Hozier’s Too Sweet tops US charts: ‘Fans started making videos with it on TikTok ... it snowballed’

Leaving it to fans turned out to be incredibly smart decision as singer becomes fourth Irish artist to achieve US number one

In April, 1990, a month after Andrew Hozier-Byrne was born, Sinéad O’Connor was number one in the US charts with Nothing Compares 2 U. Thirty-four years later, Hozier himself is sitting at number one in the United States, the first time an Irish artist has achieved that accolade since O’Connor’s massive hit.

Hozier’s song is called Too Sweet, a tune that makes him the fourth Irish artist (O’Connor, U2 twice, and Gilbert O’Sullivan) to achieve a US number one. Too Sweet also reached number one in Ireland, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.

Too Sweet was one of the last songs Hozier worked on for his 2023 album, Unreal Unearth, a concept album built around Dante’s Inferno’s nine circles of hell. Too Sweet was pitched for the “gluttony” part of the record, but it had competition. Ultimately, another track, Eat Your Young, won out. Too Sweet ended up on a four-track EP of tunes that didn’t make the album, titled Unheard. None of this would indicate that Hozier and his team had a number one single on their hands. Serendipity, certainly, had a role to play in that.

On March 6th, the podcast, How Long Gone, released a new episode, featuring an interview with Hozier. The EP was played for people in the room, and the podcast episode accidentally included a snippet of Too Sweet. “Everyone immediately panicked,” Niall Muckian told me this week. Muckian is a key figure in Hozier’s management team, the founder of Rubyworks Records, and signed Hozier at the outset of his career. After the initial alarm over a clip of the song ending up in the public domain, a collective conclusion was reached, that was, from Muckian’s perspective, a feeling of, “ah sure look, it’s out there now”. Fans immediately picked up on the snippet, initially misidentifying it as another unreleased track, Wildflower and Barley.


‘We could see the numbers just growing and growing off user-generated videos up until release day ... So we knew something was going on with the song’

—  Niall Muckian

“Fans started making videos with it on TikTok,” Muckian says, “It was a happy accident. Normally we wouldn’t release, because everything drops at the same time. It was accidentally placed in the fans’ hands, and they ran with it.” TikTok was key to the song’s growth, ultimately driving streaming. In this context, there are essentially two branches of audio on TikTok; an official song release that’s made available as it would be to any streaming platform, and then user-generated ‘sounds’. “This got picked up as UGC [user-generated content],” Muckian says, “It was the snippet from the podcast that was being used. It was all very unofficial. It snowballed. We could see the numbers just growing and growing off user-generated videos up until release day ... So we knew something was going on with the song.”

Leaving it to the fans turned out to be an incredibly smart decision. There was no fancy music video, and little marketing initially. The EP was released on March 22nd, and the song as a single on March 29th. It exploded across streaming platforms. Too Sweet is an earworm that doesn’t so much sneak up on the listener as envelop them instantly. It’s an incredibly moreish tune, with a hook that demands repeat visits, “I’ll take my whiskey neat, my coffee black and my bed at three, you’re too sweet for me.” It also has a soft entry point. There’s the infectious baseline, Hozier’s louche vocal, and a minute in, the chorus lands. Game over. How genius to build a song around concepts of sweetness the listener ends up craving.

In the middle of Too Sweet’s climb, one of the most anticipated albums of the year was released, Beyoncé's Cowboy Carter, also on March 29th. To put the scale of the listenership of Too Sweet in context, Beyoncé's version of Dolly Parton’s Jolene has clocked around 40 million Spotify streams at the time of writing. Two Sweet has accrued around 220 million , and rising. Too Sweet entered the US Billboard Hot 100 at number five, then number two, then number one.

It’s difficult to communicate to audiences in Ireland how big Hozier is in the US. He is on the second leg of a US tour, playing huge venues in North Carolina, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Florida, Virginia, Maryland, Maine, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California. In New York in June, he’ll play four nights at Forest Hills Stadium, home of the US Open. “It’s not an east-west coast tour,” Muckian says of the schedule, “It’s all of America. It’s the old school way that U2 would have done it.” Last year, on another 27-leg US tour, Hozier played Madison Square Garden in New York City for the first time, a gig I attended, and was struck by the intensity of the fandom, the ear-splitting screams almost lifting the roof off the well known venue.

On social media, Hozier has expressed his gratitude. “It’s absolutely staggering,” he said in a recent video, “I’m taken massively by surprise by it.” In an industry characterised by colossal marketing campaigns, playlist chicanery, and long-tail social media strategy, Too Sweet’s success is something of an anomaly. There’s a lesson for artists too: Hozier has stuck to his vision and made music on his own terms. “He’s super-conscious that he’s only interested in his fans, rather than what would work for radio, or the gimmicks that work in the industry, like remixes,” Muckian says, “He stays away from industry tricks. He puts his fans first ... The fact that this is on top 40 radio in United States now, is not because we wanted to design a song for top 40 radio. I think staying true to the fan base is the absolute number one most important thing.”