Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Screenshot: Black Mirror

Black Mirror’s newest entries have arrived, and, as one might expect, they came with some tunes from Miley Cyrus, star of new episode “Rachel, Jack and Ashley Too.” In it, Cyrus plays Ashley O, a bubblegummy pop star whose path to fame was blazed with a hit called “On A Roll.” Upon hearing it, though, more than a few viewers found themselves wondering where they’d heard it before.

Here’s a hint:

Screenshot: YouTube

Yep, Cyrus’ pop ditty is a reworked version of Nine Inch Nails’ 1989 hit “Head Like A Hole” with a few new lyrics, a revelation made abundantly clear once Ashley, who rebrands as an alt-rocker, offers up a much more reverent cover during the episode’s closing credits. You can see that performance, which one concertgoer declares “awful,” below.

Writer Charlie Brooker spoke to GQ about the song choice, saying that a casual listen of the track had him considering how easy it would be to refashion Trent Reznor’s tune into dance-pop. Reznor’s gift, after all, was his ability to weave melody into industrial rock soundscapes.

“The idea is that the pop versions of the songs are insanely positive, full of empty affirmations,” Brooker said. “She’s singing ‘I’m on a roll,’’ and it struck me as amusing to then reveal that she was singing ‘Head Like a Hole.’” Listen close during the episode and you’ll also hear a pop version of NIN’s “Right Where It Belongs.” Brooker says he also reworked “Hurt” as “Flirt,” but couldn’t find a place for it in the episode. Which might be for the best. Some songs you just don’t fuck with.


What’s perhaps most surprising is that Reznor was not only open to the idea, but a fan of how it all turned out. “I didn’t question the integrity of how it would be used,” Reznor said. “It was a flattering ask and I thought, yeah, let’s try it, let’s see.”

“I think the most exciting part was when the music tracks came back,” he continued, heaping praise on Cyrus’ performance. “You can’t listen to it without a smile. I put it on in the car with my wife and she was like ‘what the fuck is that?’ It’s just so well done in that style.”


Hear the original below, as well as a longer cut of Cyrus’ cover below that.

Exactly how supportive is NIN, you ask? Enough to collaborate with with Black Mirror on a t-shirt inspired by Cyrus’ performance, apparently. The band announced the availability of the collaborative merchandise, which is available on their site.



Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.

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