Why should you care about Sinead O’Connor?
Aren’t you all a little sick of the wacky rants, the Twitter feuds with Miley Cyrus and all the publicity stunts she’s pulled over the years that are too numerous to mention in this space?
Yeah. I know. So am I.
But here is why you should care about O’Connor: she might have just released one of the best rock songs this year with her new single “Take Me to Church,” from her new album I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.
The single is a churning masterpiece that lays it all out in typical Sinead style. “Take me to church/I’ve done so many bad things it hurts/but not the ones that hurt ‘cos that’s not the truth/I’m gonna sing songs of forgiving/living/‘cos songs are like a bold of light/get me down off this here tree,” she sings.
It’s a risky move, bringing up the word “church” after you’ve ripped up a picture of a pope on national TV, but I think a room full of cardinals would be humming the chorus of this song if it was piped into the Vatican. It’s that catchy.
The video is an artistic revelation as well. Clad in PVC-tight clothing, glam makeup and a fiery red wig, O’Connor melts away the years as the image of her more youthful self singing “Nothing Compares 2 U” projects across her present day face. The juxtaposition of the doe-eyed neophyte and the battled hardened indie boss is stunning.
“The song ‘Take Me to Church’ is a reference to the song in My Fair Lady, which the main character's father sings the night before he goes to get married,” O’Connor told NPR’s Linda Wertheimer.
“My central character, this is her ‘eureka’ moment. She changes from idealizing romantic girls to understanding about safety and safe choices in romance. She understands that love is not something that hurts. The most important thing she says on this record is, ‘I'm the only one I should adore.’"
The song comes from a batch of equally excellent songs from I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss. O’Connor has said in the press that offers have been coming her way to write songs for soundtracks, which has inspired her to write in character. This produced 15 songs (12 if you cheap out and don’t buy the bonus version on iTunes) that sound more like musical novels.
This has expanded O’Connor’s artistic palette immeasurably, especially on tracks like “The Voice of My Doctor,” a riff-heavy bluesy rocker about deception.
“The voice of my doctor/keeps interrupting my view/it says oh, gotta let another fool make another fool of you/you tricked me into thinking you loved me/you tricked me into making love to you,” she seethes.
On “Your Green Jacket,” she aches for a lover just out of reach. “Smelled your jacket when you left it on its lonely post/wrapped around you like it was the holiest of ghosts/your smell it came through/it made me wish I had my face buried in you/even though I know I’m not for you/is it okay to say that I really do adore you?”
O’Connor has survived and thrived for a quarter of a century with nothing more to prove to anyone, and she takes full advantage of this by mixing styles without any concern of how it will all play out on the charts.
“James Brown” is a funky track set atop some southern fried country picking. “Streetcars” is a music box melody of a song that is as vulnerable as it is beautiful. “When I was married/I’d ask my husband to lay his body over me/and to tell me/just how safe he’d keep me,” she coos, the emotion of it all catching her breath at times.
“Make a Fool of Me All Night” has the juice of an old Cranberries song, while “8 Good Reasons” has wicked rhythm that blows a subliminal Jamaican breeze through the song. “You know I love to make music/but my head got wrecked by the business/everyone wanted something from me/they rarely ever wanna just know me,” she snarls on that track.
This record is a classic and is the second strong release from O’Connor this decade (check out How About I Be Me from 2012 if you haven’t already done so). This fan is praying that this sets off a career resurgence that focuses more on the music than the press antics as the artist coasts into her middle age.
O’Connor has made it through some rough patches along her long career, and it could of course be argued that she made it rough for herself at times. I guess that’s what makes this triumphant I’m Not Bossy I’m the Boss record even more of, well, a triumph.
She is planning an October return appearance to the City Winery, both in Chicago (20th and 22nd) and New York (27th, 28th and 30th).
For a complete list of dates and to preview songs and videos, check out www.sindeadoconnor.com.