Sinead O'Connor is one of the last living rebels in popular music. She stood alone in her convictions on the stage of SNL as she brazenly tore up a picture of the pope, then held the remains out to the camera. She was trying to bring attention to rampant child abuse in the Catholic Church. Shortly after, her albums were famously steamrolled in the streets of NYC, music career be damned.
It took nearly two decades for society to painfully realize that her criticisms were correct. Her gifts for songwriting (see "Black Boys On Mopeds", "Last Day Of Our Acquaintance") were overshadowed by the controversy, as she continued to put out brilliant albums (Universal Mother). She was on the right side of history at the wrong time.
Since the start or her music career, and with each LP, she has changed her sound radically. For example, she dropped an under-appreciated reggae album (Throw Down Your Arms in 2005) and an album of covers in 1992. Sinead reminds one of Prince (who penned her biggest hit "Nothing Compares To You") in that Sinead does what Sinead wants, much to the dismay of many of her fans waiting for another "Lion And The Cobra."
I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss, her 10th studio album, comes again from a new dimension, containing her most commercial sound thus far. At times, it feels like a watered down version of her former self. Her voice is filtered, layered and diminished as the socially conscience hyperaware rebel tries to break through. I recently caught her live show and can tell you that she still has unparalleled intensity and vocal control. Nearly every person in the venue including the staff were leaning in for her every utterance.
"The Vishnu Room" is my favorite track on INBITB. It teases with what sounds like The Edge from U2, backing the aggressive beauty of a voice that influenced a generation of female musicians. "8 Good Reasons" is perhaps her most obvious biographical song to date. On "The Voice Of My Doctor" she is cheekily channeling Robert Smith channeling Jimmy Hendrix. An album favorite is "James Brown" as she coos over a funky baseline.
O'Connor's last album in 2012, How About You Be You and I Be Me had heaps of critical praise and she has needed a proper return to the world stage for a while. If there were a time for her to have a big comeback it would be now. I'm not convinced this will be the album to propel her to the top again, but either way, she is still The Boss.