‘60 Songs That Explain the ’90s’: How Sinéad O’Connor Turned a Prince Song Into Her Classic

Grunge. Wu-Tang Clan. Radiohead. “ Wonderwall. ” The music of the ’ 90s was a excite as it was diverse. But what does it say about the era—and why does it still matter ? On our new usher 60 Songs That Explain the ’ 90s Ringer music writer and ’ 90s survivor Rob Harvilla embarks on a quest to answer those questions, one track at a time. Follow and listen for spare entirely on Spotify. Below is an excerpt from Episode 32, which explores the history of the bequest of Sinéad O ’ Connor, her biggest hit, and how Prince factors into it all .
This is a fib about Sinéad O ’ Connor ’ s “ Nothing Compares 2 U. ” Prince wrote it. She took it. It ’ s her song. But it cost her dearly .

Prince, as you are probably mindful, wrote a damn short ton of songs. And gave a damn short ton away. And it transpires that some of those songs just sound estimable when sing by a woman. The Bangles doing “ Manic Monday. ” Chaka Khan doing “ I Feel for You. ” Sheila E. doing “ The Glamorous Life. ” You want the truth ? Cyndi Lauper ’ s version of “ When U Were Mine ” is better than Prince ’ second translation of “ When You Were Mine. ” That ’ second correct. What are you gon na do about it ? I ’ thousand not on Twitter ( american samoa far as you know, probably ). You don ’ t know where to find me. It ’ s not that Cyndi Lauper changed the meaning of this song, it ’ south that Cyndi Lauper distilled the pure exquisite flamboyant misery of this song.

But Sinéad O ’ Connor doing “ Nothing Compares 2 U ” on her second album, 1990 ’ s I Do not Want What I Haven ’ metric ton Got—this is different. however cordial the initial business transaction here—the process by which Prince allowed her to record and release his song—forget all that. This is a hostile takeover. Sinéad embodies this song on a molecular level. She changes the fundamental meaning of this song. She owns this song. She steals this song. Just the audacity of that. The enormousness and the fearlessness required of her to do that. Sinéad O ’ Connor saying, “ I ’ meter gon na steal a sung from Prince ” is like Nicolas Cage saying, “ I ’ meter gon na steal the Declaration of Independence. ”
But that ’ s what she did .

Who is this person ? What does she want ? What doesn ’ triiodothyronine she want ? What do we want from her ? In June 2021 Sinéad O ’ Connor published a memoir called Rememberings. It ’ randomness roughly. She was born in Glenageary, Ireland, in 1966. The one-third of four children. Her parents split up when she was 9 ; she split clock between her don, who was initially granted detention of the children, and her mother, who in Sinéad ’ s report was physically and mentally abusive. Sinéad mentions a few times that when she ’ five hundred come home from school for the summer she ’ five hundred dissemble she ’ five hundred lost her field ice hockey joint, because she didn ’ deoxythymidine monophosphate want her mother to beat her with it. She says her beget would beat her with a carpet-sweeper pole alternatively and make Sinéad say “ I am nothing ” over and over. That ’ s it for details. Her beget died in a car accident when Sinéad was 18, curtly before she got her first phonograph record deal. I tell you that much only because this might reasonably explain both the fragility and the ferocity with which Sinéad O ’ Connor sings, and the hard-fought assurance she brings to every song she ’ mho ever sing .
The pop-star-memoir discharge, generally—the Rise and Fall narrative you know and love from any Oscar-nominated biopic or cheapjack VH1 Behind the Music episode you ’ ve always watched—at least there ’ s a originate, right ? At least there ’ second a brief time period when the pop ’ mho asterisk discovery, and breakthrough success, and vertex fame and luck are enjoyed by the pop leading. Over-enjoyed, inescapably. But enjoy. But Sinéad ’ randomness book is rough going in this regard a well. She writes that she was sitting on the toilet—she wants you to know that she can ’ thyroxine remember whose toilet—when she is informed that both “ Nothing Compares 2 U ” and I Do not Want What I Haven ’ thyroxine Got have both hit no. 1 in America, on the singles and albums charts respectively. She writes, “ Whoever it was who told me got crabbed with me because I didn ’ t take the newsworthiness happily. rather, I cried like a child at the gates of hell. ”
Sinéad ’ s first album, released in 1987, was called The Lion and the Cobra. A biblical name. From Psalm 91 .

If you say, “ The Lord is my recourse ”
And you make the Most High your dwelling
No harm will overtake you
No calamity will come near your tent

And so on. You will tread on the lion and the cobra. And so on. The record company didn ’ t like the way Sinéad looked on the cover of The Lion and the Cobra, her sass wide open, her head shaved of course. They thought she looked angry. They thought she looked like she ’ south scream. The phonograph record company preferred another trope from the photograph photograph where she ’ randomness looking down, and her mouth is closed. good luck with that, commemorate company. She ’ s not screaming, actually. She ’ randomness fair singing. That ’ s just the manner she looks when she sings .
The biggest unmarried off this record was called “ Mandinka. ” Sinéad was inspired by Roots, the blockbuster 1977 television serial based on Alex Haley ’ s celebrated novel about slavery. She writes, “ I was a youthful female child when I saw it, and it moved something so profoundly in me, I had a visceral response. I came to emotionally identify with the civil rights bowel movement and slavery, specially given the theocracy I lived in and the oppression in my own home. ” That ’ s a slippery comparison for Sinéad to be making. But barely try to convince this person to not speak her mind .
To hear the broad episode snap here, and be sure to follow on Spotify and check back every Wednesday for newfangled episodes on the most authoritative songs of the decade. This excerpt has been lightly edited for clarity and length .

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