nothing it will return, a total gain of nothing or "zero-sum".




  • Fringe (TV series promo)



This is the original album version. It consists of Trent Reznor's signature piano playing on a grand piano, glitch-like programmed beats, and vocals pushed to the back of the mix. The vocals alternate between Reznor delivering vocals reminiscent of dialog samples and distant, harmonized singing.

Zero-Sum (Instrumental)

Running Time: 6:29

This unmastered vocal-less mix was released by Reznor through his account.

Zero-Sum: Stephen Morris & Gillian Gilbert

Running Time: 5:38

This remix appears on Y34RZ3R0R3M1X3D. It begins with a basic melody and beat before the vocals come in. A synth comes in over the vocals, riding over them like a wave. The melody changes as the verse transitions over to the first chorus. After the chorus, many elements drop out as it builds to the second verse. Many sound elements from the first verse returned but are now joined by a hi-hat and drum beat. After the second chorus repeats, the melody heard at the very beginning returns accompanied by the hi-hat and drum percussion. These sounds drop out at the end save for a synth beat that simply fades quickly.

Song Credits

Zero-Sum (Fringe)

A new version of the song created for a promo to the television series Fringe, it contains dialogue from the show read by Reznor in place of the original verses. When the promo's audio is viewed through a spectrograph, it is shown to contain a glyph from the television series.


   And I've seen history repeat itself enough times to know
   A war is coming 
   You don't have to trust me, or even like me 
   But you can't deny I hold a unique perspective shaped by having lived in two worlds 
   I've seen first hand the difference a wrong choice can make
   The truth will come out
   It always does
   Shame on us,
   For all we have done
   And all we ever were
   Just zeroes and ones

These lyrics may be incomplete, as the full edit of this version is not currently available

Spectrograph image of Zero-Sum (Fringe version) from promo video


"Zero-Sum" was played in part during the Lights In The Sky Tour in 2008. During the extended ending of "In This Twilight," Reznor performs the chorus melody and accompaniment of "Zero-Sum" on piano as the band members exit one by one. This song was never played in its entirety.


    They're starting to open up the sky
    They're starting to reach down through
    And it feels like we're living in that split-second
    Of a car crash
    And time is slowing down
    And if we only had a little more time
    And this time
    Is all there is
    Do you remember the time we
    And all the times we
    And should have
    And were going to
    I know
    And I know you remember
    How we could justify it all
    And we knew better
    In our hearts, we knew better
    And we told ourselves it didn't matter
    And we chose to continue
    And none of that matters anymore
    In the hour of our twilight
    And soon it will be all said and done
    And we will all be back together as one
    If we will continue at all
    Shame on us
    Doomed from the start	
    May God have mercy
    On our dirty little hearts
    Shame on us
    For all we've done
    And all we ever were
    Just zeros and ones
    And you never get away
    And you never get to take the easy way
    And all of this is a consequence
    Brought on by our own hand
    If you believe in that sort of thing
    And did you ever really find
    When you closed your eyes
    Any place that was still	
    And at peace
    And I guess I just wanted to tell you
    As the light starts to fade
    That you are the reason
    That I am not afraid
    And I guess I just wanted to mention
    As the heavens will fall	
    We will be together soon if we
    Will be anything at all
    Shame on us
    Doomed from the start	
    May God have mercy
    On our dirty little hearts
    Shame on us
    For all we've done
    And all we ever were
    Just zeros and ones

The sixth line of each chorus is sung as follows:

    For all we have done

External Links

Previous track - "In This Twilight" Track 16 from Year Zero Next track - "N/A: Last Track"
This page was last modified on 21 December 2019, at 22:50. This page has been accessed 139,738 times.