by Julia Vaccarella ’20 A&E Staff
Five years ago, Irish singer-songwriter, Andrew Hozier-Byrne released a debut self-titled album. Featuring the prominent track, “Take Me to Church,” the album propelled Hozier towards the popularity that he currently holds today in the United States. On March 1, Hozier released his second album, Wasteland, Baby!
Wasteland, Baby! consists of 14 songs which combine themes of destruction, hopelessness, and cynicism. Hozier finds a way to balance positive and negative emotions throughout the whole album and even within individual songs. Where there are sentiments of pain, those who can relate stand in solidarity with Hozier, and the same holds true for the more positive concepts on the album.
Hozier is generally associated with the alternative style; however, he has continually been praised for integrating other types of music such as jazz and blues into his music. The new record radiates elements of folk music as well, which has attracted many fans of alternative music looking for something slightly different.
Jonathan Bernstein of Rolling Stone said, “Wasteland, Baby! has enough encouraging displays of maturation to feel like a transitional moment for Hozier. At its best, the album carves out a space for the singer to work out his creative tensions as he finds new ways to make his straight folk influences more accessible without losing anything along the way.”
Moreover, Wasteland, Baby! contains only two songs that feature other artists. While some music critics argue that this is not sufficient, an advantage to having more individual songs is that listeners have more opportunities to focus on the artist themselves.
Mavis Staples makes an appearance on the first song of the album, “Nina Cried Power.” Hozier’s strong and recognizable voice comes to light within this track. The song focuses on the strength that can come from fighting for the good of society. Such a theme is unarguably fitting for a work by Hozier, who is a well-known advocate of a variety of social justice causes.
Hozier commented on “Nina Cried Power” to Apple Music: “The artists I’m singing about managed to define the times and how they experienced the world, and then, as a result, provided us with a document and legacy that lives forever. The intention was to be a thank-you note to that—and something that was undecidedly uncynical. I wanted to write something that spoke to the spirit of action in music.”
Many artists that dominate the charts today release multiple songs, or even albums, each year. With Hozier, it is evident that his intent goes beyond people buying and listening to his music. Rather, he aims to create something for his audience that will allow them to self-reflect. Wasteland, Baby! is a testament to this idea.