About twelve months ago, a black and white music video went viral. Featuring the heartbreaking story of an LGBT Russian couple, the video was “Take Me To Church”, by the then unknown Hozier. He chatted to Campus.ie last year about the song’s success; since then, his rise and rise is something I don’t remember seeing in quite a long time. Not only has he shot to fame here, but he has appeared on Ellen, Saturday Night Live and just this week hit the number two spot on the Billboard album chart in the states. As one headline I saw earlier put it “Hozier is officially a big deal”.
“A big deal” is putting it lightly. It’s fair to say that Ireland, as a nation, is completely enamoured with Hozier. His debut album, released about a month ago, reached platinum status within a week and I can’t remember the last time ten minutes passed without hearing “Sedated” or “Take Me To Church” on the radio. His sets at Longitude and Electric Picnic this summer will both go down in the histories of the festivals; notably the latter, where he apparently drew a bigger crowd than anyone before or since. The icing on the bluesy cake is perhaps his announcement of an Irish tour last week; five dates sold out in a matter of minutes, with tickets going for up to four hundred euro online. I think it’s fair to say that the nation is united in our obsession – even my granny likes him.
Today, I found myself wondering what exactly it is about the 24 year old that pushes all our buttons. Is it his easy-going, almost shy demeanour in interviews? His ability to sing about James Joyce (in “Angel of Small Death”, his next single) and not sound pretentious? Or do we just keep home-grown talent close to our heart? Given the furious tweets from many Irish users when U2 released their latest drivel onto our iDevices, we can strike that last one. It’s impossible to pinpoint why Hozier is so massive; but I can speculate that Hozier’s success is something to put our hopes in. The island’s feverish radio-play of his singles as a remedy to our dire economic situation. As his success spirals, we are faced with more taxation, more charges – but as long as he’s pumping out songs and appearing on American television, we have something to be proud of. In the face of global economic crisis, we have produced these beautiful songs. It’s just a speculation – but it’s certainly nice to have something to be proud of.
More likely, however, is not the luck of the Irish, or the man himself, or our hideous finances. The reason we’re all so taken with Andrew Hozier-Byrne is simply because he’s one of the most talented artists to come out of anywhere in the last few years. His soulful voice, appreciation for both poppy hooks and bluesy melodies, and well-polished debut album make him a musical force to be reckoned with. For critics, he represents something young, new and interesting; for the rest of us, his songs are catchy as well as a little bit heart-breaking. He’s the musical equivalent of Pixar’s “Up” – critically acclaimed, superbly crafted and loved by everyone, especially your mum. Only time will tell if Hozier capitalises on his successes in 2014, but he should know that he has most of the country behind him every step of the way.