I downloaded Sinead O'Connor's 1990 album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got last week. The CD I have of it, which I bought when it came out, has been played so much it doesn't work anymore. Listening to it again after almost twenty years I was reminded that it was one of my favorite albums, and that O'Connor was one of our generation's geniuses and missed opportunities.
Her first album, 1987's The Lion and the Cobra, got a lot of buzz and went gold. It's a good album, but her sophomore album I Do Not Want is a masterpiece. It balances folk, rock, traditional Irish music hip-hop and R&B, all centered around O'Connor's amazing voice and confessional lyrics.
It's saying something that the Prince song "Nothing Compares 2 U," the biggest hit on the album, is also one of its weaker tracks.
"Black Boys On Mopeds" is one of my favorite songs on the album. It's just an acoustic guitar and O'Connor's quiet voice as she criticizes England. "Margaret Thatcher on TV, struck by the deaths that took place in Beijing," she starts. "It seems strange she should be offended - the same orders are given by her." One of the most haunting lines is her description of a poor mother begging for food in London's Smithfield market. "In her arms she holds three cold babies/And the first words that they learned was 'Please.'" It's an amazingly cutting humanization of poverty.
I also love "I Am Stretched On Your Grave," which combines a traditional Irish fiddle with the Funky Drummer sample that backed countless hip-hop songs of the day. Then there is "The Las Day of Our Acquaintance," the ultimate fuck-you to an ex lover, that was sung with ferocity live:
O'Connor was young and outspoken and female and sensitive, and she suffered mightily for it. She wasn't shy about expressing her opinions about the Pope, religion, the IRA, etc., and she was punished for it. There is nothing people hate more than an uppity woman, and so she was mocked and booed of stages and basically made a pariah. Her response was to basically fall off the radar and disappear from public view. Which is a fucking shame because she was and continues to be a tremendous talent who deserved far more respect than she got.
I was happy to see that she came out with a new album recently, I'm Not Bossy I'm the Boss. I'm not sure I'm in love with it, or that I'll even end up buying it, but at least she's still making music and still speaking her mind.
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