Irish singer-songwriter Hozier is known for his ethereal music and poetic lyrics. The indie musician’s ability to turn ancient myths and folklore into mainstream hits makes him a standout artist of his generation. Shaped by the folk, blues, and soul music he grew up listening to (his dad was a blues musician, his mother an artist) and the natural beauty of County Wicklow, Ireland, he’s created an impressive body of work.
With songs that deal with love, social activism, and the human condition, here’s our pick of the best Hozier songs.
13. All Things End
Hozier’s 2023 EP, Eat Your Young, has three songs that each relate to one of the 9 Circles of Hell from the classic literary work, Dante’s Inferno. ‘All Things End’ is based on the sixth circle, heresy. The song’s title itself alludes to heresy, which goes against religious views of the existence of an afterlife. Hozier also takes things a step further though. He highlights a crushing reality that feels like “a two-tonne weight around [his] chest.” He’s learning the hard way that all good things must come to an end as he comes to terms with a horrible breakup.
12. Sweet Thing (Van Morrison cover)
Van Morrison was always a true blue romantic at heart, and perhaps, so is Hozier. ‘Sweet Thing’ focuses on showering one’s lover with adoration and praise, and Hozier recorded this Van Morrison cover in a church to drive home the song’s sacred essence. While the ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ songwriter’s self-proclaimed subgenre is “celtic blues,” listeners are able to hear Hozier’s own unique interpretation he gives to gospel and blues genres with this moving recording.
Recommended: Hear the original version on our pick of epic Van Morrison songs.
11. Eat Your Young
If there’s one thing Hozier can do, it’s pack in a ton of themes into one song. ‘Eat Your Young’ was inspired by the sin of gluttony, and at first lyrics like, “I’m starvin’, darlin’,” make it seem like Hozier is just greedy for a lover. But as the song develops, it takes on a much deeper meaning when he uses lyrics to suggest people are prioritizing their own comfort at the expense of future generations. Hozier often uses his music for activism, and here he’s accusing higher-ups of protecting their wealth rather than the planet and society.
10. Almost (Sweet Music)
A folksy tribute honoring the jazz artists he was deeply influenced by, Hozier uses ‘Almost (Sweet Music)’ to communicate how important jazz music was to his own development as an artist. The songwriter creatively references some of the genre’s greatest compositions throughout the track, including works by legends like Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, and even the swing king himself, Frank Sinatra. Much like the jazz music of the ‘30s and ‘40s, the rhythmic clapping work in Hozier’s own song will have you dancing with joy.
A poet at heart, Hozier celebrates the human form with his deeply soulful song, ‘Movement.’ Compelled by his lover’s graceful gait and beautiful posture, he relates this heroic view of humanity to the Greek myth of Atlas, who bore the weight of the celestial sphere on his shoulders so it did not crash down to Earth. The metaphor of the song is found in the retelling of this ancient story. His lover’s body, and the magnificent strength and life it represents, is his earthly connection to heaven.
8. Would That I
This track centers around a nature metaphor (classic Hozier), and is about how a new love can burn away all the remnants of past loves. The power of a new relationship is a well-worn topic in music, but Hozier consistently takes cliches to a deeper level. In this one, he compares old relationships to trees in a forest, and this new love to a blazing fire that burns that forest down. Hozier used to sing in an Irish choral group, and we can hear that influence in the layered vocals and call and response style of the chorus.
7. Wasteland, Baby!
“All the fear and the fire of the end of the world, happens each time a boy falls in love with a girl.” The title track for Hozier’s second album, ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ is an incredible examination of love, life, and humanity. Melodic guitar and intimate vocals immerse the listener in this “wasteland,” which finds a couple falling in love while the world is ending. While there’s so much to unpack here (we could dedicate an entire article to this song), Hozier’s main message is that no matter how hopeless the future looks, love can conquer all.
6. Nina Cried Power (featuring Mavis Staples)
Activism, social movements, and music have always been closely intertwined. This song honors many singers who have written protest songs to express their beliefs and bring about change, despite the backlash they faced. Mavis Staples, an R&B legend and civil rights activist, is featured on the song. The pair use their soulful vocals to belt about all of the singers who channeled the power of music to call for change. Among the iconic artists named are Nina Simone, Joni Mitchell, and James Brown.
5. Work Song
With stripped down instrumentation and production that gives ‘Work Song’ a haunting feel, this track pays homage to gospel and blues’ long lineage of spirituals. Lyrics offer a deep look into the human capacity for resiliency. While the love Hozier has for his woman keeps him going no matter the circumstances, poetic stanzas conjure up historic imagery. His line, “No grave can hold my body down,” is a direct nod to pioneering songwriters before him like Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She was the first to officially coin the phrase in contemporary times when she boldly sang, “Ain’t no grave, can keep my body down.” She started a revolution with that saying, and spitfire songwriters after her like Johnny Cash kept her legacy alive by using it in their own works.
4. Like Real People Do
Dark, romantic themes are a specialty for the Irish songwriter, and his acoustic-laden track, ‘Like Real People Do,’ is no exception. It is sung from the perspective of someone that has been unearthed from their grave. If you find this to be a bit eerie, the song’s backstory should put you at ease. One of Hozier’s inspirations is famous Northern Irish poet Seamus Heaney. He had a series of beloved poems focusing on “bog people,” who were ancient sacrifices unearthed by time and discovered by the living. This acted as a symbol connecting past to present. Hozier wrote ‘Like Real People Do’ in honor of these poems, and made acceptance a key aspect of his own interpretation.
3. Someone New
Energetic electric guitar and a catchy chorus are the backbone of this fun tune. Despite its quirky nature, darker themes involving love are explored. He repeats the line, “I fall in love just a little, oh, a little bit, every day with someone new,” which drives home his penchant for being a hopeless romantic. He’s in love with the idea of companionship rather than its reality. Hozier went even darker for the music video when he chose actress Natalie Dormer to play a “femme fatale” role for the storyline.
2. Cherry Wine
Released as a live single in 2016, ‘Cherry Wine’ is a gorgeous stripped back track, with melodic, plucking guitar and raw vocals. The song covers the heavy topic of domestic abuse, exploring the difficult situation of being in love with someone who hurts you. If you just listen without paying attention to the lyrics, it sounds like a love song. But when you look closer, you realize the painful reality- much like the facade of love in an abusive relationship. Hozier showed up as an activist with this song, donating the proceeds from the single to domestic abuse charities around the world.
1. Take Me To Church
A surprise smash hit for the indie artist in both his home country and in the states, ‘Take Me To Church’ was Hozier’s debut single, and an international success. It secured him a coveted performer spot on America’s sketch comedy show, Saturday Night Live, which launched him to worldwide stardom. The multi-platinum song deals with love as a religious monument that should be worshiped, and soon after its release it became a symbol for acceptance among marginalized groups. A song partly recorded in the wee hours of the morning in Hozier’s attic, it eventually secured him a Grammy nomination for Song of The Year.