It's a big year for
influence. Half the news out of Washington is about who has been
trying to buy it, how much they paid, and whether they got their money's worth.
There are many lessons to be drawn from that situation. One of the less obvious
is that influence is not so easy to come by. Even in Washington, it's not always
something you can go out and buy. Just ask the Chinese.
Which brings us to
TIME's 25 most influential people, 1997 edition. These are people who have
accomplished something subtle and difficult. They have got other people to
follow their lead. They don't necessarily have the maximum in raw power;
instead, they are people whose styles are imitated, whose ideas are adopted and
whose examples are followed. Powerful people twist your arm. Influentials just
sway your thinking.
Among this year's 25
are good influences and dubious ones, public personalities and players so
private you may not have known they were pulled up to the game board, much less
that one of the pieces was you. They include the writer Henry Louis Gates Jr.,
whose thinking is influential; the chatterbox Rosie O'Donnell, whose cheer is
influential; and the rock musician Trent Reznor; whose gloom is influential.
(Funny world.) One way or another; these 25 are people to look out for.
- Industrial Rocker
Trent Reznor is the anti-Bon Jovi. He is the
lord of Industrial, an electronic-music form that with its tape loops and
crushing drum machines, harks back to the dissonance of John Cage and sounds
like capitalism collapsing. But Reznor, with his vulnerable vocals and
accessible lyrics, led an Industrial revolution: he gave the gloomy genre a
human heart. It's been said that he wrote the first Industrial love songs.
It is a love that the Marquis de Sade would
have found delectable. Reznor's 1994 album The Downward Spiral, for example,
was recorded in the house in which Charles Manson'sfollowers murdered Sharon
Tate in 1969. But it also features moments of fragility--on the hit song Hurt
Reznor sings, "I hurt myself today/ To see if I still feel/ I focus on the
pain/ The only thing that's real.." The Downward Spiral sold more than 2
million copies; earlier this year SPIN magazine named Reznor "the most
vital artist in music."
Reznor, 31, records as Nine Inch Nails, a
one-man studio act, and has a thriving touring career as leader of Nine Inch
Nails, a quartet that interprets his computerized compositions before wild
fans. He is now nurturing other shock rockers, such as the hard-core horror
band Marilyn Manson. Reznor's work is the stuff of nightmares for virtuecrats
like William Bennett, but Oliver Stone drafted Reznor to write music for
Natural Born Killers, as did David Lynch for his post-noir Lost Highway. Reznor also provides the
background music for Goths, a mostly Generation Y subculture of kids who tend
to dress in black, vampire-like garb and obsess over death and decay.
Reznor's music is filthy, brutish stuff, oozing
with aberrant sex, suicidal melancholy and violent misanthropy. But to the
depressed, his music, veering away from the heartless core of Industrial,
proffers pop's perpetual message of hope - or therapeutic Schadenfreude: there
is worse pain in the world than yours. It is a lesson as old as Robert
Johnson's blues. Reznor wields the muscular power of Industrial rock not with
frat-boy swagger but with a brooding, self-deprecating intelligence. "I
had no expectations of commercial success," he says. "But people 'got
it.' That I didn't expect."