The idea of the narrator being or feeling "a million miles away," as sung at the end of this song, would be mentioned again in both "All The Love In The World" and "1,000,000." Whether the three songs are all specifically related beyond repetition of the phrase is publicly unverified.
Hurt has been covered by a variety of artists, such as Tori Amos, Matthew Good, Peter Murphy, Breaking Benjamin, Underoath, Aaron Lewis, and Sevendust. The song gained a new wave of popularity in 2002 when it was famously covered by Johnny Cash, at the recommendation of producer Rick Rubin. This caused a lot of confusion for the audiences of Cash, who generally weren't familiar with the work of Nine Inch Nails, often resulting in miscrediting the song to Cash. In Cash's version, the line "crown of shit" is changed to "crown of thorns," but is otherwise unchanged.
This original album version uses slightly distorted guitars and disrupted noise loops, adding a ragged aesthetic. The song suddenly climaxes towards the end, while the final lyrics are whispered over the noise. A drone follows, and ends the song and the record. This version was also featured as the final track on its promo, which also includes a clean version of the same mix.
Released by Reznor via his remix.nin.com account, this unmastered instrumental version is identical to the album version, save the lack of vocals.
The only real difference between this remix and the original is that the guitar sound is much cleaner and the climax towards the end is less drastic. There is also much less static filling the song's atmosphere. This version appears only on the US version of Further Down the Spiral and was later included on The Downward Spiral 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition. Two additional versions of it were included on the "Hurt" promo: "(Quiet Version) Clean" is censored and fades out the noise loop ending, while "(Quiet Version) Soiled" is uncensored and uses a shorter rearrangement of the noise loops, which end suddenly.
This live version is found on the UK edition of Further Down The Spiral and in video form on Closure and The Downward Spiral 10th Anniversary DualDisc edition. In this version, the guitar is replaced with a piano. Reznor moans melodically and quietly after the noisy ending fades away, and the faint sounds of "The Downward Spiral's" introduction can be heard fading out. On the "Hurt" promo, two versions of this recording are included, one censored and one uncensored, both of which fade in the beginning and out the ending.
Hurt (with David Bowie)
Ending the cooperative transition set on the 1995 Dissonance tour, this remix of "Hurt" was played live by David Bowie and his band, featuring Reznor singing the duet with Bowie as they trade verse sections and choruses. More spacey and featuring new drum loops and guitar, the first half of the song gave way to a return to the album guitar parts after the initial chorus. Its noisy ending eventually segued into the opening song of the Bowie set, "Look Back in Anger." A performance of this version is included on Closure.
Hurt (And All That Could Have Been)
This version is faithful to the album version besides the addition of the vocal harmony in the chorus. Robin Finck is playing a nylon-stringed guitar which emulates a piano-like tone. This can sometimes be misheard as a piano rather than the guitar.
Hurt (Beside You In Time)
This live version starts with Reznor singing the vocal part and playing the piano melody solo on a keyboard. Jeordie White joins in on bass for the first chorus, and the rest of the band joins during the second chorus.
Hurt (Bridge School Benefit)
In 2006 Reznor performed at Neil Young's Bridge School Benefit, performing his only full solo concerts. He was backed by a string quartet for the performances, resulting in a Still-inspired performance. This version was released on the digital-only album The Bridge School Collection, Vol. 4.
The video is simply tour footage of Reznor singing behind a scrim. The footage used for this (as well as the live videos for "Eraser" and "Wish") was shot in Dallas, Texas and Omaha, Nebraska in February of 1995. This video was released after a fully produced music video was scrapped. Both the scrapped studio video and the final live video were directed by Simon Maxwell. The live video can be found in the DualDisc edition of The Downward Spiral and also on Closure. Behind-the-scenes footage of the fully produced music video can be seen in the "Appendage" footage on the Closure DVD leak. The original video appears to be similar to the video for "Burn". It features Reznor justified to the right of the screen, singing the song with footage of war atrocities and other acts of violence in the background, which is most likely the same footage projected in the live version.
"Hurt" is one of the most commonly played live songs throughout all eras. It is normally played towards the end of the main set, though it was featured during the mid-set slow section of the Further Down The Spiral Tour.
I hurt myself today To see if I still feel I focus on the pain The only thing that's real The needle tears a hole The old familiar sting Try to kill it all away But I remember everything What have I become? My sweetest friend Everyone I know Goes away in the end You could have it all My empire of dirt I will let you down I will make you hurt I wear this crown of shit Upon my liar's chair Full of broken thoughts I cannot repair Beneath the stains of time The feeling disappears You are someone else I am still right here What have I become? My sweetest friend Everyone I know Goes away in the end You could have it all My empire of dirt I will let you down I will make you hurt If I could start again A million miles away I would keep myself I would find a way
In the final recording, the line in the second verse is changed to:
The feelings disappear