Sinead O’Connor has managed to come a long way since her early arsenal of alt-rock inspired records. For those who associate Sinead with her infamous Saturday Night Live performance, during which she ripped up a picture of the Pope, it may come as a surprise that her newest release is an offering of traditional Irish songs learned mostly during her childhood. Even long-time Sinead fans might have some trouble getting adjusted to this record. For the best listening experience, try this one on headphones, as you can truly hear as Sinead puts it, “…the ghosts of the people who are speaking through the songs” Sean-Nos Nua is quite obviously close to the artists heart, as it is even packaged with a sticker that reads “I’ve been waiting to make this album all my life…”
“I consider all of these songs to be magical prayers…” O’Connor states in the albums liner notes.
A personal element has always clearly existed within Sinead’s work, making her musical career an exciting one to watch progress. She’s a remarkable character whose views on life, realtionships, and spirituality continue to evolve within her musical offerings. Sinead’s early work, for instance, lashed out against her mother and a myriad of ex-boyfriends, including her former producer. In fact, the majority of Sinead’s early lyrics were never quite as tame as her breakthrough hit, “Nothing Compares 2 U”, a tear-jerker which the mainstream embraced. It was features on “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” which reveled, among other things, Sinead’s political side with songs like “Black Boy’s On Mopeds” (Margaret Thatcher on TV/ Shocked by the deaths that took place in Beijing/ It seems strange that she should be offended/ The same orders are given by her).
Many artists never get past their anger and inner rage, many have arguably have died trying. Ironically, Sinead covered Nirvana’s “All Appologies” on her follow-up to “I Do Not Want…”. It was a softer, more melodic album entitled “Universal Mother” which was sprinkled in Pagan influence. The result was a mixture of prayer-like ballads which contrasted with the anger in songs like “Fire On Babylon” where Sinead again confronts the ghost of her mother as
well as the child molestation scandals within the Vatican.
Sinead’s love of her home country was also well expressed on the “Universal Mother” album, which features a song designed to educate her listeners about the facts behind the Irish potato famine. “Gospel Oak”, a short EP which followed suggested that after a lengthy hiatus from the music scene (which included some heavy personal issues that had to be resloved), Sinead had reached a new level of inner peace. The tracks on “Gospel Oak” seemed to reflect an acceptance or letting go, like soft-hymns of self-reassurance. Sinead began to make healing music.
Continuing in this direction, Sinead released the powerful “Faith & Courage” in 2000. The unique blending of Irish tradition with other cultures such as Rastafarai, Paganism and Christianity in light rock melodies created nothing short of a powerful dose of musical medicine for many pleased fans. Those who were able to enjoy the last ablum should be able to appreciate this arguably strange turn in direction (it’s comparable to Sineads album of cover songs). Be
aware that this is not the record to spin at the next wild party, but leave that to the rock stars. Sinead has left the rock star world behind for something else. One might call her a modern shaman.