I don’t even know where to begin! “Take Me To Church” was one of the most popular songs of 2014, it still is. The song is still number 3 on Billboard Hot 100 charts after being on it for 20 consecutive weeks. It swayed among rank number 2 and 3, but could never dethrone Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” (which is holding strong at number 1 spot for consecutive seventh week!!!). I don’t even have to state the other charts Hozier managed to conquer with this mega hit.
The popularity of “Take Me To Church” was mainly driven through the amazing lyric work of the song. It was carefully crafted, creative, beautiful and everything in between. Keeping Hozier’s vocal talents aside, the lyrics alone would have made “Take Me To Church” a chart topping hit. However stars aligned and Hozier voiced it to create one of the most powerful, meaningful and beautiful songs of our time.
Background of “Take Me To Church”
“Take Me To Church” is the first single and track from Hozier’s self-titled debut album. The single was released in September 16, 2013 and was written by Hozier himself and co-produced by Rob Kirwan. The track is nominated for “Song Of The Year” at 57th Grammy Awards 2015.
Watch Official Music Video of “Take Me To Church” by Hozier
There’s a clear message on the music video as well, it stands against the anti-LGBT policy in Russia. The music video is in support of the meaning conveyed by the lyrics of this song. So let’s try to break down this great music track and try to understand what Hozier was trying to tell.
Song Review and Meaning of “Take Me To Church”
The full song is a cleverly drafted metaphor comparing love (all kinds of love) to religion (mainly to the Church). It is a slight backhanded slap to the strong messages given out by the church.
In an interview Hozier says the following about the song;
‘Take Me to Church’ is essentially about sex, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek attack at organizations that would… undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation — that it is sinful, or that it offends God…
But it’s not an attack on faith… it’s an assertion of self, reclaiming humanity back for something that is the most natural and worthwhile.
So we will use ‘love’ instead of ‘sex’ from here on wards. In general terms the song speaks about the oppression by misogynists who claim there is no more than one sexual orientation–and that is how the world was intended to be, anything else is a sin and you are damned to suffering.
Let’s jump into the lyrics of the song.
My lover’s got humour
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
Hozier starts off “Take Me To Church” strong. Here humor reflects the ‘good’ in life and ‘funeral’ symbolizes the ‘bad’ in life. His lover is the ‘good’ in his life, even when the times are bad. And despite everyone’s ‘disapproval’ they are together.
I should’ve worshipped her sooner
If the Heavens ever did speak
She is the last true mouthpiece
Hozier brings in the misogynist aspect into the song with this line. ‘Her’ here refers to the ‘church’ and his lover at the same time. So the song can be expressed in two ways from here onward. Hozier asks if the God actually did speak to the people (maybe to priests at least?) and if he did speak, it would have been through his lovers mouth.
Every Sunday’s getting more bleak
A fresh poison each week
‘We were born sick,’ you heard them say it
Going to church every Sunday has become routine–the things they preach are becoming more and more obsolete everytime. What they preach is ‘poison’ or hate towards the new world systems.
‘We were born sick’ refers to the story of Adam and Eve, when they betrayed the God and humankind was cursed forever. So every newborn (to date) is cursed by that? It is compared to being born sick. And they keep on preaching it.
My church offers no absolutes
She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’
The only heaven I’ll be sent to
Is when I’m alone with you
Hozier says his church does not offer the service of forgiving (absolution). Now here again ‘she’ comes to mean two things–his lover and the church. The church asks to pray for a higher deity every night (worshiping in the bedroom). The he says the only heaven (peace) he knows is when he is making love (‘I’m alone’) with his lover. The sin itself is his absolution!
I was born sick, but I love it
Command me to be well
Amen. Amen. Amen
“Take Me To Church” accepts the belief that people are sinners, but he loves it. He basically loves having sex. And he asks ‘them’ to command him to get better. He knows it is not going to happen, so he himself joins the ‘Amen’ loudly, three times, to cure himself.
The chorus goes as follows;
Take me to church
I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life
So begins his rant against the ‘church’. Note that ‘church’ here doesn’t only direct at the Catholic Church, but generally at “institutions that undermine some of the natural parts of being a person, undermine humanity … in some way, shape or form“. So all references made to ‘church’ in this article is related to what Hozier said above.
However again the songs develops two personalities in this stanza. It can be looked as talking about his lover or the church. Let’s look at the church perspective. Hozier admits that people/followers worship whatever the lies the church brainwashes them with.
Churches practice confessions which supposedly cleanses them of their sins. And these confessions are the weapons of those institutions. Revealing your secrets (necessarily confessions) so that the church can use them against you, they become stronger.
‘Deathless death’ could be in reference to two things-love and literal death. So he is asking God to give him love or the mercy of death for his life. But then again it is death without dying (‘deathless’), so it must refer to love, which he said “I found the experience of falling in love or being in love was a death, a death of everything.“
If I’m a pagan of the good times
My lover’s the sunlight
A ‘pagan’ is someone who doesn’t believe in God-someone who worships some natural force of the nature. “Take Me To Church” says if he is a pagan, his god would be sunlight! This is also in reference to how his lover (the actual person) is the light of his world. Beautiful wordplay here!!
To keep the Goddess on my side
She demands a sacrifice
To drain the whole sea
Get something shiny
Again Hozier splits the song meaning in two. ‘Goddess’ here refers to the pagan gods he worships as well as his lover, who is like a goddess to him. However to keep either of these Goddesses in his life, it requires some sacrifice. This is true in both pagan culture as well as having a love. A pagan goddess and a lover would sometimes ask for something impossible like ‘draining the whole sea’. Sometimes they can be satisfied with something fake and shiny (jewelry?). Hozier also hints at the materialistic aspects of the church, and how empty it is to call the pagans materialistic from the standpoint of the materialistic church.
Something meaty for the main course
That’s a fine looking high horse
What you got in the stable?
We’ve a lot of starving faithful
That looks tasty
That looks plenty
This is hungry work
In sexual innuendo ‘something meaty’ has been explained in different sources. I’m not sure about that though.
The ‘high horse’ refers to the state of mind the misogynists have held themselves in. But what do they really have on the inside? There is a lot of ‘hungry’ ‘faithful’ people who will blindly follow the high horse. And they have to feed them. And the lies they feed the ‘faithful’ are very lucrative, creative (tasty) and seems well enough to keep them ‘fed’. This is all ‘hungry work’- to fulfill each other’s bellies and that is it!!!
No masters or kings when the ritual begins
There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin
Again some genius wordplay from Hozier in “Take Me To Church”. The ‘masters or kings’ refer to the gods, and he says there is none of them present when the ritual, deaths’ begin. On the deathbed everyone’s alone!
This also means a pretty strong sexual act. “Worship in the bedroom” could refer to oral sex, and in that ‘sweet innocence’ no gods are present-nobody thinks of gods and the sins then. Hozier explicitly says there is no great ‘innocence’ (as opposed to sins) than being with (sexually or emotionally) with the one you love!
In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene
Only then I am human
Only then I am clean
Amen. Amen. Amen
In the madness is a reference to the various beliefs, ways of life, sexual orientations and what not in the world. “Soil of that sad earthly scene” could be a reference to the ‘life’ in general, depicted as a sad event overall.
The he realizes he is a human (before he referred to himself as a dog!). He accepts who he is. In the music video it is shown that he is in love with a man. Maybe that’s what Hozier meant in the lyrics of “Take Me To Church” as well. If so, it perfectly fits in to the lyrics of the song in all instances that say the church is against him (since church is against homosexuality). And when he does accept his-self (straight, or gay or pagan or religious), then only he is ‘clean’. ‘Clean’ could also refer to not being bound by Adam and Eve’s sins anymore.
When you equal ‘homosexuality‘ to the ‘sin‘ mentioned here, the meaning of “Take Me To Church” falls perfectly into place.
He then blesses himself for his revelation with three solemn yet strong ‘Amen’s’.
Then the chorus repeats twice to end one of the most lyrically profound and beautiful songs of 2013/14. “Take Me To Church” definitely reserves a top shelf on the music work that can be admired for it’s lyrics. Kudos to Hozier for that!
I analyzed “Take Me To Church” lyrics after a couple dozen listens and reading one or two review about it on the Internet. So this interpretation of the song could be not 100% accurate. This is my analysis and interpretation. If you think “Take Me To Church” in general or a specific part of the song means something else, please do comment below. If your interpretation seems more likely I will gladly edit the post.
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