Bog Bodies and Buried Selves: “Like Real People Do” Song Analysis

Mya Koffie

Ireland Sky Clouds - Free photo on Pixabay

Andrew Hozier-Bryne was born March 17th, 1990 in Bray, a coastal Irish town with a population of just over 30,000 people. Known more commonly as Hozier, the mononymous singer’s Irish roots whisper through his globally-beloved music.  

Hozier’s “Like Real People Do” (LRPD) opens with a meaningful crescendo, a steady bass thrum that grows louder until the guitar melody blooms over it. The dependable beat may represent marching footfalls or a clock’s rhythmic ticking. The tune successfully conveys both the safety of a hearth and the lilting urgency of any good story shared by a fire. The song’s lyrics immediately establish a conversational tone. The first line, “I had a thought, dear,” mirrors the gentle musings of a quiet evening at home, a man to his love. 

According to Genius, a music analysis platform, “LRPD”  presents listeners with an elaborate metaphor. Hozier compares a budding romance to the unearthing of an Irish ‘bog body,’ a corpse mummified naturally by the acidic, oxygen-poor environment within Northern Europe’s mossy peat bogs. Hozier’s powerful analogy alludes to his European homeland’s rich history, life’s inevitable sorrows, shame about one’s past, and love’s inherent beauty.

The singer writes “LRPD” from the perspective of a discovered bog body. This unique point of view encourages Hozier’s listeners to understand that he, much like a corpse exhumed from soggy ground, is impure and filthy but natural. The mummy initially reflects hesitantly upon the night of its discovery – “that night, the bugs and the dirt.” In the context of romance, Hozier nods to every individual’s pre-partnered past, “however scary.” He admits that “before those hands pulled…[him] from the earth,” he led a life marred by unseemly events, habits, or characteristics. 

Consider a mummy: it lived – and died – long ago; its existence stories remain untold prior to unearthing. The sentiment of discovery runs thick through pop culture’s love-addicted veins. Perhaps we resonate with ancient artifacts in that we, too, patiently await appreciation and love from someone who looks past the dirt to recognize our worth. By comparing a lover to a discovered corpse, he juxtaposes his life before and after his lover ‘found’ him, implying that compared to the enjoyment of the present, his past now proves frightening.

The bog body’s tone shifts; it begins to inquire after the explorer that uncovered him. “Why were you digging? What did you bury?” The change mirrors the curiosity that often plagues relationships. We envision futures with our loved ones, and we (ideally) love someone in their present form; still, we wonder about their past. The underlying but who were you? lingers. Similarly, ancient remains compel archaeologists and historians to search for answers. On the well-preserved European cadavers, Smithsonian Magazine reports that experts continually ask, “Who are you? Where did you come from? How did you live? Who murdered you and why?” However, “the way the researchers ask the questions, using new forensic techniques like dual-energy CT scanners and strontium tests, is getting more sophisticated all the time. There’s new hope that, sometime soon,…[bog bodies] may start to speak.” 

Hozier addresses the inherent inquisition of discovery and romance – the lover’s and the archaeologist’s burden – by referencing a previous relationship. “I knew that look, dear, [your] eyes always seeking, was there in someone that dug long ago.” He asserts that his earlier relationships introduced him to love’s curiosity but also failed to ‘unearth’ him in the way his current partner has. He also draws the conclusion that we can know someone holistically without digging up their buried memories. Hozier condemns the destructive interest within himself when he acknowledges that “In some sad way,…[he] already know[s]” the answers to his own questions – the questions we ask the dead and our loved ones about their pasts.  

Ultimately, the bog body decides to “not ask you [the explorer] where you came from.” Hozier subtly warns his lover against “digging” into the life he led before their relationship: “I will not ask, and neither should you.” He instead implores, “Honey, just put your sweet lips on my lips.We should just kiss like real people do.” The title line delivers bittersweet implications to lovers, wanderers, historians, and scholars alike. 

While addressing the natural inquiries that arise in the face of the unknown, Hozier’s “Like Real People Do” reminds us of the choice we must make all new relationships, with every new encounter, and following each discovery. We can scrutinize what has been, or we can embrace what is, celebrating what will be. 

Appeared in February issue of 2022. Image features rural Irish landscape.