I love Sinead O’Connor because: of her beautiful voice and her anger.
People might regard her these days as an insane, barely more than a 1-hit wonder artist, but that’s overlooking the fact that for almost 30 years she has been releasing very interesting, often challenging work – from pop and rock all the way through to reggae, gospel, Irish traditional music. Some of this is very obscure but you always get the impression that she is sincere in what she is saying (even if her motivations may be clouded by her demons).
Obviously the controversies surrounding her, overshadowed and derailed her commercial success at its peak in the early 1990’s. From her refusal to allow the US national anthem to be played before a concert, to her appearance on Saturday Night Live where she sang Bob Marley’s ‘War’ as a protest against child sexual abuse in the catholic church and proceeded to rip up a picture of the Pope declaring ‘Fight the real enemy’ (20 years later her action seem brave and prescient after all the revelations about the catholic church and the kiddies.)
Then there was her ordination as a catholic priest, and her declaration that she was a lesbian (before marrying a man a month later); to her most recent 17 day marriage where she took her drug counsellor new husband on a mission to score some weed on their wedding night, but ended up in a crack den. Most recently and most worryingly is her wish to use social media to discuss her children and their care.
Her image has overshadowed her music as well – in 1987 it was quite arresting to see an angelic looking young woman with her shaved head singing her haunting song Mandinka (one of my personal favourites by her).
Her biggest hit is a Prince cover – her version is an enduring classic – ‘Nothing Compares 2U’ – one of those rare cover versions that is better than the original, with its starkly beautiful video – especially the bit when she cries.
Having grown up in Ireland I remember being fascinated by her – in the late 1980’s; early 1990’s Ireland was still a deeply catholic and conservative place (homosexuality only legalised in 1993; divorce in 1996) and she was simply not going to accept that – she chatted openly about the child abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her mother; to her discussions of the abortions she had. At the same time when the genocide in Rwanda was happening she donated her £1,000,000 house in London to relief efforts
I remember being in the George (Dublin’s biggest gay club) in 1999 and seeing her in her catholic priest outfit, and nearly choking when I saw her. I wish I’d gone over to her – although she’d probably have glassed me.
She remains an absolutely incredible live performer – I last saw her 2 years ago in Melkweg Amsterdam – the previous two times had been in Paradiso but apparently – and quite unlike Sinead, she had fallen out with the management of that venue. These days she looks like a middle aged woman in priest drag, with lots of bad tattoos, but her voice remains sublime – clear, haunting and almost exactly as she sounds on record (apparently she rarely does more than a couple of takes in the studio when recording her songs).
I really hope she finds some sort of peace as she really is no ordinary talent.