on 28 March 2012
Review originally published on [...]
When Sartre talked about the role of the intellectual and the artist with the world we live in, he was surely not imagining that the compromise with social causes and issues has become somehow selective depending on the artists. Some of them, no need to mention names, fight for peace, human rights, African famine, and so on. But of these little have some kind of opinion about the issues of the western world or their own countries. But we are lucky of having someone like Sinéad O'Connor, the brave singer who cared about the child sexual abuse by the church being at the highest point of her career. Her voice, strong as usual, powerful and full of emotions yield and cried reporting something that today has turned to be totally true. What should think those people in that concert who attacked her?
The easiest option would have been to disappear, but she is so strong that no one could silence her voice and even less the content of what she says, because the irish singer never speaks in vain. Her new album stands still close to compromise. The title, How About I Be Me (And You Be You) ? may refer to the non-stop attacks from the media about her private life, but I am not going to write about that matter, I'm going to take the question-title as an answer, and answer to those musical critics who are not able to look the other way, who are always labelling and who judge according to the stigmas they have created. The album is an answer not because its content, but because Sinéad is just Sinéad, one the most strongest and wonderful vocalist of our time, who still has a voice, and what a voice!
As usual, Sinéad O'Connor is able to reach the emotions as well as the notes, and able still to communicate with her audience the lyrics of her songs with the appropriate feeling. As a whole the album is maybe her best to date, full of honesty and talent, setting apart the musical merits which should be obvious to anyone who listens to it.
The opening track 4th and Vine is a pop-reggae song which talks about love, as many of the songs of this album. Reason with me introduce Sinéad playing the character of a junkie, and portrays his way out of the hell of drugs, sung with efficacy and with a sound background which marks a kind of coherence to the whole album, and remembers the sound of her firsts albums. Old Lady is a song of hope and friendship, where the lines "Make me laugh like and idiot/ Don't be so serious" are delivered in a way they reach our memory awakening our own hopes and fears.
OK, now is the time, you reader ask me what is wrong with this review? Why are you talking about hope and love in an album of Sinéad O'Connor? Yes, I'm talking about those because the album is a whole, as her, with its emotionally ups and downs, but still, a voice is not only the means for complain, it must be also the mean to touch our lives, to get to that place somewhere in our brains where they stay and they come out when you don't expect them to come back. But Sinéad's voice is more than that. What makes her unique is precisely the way she can hug compromise, emotion, rage and courage.
Take off your shoes is a song about faith and true religion, about how we can experience religion as something inside ourselves, and is a powerful criticism about the Catholic Church and the scandal about child sex abuse. All in all, Sinéad plays the character of the Holy Spirit answering to that fact to the Vatican. It's my favourite song of the album, because it plays with double meanings. Could we consider the children's bodies and dreams holy ground? I do. But there is something else, the song does not mention abuse neither rape, and can be interpreted as a complain against the Church, not only because what we know already about them, but also about other aspects of their politics and history which are totally reproachable. Her voice is at her best in this song and goes straight to the bone when she sings "I bleed the blood of Jesus over you". That blood that was suppose to redeem all of us, that blood that they have polluted into something else, something close to danger and wound.
Back where you belong is another character songs where Sinéad performs the letter of a father killed in war to his son, full of hope of pain, concealing the tone between the farewell and the wish of happiness. A song which works so well thanks to Sinéad's special talent for the detail.
The wolf is getting married is the chosen single of this album where almost all the songs could be a single. It is another love song, which title, as explained in the Limited Special Edition comes from something Sinéad listened to from a muslim drivers and which explains the phenomena when the sky is totally gray and you can see a bit of sun though it. Sinead uses the saying to build up a powerful hymn to ability of love of putting aside other problems and disasters, like the bit of hope we experience when watching that sunny speck over the grey clouds. Queen of Denmark is a cover of the amazing homonymous song by John Grant, and for me, it has been a bit disappointing, being the weakest point of the album although her version is able to re-work the song for her own voice and her own purposes, amplifying with rage the parts of the song where in the original there is irony and outburst.
And we reach now two songs that have a biographical background. The first one is the beautiful Very Far From Home which talks about loneliness and being far from what you love. The second one is another character's song, Sinéad disguises herself in the figure of a single mother who is afraid to tell the father the child is him, but which talks also about the difficulty of rising a child alone. In this song the single mother blames herself when she is supposedly questioned by the child about the father "but I had a baby so beautiful he, he's been the making of me".
In V.I.P. Sinéad sings about herself, about her voice and her compromise, and reports the indifference of those who are famous and a model of behaviour and hope for most people and who does not rise their voices to defend their audience, to change that world that seems impossible to change. This song is Sinéad herself, is the chronicle of her career, by explaining by normal V.I.P. do, she sets apart from them.
A masterpiece for many, many reasons. My only advice is give yourself the chance of listening to. And think about the topics she is touching here: love, universal love, war and its consequences, child sexual abuse, the role of the powerful, the role of the artists you admire, the loneliness, the happiness. Allow yourself to this reflection. Think what you could do when seeing injustices and cruel things around you, what you could say if someone else than those around you are paying attention.
Thanks God for the voice of Sinéad O'Connor.