Meaning “Who We Are” by Hozier
Hozier has described “Who We Are” as being based on a sort of a fatalism, i.e. an acknowledgement of the observation that, in his own words, “not one thing is ever perfectly terrible or perfectly great”.
And the way that idea is manifested in the lyrics is by presenting the vocalist as someone who has learned, through experience, that there’s only so much value with being obsessed over anything really. Or at least that’s one way of interpreting “Who We Are”.
In the first verse, Hozier comes off as a person who, most simply interpreted, is dealing with the negative psychological ramifications of being heartbroken, i.e. having lost who is seemingly his significant other, that being the addressee. So now, the lyrics read as if he isn’t too optimistic about his romantic future.
Or as presented, the vocalist has now come to expect someone “to hold (him) like water” or “hold (him) like a knife”, the former of which cannot be readily held (in one’s hand), and the latter, if you do grasp it, proving to be painful.
Meanwhile, the second verse appears to speak to the idea that being overly ambitious is basically a setup for disappointment in the end. This is especially true, as implied, when one’s aspirations are based on the ideologies of others.
And it should be noted that apparently the addressee, i.e. Hozier’s ex, is consistent throughout the track. So even if the song in general is meant to point to life inescapably being caught in a neutral zone between “terrible” and “great”, the way Andrew gets that idea is by and large in a romantic context.
So concerning the title as relayed in the chorus, it appears that what Hozier is saying is that we human beings have a natural tendency to engage in vain pursuits or get our hopes up too high, so to speak. Him saying that we spend “so much of our lives… just carving through the dark” sounds like another way of putting forth that we’re predispositioned to hustle, even if there’s no solidly-perceivable goal in sight.
So this is a pretty-deep piece and actually one of the more understandable songs found on “Unreal Unearth”. But by the time all is said and done, the lyrics reads more like the musings of a poet who has been disappointed in the field of romance rather than a philosopher criticizing the world at large per se.
“We’re born at night
So much of our lives
Is just carvin’ through the dark
To get so far
And the hardest part
Is who we are
It’s who we are”
Credits for “Who We Are”
The artists who are credited with both writing and producing “Who We Are”, besides Hozier, are Bēkon and Rappy. Its other producer is Pete G, with Peter Gonzales and Daniel Krieger serving as additional writers. (To note, Pete G and Peter Gonzales may be the same person.)
The aforementioned “Unreal Unearth”, which includes this song, was made public through Rubyworks Records and Columbia Records on 18 August 2023.