A couple of weeks ago, a student of mine asked if we could work on a song in class. With no hesitation, I exclaimed, ‘Of course! Which one?’. ‘Hozier’s ‘Take Me to Church’‘ from his eponymous album, Hozier. I liked the song, and I liked the idea of working on it too. But I had never ever before paid attention to the lyrics. I was convinced it was a love song (like many others) or a religious one (the gospel vibe in it is undeniable), though the latter was kinda puzzling to me, it playing on mainstream radio. I asked the class if they knew which song we were talking about, and one of them said, ‘Yes, he’s Irish, and he’s good. I have his album’. Then another one asked me, ‘Have you seen the video?’ and I said, ‘Yes, I have!,’ but at that very moment my mind was going like ‘Oopsie, the vid! You’ve seen it, Mª del Mar, but what the heck does the vid have to do with the lyrics?’
It’s not that my student didn’t understand the words strictly speaking (hey, she has a C1 level of English!), but she was having trouble in deciphering what the whole meaning of the song is. She had seen a couple of interviews with Andrew Hozier-Byrne, but couldn’t make out what the whole thing was about. And neither could I. Not then.
So I spent the whole Saturday afternoon, a long while of Sunday afternoon and most Monday morning watching interviews with Hozier, learning about his past and present life (oh my, leave the guy and his hair alone!), reading about Catholic beliefs and several interpretations of the song by people who have shared their ideas on the song. What a surprise that the song has at least three possible readings (including the one contained in the music video, which helped the song become viral), two of which we could qualify as Rated R. In the end, I came up with a pretty comprehensive analysis that I complemented with a listening activity, some quotes from interviews that we read to set the mood for the analysis as well as some discussion questions that we didn’t get the time to deal with in class.
Here you can find the first three parts of the class (the first listening, some quotes from interviews with Hozier that we commented on, and then the breakdown to the lyrics of the song, complemented by my students’ comments and the additions by a medievalist friend of mine. I must say my students were impressed that someone as young as Hozier could write such deep and complex song, lyrics-wise.