Last night’s 57th annual Grammy Awards held some promise for its Irish contenders at the outset, but in the end, the major Irish nominees walked away empty handed. But that is not to say that the event was devoid of an Irish presence.
Although Hozier is not a name that would immediately strike most as belonging to an Irish pedigree, Andrew Hozier-Byrne was born on St. Patricks Day into a musical family in Co. Wicklow. He performed his breakthrough song “Take Me to Church” last night, accompanied by the four-time Grammy Award winner Annie Lennox. The two artists followed Hozier’s hit with a well received rendition of “I Put a Spell on You,” which, in addition to Hozier’s song, electrified the audience and earned a standing ovation.
Hozier’s “Take Me to Church” has received acclaim not only for its catchy melodies, but also for its sexually explicit lyrical content, which also serves as social commentary. Hozier is critical of any institution that would limit sexuality, and as the song’s lyrics clearly suggest, Hozier directs much of his criticism towards the institution of the Church. No matter what you take away from the song or how you feel about Hozier’s politics, the power of the tune is undeniable, a fact that earned “Take Me to Church” a nomination for song of the year.
Hozier did not win the award for song of the year, but a performance at the Grammys with the legendary Lennox is nothing to begrudge for the 24 year old Bray-born singer/songwriter who only just recently received notoriety as a solo artist after “Take Me to Church” went viral on YouTube.
It was another recent arrival on the pop music scene, English singer and songwriter Sam Smith, who kept Hozier from winning the award for song of the year. Smith also won record of the year, best pop vocal album of the year, and best new artist.
While the award for record of the year is given in consideration of the artist’s music, the album’s production is scrutinized as well. It is no secret that behind most successful artists there are brilliant producers and engineers. This is most certainly the case with Smith. It is in this behind-the-scenes world that a powerful Irish influence can be detected.
Though producers and engineers do not often appear in the limelight with the artists they help make famous, Irish-born Steve Fitzmaurice, who has co-produced and engineered Smith’s work, has received a good deal of notoriety for his invaluable contributions to the music industry. Fitzmaurice has been involved in the making of previous Grammy Award-winning records from artists like Seal and U2, and worked with notable names like Tina Turner, Depech Mode, and Sting. Fitzmaurice can now add the success of Sam Smith to his long list of production credentials.
Though Hozier’s nomination and performance brought an exciting new Irish presence to the stage, the less visible but certainly audible talents of Fitzmaurice continued to be recognized for their role in shaping the sound of major acts in popular music. ♦