Andrew John Hozier Byrne is an Irish based songwriter, lyricist and musician. His music primarily draws from blues, folk and gospel reflecting themes that transcend beyond the personal affairs of life. His music is vehement, desperate and honest about the world we live in. Hozier grew up listening to his parent’s records which were mostly blues. The blues music is an African-American genre, traversing across a range of emotions that exhibit injustice, heartbreak, pain and tragedy. Hozier’s music has a timbre of tragic misery and metaphorical morbidity that beautifully captures the essence of human emotions in the realm of despair and wildness. This he achieves not by playing the hard rock or metal that evokes strong sentiments but through this twangy Irish vocals that are identifiable across the varying genres of his songs.
Hozier was brought up in the Irish countryside and the sounds of American music. He mostly resonated with the blues but later grew affectionate to similar genres of soul, gospel and jazz. In his interview with Vox, Hozier says, “I have always come back to blues music. It’s kind of my first love.” The Dublin based artist skilfully movies his fingers across the guitar strings and his voice yowls and embodies the genre he loves the most. Speaking in the context of song Nina Cried Power and music as a political instrument of resistance and assertion, Hozier in his interview with q on cbc says that:
“I don’t know if nowadays people (musicians) are uncomfortable or don’t risk being or nearly intend that their music is apolitical and that is someway it is completely void of something that can be considered political. For me, I think music is political no matter what it’s about. There are so many negative connotations when we talk about things being political, but if something concerns the experience of people, it concerns some political dimension.”
Hozier’s protest song Nina Cried Power among many is a battle cry that honours the legacy of the musicians and activists of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement. The song drops the name of activists like (Pete) Seeger, James Brown, and (John) Lennon and of course Nina Simone, who owns the title of Hozier’s track. The music track features Mavis Staples who defined their music through the political movement in America.
These protestors and stalwarts of dissent and justice sang together and stayed together. Their music offered a source of cohesion and was a vigorous force of solidarity. The genre of Jazz music, revered as the music of the Black Movement and identity was a cultural revival to their political strife. The music video of the song features Irish activists listening to the song for the first time and it is highly eloquent and moving. The lyrics of the song “It’s not the song, it’s the singing. It’s the heaven of human spirits ringing”, is impactful and striking.
Not only this, Hozier’s love songs like Work Song and Cherry Wine have a sobering effect. The dark romance and subversion exaggerated throughout his music is eccentric and remarkable. While the song Cherry Wine exhibits the melancholy of an abusive relationship and the dire side of domestic violence, Someone New is an empty, vacuous and trifling love affair, signifying the receding human connection in the digital times. Many would fashion it as a Tinder or Bumble anthem.
The lyrics conceity dramatize and unfold the themes of Hozier’s songs. They often play around with the language of oppression and sordid darkness. The contrasting part of Hozier’s music is that it intends to display intense themes and elicit strong emotions with a soft edge of instrumental guitar and a solemn voice with wavering flame to its tone.
Hozier is a titan – both musically and literally. His most famous song Take Me To Church is culturally relevant. Hozier indicts the Catholic church for its narrow tolerance towards flamboyant sexualities. The theme of the song propounds that the Church defined idea of human profanity are the only things that are essentially blue and earthly. The lyrics ‘In the madness of the soil of that sad earthly scene, only when I am human, only then I am clean’ redefines the norm of holy purity. Hozier believes that human act of sexual intercourse through varied sexualities is the ethos of what is hallowed and revered.
Additionally, the song is an attack on the anti-homosexuality of the Catholic churches. He equates love with transgression and radicality. Similarity, the song From Eden juxtaposes sin with pleasure. On a personal level, I find the gospel and soul effect in Hozier’s music inspired partially from the African American music unique and alluring. In his interview with Entertainment Weekly, Hozier expressed that he feels gospel and soul music as liberating and emancipatory.
Some of his lesser known tracks like Shrike, Movement and Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene are among my personal favorite. In the first one, Hozier figuratively uses Shrike as a type of bird which makes its home in thorny bushes to imply a heartbreak from an unhealthy relationship and the resilience that comes after it. The acoustic guitar played in the song has a soothing and calming effect. Hozier’s Sunlight is an upbeat song that signifies the conditionality that comes with love and one’s embracement of the limitations.
The popular themes found in Hozier’s music is the contrast between love and abuse; pure and immoral; light and dark. Indeed, Hozier and his music is certainly unique among the myriads of thematically shallow pop songs. If you are someone who pleasures melancholy in art and music as an honest admission to reality, listening to Hozier can be your best choice!
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