Narrator: Hozier.

Take Me To Church (0:59-1:14)

Narrator: The singer-songwriter known for his breakout debut, “Take Me To Church,” has long flown under the radar as a harbinger of counterculture and a modern protest music extraordinaire. With his most recent album, Unreal Unearth, Hozier dives headfirst into Irish history, Indigenous language loss, and what it means for a people to exist post-colonization.

Butchered Tongue (0:00-0:13)

Narrator: Though the album as a whole, takes inspiration from Dante’s Inferno, “Butchered Tongue,” the only track from this record with Hozier as sole songwriter, takes a more personal, and yet incredibly wide-speaking turn. From an interview with 1883 Magazine, Hozier says, “There’s a lot of sorrow and it’s kind of a lament. It touches on a lot of violence and tragedy and a great deal of loss, like a loss of language and loss of culture. But you still have this shred of gratitude and appreciation for the lived experience of people who are born in places that are based upon the colonial satellite just home for one person couldn’t be.”

Narrator: And despite “Butchered Tongue’s” deep personal meaning, we were only able to find one recording of it being performed live, suggesting a significance unlike many of his other works.

Live Performance of Butchered Tongue (0:43-1:11)


Hozier singing a new unreleased song off Unreal Unearth called ‘Butchered Tongue’ at his show in Toronto last night (May 21, 2023) #hozier #live #hoziertok #unrealunearth #fyp #hoziercore #hoziersvocals #hoziertiktok #hozierofficial #butcheredtongue #toronto #newsong @Hozier

♬ original sound – Hozier’s Vocals

And as a young man

Blessed to pass so many road signs

And have my foreign ear

Made fresh again

On each unlikely sound

But feel at home

Hearing a music

That few still understand

A butchered tongue still

Singing here above the ground

Narrator: But the song itself, beautiful as it is, is more than might first meet the ear. Hozier references many colonized towns and their Indigenous names, as well as the lack of understanding by their current communities for what those names once meant. He mourns this loss of language throughout the work, reflecting both the Irish language revival and the loss of other Indigenous languages throughout the world.

Narrator: Many articles and other research projects, like documentaries, explain what it means for a culture to lose their language under colonization. The pervasive identity and connection that a people tie to their language mean that when it is taken away from them, the community flounders as a whole. Hozier understands this, and sings about the horrors it wreaks on Native people.

Narrator: In an interview with Netflix’s This Is Pop, Hozier says:

This is Pop, Episode “What Can A Song Do?” (30:38-30:58)

Hozier: It’s that thing of the personal being political. Everything that is personally experienced has a political dimension to it. If you’re struggling to pay the rent, to pay for the clothes that you wear, the food that you eat, they all have very important political dimension to them. You absolutely can put the essence of the bigger questions, the bigger issues, into a song.

Narrator: Hozier takes artistic responsibility seriously, and though his songs are full of moral imperative, it never feels like an empty threat the way it might in the hands of a less dedicated songwriter. “Butchered Tongue” carries the weight of the brutality of colonization as well as it can. Where Hozier sings,

Butchered Tongue (1:11-1:38)

The ears were chopped

from young men

If the pitch-cap didn’t kill them


They are buried

Without scalp

In the shattered bedrock of our home


You may never know your fortune

Until the distance has been shown between

What is lost forever

And what can still be known

Narrator: The pain and suffering is given more emphasis than the honor. This is not because there is no honor in fighting for your country to be free – but because sometimes that honor is glorified and the pain is forgotten. Hozier takes careful steps to memorialize all the ugly along with the grand, in a way that feels true to history.

This is Pop, Episode “What Can A Song Do?” (36:30-36:56)

Hozier: An act of protest can be many, many, many things, and especially nowadays, and increasingly so, I’m sorry to say, you know, it’s true that telling the truth and just being honest can be a radical act. Telling an uncomfortable truth can be a very, very important and radical act.

Narrator: This interview lends us greater foresight into Hozier’s songwriting process and to what goes on in his mind as he’s coming up with the concept for his music.

HTHAZE Reaction Video (45:34-45:56)

HTHAZE: Did somebody say that this was about colonizing? He does mention in the song that certain things hit his foreign ear a little weird. Yeah – oh tongues with languages, that makes sense. Dude, how cool. It feels really homely with the, with the kind of like production around it, and all like the kind of like, very nice positively resolving, you know, crescendos and whatnot. It’s about Ireland being colonized?

Narrator: That was an excerpt from a YouTube reaction video by the channel HTHAZE, which focuses on the entire body of work that is the Unreal Unearth album, including a portion dedicated to “Butchered Tongue,” wherein the creator reacted simultaneously to the song and to context provided by his streaming chat, providing a multilayered reaction experience for the watcher, one informed by both the creator’s brand new thoughts on a song he’d never heard before, and the generally more informed fans watching his livestream.

Narrator: This source is an excellent example of the raw emotion that non-Indigenous and uninformed people can have, when confronted with the horrors that colonization has wreaked on Native languages and on language loss, and the compassion and empathy that people are inclined to show with language preservation, even when they themselves are not directly affected. This is also a wonderful example of how important awareness of these topics is, as provided by Hozier’s song, because many people are simply unaware of the issues at hand, and of what dangers English possesses in eliminating Native languages throughout the world.

Narrator: In “Politics and Power of Languages: Indigenous Resistance to Colonizing Experiences of Language Dominance” by Judy Iseke-Barnes, the source describes the myriad ways that English has infiltrated Indigenous communities and the ways that language is critical to cultural understanding and a common group identity. The reading breaks down why English, and the subtle yet terribly harmful concept of English as predominant language, can be so threatening to Native people and their own languages, particularly when it is used as an educational tool with children who then suffer the loss of their native tongue.

Butchered Tongue (1:39-2:23)

So far from home

To have a stranger call you ‘darling’

And have your guarded heart

Be lifted like a child up by the hand

In some town that just means

‘Home’ to them

With no translator left to sound

A butchered tongue

Still singing here above the ground

Narrator: Hozier is a master of lyricism and “Butchered Tongue” is no exception, rather it is a clear execution of the rule. This has been a review of Hozier’s song “Butchered Tongue,” from the Unreal Unearth album. Please find all sources mentioned in today’s podcast linked in the transcript below for your perusal – all have much to offer anyone interested in the topics of colonization, language preservation, and Hozier’s work. Please remember to think critically about the media you consume, because the media you consume is thinking critically about you.

Butchered Tongue (0:00-0:13)

Narrator: Have a great day, and a wonderful life. Thank you for tuning in.