Meaning of “Unknown / Nth” by Hozier
With “Unknown / Nth” being released on 23 June 2023, that would make it the third single from “Unreal Unearth”, Hozier’s third studio album. Reportedly, the reason this song was chosen to serve such a role is because it had been teased late in 2022, and fans were demanding for it to be put out in full.
You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Hozier's Unknown / Nth at Lyrics.org.
“Unknown / Nth” was written exclusively by Hozier, and he produced the track with Sean Cook.
Other singles from “Unreal Unearth” include:
Lyrics of “Unknown / Nth”
From a lyrical perspective, nothing is ever simple with Hozier. So even though this track is about a common, well-worn topic as far as musicians are concerned, it is relayed in an unconventional way.
Said topic would be discovering, the hard way apparently, that the person you love isn’t as pious as you had first assumed. But the way Hozier makes the presentation unconventional is of course by imbuing it with a bunch of confusingly-poetic metaphors, spiritual references and what have you.
Actually, the entire motif upon which “Unreal Unearth” is based is its tracks respectively representing ‘the Circles of Hell’ as delineated in The Divine Comedy, that classic piece of Christian-based literature from the 14th century.
It’s safe to assume that Hozier himself isn’t the type of person you’d classify as a Christian, but he is referencing said text to get different points across. For instance the “9th Circle of Hell”, which specifically inspired this song, is where those who lived a life of treachery are cast into. And likewise, the intended point to be made is that the vocalist feels betrayed by the addressee.
“It ain’t the being alone (Sha-la-la)
It ain’t the empty home, baby (Sha-la-la)
You know I’m good on my own (Sha-la-la)
Sha-la-la, baby, no, it’s more the being unknown
So much of the livin’, love, is the being unknown”
Well actually, as implied by the beginning of the third verse, it may be the vocalist who committed the treachery. In describing this song, Hozier stated that its intention is to “throw away the old premise of angelhood”, because “none of us are angles”.
He went on to further explain that what he meant by that is “we are all going to break someone else’s heart or hurt another person”. So maybe the way the lyrics of this song are meant to play out is such that both parties are depicted as being faulty.
Or as the bridge specifically seems to imply, the vocalist loves the addressee very much, even though he may make mistakes along the way. And likewise, as implied earlier on, Hozier placed his partner on a pedestal which he now understands that this person could not realistically live up to.
So by the time all is said and done, unlike The Divine Comedy, it reads as if Hozier is sympathetic to those who commit treachery, specifically within a romantic context. Or put otherwise, the way he obviously sees it is that no one should expect too much piousness from a romantic partner.
Finally, as for the title of this song, Hozier described the “Nth” part as “an expression of an unknown but large number”. It’s unclear how that concept relates to the lyrics. But maybe what he’s trying to get at is treachery in romantic relationships, if you will, being a universal occurrence.