In 2013, Irish singer-songwriter Hozier took the world by storm with the debut single off of his self-titled album, Peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100 and receiving a Grammy nomination, the song Take Me To Church is seemingly inescapable, and I’m not complaining. While I didn’t appreciate it at the time, given my being 11 years old, Take Me To Church is home to some of my favourite lyrics of all time, and the rest of Hozier’s discography is just as enthralling. Every song he’s released, whether heartbreaking, lustful, or uplifting, is jam-packed with a beautiful lyricism that can be interpreted in so many different ways, a talent that I think deserves a little more appreciation. So, without further ado, here are a few of my favourite Hozier lyrics and how I understand them.
I would shun the light, share in evening’s cool and quiet
Who would trade that hum of night?
For sunlight, sunlight, sunlight
But whose heart would not take flight?
Betray the moon as acolyte
On first and fierce affirming sight
Of sunlight, sunlight, sunlight
Sunlight is one of my favourite Hozier songs simply because of these haunting lyrics. Hozier spins the common personification of sunlight as a warm and embracing love on its head to describe a burning desire and engrossing love. He describes moonlight and nighttime as a state of peace and calm, questioning who would ever trade that for the burning state of sunlight. This is followed by a reference to Greek mythology; Artemis is the Goddess of the moon and the hunt, whose followers, or acolytes, pledged to remain celibate. However true it may be that remaining a follower of Artemis is the easier and pain-free choice, he asks who wouldn’t give up their pledge to Artemis and immediately fall in love with the woman whom he compares to sunlight. He ties this together later in the song with the line “Know that I would gladly be the Icarus to your certainty”, completing the allusion to Greek mythology. Not only would he trade the state of cool and calm for this woman, but he also acknowledges that this love will be his undoing. He knows his fate will be that of Icarus; he will fly too close to the sun, dying in the process of trying to attain her, but he would do so gladly because of his burning desire.
- From Eden
Honey, you’re familiar, like my mirror years ago
Idealism sits in prison, chivalry fell on his sword
Innocence died screaming; honey, ask me, I should know
I slithered here from Eden just to sit outside your door
From Eden is a song that I think about constantly. With every lyric sung in the form of a metaphor, I think this song can be read differently by everyone who listens to it. The narrator likens himself to the serpent from the Biblical garden of Eden where the Adam and Eve storyline takes place. This encourages us to understand him to be representative of temptation and sin, or possibly even Satan himself. To say that this woman is familiar, like his mirror years ago, may imply that she evokes a memory of himself from before he fell from heaven, his innocence dying with him. He now exists as a man who is in an adulterous relationship with a woman, one he idealized and tempted, later referencing getting rid of another man, perhaps Adam, with whom she has a relationship. From Eden is paradoxical in that it is a beautiful and somewhat upbeat song while also being about a relationship that has taken a dark turn.
- Dinner and Diatribes
Honey, this club here is stuck up
Dinner and diatribes
Dinner and Diatribes has to be one of the best song titles I have ever come across; I am always astounded by the creativity it would take to come up with this. Hozier himself describes this song as being about how tedious social functions can be when all you want to do is leave with the person you came with. The narrator has no desire of staying at this event, describing a dinner that he is forced to attend as “dinner and diatribes.” Diatribes being a verbal attack, the narrator laments being stuck at a dinner party reliant on small talk where people may volley underhanded comments back and forth. I am genuinely in awe of how Hozier is able to articulate the feeling of waiting for the relief of leaving a social gathering that is nothing but tedious small talk.
You and I, nursing on a
Poison that never stung
Sedated tells the story of a couple who are both dependent on drugs. Hozier describes the two of them as using drugs as a life source. Like a baby nursing from their mother, they are dependent on drugs for sustenance, completely helpless without them, just as a baby would be without someone to provide for them. They acknowledge that the drugs are killing them, likening them to poison, and yet they can’t give the drugs up because unlike other ways of dying, death by drugs doesn’t hurt.
- In the woods somewhere
The creature lunged
I turned and ran
To save a life I didn’t have
Dear, in the chase
There as I flew
Forgot all prayers of joining you
In The Woods Somewhere follows a narrator who is grieving what could be interpreted as the death of a lover or the end of a relationship. It’s up to interpretation whether this narrator actually finds himself lost in the woods or if the feverish state that he describes in the opening verse has conjured up these hallucinations. Whichever the case may be, the narrator supposedly comes across a fox dying from a vicious wound when he notices the creature that caused the injury looking at him. It is in this moment, when the narrator’s life is at stake, that he realizes that he does not wish to join his lover or their relationship in death. His journey to the woods, whether real or hallucinatory, led him to the realization that no matter the pain of his loss, the narrator will bear it and keep going.
This is only a sample of the genius lyrical combinations that are hidden in the dozens of songs Hozier has released. His entire discography features lyrics that will have you sitting in your car in awe of how this man is able to weave together a narrative through allusions and metaphors, all while accompanying it with haunting vocals and beautiful instrumentals. While I want nothing more than another Hozier album, it is understandable that his writing process would take some time. In the meantime, we’ll have to settle on spending time dissecting the songs he has already given us, which will likely make us even more eager to hear what else he has in store.