"Zero-Sum" as written by and Trent Reznor....
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

Shame on us (Shame on us)
Doomed from the start
May God have mercy on our dirty little hearts
Shame on us (Shame on us)
For all we have done
And all we ever were
Just, just zeros and ones


Lyrics submitted by abhpro, edited by backwoodsbarbie

"Zero-Sum" as written by Trent Reznor

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Zero-Sum song meanings
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107 Comments

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  • +3
    General CommentWhen listening to this song, one's interpretation of the first line carries through to the rest of the lyrics. By "They," does Trent refer to missiles, a Biblical rapture, or some other form of technology we haven't discovered yet? I believe that is up to the listener.

    Hmm, listening to it right now, I must wonder. That piano melody in the beginning of the song sounds an awful lot like "Right Where it Belongs," AND like "Even Deeper." I've noticed over the years that Trent's musical style evolves. I know I'm reiterating many other people here, but he does not cater to his fans. No, that would be too easy. Instead, he is paving his own path- a lesson in itself. That's why NIN is my favorite band.

    Anyways, nomatter how deviant from his last work his new style becomes, there is still an allusion or two in each new album.

    For example:
    Down in it vs Only
    Even Deeper + Right Where it Belongs vs Zero-Sum
    The Hand that Feeds vs Survivalism

    I could go on all night comparing and contrasting each song and finding even the most minute allusion or reference to prior work. Trent is a genius.

    Similarly, I've noticed that there are many mathematical allusions in his work as well. Listen carefully to the piano part in this song and tell me what mathematical ratio it reminds you of.

    When I read some interviews involving Trent, he stated that he was going off in a different direction, and that the change may defer some fans. I'll be honest, at that point I was worried. I also heard rumors that he was working alongside a rapper. THAT got me worried, but when I heard the radio station play Survivalism, I just closed my eyes and smiled. Another huge success.

    I especially love how the entire album is up for streaming on their website. I'm buying Year Zero the second it hits shelves.

    Anyways, back to Zero-Sum. There's a theory that everything is in equilibrium. Well, it has to be. Energy can't be created nor destroyed (well, in quantum physics things get "iffy" ) Well, what about society? All of our work will eventually amount to nothing, so to speak. When an asteroid hits Earth, or the Sun goes Red Giant on our asses (millions of years from now), or when the Milky Way collides with Andromeda, or when a rapture occurs, blah blah blah this will keep going on and on... All of our work will mean nothing.

    "We are just zeros and ones" is a reference to binary, the foundation for most technology (That which doesn't rely on hexadecimal, or some other base within structures of binary) When you break EVERYTHING down into a game of 20-questions, everything is YES or NO, ON or OFF, 1 or 0. Who are we to complicate things?

    There's a LOT of stuff I just wrote above. ALL of it can be derived from this song. However, not all of it was probably what Trent intended. Thanks for reading this, and I'll post more if this doesn't turn into a slam fest as I've seen many in-depth analyses become.
    Dawrron April 05, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentIt isn't Trent's fucking job to save us all, its OUR job. I think thats his point. He is just being nice enough to warn us to catchy music.
    nicoleon April 05, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentListen to the beat of God Given.

    Got it?

    Okay, now listen to the beat of Zero-Sum

    SAME THING, different tempo.

    This man is a genius
    ThingsFallingAparton January 28, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentMy ex-boyfriend and good friend for several years took his life this past year.

    "and I guess I just wanted to tell you/as the lights start to fade/that you are the reason/that I am not afraid"

    He and I were doomed from the start.... if only we had more time.

    Hope you found peace, TTL.
    jukeboxf0ckupon November 18, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI apologize to anyone who does not want to read the long, long analysis I wrote. Here's my opinion of the song in one sentence...

    "This is by far the most intelligent way to say 'people suck' because they (we) are all indifferent"

    Yay
    Dawrron April 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI just noticed the last few lines were cut off of my last post.

    I meant to say that the song is basically someone witnessing the last few seconds of existence, whether the reason is nuclear holocaust, rapture, or something else. He is witnessing this with someone he loves, and is basically saying, 'nomatter what happens, we have eachother and we'll be together forever."

    Upon closer look, it's one gloomy love song. Pretty interesting. Whether it's love to a soulmate, relative, friend, or child, it's still a love song.
    Dawrron April 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think the line
    And all we are worth is just zeroes and ones
    is a reference to the binary code that computers use, the computer language. So this song could be saying we're not that special, we're just part of a code. And may God have mercy on us for thinking anything different. just a thought
    metalontheinsideon April 21, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentidk if someone already mentioned this but the lyrics are "shame on us, we knew from the start" not Shame on us, doomed from the start
    Touweon May 02, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentlame israel 51, show respect to show intelligence and maturity.
    kitty.on November 22, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentin the context of the album, i think this is the point where trent's recognising a destroyed world, and shamed that we had done this to the world ourselves.

    the power-greedy in the storyline actually believed they could rule the world and mold it into what they wanted. the people that followed did so without openly questioning what it is they were advocating. the ones who stood by are just as guilty for doing nothing to stop.

    imo the ''zeros and ones" represents the aforementioned people. the 0/1 being a reference to binary code, basically they just allowed themselves to be part of the machine (bystanders and fighters) or built the machine (the government of the story).
    T.C.on February 04, 2008   Link

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