Channa Vithana / The triumph of marketing over mediocrity? Sinead O’Connor. My view, and the supporting evidence.

Sinéad O’Connor is an outstanding singer as she has a vocal range that is beyond most other mainstream female pop singers.

I first knew of her when she was doing a series of TV interviews and features for ‘The Lion And The Cobra’ (1987). Here was a stunningly beautiful woman, even sporting a shaved head, who was talking with passion and articulation about music. She was also rather prescient as she mentioned that it was  . . . .
rap music (hip-hop) at the time that was really innovative. And she was right as rap/hip-hop music in the mid-late 80s was quite spectacular with the likes of Public Enemy focussing on political issues of America and the world within their ‘street poetry’ – and was thus a million miles away from the ‘bling bling’ tripe we have now.

So, when I heard her single ‘Mandinka’ I was blown away – it was wildly mesmerising in its vocal power – like nothing else out there in the Stock, Aitiken & Waterman pop-wasteland (Rick Astley, Jason Donovan, etc) that stained the charts in the late 80s.

‘Mandinka (Live)’ Video

She recorded another album called ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got’ (1990) which made her a worldwide name with the massive hit song ‘Nothing Compares To You’ (written by Prince). This album was good -– but not quite as amazing as the first one. Then she did a superb cover of ‘You Do Something To Me’ from the Cole Porter Aids charity project ‘Red Hot + Blue’ (1992), which is one of my favorite compilation albums. She also did a covers album, called ‘Am I Not Your Girl’ (1992) which unfortunately featured some Andrew Lloyd Webber songs…

Around this time, Sinéad O’Connor committed commercial (and possibly mental) suicide by ripping up a picture of the Pope on American TV. I remember seeing news footage of this incident and subsequent shots of the religious right-wing bulldozing Sinéad O’Connor albums in the streets. I’m not going into the reasons why she did this; you can find out for yourself via Wikipedia, etc. Unfortunately though, she is known more now for this incident and other reported non-musical events than her music.

I sometimes try and imagine what she could have achieved if the Pope thing didn’t happen; so, without the luxury of hindsight, ‘Nothing Compares To You’ remains Sinéad O’Connor’s shot at the title. At best, her singing is sublime and otherworldly, of a divine, angelic quality, and along with Björk (when perfect) she represents all that is beautiful about interpreting a song - in a superior, emotionally sophisticated manner that usually only women can achieve.

Sinéad O’Connor is pretty far from being a triumph of marketing over mediocrity, she ‘coulda been a contender.’