Connecting with Culture
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It’s strange when a song you love becomes a social media sensation.
For months, the song ‘Soldier, Poet, King’ has consistently popped up on my Instagram feed. With its folksong feel and catchy chorus, it’s captured the imagination of the internet, getting 140 million streams on Spotify. It’s even inspired a personality quiz revealing whether you’re a soldier, a poet, or a king. The custom is to broadcast your results on TikTok or Instagram, singing along to the verse dedicated to your archetype.
It’s fascinating that people are so eager to choose just one of these identities to align themselves to, because the song isn’t about three different people. The song’s point is that the soldier, the poet, and the king are all the same person – Jesus.
Understanding the context of the song helps us understand its sudden popularity. Written by The Oh Hellos, the song appears on their album Dear Wormwood (yes, that Wormwood). The album covers the journey of someone breaking free from an abusive lover (who turns out to be, spoiler alert, Death) and escaping to find a new path of freedom and life.
In ‘Soldier, Poet, King’, a chorus of voices heralds the arrival of a long-awaited saviour, the Soldier, ‘who carries a mighty sword’, the Poet, ‘whose weapon is his word’, and the King, ‘whose brow is laid in thorn / smeared with oil like David’s boy’. It’s joyous, triumphant, worshipful.
So, why all the hype? Perhaps this trend appeals to our collective love of self-mythologisation, of sorting ourselves into categories. It’s tempting to be frustrated with the widespread misinterpretation of the song, with people taking something meant to be about Jesus and making it into something about themselves. But I prefer a less cynical explanation.
The connecting fibre between the soldier, poet, and king is that each is coming to bring justice to a people long shrouded in darkness. It’s this Christ-like quality that attracts people. The choice becomes: are you the type of person who wants to bring change through their actions, their words, or the strength of their convictions? In the end, each decision reveals a deep longing within each of us to emulate Jesus’ example. Whichever archetype appeals to us, we can take those ideals and put them into practice in our workspaces, friendship groups, and home lives.
Listeners, quiz-takers, and vloggers might not know the song’s Christian origins, but they connect with its message nonetheless – salvation is coming, hallelujah!
Communications Assistant, LICC