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Reflecting on Power and Love: Hozier’s new EP and the meaning within

Photo by Steve Ferdman for Getty Images

Photo by Steve Ferdman for Getty Images

Sarah Ross, Web Staffer

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We asked for music to dig our toes in the earth with, to remember how utterly helpless we are in the grasp of good music, and 4 years after his self-titled LP, my man Hozier has finally delivered with his new EP Nina Cried Power and the promise of a full album in 2019. His emergence from presumably being a woodland king only in contact with animals, nature, and perhaps Florence Welch is greatly welcomed.

Quite honestly at this point I would have accepted any type of music as a sign that he’s still alive, but Hozier went above and beyond and said, “Hey you know what? I’m just gonna whip out a quick love note to protests and CASUALLY have ACTUAL LEGEND Mavis Staples sing on the title song with me.” (He did not actually say this but he did actually do this). Indeed, the title song of the EP, “Nina Cried Power”, acknowledges and builds upon the bravery of musicians and activists like Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Curtis Mayfield by invoking their names in his song. When an artist like Hozier waits so long to release new music, every note and syllable is laden with intention and power.

In total, Hozier names 13 musicians (including Mavis Staples, featured on the track) who advocated for social change, whether through black freedom, female sexual liberation, environmental advocacy, anti-war, or general critiques of mass society. He is not only naming names, but naming power, repeating the word itself over and over again. What are the implications of starting the EP with overt references to power, resistance, and oppression? What role does this track play in the world of the EP?

In an interview with Billboard, Hozier himself suggests that each of the four songs “are standing around the same awful bonfire [of the world]. Some of them are optimistic; some of them are terrified; some of them are really looking forward to just burning within it”. Rather than stay completely apolitical or make his music too heavy-handed, I think Hozier’s four approaches provide a more realistic, nuanced understanding of the world.

If “Nina Cried Power” starts with fists raised in solidarity and belting vocals demanding justice, the second song “NFWMB” is a declaration of protecting a tender love as the world falls apart. The third track “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)” gets right back into Hozier’s groove of ascribing new meaning to religious references (hello “Take Me to Church”!!), trading meaning in what he views as apathetic yet dictating structures for the meaning of a lover’s kiss. The fourth and final track “Shrike” seems almost ethereal, closer to a folk song. Here we have come full circle with Hozier, from the gritty reality of resistance to the ideas and motives behind it to the mourning of losing something not fully appreciated.

Hozier’s four corners of the world are full of emotion: angry, bittersweet, and yet somewhat hopeful, ultimately clinging onto the idea that he, and perhaps all of us, still have power.

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Reflecting on Power and Love: Hozier’s new EP and the meaning within