Hozier’s “Eat Your Young” – When Soul and Defiance Meet


Image via Pixabay under Pixabay License

Annabelle Frazer, Features Editor

Nearly three years after the release of his 2019 album, Wasteland, Baby!, the fervorous voice behind the everlasting hit “Take Me To Church”, Andrew Byrne Hozier, has released the newest of his blossoming works.

Sharing snippets of ambient acoustics and free-hand poetry written sloppily on loose paper, the singer-songwriter began to stubbornly hint at the idea of a much anticipated album, before formally announcing a release date of his newest EP in late February of this year.

It appeared that instantly upon the much awaited announcement, fans took full advantage of the brief clips, sharing their elation through original covers and instrumentals of the initial verses leaked from the primary song which the EP gathers its title from, “Eat Your Young.” 

Photo via Pixabay under Pixabay license.

Alongside the renditions, many devotees also began analyzing the release as if it were a Jane Austen novel, speculating about the likely possibility that a deeper meaning lurked beneath the rather grotesque title.

While it does read rather macabre, the arcane title does not fall far from the tree in comparison to the same mystic, bewitching atmospheres of the Irish rock musician’s past albums. For instance, the singer’s self-titled debut album, “Hozier”, graciously spirals into the chilling cycle of life, death, and everything that grows (and rots) within the two – all while gentle melodies and comforting chords wrap listeners in a blanket of acceptance.

It’s the art of balance which continuously charms his music, and drives an expectation of blissful chaos.

However, little was it known that the sinister melodies behind “Eat Your Young” would convey so much more than avant-garde uproar.

If there’s one thing Hozier has made abundantly clear over the course of his career, it’s his innate passion for fine literature, ancient mythology, and searing politics. 

No stranger to controversy, the singer has long traveled up a mountain of music which shares common underlying themes, some of which include political activism, and religious deconstruction. 

Much like playing with fire, twisting common ideologies found within common beliefs – especially a faith as renowned as Catholicism – into powerful metaphors and profound symbolism is a particularly risky road to follow. Still, the musician continues to dive headlong into the roaring flames.

When “Take Me To Church” broke the charts from Hozier’s first album in 2013, the rather blunt title predictably deceived many unsuspecting listeners expecting a humble worship song. At first glance, the lyrics read much like a speech of contrition, attesting to one’s flaws. The modest lyrics and poignant chorus strike the audience as heavily as any sermon.

Photo via Pixabay under Pixabay license.

However, weeks later, after the release of the hit’s official music video, many who once proudly sang along became overwhelmed with detest, as the video directly contradicted their pious interpretation of the lyrics. As the music video featured a same-sex couple navigating their relationship in the belly of discrimination, the film acts as a clever wake-up-call to the realities and extremities often found within organized religion. Equally as poignant as it was controversial, this sly, yet oddly poetic mock to those enraged served as just the introduction to Hozier’s pattern of bewitching controversy.

So, where does “Eat Your Young” fit into his reign of artful defiance?

In the terms of symbolism, the initial hint to the track’s eloquence is first revealed in the title. 

In the terms of nature, “eat(ing) your young” refers to the grotesque occurrence among mostly carnivorous species, in which animals will prey and feast on their own offspring. Despite the gruesome nature of this practice, it is mostly seen in cases of extremity, where a baby may be weak or injured, and there is limited food supply in the area. 

Luckily for humans, this phenomenon is not habitual. Yet as the title of an upcoming hit, it subtly hints to a larger metaphor left to be unveiled: the impact of greed upon society.

As Genius, a popular lyric website annotates, “The title could be alluding to the 1729 satirical essay, ‘A Modest Proposal’ by Jonathan Swift, where he suggests, as a solution to poverty in Ireland at the time, that the poor should sell their children to be cannibalized by the rich.” Acknowledging the singer’s passion for arcane literature, referencing a piece as unearthly as ‘A Modest Proposal’ serves as no surprise for his twisted sense of innovation.

Running along a similar road, the artist himself has revealed that the track as an entirety serves as a taste into the 9 Circles of Hell, as fictionalized by Dante Alighieri’s poem, ‘Divine Comedy.’ More specifically, Hozier describes the song as a concentration on Dante’s 3rd Circle, Gluttony, in which those who have been plagued with greed and feast to the point of waste eternally suffer in unity. 

Photo via Pixabay under Pixabay license.

The attentiveness to the bitter concept of zeal, accompanied by lyrical absurdity allude to the hedonistic habits of society, particularly calling out the nature of capitalism. The chorus, which arguably contains the most preposterous lyrics of the song, quotes “pull up the ladder when the flood comes,” “skin all the children for a war drum,” and “puttin’ food on the table sellin’ bombs and guns.” 

While these lyrics paint a particularly violent image, their wickedness proposes a fair point in the argument of capitalist ethics. Emphasizing the moral flaws in modern commercialism and the normalization of narcissism through abominable exaggeration, the poetic ballad is as clever as it is humbling. 

While the catchy nature of the tune draws audiences in, the song itself serves as a cunning admonition to societal arrogance. Likely insinuating the older generation’s immoderate desire to profit off of the youth, the final chorus quotes, “it’s quicker and easier to eat your young,” smoothly crediting the title, and finalizing the implied meaning behind the track. Exploring the morality of sin through biblical allusions and analytical rhetoric, whilst simultaneously experimenting with eclectic vocals and climactic instrumentals is an impressive conduit for the musician’s limitless creativity. The spiteful opposition to conformity introduces an alliance between confrontation and resistance, all while exemplifying grandiose sophistication.

Though the heavy context delivers a dominant presence of defiance, with over 2.2 million streams, the soulful ballad debuts at #41  on the global Spotify chart.

Through its adept, poignant artistry, “Eat Your Young”  channels the empowering temper familiar to alternative rock, yet gracefully challenges the oppressive, intemperate customs of mankind, and is yet another clever trick up the musician’s sleeve.