The nineties saw the establishing of a new type of women in pop business. While metrosexual boy bands left their mark on the male ideal of beauty, female artists freed themselves from the image of the polished stage decoration.
Besides singers like SHERYL CROW, TORI AMOS and ALANIS MORISSETTE, SINEAD O’CONNOR was at the head of those independent, natural musicians. In 1987 the woman with the shaved head appeared on the scene with The Lion and the Cobra. The record reached gold but it was only in 1990 when the new arrangement of the PRINCE song Nothing Compares 2 U and the album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got made the Irish singer a worldwide star.
Like many of her colleagues, SINEAD O’CONNOR reached the peak of her career in the nineties. The singer, who had a difficult childhood and caused a scandal by tearing the picture of the pope into pieces on Saturday Night Live in 1992, tried to find a new musical identity with excursions into the traditional folk of her home, religious music or reggae. But she could never live up to her earlier success and made the headlines rather by breakdowns and suicide attempts.
Isn’t this ironic, don’t you think? is probably how ALANIS MORISSETTE would comment on the cover of SINEAD O’CONNOR‘s tenth album which will be released on 11 August. It shows her with a wig in a black lacquer suit, embracing an electric guitar. The woman who counts the fight for women’s rights among her agenda, as idealized rock nymph? The picture breaks with the feminist title. Originally the LP should be called The Vishnu Room, but after seeing Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign, SINEAD O’CONNOR decided to rename it I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss.
If the twelve songs were intended to be as ironic as the cover and as strong as the title, SINEAD O’CONNOR failed to get this across.
The record starts weakly with the sticky pop number How About I Be Me (and You Be You). ‘I wanna make love like a real full woman every day’, she lets us know and that she is a lioness taking care of anyone else, while the song swings backwards and forwards in triviality. The lioness has lost her teeth and seems to be tired of wearing herself out.
Instead she puts empty rhymes over unimaginative melodies like in Dense Water Deeper Down: ‘His wicked kiss / Made me feel the bliss / He’s the only love I missed’. Obviously SINEAD O’CONNOR doesn’t trust in her great singing skills anymore – in many songs her voice is duplicated or there is background humming. Wind players, including saxophone, are supposed to jazz up the guitar- and drum-focused arrangements, but everything sounds as if it was used three times before – dusty and smelling of mothballs.
Your Green Jacket at least has an acceptable refrain, even though it’s about the smell of a jacket. The owner of this jacket is already spoken for and half of the record revolves around unattainable love and lovemaking, reaching Hindu spheres with the mantra-like The Vishnu Room. It’s nice that the 47-year-old discusses her right of sexual needs courageously. But unfortunately none of those songs is actually sexy or arouses any feeling.
In the second half SINEAD O’CONNOR lives up to what is, according to Wikipedia, besides singer-songwriter and musician her third occupation: priest. The main subject of her preaching is she herself. I’m not from this place, I’m from a different time, different space and My head got wrecked by the business, she sings in Good Reasons and one has to make allowances for this honesty. But the magic happens if the (song)writer is able to translate his or her own experiences into poetry. SINEAD O’CONNOR doesn’t bother doing this.
The songs are torn between doubts and vulnerability and strained self-confidence, but the search for a strong musical attitude is futile, apart from the guitar-distorted final of Harbour. Maybe SINEAD O’CONNOR is above it all and her ‘authentic’ confessions are just another layer of her public personality. Either way the personal, musical and political battles, she has fought and still fights, should be appreciated forever. It’s not fair to reduce her to Nothing Compares 2 U but regarding her new record, it’s maybe the best to recall this magical moment in pop history and forget the current slip-up.
Apart from repetitious love demonstrations and diary-confessions ‘I’m Not Bossy, I’m The Boss’ hasn’t much to offer.
NBHAP Rating: 1,5/5