by Paige Kelleher
Hozier is well known throughout many online communities as a songwriter and performer like no other. The qualities of his music – often described as meant to be listened to in the forest, under a crumbling cathedral, or within a bog – have attracted an entire generation of devoted listeners. According to Time, “he tends to blend experiences of devastation and joy,” a theme many find present throughout all of his work (Bruner). “Cherry Wine”, the seventh single off of his debut album Hozier, is in a similar vein. In his song “Cherry Wine”, Hozier uses misleading metaphor and subverted expectations to characterize his lover as dangerous and ultimately illustrate the distorted nature of abusive relationships.
By using warped metaphors, Hozier is able to hide the threat of the lover behind positive imagery. In verse one, Hozier describes the love supplied by the lover as burning “like rum on the fire” evoking images of a sweet or intoxicating drink. However, he goes on to say that it is the rum’s effect on the fire that he is referencing; like it, she burns “hot and fast and angry…” (Hozier, Verse 1). Much like his lover, while rum seems to be positive, the reality of their relationship is far more volatile, harmful and sinister. Instead of being appealing like rum, it is as dangerous as fire. A similar effect is used in verse three, when Hozier says “she looks like sleep to the freezing” (Hozier, Verse 3). As metaphors go, sleep is generally comforting. But it is not sleep to the tired, it is sleep to the freezing; this hidden contrast means all the difference. Those who are freezing often see sleep as inviting and tempting. However, giving in to it almost always means certain death. Like the freezing to sleep, Hozier invites the lover in, even though it will eventually lead to harm. Just as the meaning is hidden within the metaphor, making it seem comforting and positive, the danger is hidden from Hozier as well. This all comes to a head in the chorus, in which Hozier describes the blood that results from his lover as “sweet as cherry1 wine” (Hozier, Chorus). Blood is rarely described as sweet, and certainly is not compared to a sweet wine. However, this is the leading image, the title of the song. This juxtaposition forces the listener to see the relationship as the victim does: as a rosy, sweet image hiding an awful one.
The structure of his lyrics also reflect how Hozier sees their relationship. In pre-chorus 2, he seems to see the problem: “I want it, it’s a crime,” however, it is immediately followed up with “that she is not around most of the time” (Hozier, Pre-chorus 2). While he seems to have a moment of self-realization and it becomes more clear how this relationship is problematic, Hozier has planted a trick; in the next line, he immediately falls back to his love, stating that the problem is that she’s not around enough, not that she is dangerous. By subverting the expectation of these lines, he is able to further prove that abusive relations are deceptive, confusing, and difficult to escape.
This song, on surface level, seems to be a love song in line with Hozier’s normal forest fae atmosphere. For example, it was recorded on the caved-in roof of a cathedral in Ireland at five in the morning, fitting Hozier’s aesthetic as an artist. However, by planting a hidden, sinister message behind it, the singer-songwriter not only attracts his normal listeners, but also demonstrates how abusive relationships are as deceptively sweet as cherry wine. All proceeds of this song went to anti-domestic abuse charities, further proving Hozier’s dedication to it’s message. By using distorted metaphors and subverting the expectations of his lyrics, in his song “Cherry Wine”, Hozier is effectively able to characterize the inexplicable nature of abusive relationships.2
Bruner, Raisa. “Hozier Talks His Concept for His New 2019 Album Wasteland.” Time, Time, 1
Mar. 2019, time.com/5540636/hozier-wasteland-baby/.
Andrew Hozier Byrne. “Cherry Wine.” Hozier, Island Records, 2016.
“Cherry Wine (Hozier Song).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 17 Feb. 2021,