To get the full effect of the following analysis, I urge you to quickly go to your favorite music streaming platform. Search “Sunlight” by Hozier, and click play. Thank you. Now continue reading.
“Sunlight” by Hozier is a part of his album Wasteland, Baby! The album is centered around complex paradoxes that convey the experience of both pleasure and sufferings simultaneously. Even in the title itself, “wasteland” and “baby!” are deeply contrasting words that are representative of the overall theme of the album. The various songs blend experiences of devastation and joy but the song “Sunlight” conveys the complexities of love specifically and how although it can both tournament and heal us, it is ultimately worth taking the risk to experience the joys it can entail. The speaker seems to be a person who is describing the conflicting feelings they have about loving another. Throughout the song Hozier consistently uses the pronoun “your”, suggesting that this song was intended for someone specific that he loves. Hozier mainly communicates the meaning of the song through metaphors, personification, and allusions that help to convey the experience he describes.
In the very opening line,
I would shun the light, share in evening’s cool and quiet
Hozier establishes the overarching metaphor in the song as light being a symbol of love. To “shun” the light is to turn away love. The evening, which Hozier describes as “cool and quiet”, is the world without sunlight, or love. The diction Hozier uses to describe the appeal of a “cool and quiet” evening represents the safety and comfort that one can depend on at night, or a life without love (and the pain that naturally comes with it). He continues in the following lines to sing,
But whose heart would not take flight
Betray the moon as acolyte
Here, Hozier uses both personification and allusion to add to the idea that although the dark may be safer, humans naturally long for love, the same as sunlight, and will go to it whenever given the chance. The personified image of a heart taking flight is dramatic but serves to emphasize the strong force that is the urge to experience love. Additionally, the reference to the moon and acolyte in the same sentence alludes to the Greek myth of Artemis who was the goddess of chastity and the moon. Hozier refers to himself as an acolyte, acolytes were the hunters of Artemis and were forced to remain chaste and would be punished with death if otherwise. Here he claims he would go as far as to betray a Greek Goddess for love, emphasizing the addictive nature of love, despite its extreme costs.
Hozier continues to use figurative language and rhetorical devices to build on this idea and sings,
Oh, all these colors fade for you only
The Icarus to your certainty
Again, Hozier utilizes both metaphor and allusion to better describe his experience with love. The idea of colors fading again represents sunlight and love. Colors naturally fade in the light, which is a seemingly depressing notion yet Hozier says his colors fade nonetheless for the person he loves, symbolizing a sort of sacrifice he is making to love and be loved. He continues to allude to the Greek myth of Icarus who used his wings to fly too close to the sun until they melted off. Again, Hozier is encapsulating the paradox of love by drawing parallels to the Greek story that embodies the risks and consequences that becoming consumed with something pleasurable (such as love) can lead to.
One line that I particularly like is,
Death trap clad happily
Hozier utilizes unique diction to further convey the paradox of love. Describing love as a death trap is an extreme comparison which he counters by adding the word “happily” suggesting that despite its dangers, it is not entirely bad.
Finally, the ending line,
Sunlight, sunlight, sunlight, sunlight, sunlight
There is clear repetition as the song fades out which suggests that the sun is setting and Hozier again is shunning love for the night. As a listener, we also forget about the love he describes as the song is ending (and naturally so, it leaves our minds) but this also supports the metaphor of how love is like sunlight, it sets and disappears as quickly as it came. Ultimately, the heart of the song is in both the lyrics and also the music. The music only becomes more sensational when you put in the context of the song’s meaning. I hope you listened.