Sinéad O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)
One close-up made her career. Another destroyed it.
1. The career-making close-up:
One of the more compelling videos of the music video era (back when music television stations placed at least some emphasis on music videos), Nothing Compares 2 U.
The abbreviated ‘2 U’ may still be cringe-worthy but the performance was head-turning. A good Prince ballad, minimalist instrumentation, and a simple video concept combined to make this a big hit.
2. October 3, 1992:
A cappella performance on Saturday Night Live (SNL). She opted for another cover, this time Bob Marley’s War, modifying the lyrics to protest abuse in the Catholic Church. At its conclusion, she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II declaring, “fight the real enemy.”
Silence. Followed by massive backlash.
In 1992, this proved to be commercial suicide. It would be very interesting to see how such a move would be received in 2013.
Would she be vilified in the same way? Clearly there would be no standing ovations from those who were camped out, eagerly awaiting the recent conclave results in Vatican City.
The rest of the world? The reaction would probably be much more muted. Maybe an initial twitter flare-up, but she’d likely also find herself with considerably more supporters.
It’s always a shame when the focus is placed on style (her shaved head) and scandal (SNL episode) as opposed to the musical substance. I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is both an admirable sentiment and an effective album. Particularly in its soaring choruses, her influence on 90s vocalists (notably Sarah McLachlan) is apparent.