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Rebuttal: Another Look at Hozier’s ‘Wasteland, Baby’

Hozier both relies on his trademarks and explores new depths of his style in his second album, ‘Wasteland, Baby.’

Charlotte Kohlberg

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On March 1, 2019 the man that brought us “Take Me to Church” dropped another album nearly five years in the making. Although he’s been in the game for nearly six years now, this is only his second album. His self-titled debut seemed to be riddled with hits, from “Take Me to Church” to “Work Song” to “Someone New.” Coming off such a high, his second album is bound to be the subject of some criticism. 

Pitchfork’s Staff Writer, Sam Sodomsky wrote a thorough if not harsh review of the album. His first account of the album, Wasteland, Baby is how regretful the meaning of “Take Me to Church” was lost due to the its “hummable hooks and crowd-pleasing adrenaline.” Comparing it to “Pumped Up Kicks,” Sodomsky iterates that the 14-track album has lost its power of meaning and fallen “pretty to the humdrum.” 

His second point is that the entire second album has recycled “nearly every element of “Take Me to Church […] in hopes of crowning a successor: God is not in the house.” While I do see his point, the musicians Hozier’s first hit does seem to loom over the album. In Wasteland, Baby, we see an attempt to differentiate from the first album and explore other styles of music from his more pop-ridden “Would That I” to his hard rock inspired “Dinner & Diatribes.”

His final point is on a popular topic: love. “He’s not the first songwriter to lament the small apocalypses that occur every day, or how love’s temporal nature is also what makes it special. And to hear him sing it—his voice coated in an unearthly burble atop humble, fingerpicked acoustic guitar—is to hear him acknowledge his limitations.” I agree, Hozier does have a particular subject matter that is revisited in this album, but it has not limited him. 

Hozier’s second album, while similar to his first in style, shows some exploration in sound bridges and lyrics. The artist’s gospel style was set in his earliest work and now he is merely exploring the breadth of his style

If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.

Charlotte is a recent Graduate in Art History from New York University. After working at a publishing company, she realized her affinity for writing when she had to write weekly newsletters on authors and podcasts. She started her journalism career contributing for online media and entertainment source, The Knockturnal. Currently living in New York City, Charlotte enjoys going to concerts and art museums, and mixing cocktails for her friends.

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