Florence + the Machine
Over the last decade, U.K. indie-rockers Florence + the Machine have parlayed the dynamic vocals of lead singer Florence Welch and the talents of gifted collaborators to a modicum of mainstream success on both sides of the Atlantic. Their three studio albums have all been certified platinum, and their first real hit, "Dog Days Are Over," marked them as a force in the United States, as well.
Now they've released a new single titled "Hunger" from their upcoming fourth studio album, High as Hope.
An alternative single that's rising in the charts, "Hunger" confronts the reality of a desire and longing that each of us has and chooses to fill in our own way.
We All Have It
Longing is a funny thing. We all have a longing for something, even if we don't know what we're searching for.
The video opens with a montage of images, ranging from Florence placing her head in the hands of a statue to two men closely conversing. But the real imagery begins as a black, genderless statue is uncovered. With marks on its hands and pierced in its side, the statue is meant to call to mind Jesus, and it is held in awe and wonder of those who surround it.
Florence begins to sing: "At 17 I started to starve myself/I thought that love was a kind of emptiness," and though that feeling of wanting more was difficult, she says, "at least I understood then the hunger I felt." But she's not hungry for food. No, it's a longing for something much more. Her emptiness is all about loneliness, and she needs to be filled.
Florence cries repeatedly, "We all have a hunger." As she sings, more images flash by in the video: a group of men placing their hands on the shoulders of another man (who is possibly praying as his face looks upward); a woman stroking another's hair; people caressing the Jesus-like statue, looking at it in awe and even seeming to worship it.
Lyrically, Florence continues by recognizing that some "look so free," as if they've found what they're searching for, though sometimes that freedom and accompanying companionship come with some sensual overtones ("The way you use your body, baby, come on and work it for me"). She encourages people to hold onto what they've found even when they're discouraged ("Don't let it get you down, you're the best thing I've seen"). And even when you feel like "they're gonna crucify" you for your pursuit to fill that hunger, Florence implores us to remember that we all have it.
The singer also acknowledges that we sometimes look to fill that hunger in self-destructive ways. Some look to fill it "in the drugs" but realize "the more I took, the more it took away." Others look to fame: "I thought that love was on the stage/You give yourself to strangers." This longing is personified as she sings, "And then it tries to find a home with people, oh, and I'm alone," as some choose to fill their voids by "staring at your phone."
The video ends with an image on the screen that reads, "How many people have to die so that you can feel loved?" That question is certainly open to interpretation. But it gives context to the following lines sung by Florence earlier in the song: "Oh, but you are all your vibrant youth/How could anything bad ever happen to you?/You make a fool of death with your beauty, and for a moment/I forget to worry."
Florence could be referring to the youth of today, who hunger and desire love, too; but when they're unable to find it, they harm themselves or others. Or it could be a blanket statement concerning all those who have died or have given their lives in some way—an echo even to the Christ-like savior we see. But, still, it's unclear.
We're all searching for something. That hunger may look a little different for all of us, and yet it's exactly the same. We all feel a desire and longing for something else. For fulfillment. For love. For something more. Something like God.
Florence + the Machine leave their song open for interpretation as they recognize that each person is searching for love and fulfillment in different ways. Some take to drugs, others to sex, to religion, art, relationships. It all varies. But the beautiful thing about this track is that Florence recognizes that not all these things truly fulfill us.
Florence said of the track "This song is about the ways we look for love in things that are perhaps not love, and how attempts to feel less alone can sometimes isolate us more…"
This is both true and timely. We are all searching for love and a way to belong, even if we don't know how to get there.