A Decade After Hozier’s Breakthrough, How Did ‘Too Sweet’ Become His First Hot 100 No. 1?

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In a year where the big stars of the past decade have been coming out early to lay claim to the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 — Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Future, Metro Boomin and Kendrick Lamar, the entire Vultures crew — one 2010s hitmaker few saw coming as a top-spot threat scores his first-ever No. 1 on the chart this week.

Hozier, whose lone single to approach the top of the Hot 100 came in 2014 with the No. 2-peaking megaballad “Take Me to Church,” reaches No. 1 this week with TikTok-teased new single “Too Sweet” in its fourth week on the chart. The Irish singer-songwriter had maintained a sizable fanbase since the 2014 smash, but went the next eight years without reaching the Hot 100, until scoring a handful of entries in the lower stretches and one top 40 hit (via an appearance on the remix to Noah Kahan’s “Northern Attitude”) last year.

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How did Hozier make his way not only back to the top 10, but all the way to the top spot? And what does this mean for his career going forward? Billboard staffers discuss these questions and more below.

1. So straight off the top — if you were told at the beginning of 2024 that Hozier would have his first No. 1 hit by April, how surprised would you be, on a scale from 1 to 10?

Katie Atkinson: 10! Of course, watching the Hot 100 in the months since has definitely made it much less surprising, because we’ve seen Teddy Swims score his first No. 1, we’ve seen Benson Boone climb to No. 2, and we’ve seen Noah Kahan peak in the top 10, so Hozier topping the chart is completely in line with all that. But knowing what we knew on Jan. 1, it had been 10 years since he broke through with “Take Me to Church” and he was still hanging around the Hot 100, but the closest he’d returned to his No. 2 peak with “Church” was to the top 40 last year with Kahan (more on that below). Clearly, his chart-topping moves were already in the works.

Stephen Daw: 10, easy. I loved Unreal Unearth and have been a big fan of Hozier’s since his self-titled debut LP in 2013 — but I genuinely thought “Take Me to Church” would be his chart ceiling. Even when “Too Sweet” began blowing up online, I figured, at best, it would float around the top 40 for a few months before dying back down. But I am delightfully shocked to see audiences really embrace Hozier again, especially on a song as undeniably good as “Too Sweet.”

Kyle Denis: About a 7. I had a feeling that whatever music Hozier came out with post-Unreal Unearth would do fairly well. That album did a lot to rejuvenate casual interest him beyond being pigeon-holed as the “Take Me to Chruch” guy.

Jason Lipshutz: A 7. Sure, Hozier hasn’t been churning out top 10 hits over the past few years, but he has accrued quite a following during that time — there’s a reason he was able to schedule an arena and amphitheater tour for later this year, before “Too Sweet” was even released. Plus, country- and folk-adjacent pop-rock has certainly invaded the upper reaches of the Hot 100 over the past six months, with artists like Noah Kahan, Zach Bryan, Teddy Swims and Benson Boone all scoring smashes with their respective versions of the guitar-based renaissance. So, yes, still surprising to see a Hozier single atop the Hot 100, but certainly far from jaw-dropping.

Andrew Unterberger: A 9 — and it would’ve been a 10 at the beginning of 2023, but after Hozier’s impressive last year and popular music generally tilting in the direction of his arena-sized alt-folk, a comeback moment of some kind certainly seemed like it could’ve been on the horizon. But a No. 1 hit, at this extremely competitive moment in Hot 100 history? No, I cannot pretend that I saw that coming in any way.

2. Hozier had not even reached the Hot 100 again for eight years following his 2014 smash “Take Me to Church,” then returned to the Hot 100 multiple times in the past year, though he had not gotten higher than No. 37 as a guest on Noah Kahan’s remixed “Northern Attitude.” Is him finally reaching No. 1 this year more of a function of overall timing or about “Too Sweet” in particular, in your opinion?

Katie Atkinson: I think timing is a piece of it, but this song is also undeniably great, so I’m going to give it to “Too Sweet.” The song has great lyrics, and you can discover a new cute phrase with every listen, and the way he lilts that chorus seems to put his not-quite-right partner’s sweetness into song. The combo of its easy-listening melody paired with lyrics we can all probably relate to makes for a hit.

Stephen Daw: It’s definitely more about “Too Sweet” itself, but the timing certainly doesn’t hurt. With the Noah Kahanaissance in full swing, contemporary folk music is having its biggest moment since the “stomp clap hey” days of the early 2010s, which is a huge opportunity for artists like Hozier who thrived in that aforementioned era. It’s abundantly clear that “Too Sweet” came in the perfect timeframe, but it’s worth noting that Hozier put out an entire album of folk songs in the middle of this sea change last year, and only “Eat Your Young” managed to crack into the lower half of the Hot 100 (debuting at No. 67 and then falling off the chart two weeks later). Clearly, “Too Sweet” has that X factor that keeps people listening.

Kyle Denis: The success of “Too Sweet,” in particular, has more to do with where the sound of Top 40 is right now than anything else. Analog instrumentation with an emphasis on guitars and big, soaring vocals are in right now (see: Teddy Swims, Benson Boone, Michael Marcagi, Kahan) and Hozier happened to drop an absolute banger at just the right time. Between his incredibly successful Unreal Unearth tour and his countless appearances at festivals across the world, Hozier has enraptured a whole new audience whose ears have been primed for the pop-rock swagger of “Too Sweet” by the other guitar-centric tunes that have dominated the upper regions of the Hot 100 this year.

Jason Lipshutz: A combination of both. “Too Sweet” is pretty undeniable as a crossover hit, a smoky groove that relies on the deep timbre of Hozier’s voice to provide gravitas to its creeping hooks. Pop music trends helped push “Too Sweet” higher on the Hot 100 than it might have gone in other years, when it was darn near impossible to imagine a straight-up rock song hitting No. 1. Yet for Hozier, this single was the right one to deliver a new level of chart success, and hit the market at the right time.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s gotta be more about timing, because I am just flummoxed as to why this song of all songs is the one to take Hozier to the penthouse. Not that it’s bad, just that it doesn’t feel in any way exceptional among Hozier’s last decade of releases — if you told me it was originally a deep cut I’d forgotten about from 2019’s Wasteland, Baby! I would have zero trouble believing you. People evidently hear more there than I do to be streaming it in the massive numbers that they are, but I still have to think that it’s more effect than cause as relates to the larger Hozier revival.

3. Do you think the success of “Too Sweet” re-establishes Hozier as a true A-list star in 2024, or is it more a one-time deal for the singer-songwriter that’s unlikely to lead to many future successes beyond his pre-established cult fandom?

Katie Atkinson: I think this definitely re-establishes Hozier’s place in music. It’s nice that this trend of growly-voiced singer/songwriters (as established in this very column back in late January) has not only created new stars, but has also given rise to artists who have been doing this for a decade. At this moment, AC and pop radio is more primed to play Hozier music than ever before, and he’s seized that moment.

Stephen Daw: I wouldn’t go as far as saying “A-list,” but I think “Too Sweet” will definitely net Hozier a lot of cultural capital that will cement his place as one of the most sought-after voices in the folk-pop space. That’s in large part because of the cult fandom that has helped spread this song across apps like TikTok for the last few months — with an established fanbase already built in, it only feels that much more natural for newcomers to join in and strengthen that core, which leads to a wider base, which leads to more recruiting, so on and so forth. Watch this space, because “Too Sweet” is just the beginning of Hozier’s mainstream return.

Kyle Denis: I don’t know if Hozier was ever truly A-list, and I don’t think “Too Sweet” puts him there either. Nonetheless, it’s a beautiful culmination of a truly underrated two years for him. He packed out arenas night after night on Unreal Unearth tour and the accompanying album had a lot of grassroots love, including two chart-toppers at AAA radio. I think, at best, “Too Sweet” will help increase the size of his cult fandom and rope more fans into the sprawling lore behind some of his most beloved songs and lyrics. That should be enough for him to continue getting major hits in his home formats while providing a cushion for a mainstream smash whenever the pop music pendulum swings in the direction of his sound.

Jason Lipshutz: My guess is that Hozier continues in the same lane he’s occupied for years, with a slighter brighter light moving forward. Maybe he hadn’t matched the single-song success of “Take Me to Church” prior to “Too Sweet,” yet all three of his studio albums scored top 3 debuts on the Billboard 200, and he’s been playing to sizable crowds for a decade now. “Too Sweet” is unlikely to yield a slew of follow-up chart hits, but Hozier was not an obscure artist prior to this No. 1 hit; the audiences streaming his songs and buying his tickets will grow because of “Too Sweet,” regardless of how his next singles perform.

Andrew Unterberger: I think he’s there, to be honest — probably even moreso than he was in 2014. It’s one thing for radio and pop culture ubiquity to elevate your big hit to smash status (as happened with “Church”), but when it’s simply some good TikTok promotion and online buzz that lifts your song above hot new releases from many of the biggest superstars of the past 15 years, that usually means you’re pretty golden for some time to come. Hozier might not top the Hot 100 again, but I’d be a little surprised at this point if he didn’t become a regular fixture on the chart for at least the next few years.

4. If you had to look back to the early-mid 2010s for another hitmaking artist from the alt and/or folk spheres who could be due for a big 2020s comeback moment like this, who would you point to?

Katie Atkinson: The first thing that came to mind was The Lumineers, who peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100 back in 2012 with “Ho Hey.” They’ve stayed active in music since then but haven’t climbed back to those heights. They should be looking for a Noah Kahan feature right about now.

Stephen Daw: As much as I desperately want to see Gotye return to his solo career and score another gargantuan hit like “Somebody That I Used to Know,” the chances of that happening seem infinitesimally small. So, instead, I’ll go with Florence + The Machine — the band certainly hasn’t gone anywhere since the peak of their success in 2010 and 2011, charting three top 10 albums in the intervening years. I could easily see Florence Welch and company crafting a folksy, funky anthem that takes off on TikTok and occupies a similar space to “Too Sweet” some time in the next few months.

Kyle Denis: Gotye or George Ezra. If we stretch to the back half of the 2000s, I’ll throw in Colbie Caillat and Kings of Leon too.

Jason Lipshutz: If a new Gotye album exists at the end of the earth, to be discovered only by the bravest and most ambitious xylophone-music enthusiast, then it looks like I am going on an expedition. After “Somebody That I Used To Know” took over the Hot 100 and Making Mirrors turned into one of the most underrated pop full-lengths of the 2010s, we are still waiting for a follow-up from Wally de Backer. And while I am a diehard fan rooting for a comeback, I do think that a Gotye return would generate considerable interest from curious pop fans! Call up Kimbra, grab the buckets of face paint, and let’s go.

Andrew Unterberger: “Riptide” singer-songwriter Vance Joy — who, like Hozier, never really went away after his one big U.S. crossover hit — feels no more than a big-ticket remix away from getting back on the Hot 100.

5. “Take Me to Church”: more timeless classic or dated mid-’10s relic?

Katie Atkinson: Wait, is anyone going to say relic? This song is still so good! I’m definitely going timeless classic and welcoming Andrew Hozier-Byrne back with open arms into the 2020s.

Stephen Daw: I can hear “Take Me to Church” today and feel it hit just as hard as it did a decade ago — this one is timeless classic, for sure.

Kyle Denis: Timeless classic. This ain’t “Party Rock Anthem!”

Jason Lipshutz: I lean towards “mid-‘10s relic” — not as a knock on the song, but because, especially in light of “Too Sweet” topping the Hot 100, it sure seems like Hozier has transcended what once was his defining hit and fashioned a formidable career! “Take Me to Church” enjoyed its moment of ubiquity, but its creator has moved on to bigger and better.

Andrew Unterberger: It’s certainly got claims to being both — it’s hard to hear the song without being reminded of the dozens of trailers and pop culture moments it soundtracked in the mid-’10s, not to mention the moments of our own lives. But I lean a little more towards timeless classic, because even back in 2014 it felt elevated from the rest of what was happening on the charts, and there’s still no other song in 21st century pop music that occupies its exact space.

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