About this time last year, Miley Cyrus set the Internet ablaze by twerking at the VMAs.
This year is no different — the show set to honor music's vast video output is scrambling to start controversy and follow trends, evident in their desperate bid to nominate Beyoncé and Iggy Azalea for every possible award. But in the process, MTV has overlooked the year's most poignant video — something more culturally significant, if you can believe it, than Azalea's recreation of Clueless. They've ignored Hozier's bold "Take Me To Church."
The "Take Me To Church" video offers a stark takedown of Catholic Church dogma, which condemns the free expression of one's sexuality. The track has a palpable sorrow and an uplifting gospel about it — it's the perfect balance of socially conscious, retro and poppy that should put Hozier alongside modern hitmakers like Sam Smith and Lorde. His music is right up MTV's youth-focused alley, but somehow they've completely missed it.
It may be because the video is so provocative. In the clip, two male lovers flee from a lynch mob. It's in black and white, but it's all too reminiscent of the Russian anti-gay gangs that were terrorizing homosexuals and homosexual sympathizers with impunity earlier this year. The mob burns the lovers' homes, attacks their families and digs up a symbolic locked box that the lovers bury at the start of the film.
Hozier wants viewers to interpret the specifics of the film on their own, but he has a clear overarching message in mind: "Sexuality, and sexual orientation — regardless of orientation — is just natural," he told New York magazine. "But an organization like the church, say, through its doctrine, would undermine humanity by successfully teaching shame about sexual orientation — that it is sinful, or that it offends God. The song is about asserting yourself and reclaiming your humanity through an act of love."
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The images Hozier uses to communicate this message are haunting and visceral, and the emotions they inspire are difficult to stomach.
"Just to think about the fact that there is latent homophobia or hatred, however small or however tolerated is something that should be recognized," Hozier says. "Even if nothing else, sometimes it is as simple as someone watching something that makes them uncomfortable and having to face that fact — I hope they challenge themselves to think about that."
But MTV has failed to recognize how powerful this film — and song — is. Whatever their reason, Hozier's video is just as incredible without a moonman nomination. Expect to hear much more from this man when his first LP drops on Sept. 19.