I sat in breathless anticipation, with the buzzing energy of New York City rushing through my veins. Perched in the top balcony of the Beacon Theatre, I peered down at the crowd of fans chattering excitedly. Eyes widening in astonishment, I realized that despite my short stature, I could still make out every detail of the stage. My heart hiccupped as the lights in the theater dimmed and a moment of silence washed over the packed auditorium. It was a Monday night, but not even school could have kept me from missing this opportunity. It had been nearly five years, and now—for me and for many other Hozier fans—the long wait was finally over.
For those who are unfamiliar, Andrew Hozier-Byrne, best know by the mononym Hozier, is an Irish singer-songwriter. In 2014, he reached number two on the Billboard Hot 100 for his single “Take Me to Church.” Hozier’s overnight success catapulted his career from the streets of Dublin to touring stadiums worldwide, building an international fanbase.
It’s impossible not to be moved by Hozier’s raw vocals and chillingly poetic lyrics. His powerful voice is paralleled by his unprecedented talent for composing and producing a unique musical sound and style. His work is best described as a mix of indie rock, blues and folk, drawing inspiration from artists like Booker T. Jones, John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters, to name a few.
Earlier this year, Hozier announced the long anticipated release of new music and tour dates in the United States. Naturally, I, along with hundreds of other fans, scrambled to buy tickets.
At the concert, Hozier played all four songs he released on Sept. 6 from his new EP “Nina Cried Power.” The entire audience was completely captivated by Hozier’s amazing vocals. The synchronization of the drumming and the lighting allowed his fans to internalize the rhythm of each song and feel his music pulse through our bodies.
Before the release of his politically charged newest EP, Hozier has been known to confront social issues in his earlier music as well. The provocative music video for “Take Me to Church” highlights violent hate crimes committed against gays in Russia and openly confronts homophobia.
The music video for “Cherry Wine,” another hit from Hozier’s first album, features a woman in an abusive relationship. The video and lyrics confront domestic violence in a way that jars viewers, leaving them breathless from the juxtaposition of pain and beauty captured in the song.
His newest EP is similarly hair-raising. It highlights the power of protest and the civil rights movements in both Ireland and America. Hozier elaborates in an interview with Billboard, “‘Nina Cried Power’ is about crediting the legacy and the result of protest.”
The lead single on the EP, also titled “Nina Cried Power,” is a tribute to the heavy history of blues music, mentioning artists including Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, Billie Holliday, James Brown and Mavis Staples, the last of whom is a featured singer on the track. Hozier explains that “[This song recognizes] artists who imbued their work with the vigour of dissent, and [“Nina Cried Power” is] a reflection on the importance of that tradition in the context of the rights, and lives, we enjoy today” (Joe, “Watch: Hozier pays tribute to Irish activists in video for ‘Nina Cried Power,’” 9.18.2018).
The recently released music video for “Nina Cried Power” features Irish civil rights advocates reacting to the song. The simplicity is shockingly compelling and inspiring. The power of Hozier’s song moves people to tears, and his ability to artistically honor oppressed voices through his music is a beautiful gift.
“We are witness to a new Ireland waking to the consciousness of itself; a kinder, more inclusive nation,” Hozier explains. “This video is an attempt to acknowledge just a handful of those who have fought for this new Ireland, and whose work continues to inspire me” (Irish Examiner, “Hozier’s Nina Cried Power video is a tribute to Irish activists,” 9.13.2018).
Hozier’s unbridled passion for his music was palpable from watching him perform live. You don’t listen to him sing; rather, Hozier’s music is an experience. You feel his raw talent and excitement in your heart, as it beats in time with his music.
During the concert, Hozier debuted a song titled “Movement” that will be released with his complete album in 2019. The heart-stopping harmonies and guitar solos were nothing short of yet another Hozier classic.
If you are unfamiliar with his songs beyond “Take Me to Church,” I strongly recommend you check out his other music. There is still plenty of time to fall in love with Hozier before the release of his new album, which has been five years in the making. And after seeing Hozier perform his new material live, I can assure you that it was worth the wait.