Sinead O’Connor was widely known for her provocations but it was her emotive, poignant vocals that propelled her to global acclaim. With a delivery both fierce and breathy, O’Connor sold millions of records following the 1990 album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, which saw her star skyrocket after she had gained a cult following from her debut The Lion and the Cobra. Here is a sampling of her top hits:
Nothing Compares 2 U
O’Connor’s best-known hit by far was Nothing Compares 2 U, a track Prince wrote and the Irish singer turned into a power ballad evoking the painful emptiness experienced by a jilted lover.
The melancholy 1990 smash soared to the top of the charts worldwide, reigning over the US top songs list for four weeks.
It was also royalty on MTV, where O’Connor’s stark music video received heavy rotation. Frames of her tightly shot facial features and tears became one of the emblematic images of 1990s music.
The critically acclaimed track is a regular on best all-time songs lists.
“You have to look pretty hard to find a better expression in pop music of the void that exists when a relationship ends,” Pitchfork wrote in 2009.
O’Connor’s Mandinka was released as the second single from her debut album, The Lion and the Cobra, in 1987.
It became a runaway hit on college radio stations and the Irish singer performed it on the US program Late Night With David Letterman, her debut television appearance stateside.
But it was her Grammy performance of “Mandinka” in February 1989 that introduced her more broadly to an American audience, when she sauntered onstage in a black halter crop top, baggy, low-slung jeans and Doc Martens, a baby’s onesie tied at the back of her waist.
The infant clothing belonged to her son, and her sporting of it was aimed at record label execs who told her motherhood would end her career.
O’Connor also painted a man in a crosshairs on her shaved head – the logo of rap phenom Public Enemy.
The symbol referenced Recording Academy executives finally including a category honoring hip-hop – but then choosing not to televise it, which prompted a boycott by several nominees.
The Emperor’s New Clothes
The Emperor’s New Clothes, was off O’Connor’s second album, and became her second-highest charting song on Billboard.
The rock-inflected confessional is a clear statement of independence from the singer who would go on to trigger global controversy throughout her career, not least when she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II after singing Bob Marley’s “War” during a 1992 performance on the US sketch program Saturday Night Live.
“I will live by my own policies / I will sleep with a clear conscience,” she sings on the track.
You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart
You Made Me The Thief Of Your Heart does not appear on any of O’Connor’s studio albums but was lauded by critics after it was released on the soundtrack to the 1993 film In the Name of the Father, which starred Daniel Day-Lewis and Emma Thompson.
A review from The Guardian called it O’Connor “at her most stunning.”
“Her well-publicized antics have distracted attention from the fact that she can sing, and beautifully,” the paper wrote. “Here, she puts her angst to good use on a tense, Celtic-fiddle-accented piece of pop.”
“It’s her best track since ‘Nothing Compares 2 U,'” it added.
Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home
O’Connor’s 1992 cover of country icon Loretta Lynn’s “Success” was the lead single of her third album, “Am I Not Your Girl?”
“Success Has Made A Failure Of Our Home” became her third-biggest hit, and she called it her “most personal” track on the album.
The song’s lyrics point to the costs of material success, and how fame can damage familial and romantic relationships.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)
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