Since the release of “Take Me To Church,” the chart-topping ballad famous for renouncing controversial religious viewpoints, singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne (known professionally as Hozier) has enjoyed an astronomical rise to fame. The small town Irishman was virtually unknown in early 2013 yet became a viral hit just months later after the single debuted. Now, with three EPs, a full-length album and a concluding world tour under his belt, Hozier is ready to head back to the studio to churn out more music and become an even bigger sensation.
“Take Me To Church” has seemingly graced just about radio station and television channel in existence and has been the main speaking point in many of Hozier’s interviews. The song compares religion to relationships and uses gorgeous gospel influences to create a powerful and haunting sound. What’s made the hit so virally famous though is its accompanying video which features a man being executed for his sexuality. Each time I watch the beautifully produced black and white video, I am amazed that someone just a few years my senior can so powerfully transform an idea about a social issue into such a breathtaking and shocking piece of art. Hozier has been very outspoken about the message of the video and song, as well as his feelings on religious beliefs and laws that condemn certain lifestyles. A phrase commonly pulled from the song, “I was born sick, but I love it,” alludes to the concept of original sin and expresses an unapologetic rejection of the notion that we should be ashamed of the actions that the church dubs ‘moral wrongdoings’.
It’s important to note that though Hozier’s success stems mostly from the viral explosion of “Take Me To Church,” he is far from a one-hit wonder. Hozier has 12 other impressive tracks on his self-titled album that show off his wide range of vocal and songwriting abilities. While “Take Me To Church” is a forceful statement, songs such as “Like Real People Do” and “Work Song” show his softer side as well as reveal his gentle and romantic nature. The former describes a fairytale-esque scene of a person literally digging their lover out of the dirt and fully embracing them despite their questionable past actions. The extremely mellow vocals and tender repetition of the chorus phrase “honey just put your sweet lips on my lips,” give the song a comforting, daydream-evoking feel. It’s definitely one of my favorites on the album because it brings out the hopeless romantic in me and it’s an instant mood lifter. “Work Song” similarly is a soulful love song that keeps with the theme of rising from the dirt. With lyrics like “No grave can hold my body down, I’ll crawl home to her,” the poignant tune tells the story of yet another devoted lover.
Aside from gentle, sentimental tracks, Hozier shows that he is also capable of more upbeat sounds like his singles “Jackie and Wilson” and “From Eden.” Both have a sunny day vibe and a lighthearted message. “From Eden” is another song that plays with the theme of religion by speaking in the perspective of someone who “slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door,” and “Jackie and Wilson” tells the tale of wishful thinking with the proclamation “we’ll name our children Jackie and Wilson, raise ’em on rhythm and blues.” I have to say of all Hozier’s incredible songs, “Jackie and Wilson” is my favorite. It’s extremely relatable and perfectly captures the idealistic thought process we all go through when we meet someone who we think is ‘the one.’
Of course, Hozier did not stop at beautiful slow songs and dance-worthy grooves. The son of a blues musician, Hozier was very much influenced by folky sounds in tracks like “To Be Alone” and “It Will Come Back.” His deep, soulful voice and twangy guitar give him a sound well beyond his years. The latter tragically speaks of unrequited love, while “To Be Alone” is another song penned based on wishful thinking– it suggests running away with a lover. Both feel very bluesy and are impressive considering they come from the mind of a 25 year old.
Whether he’s belting out a gospel-like anthem or singing the blues, Hozier is a musical force to be reckoned with. I’m not at all exaggerating when I say that I listen to this album every single day. There’s such a great variety of sounds on this album and there’s sure to be a song to satisfy me no matter what mood I’m in. I’ve been listening to Hozier nonstop for almost a year now and I have yet to tire of his emotionally charged voice and poetic songwriting. His debut album did a wonderful job of showcasing his incredible musical gift, and the next is eagerly awaited.