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How can you separate this woman from her songs?
on 12 June 2014
I like Sinead O'Connor. She has never been diverted from telling her truth despite consistent, generally unwarranted and often deeply personal criticism over two or three decades from dissembling idiots whose opinions shift with the wind and who are about as far away from integrity as Earth is from the Sun.
This collection of songs is fittingly titled 'All The Best'. It does have limitations and doesn't contain any of her more recent stuff but as an entry point into O'Connor's distinctive sound - her voice capable of great gentleness and great power echoing the apparent duality of her image - it's very good and I'd urge you to buy it.
There are songs here which convey great passion, tenderness and poignancy. Her cover versions of the standards do add something to tunes we've all heard time and time again; often it's O'Connor's inner sensitivity, even at times her fragility, which seep out. Sinead is not afraid of exposing her soul and maybe in part this is what makes her so great.
I firmly believe Sinead O'Connor has not been accorded the status she merits as a great singer. Why should this be? - I reckon it's for a whole host of reasons - because she's a woman, because she has strong opinions as well as being very visually striking, because she has consistently been so open and truthful, because she's Irish.......well, it's a list as long as both your arms put together.
It is understandable that O'Connor has never been lauded in the way of, say, a Kate Bush. Bush has never stuck her head above the parapet too often while O'Connor has used her raised profile to publicise a range of issues, both personal and political; she has never been afraid to give vocal support to causes, particularly those the media have sought to de-legitimize. Both women are striking to look at but while Bush has, broadly, engendered a kind of affection, O'Connor has had to periodically endure hatred, put downs and abuse on many levels.
As an intelligent and reasonably attractive woman who has opinions and often wears her heart on her sleeve, I can respect Bush - but I can really love Sinead; it seems there is a connection there with others of her gender at a fundamental level which cannot be shattered by countless unfavourable media reports down the decades. Bush's lyrics are less immediately graspable, perhaps she is more 'artistic' but she's also more middle-class, more Home Counties than I - and ultimately O'Connor's voice has more resonance and more sheer power for me because of that.
Can you separate the woman from the songs? In the case of Sinead O'Connor the answer is no. The songs are all the better for that. In a world in which increasingly women are being encouraged to conform in terms of appearance - essentially mere 'dragging up' so perhaps not so consequential but much more consequentially in relation to what they say and who they are - O'Connor remains a shining beacon of hope and a great example of female resilience and persistence in a world which now superficially celebrates 'diversity' while simultaneously withdrawing its approval from women like Sinead. Listen with care - this CD could open your eyes as well as your soul.