Without even trying, Trent Reznor and his musical colleague Atticus Ross managed to win a Country Music Association Award today for their production on the sample from Nine Inch Nails' "34 Ghosts IV" (found on the Ghosts I-IV collection) that wound up in the hit remix of Lil Nas X's juggernaut "Old Town Road." The 53rd annual ceremony is set to air tonight, November 13th, but many winners were announced earlier today on Good Morning America, including Reznor and Ross.
The sample was originally unauthorized and took Reznor by suprise. He recently spoke to Rolling Stone at length about its inclusion in the massive radio hit. "The reason I haven't stepped in to comment anything about it is, I don't feel it's my place to play any kind of social critic to that," he explained. "It was a material that was used in a significant way and it turned into something that became something else, and those guys should be the ones the spotlight is on."
Proper licensing procedures were ultimately followed, and Reznor allowed the sample to remain in the infectious tune, which quickly took on a life of its own. According to the NIN bandleader, he was even asked to make an appearance in the short film–style music video featuring Billy Ray Cyrus and, of course, Lil Nas X himself in something of a western fever dream.
"They asked if I wanted to do a cameo in the video," Reznor recalled, "and it was flattering, and I don't mean to be disrespectful, but I don't feel like it's my place to shine a light on me for that. I say that with complete respect."
Despite the industrial-music titan's absence, the video has racked up more than 383 million views so far and, along with the song itself, made Lil Nax X the breakout star of the year. Watch it below if you've somehow escaped its gravitational vortex, and listen to Nine Inch Nails' original track, as well, to hear the key sample that lends a sparse but vital component of 2019's biggest song.
UPDATE: Reznor celebrated his CMA win by posting an amazing photo on Instagram.