I have been listening to Hozier’s 2019 album Wasteland, Baby over and over. It’s been a while since I have been into an album start to finish — usually, I get into songs, and make playlists, or sometimes put the entire catalogue of an artist on shuffle, but albums are less common. This one, though, still has me on the edge of my seat.
You probably know Hozier as the guy who sang “Take Me To Church,” still an incredible song (though I don’t know about you, but it was definitely overplayed in my life, as it was such a hit). I love that
I think it was the song “Shrike” that got me first. I couldn’t tell what he was singing, so I looked up the lyrics: “Remember me, love / When I’m reborn / As a shrike to your sharp / And glorious thorn.” Turns out, a shrike is a bird — well, more of a family of birds, about 30 different kinds.
As I was waxing poetic to a friend about how much I love Wasteland, Baby, a friend recently asked if I’d heard the podcast Song Exploder. No, I hadn’t, I said. They recommended the episode about Hozier’s song “Nina Cried Power” — and I thought it was just incredible.
“Nina Cried Power” is a protest song in a lineage of protest songs, and it did feel, I’ll admit, a little heavy handed. It’s the first track on the album, and I often skipped it when I put it on. Not after this interview, though.
The interview includes discussion from Hozier about how the song was written and how it came together, and an interview with Mavis Staples, who sings on the song as well. I loved hearing her words and interpretations of the song.
Hozier shared that the whole song started with the opening line, “It’s not the waking / it’s the rising” — and oh, I just love his songwriting. I love focusing on the rising — which calls to mind the idea of “rising up,” for me, immediately — and not just waking. Both in activism, and even with the beginning of a day — it’s not the moment you open your eyes, he says, it’s when you get out of bed.
I loved listening to this interview, and hearing the depths of how the song came together and was made. And now I listen to that song much more deeply than I did before. I never skip over this track any more.
Here’s the video for the song, via YouTube:
Listen to Hozier’s “Nina Cried Power” episode on Song Exploder on their website, or wherever you listen to your podcasts.