Billie Holiday, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, and Nina Simone.
These are all legendary artists who Hozier draws power from in his latest song, "Nina Cried Power," and the EP of the same name. Each of these musicians took a political stance during their lifetimes, bringing together art and activism, something increasingly necessary as the personal continues to become more political. Bob Dylan became a voice for the working class. Nina Simone spoke out about racial tensions during the civil rights movement and beyond.
In the same way, Hozier seems to want to be a political artist, but it’s unclear exactly what path he’ll take. In the release accompanying the song, he dedicates it “as a thank you note to the spirit and legacy of protest.” His new video features everyday activists doing work in Hozier's homeland of Ireland, each one shown listening to the song for the first time. One of the activists featured is Saoirse Long, a radio presenter who recently publicly shared her story about her abortion. Another, Joe Caslin, creates street art showcasing how he believes volunteering can help with Ireland’s problems of drug addiction and mental health.
Ireland has a long history of political conflict, from the struggles against English colonial forces to the Irish Civil War of the 1920s and the Troubles, a campaign by the Irish Republican Army against British control in Northern Ireland during the second half of the 20th century. Today, however, the Republic of Ireland seems to be at the dawn of a new age of civil rights. Earlier this year, voters successfully repealed the country's Eighth Amendment, tearing down the heavily Catholic country's ban on abortion. Hozier seems to think this history is only the beginning, writing in his release that “we are witness to a new Ireland waking to the consciousness of itself; a kinder, more inclusive nation.”
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Previously, Hozier has taken a stance on gay marriage. At first listen, his hit 2014 song “Take Me to Church,” can play as a fairly simple love song, albeit one dripping in religious imagery. However, the video for the song shows a more sinister side to what can happen when the outside world decides it doesn’t like a certain type of couple. Shot in black and white, it showcases the burgeoning relationship between two gay men. Unfortunately, a man with ill intentions witnesses their relationship and summons his friends to kidnap one of the men from his home. By fireside, the men beat the man to within an inch of his life while his partner watches helplessly, unable to do anything to stop the violence.
The video is a study in how the beauty of young love can be taken apart by hateful people. Hozier himself said it was inspired by hate crimes captured on video showing gay men in Russia being attacked. While the same problems are not as persistent in Ireland, it was only in 2015 that gay marriage was legalized, a year after the release of Hozier's video.
Hozier has recently attended protests and seems to be growing more political. While he still clings to his indie music vibe, he literally yells in his new EP. In a world where the personal is increasingly political, he may be growing into a radical spirit.