LONDON (Reuters) - (Corrects paras 1-3 to show track is most viral, not most streamed, changes headline to reflect)
The breakout hit “Take Me to Church” by the young Irish singer Hozier, which has been adopted as a protest song against anti-gay discrimination in Russia, was the most viral single on Spotify in 2014, the online music service said on Wednesday.
The anthem-like tune, which also has been nominated for song of the year at the 57th Grammy Awards, has had more than 87 million streams on Spotify and spent 48 weeks on the service’s “viral chart” - which indicates the number of times it was shared. That was more than any other song, Spotify said.
It has also logged more than 40 million views for the video version on YouTube.
The video, in which Hozier, whose full name is Andrew Hozier-Byrne and who is a native of County Wicklow, does not appear, portrays a homophobic backlash against a young gay couple who have to flee an angry mob in Russia.
It includes a clip of a gay rally in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin has signed into law a ban on the spread of “gay propaganda” among minors which is widely regarded in the West and by critics as discriminatory.
“Take Me to Church” was first released by Hozier, 24, on an EP (extended play) single in 2013 and rose to number two in Ireland.
It later became the first track on his long-awaited debut album “Hozier” released by Island records in September and which debuted at number one on the trade publication Billboard’s rock album chart.
The song took off in the United States after Hozier sang it on “The David Letterman Show” in May and again in October on “Saturday Night Live”.
Editing by Mark Trevelyan