One of 2014’s breakout stars, Hozier, pulled off an impressive one-two punch on the Grammys, performing his brooding Song of the Year nominee “Take Me to Church” before teaming with Annie Lennox for a dramatic cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell on You.” The two songs blended seamlessly into one another with the Eurythmics member adding some soul to the “amen” part of “Church” and grinning as she bellowed the opening line of the shock-rock classic. From there, it was just a reminder of what a vocal powerhouse Lennox is. Grammy producers offered many audience reaction shots, but the highlight was Taylor Swift freaking out and a standing ovation that even got Kanye West on his feet looking impressed.
Last September, Hozier released his eponymous debut, earning a Number Two spot on the Billboard 200. Lead single “Take Me to Church,” which previously came out on the Take Me to Church EP, earned a Song of the Year nomination, but lost to Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.” He performed the hit, as well as the harrowing “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene,” on Saturday Night Live last October.
When Rolling Stone spoke to the Irish singer this year, he credited his success to growing up in a rural environment. “We lived far out in the Irish countryside,” he said. “We had a very, very bad Internet connection.” His dad, who played in blues groups, subsequently turned him on to the music that inspired him. “I developed a fascination with the roots of African-American music,” Hozier said. “I love Muddy Waters and Nina Simone. I also watched The Blues Brothers movie over and over.”
Lennox has won four Grammys over the course of her career, including Best Rock Performance for the Eurythmics’ “Missionary Man” in 1987 and three for her solo work, including a Best Vocal Performance win for “No More I Love You’s” in 1996. The singer released her “I Put a Spell on You” cover on last year’s covers album Nostalgia.
Last year, at a public Q&A in London, Lennox said she was eyeing retirement. “I’ve stopped writing because I’m too happy,” she said. “It’s thanks to someone who will remain nameless, but who makes me very happy with life these days. A lot of my writing was cathartic because it was a very helpful way to get certain feelings expressed. Misery is a great catalyst for some extraordinary music but you don’t really want to live there 24/7. I’d rather be not successful and happy than be super-successful and absolutely miserable.”