Most people only know Sinead O’Connor as “that bald girl who ripped up the picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.” This is a shame. O’Connor is one of the most talented musicians around today and, while she is sometimes controversial, you can’t say she’s boring!
Sinead released The Lion And The Cobra in 1988. This stellar debut was praised by critics but remained under the pop culture radar. 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got and its smash single ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ proved to be Sinead’s breakthrough record. The combination of her striking image and passionate, fiery vocals made it clear that Sinead was a musical force to be reckoned with.
1992 saw the release of Sinead’s third album, Am I Not Your Girl?, and her infamous Saturday Night Live appearance. Universal Mother followed in 1994. And then, in 2000, Sinead released Faith And Courage.
The album gets off to a chilled-out start with the reggae and dub-tinged ‘The Healing Room.’ Then the Sinead we all know and love comes out in full force in ‘No Man’s Woman,’ a defiant statement of independence and spirituality with guitars and strings adding great bad-ass ‘tude. ‘Daddy I’m Fine’, a few tracks later, keeps the guitar-grinding groove going but adds contrasting Irish whistles to the mix.
On the whole, though, the album presents us with a more sensitive Sinead. The sweet, country-tinged ‘Dancing Lessons’ has some of Sinead’s most upbeat relationship-related lyrics (‘I think I feel a peaceful feeling in the warmth in your kiss’). The delicate ‘Jealous’ finds Sinead telling her lover that they ‘don’t know how hard it is to be a woman in love with you,’ and in the dreamy ‘The State I’m In’ she sighs ‘I can’t stand myself since you’ve been gone, there’s nothing there to lean upon.’
The insecurity Sinead shows in those tracks, though, is absent from the wonderful ”Til I Whisper U Something.’ A heavy trip-hop beat, Irish whistles, guitars, and strings give this song a dark atmosphere. Sinead switches between her higher and lower registers and all but swears that she will show the ‘delicate man’ she is singing to a good time. A beautiful track, and in my opinion, one of Sinead’s classics.
The album closes with the traditional ‘Kyrie Eleison’ given a reggae vibe. Random bits of sound effects and spoken passages swirl around the main vocal. The heavy reggae influence in this song, and indeed the whole album, would inspire Sinead’s next few albums. I think that Faith and Courage strikes a great balance between Sinead’s reggae and Western styles and is perhaps more accessible to non-fans than the albums that came after it, and therefore would be a good introduction to Sinead’s more current work.