The song is an industrial rock song with elements of electronic and dance music, and is one of the more rock-oriented songs on the album. Lyrically, it discusses betrayal and angst.
"Head Like a Hole" is among NIN's most famous songs, and remains both a fan and critic favorite. It enjoyed heavy rotation on the radio at the time of its release, eventually reaching number 9 on Billboard's Bubbling Under Hot 100 chart. It has been covered by several bands, including Devo, Showbread, AFI, Korn, and Buckcherry.