In her own words: “There was no therapy when I was growing up. So the reason I got into music was because of therapy, which is why I was shocked to become a pop star, that’s not what I wanted. I wanted to scream.” That, in a nutshell, is the legendary Sinead O’Conner.
Directed by Kathryn Ferguson, the film takes a deep dive into the personal life of the iconic pop singer. O’Conner was a rebel, a trailblazer, and lightyears ahead of her time. Before any type of official women’s movements or uprising of feminism, O’Conner was speaking out and speaking up against war, the catholic church, racism, and violence against women.
Because of her past, she wasn’t afraid to speak her mind or do what she felt was right. She got into reggae music after hearing songs patronizing the catholic church (which victimized her in her youth). This was the beginning of her going against the grain. She performed at the Grammys in 1989 and performed with Public Enemy’s logo painted on the side of her head. Chuck D of Public Enemy protested the Grammys after their refusal to acknowledge rap music as a legitimate category. “I thought it was admirable that she put the Public Enemy logo on her head,” he states.
As you’ll note in the documentary, Sinead is no stranger to controversy. Her record label at the time tried to market her as a typical girl with short skirts and long hair. Because of that, she shaved her head. That bold act of rebellion turned into an iconic look that she still keeps today.
They tried to bury me, but they didn’t realize I was a seed.”Sinead O’Conner
As noted in the documentary, after her song, “Nothing Compares” became the No. 1 song in the world, everything changed overnight. With a microscope on her every move, the press caught wind of her refusing to perform if a certain venue had played the national anthem before she went onstage. Her reasoning? She felt like artists were being censored too much in America, and particularly, black people as a whole.
But nothing caused more of a firestorm than her Saturday Night Live performance. She performed a Bob Marley song, which was a speech. At the end of her performance, she held up a picture of the pope, said, “Fight the real enemies!”, and tore up the picture on live television. The response was widespread and immediate.
I give Nothing Compares a 7.5 out of 10. This year, she’s releasing her 11th studio album. The film was produced with the support of incentives for the Irish Film Industry provided by the government of Ireland and was filmed on location in Ireland. Knowing this, Nothing Compares felt like an apology letter to a revolutionary artist who was decades before her time.
You can stream Nothing Compares now on Showtime