1990Released
4:45

Did You Know?

Interesting facts and trivia about Man in the Box. By Songfacts®.

"Man In The Box" deals with censorship, with animal cruelty used as a metaphor. The "man in the box" is like a veal calf trapped in confinement. The song was inspired by lead singer Layne Staley's impressions of both censorship and meat consumption, but saying the song is "about" either of those things would be stretching the facts. Staley didn't like it when musicians got political because he didn't feel they (including himself) should be preaching about things they weren't qualified to elaborate on. The final lyrics for "Man In The Box" are rather opaque, but Staley did explain the meaning. The song started out being about censorship alone, but then Staley and AIC went to dinner with some Columbia Records executives. Some of the executives were vegetarians, and the conversation turned to the way calves were raised in tiny boxes to be slaughtered for veal. As explained in Alice In Chains: The Untold Story by David De Sola, Staley incorporated thoughts inspired by that conversation into the song he was working on. In its final version, "Man In The Box" is written from the perspective of a calf in a box waiting to be slaughtered. The censorship aspect of the song is basically indecipherable and would probably be lost entirely if not for the fact that Staley mentioned it in some interviews.

The video got a lot of airplay on MTV and helped break the band. It was the first grunge video that got significant airplay, coming almost a year before Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit."

This was the first single from Alice in Chains' debut album, Facelift. Released in August 1990 a year ahead of Pearl Jam's debut, the album didn't get much attention outside of the Pacific Northwest until 1991, when MTV picked up the "Man In The Box" video and radio stations started playing the song, nudging it to #18 on the Mainstream Rock chart dated July 6, 1991, the same date the album peaked at #42. As grunge caught on, Facelift earned more fans, but it was a slow build: the album wasn't certified Platinum (one million copies in the US) until August 10, 1993.

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Song Analysis

Key, BPM (tempo) and time signature of Man in the Box.
G♯Key
MajorMode
4/4Time Signature
106BPM

Album

The album Man in the Box is released on.

Released By

The record label that has released Man in the Box.
Columbia
(P) 1990 Sony Music Entertainment

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