“Allow the ground to find its brutal way to me.”
Hozier, known legally as Andrew Hozier Byrne, is an Irish singer-songwriter. His melodies and words have poetically captivated the ears of many since his first single, “Take Me To Church,” was released in 2013. Since then, he has amassed more than two billion streams on that record alone, garnering almost 30 million monthly listeners on Spotify.
Hozier is no stranger to the industry, with his sophomore 2019 album “Wasteland Baby” starting a long-anticipated wait for his next recording. His latest release, “Unreal, Unearth,” inspired by Dante’s Inferno, is a passion-fueled album that takes the listener down to the depths of hell. Hozier’s music has always relied heavily on connections back to Greek myths—one such song being “I, Carrion (Icarian)” from “Unreal, Unearth.”
When I first listened to this record, I thought it was a love song, comparing Icarus’ story to someone free-falling into love. However, once you begin to understand the lyrics, the song relies heavily on the theme of loss.
From online interviews about this song, Hozier suggests it was originally written as a gift for a former partner. The tender lyrics and devotional hymns give the impression that he is completely enamored by this other party. It makes the song all the more beautiful, as what started as a gift ended in heartbreak. Hozier became teary-eyed in interviews concerning the album’s subject.
The song begins with the lyrics, “If the wind turns, if I hit a squall. Allow the ground to find its brutal way to me.” We see from the opening that Hozier is positioning himself as Icarus and accepting his fate before he is even met with it. He acknowledges the fact that if something goes wrong, he won’t fight what is meant for him.
Hozier sings, “I feel lighter than I have in so much time. I’ve crossed the borderline of weightlessness. One deep breath out from the sky.” The singer is already falling, letting go of an earthly sort of weight as he is sky-bound. This lets us know that he has just begun his descent, and that even the first breath since being suspended in the air brings him freedom. He is reveling in a feeling the singer couldn’t have imagined.
He goes on to say, “All our weight is just a burden offered to us by the world,” stating the fact that everything we carry is something that is given to us. He rejects this idea as he burns, seeing now from his position that he is leaving his earthly pains behind. Perhaps his love for this other person has invigorated him to such an extent that he no longer feels bogged down by the trials of life.
Hozier continues, “And though I burn, how could I fall? When I am lifted by every word you say to me. The character he plays is destroying himself as he falls from above, his glued wings ripping and combusting under the rays of the sun. However, because of the love he is being shown, Hozier feels as if he is not falling at all. He proposes the question “How could I fall?” in opposition to the reality he is facing. The love of his partner seems to be the thing that could never let him down and could never allow him to feel pain.
This moves onto the chorus: “If anything could fall at all, it’s the world. That falls away from me.” Perhaps this character is in denial about what is truly happening, or is too blissfully unaware to notice. He doesn’t acknowledge that he is falling to his doom; rather, he claims that the world would be the thing to fall away.
The artist sings, “You have me floating like a feather on the sea,” preserving this sentiment that his love has placed him in a calm state. Despite the destruction he is facing, the character thinks nothing of it in the face of this love. He then goes on to say, “While you’re as heavy as the world, That you hold your hands beneath,” alluding to the fact that his partner has more emotional burden than he. I think this translates into a burdensome sense that this love isn’t as easy as he makes it out to be.
This line possibly refers to Atlas, the god condemned to spend eternity holding up the world. Hozier compares himself to Icarus, a man who falls to his death because of a thrill-seeking sense of newfound freedom. This is juxtaposed with his lover being compared to Atlas. This could translate to their different outlooks on the relationship they are in and the secret sadness creeping into the words.
This brings such a new perspective to the line. “It’s the world. That falls away from me.” Hozier, by comparing his lover to the world, is saying that, to him, he could never fall out of love.
The second verse ends with the lines, “Once I wondered what was holding up the ground. But I can see that all along, love, it was you the whole way down.” This can be interpreted in one of two ways, the first being that his partner is his sense of stability. He wonders what gave the world a sense of control and something to stand upon, soon to realize that it is them. On the other hand, he is recalling the way that this other person gave him stability, which will also be his downfall as he reaches his untimely end.
The chorus is now changed to, “We’ll float away, but if we fall, I only pray, don’t fall away from me.” Now they can go off together, both of them with their glued wings. He could be saying that they can do this together, but still acknowledge the risks. The only thing he is asking of his partner is that they don’t “fall away from” him. He knows how perilous it is to be in this free-falling position; he knows that they can go down, but he would much rather that it be together.
Now for one of the most heartbreaking bridges: “I do not have wings, love, I never will,” alluding to the fact that he cannot be this carefree, love-struck person all the time. He doesn’t have wings; therefore, he is not above all the worldly things out there that can bring him down.
Hozier continues with, “Soaring over the world you are carryin’. If these heights should bring my fall, let me be your own. Icarian carrion.” His love is the one thing that holds true for him, and he gives himself up as a sacrifice for it. He accepts his Icarian fate, saying that his lover should let him embody this mythical being. Even now, he is trying to prepare himself for what he knows will eventually come.
He closes out the bridge with the opening lines of the song and then goes on to sing an altered chorus one more time: “If I should fall, on that day. I only pray; don’t fall away from me,” as if pleading for everything to hold together. He implies that if he can’t be weightless all of a sudden (a.k.a., being brought down by the world or earthly pursuits), they will still be able to love each other.
Amid the upbeat, tantalizing songs of this album, this is by far one of the saddest. As a professional connoisseur of sad songs, his writing style is nothing short of something that absolutely punches you in the gut. He compares the love they have to existing in two separate places, one above and the other below everything that exists around them. Hozier seems to be just as much a poet as he is a musician, with such an uncanny ability for storytelling. There is something timeless and magical about every song he puts out.