Posts Tagged ‘Sinead O'Connor’

Sinead O’Connor

“NOTHING COMPARES” My rating: B (Showtime)

97 minutes | No MPAA rating

One of the best indicators of the effectiveness of a music documentary is when after watching it you cannot wait to listen to the artist involved.

After viewing “Nothing Compares,” the new documentary about Irish singer/songwriter Sinead O’Connor, I immediately turned to my old copy of her greatest hits LP.

And then for good measure i went online and began a Sinead buying spree of other tunes from her repertoire.

Directed by Kathryn Ferguson and written by Fergusoon, Eleanor Emptage and Michael Mallie, “Nothing Compares” is less an analysis of O’Connor’s music than a deep dive into her background and personality.

Even those who aren’t particularly familiar with her work instantly recognize her on sight…the shaved head, the huge soulful eyes, and that voice, which one admirer said was capable of “going from a whisper to a scream in half a second.”

Nobody sounds or looks like her; few artists have her burning sense of social justice,  on display even when — as is shown in the film’s opening moments — she has to endure several minutes of booing before beginning a concert.

Often narrated in first person by the now 55-year-old O’Connor (we don’t see her as she looks today until the very end of the movie) “Nothing Compares” depicts a termifying childhood with a mentally ill mother — the singer calls her “a beast” — who abused the child in just about every way a child can be abused.  One of her tricks was to exile her the 8-year-old to live night and day in the family garden.

She grew up “stupidly religious” and was eventually sent to a church-run school for troubled girls; it was affiliated with the notorious Magdalene Laundry system that virtually imprisoned thousands of young Irish women who had children out of wedlock.

This was still a time when the Irish government served as an arm of the  Catholic Church.  O’Connor at one point compares her homeland to an abused child.

As a teen she fell in love with Bob Dylan, specifically the religious-themed “Slow Train Coming” LP; at the same time O’Connor became enamored of drag culture, which pretty much had to lay low in ‘70s Ireland.

Once she launched her singing career, she specialized in writing her own autobiographical songs, as well as covering work by other artists. Who would have expected her to reach the charts with Broadway’s “Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina”?  And then there’s her biggest hit, a brilliant version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” (We’re told in the closing credits that Prince’s estate denied the filmmakers’ request to use the song in the documentary. What’s with that?)

Despite controversy, O’Connor has always insisted on wearing her conscience (and anger) on her sleeve.  She caused a flap in the U.S. when she banned a venue from its usual practice of starting a concert with a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner.” 

And then’s there’s her notorious”Saturday Night Live” appearance in which she ended her a capella rendition of Bob Marley’s “War” by shredding a photo of Pope John Paul II.

She never apologized, never backed down.

“They tried to bury me,” O’Connor says. “They didn’t know I was a seed.”

| Robert W. Butler

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