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Review: political activism in Hozier's newest release 'Eat Your Young'

The Irish bard returns, bringing more pithy and poignant lyrics with him


Irish singer-songwriter, Hozier released “Eat Your Young,” an EP with three new songs. Hozier’s songs often feature social commentary regarding current issues. 

Returning with a powerful addition to his legacy of social commentary, Hozier released a long-awaited new EP titled "Eat Your Young" last Friday, March 17, and it has lived up to expectations.

Andrew Hozier-Byrne, the Irish singer-songwriter, gained a loyal cult following after his single "Take Me to Church" shot him to stardom in 2013. He is known for his political undertones mixed into a soulful, poetic indie style. Winner of the Billboard Music Award for Top Rock Artist in 2015, Hozier has been releasing revelatory music ever since, covering sensitive and often ignored topics such as addiction, domestic violence, religious trauma and LGBTQ+ rights. 

"What got me into Hozier … is 'Take Me to Church' because it was the first song I ever heard about being gay," said Nick Maxwell, a sophomore studying applied computing and a long-time fan of Hozier.

Though the LGBTQ+ community was not explicitly mentioned in "Take Me to Church," the song's music video says it all. The video features two young gay men suffering violent physical assaults at the hands of an angry mob. It was Hozier's direct commentary on the anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric circulating in Russia at the time. 

"Take Me to Church" is far from the only instance of political activism in Hozier's work. His most recent collaboration, a duet with singer and activist Mavis Staples, titled "Nina Cried Power," is a call to action against unjust authorities and a tribute to the protest music of the civil rights movement. 

Hozier is wont to take on the uphill fight and speak on behalf of those who have been historically silenced. His single "Swan Upon Leda," released in late 2022, was Hozier's response to the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade. The heartbreaking melody accompanies mournful lyrics, reminding us all that "the gateway to the world … has never belonged to men."

In every song, Hozier uses music as a balm on our often pained and frustrated society.

"Music can really serve as medicine," said Christian Vu, a senior studying biomedical engineering and a member of Music Meets Medicine, a club on campus dedicated to spreading the healing qualities of music. The group often visits patients in hospice care, presenting them with heartfelt musical performances.

"It's so inspiring when an artist can really convey an intentional message to their audience," said Vu. "It's still surprising to me how compelling music can be to a cause."

Music and political advocacy have long been closely entangled, especially when one considers the lyrical and rhetorical power of music. Still, some might say that artists have no right to make such commentary. That they should stay in their lane and leave social change to the politicians, lawmakers, judges and law enforcement.

"I don't think music can ever be separated from politics," said Abigail Parks, a junior studying music. "And I don't think it should be."

Artists the world over agree with her, as they use their global platforms to advocate for a purpose greater than themselves.

"I don't think it's their job or they're responsible for it, but I appreciate them doing it," Maxwell said. "I feel like nowadays, a lot of music just sounds so similar. I tend to go for songs that have deeper meanings."

The beauty of finding meaning in art lies in each individual's freedom to interpret it as they will, and glean the message that impacts them the most.

For example, "Eat Your Young," the new EP’s titular song, released on both St. Patrick's Day and Hozier's birthday, can be interpreted many ways. Hozier himself said this piece, like others in his upcoming album, represents a circle of Dante's hell. In this case, the represented circle is gluttony. But gluttony of which kind?

I have a theory. In one of Hozier's most important social critiques yet, youth is victimized by gluttony and greed. To me, this comments on the highly-commercialized version of America we see today. Youth is exploited at every turn. It is devoured hungrily, while "old and young are welcome to the meal." Young models, actors, musicians and influencers are chewed up and gagged out by industry and consumer alike. By age 30, they're already forgotten. 

And so are we, the average college student and young professional. That's right fellow 20-somethings. Our best and most productive years are drained by corporations that reduce us to little more than numbers, and occasionally, tokens of diversity. In a world like this, our worth shrivels with each tick of the clock. 

Which is why pointed political satire in music, and other forms of art, is so necessary. Artists like Hozier show society its own ugly reflection and remind us of the flaws we'd rather forget.

Edited by Claire van Doren, Reagan Priest, Sophia Balasubramanian and Caera Learmonth.

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