In Hozier’s Cherry Wine, the intense and complex issue of domestic abuse is addressed through the unique standpoint and delivery of a victim in an abusive relationship who is still emotionally connected to their abuser. Through his intimate perspective of the victim and abuser relationship and its intricate dynamics between love and abuse, Hozier joins a lineage of songs that attempt to divulge the mental turmoil that is abusive relationships. In my First Listening post, I dived into how Hozier’s delivery of intense lyrics through calming musical conventions represented the dynamics of an abusive relationship. This week, I will go into how Hozier’s lyrical perspective and musical approach are connected to past songs through theme and musical choices. The theme of addressing the emotional confusion that comes with being abusive in relationships through lyrical and musical choices connects these following songs and songwriters:

“He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)” by The Crystals → “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley” → “And Then You Kissed Me” by The Cardigans → “Cherry Wine” by Hozier

“He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)” by The Crystals

In “He Hit Me (And it Felt Like a Kiss)” the title tells it all. In the early ‘60s, The Crystals boldly took on the taboo subject of domestic abuse through a soulful pop song. Like many of the upcoming songs, the approach to the topic was immediately written off as romanticizing domestic abuse and was not allowed to be played on mainstream radio. However, The Crystals were the first to address the emotional manipulation and confusion that comes with domestic abuse through their lyrical and musical styling of the song. Not to say that the song is composed using a unique blend of minor-key singing, funeral-sounding drum beats, and a major key backing, all blending into the lyrical confusion of abuse versus love. 

“If he didn’t care for me / I could have never made him mad / But he hit me / And I was glad.”

“Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley

Jeff Buckley’s version of Hallelujah embodies the solemn and isolated role of a victim in an abusive relationship. While it has been interpreted in numerous ways through its lyrical ambiguity, it all comes down to the same theme of relationships and the struggle of balance in power. Buckley himself said that he believed the song to be about sorrowful composition to the story of broken relationships. This can be seen within his interpretation of the music, in which the guitar is played in the key of C major, with the chord progression matching the lyrics from the song: “goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, and the major lift”: C, F, G, A minor, and F. Put together, the lyrics and musical composition create a nearly sacred and fragile song that addresses the emotional damage of abusive relationships through the most “pure” way possible. 

“She tied you to a kitchen chair / She broke your throne, and she cut your hair / And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah”

“And Then You Kissed Me” by The Cardigans

“And Then You Kissed Me” by The Cardigans is likely the most obvious in its theme of emotional conflict in abusive relationships. The entire song is based around the same concept of “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like a Kiss)” while using musical tones similar to Hozier’s “Cherry Wine” and “Hallelujah” by Jeff Buckley. The lyrics overtly explain the struggle to find the line between love and abuse, and how manipulation can form the acts of abuse into acts of fervent love from the abuser. The music is used to soften the blow of such tense lyrics, using the same key of C and using numerous minor chords to create contrast and dissolution, only to be resolved later as the song continues. 

“Yeah you hit me hard / Baby you hit me / Yeah you punched me right in the heart / And then / you kissed me / And then you hit me”

These songs all bring me back to Hozier’s “Cherry Wine”, where it;’s clear to see how Hozier found his lineage and inspiration for how to compose and write as he does to address domestic abuse, especially tuning into the multi-layered theme of emotional abuse and turmoil of a victim when in an abusive relationship. This stands out to me especially because many of these songs were seen as romanticizing or condoning domestic abuse upon their release, but with time turned to anthems of solidarity and support for abuse survivors who have been in the dark emotional turbulence that abuse in relationships brings.