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SINEAD O’CONNOR/ “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?”: the sense of loss

PAOLO VITES comments on the new album by Irish singer Sinead O’Connor, a troubled woman, followed by scandals, but with one of the most beautiful and moving voices of our times.

(Infophoto) (Infophoto)

For a moment, try to let go of all the controversy, gossip, and media hype that the name Sinéad O'Connor inevitably brings up. Not that the Irish singer has not said and done, and continues to say and do, numerous colorful things, but forget them, please. Instead, listen to her voice when she sings. As someone said, you must have a heart of stone not to be moved by the sound of one of the most beautiful and exciting voices that modern music has ever expressed. In a career that is only remembered for scandals, musically as well the albums of O'Connor, with rare exceptions (the first album, "The Lion and the Cobra", the mini cd "Gospel Oak", and "Sean-Nós Nua", dedicated to traditional Irish music), leave little to be remembered.

In fact, she has never had a producer or repertoire that has lived up to her. Sure, Nothing Compares to U, written for her by Prince at his beginning, still remains one of the most intense recordings of the last twenty-five years, but often her extraordinary vocal ability is lost in recordings that are not up to her level. Sinéad's voice is worth much more. It is capable of expressing a range of powerful emotions: her whispers, sudden devastation, the celestial openings are the narrative tale of an intensity that has few equals among the white singers of all time. It is the classic case of an Irish singer, a woman who could be singing the phone book and still be moving. Her voice contains the fragility of a person overwhelmed by serious mental health problems and inner suffering that she has never managed to overcome if not in the excess of certain acts and statements, and of course when she has the chance to sing. Above all, in this voice, there is the sense of a loss, the lack of something, a melancholy that is at times unbearable and that tortures the heart and soul.

One might say that Sinead O'Connor is a person who is alright with herself only when she expresses herself in song. Like a kind of magic, a healing of the soul and heart, her voice rises to the  peaks that suggest the infinite incompleteness of the human being. Her latest album, "How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?" is halfway between the unfinished works of her past and the best ones. It is a deceptively simple album, produced by her first producer, from her debut, and contains some of the best things she has ever recorded and other, less beautiful things. It is not by chance that, like on her debut album, a cover is the best song. Queen of Denmark by the American singer-songwriter John Grant is a stunningly beautiful version of a piece that was already stunningly beautiful. O'Connor interprets it with the anger and urgency that only she knows how to put in a song that tells a love that has permanently ended to go to hell, and that begins with the memorable lines: "I wanted to change the world, but I could not even change my underwear".