Sinead O’Connor’s ‘I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss’ album – Review
Sinead O’Connor, it’s a name that’s synonymous with booming vocals, controversy, and hard-hitting lyrics. She’s the Celtic songstress that moves beyond the limits of gender, the domination of the Catholic Church in Ireland, or any other prejudice within and beyond the realm of music.
It’s been almost thirty years since she appeared on the Irish music scene, her astounding uniqueness left many speechless. Still a teenage waif herself, she found sustenance in the songs of Bowie and Dylan, she used their inspiration to nurture herself and, despite her youth, was practically fully formed in terms of musical ability. Not only did she possess spectacular and soaring vocals, she had used her own tragic past to influence her music, giving it depth and experience well beyond her years. She musically bridged Ireland with its rustic, mystical past – referencing WB Yeats on her first album – and a punk rebel who seemed like a violent break from that same past. It was her resounding voice that made her so incredibly unique, considering that her heart-wrenching, tearstained version of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” is still a classic song, so much so that it inspired Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball. Yet, O’Connor was their first with the resounding vocals that played upon the concepts of loss, love, and heartbreak. Her shining vocals made her so wondrously exceptional- it rang out like a clarion call and won her millions of fans. She bravely transpired musical genres between the late 1900s and early 2000s ranging from Irish folk songs, jazz, and Jamaican eccentricities. Her intuitive live concerts set new standards of feminine greatness in rock music.
Her infamous challenging manner is all wonderfully palpable in her new album, “I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss”. The first song on the track list, “How About I Be Me”, has a wonderful rasping quality to the vocals. The oppression she feels around her gender is prevalent, “taking care of everybody else, a woman like me needs love”, it’s clear that she is drawing from a place of experience. The uncertainties in her own life have forced her to put her own emotions aside and everyone ahead of her own love. She shows a vulnerable side, one we first saw in Nothing Compares 2 U. “A sweet man to cling to and whisper sweet things to”, she speaks in an almost idyllic manner about the man of her dreams, a sense of unattainability and helplessness is prevalent throughout, one that pulls upon one’s heartstrings in the most sincere way. “Dense Water Deeper Down” takes on almost pseudo-religious undertones but on a romantic level, dealing with a man that threads the line between devilish nature, with his “wicked smile”, and yet his angelic qualities still manage to prevail. It’s interesting to read into O’Connor’s vocals, she clearly draws from her past to shape her work; a lot of her new album seems to focus on her own emotions. For once, she’s not taking on the world or the church; she’s taking on her own sentiments and her own self-doubts. The truly prodigious lyricists understand that what has already been said is not enough. They seek to capture distinctive emotional snapshots – musical testimonies to the indomitability of the human spirit – and experiment with the status quo. Most importantly, through their work they give the rest of us heart to go on.
Her eccentricities manifest themselves in her song, The Vishnu Room, drawing upon the Hindu gods in her title; she makes it clear that her music hasn’t lost its bite. Never one to confine herself to the rulings of the Catholic church, their battles have been well documented within the media, so it’s interesting to compare her reverence of her man to Vishnu. She seems to open herself and her emotions much more in this song. There’s this interesting simmer of piano and electric guitar in the background, it takes on almost an ecclesiastic tone. There’s a subtle shakings of maracas give the song a foreign and rhythmic quality to it, their presence brings a warmth to this song as O’Connor speaks highly of the person who her such “delight”. The Voice of My Doctor has a considerably more country rock undertone to it, there’s a fierce pound of drums and her voice comes across considerably more powerful. O’Connor finds a way to balance her album between heartfelt vulnerabilities and head-banging rock tracks. Harbour also follows a similar vein of pulsing rock, her voice almost rumbles like thunder, with a slow and steady progression. This time, her songs focus on pain and seeking solace, not all her songs can be songs of pure love and praise.
The first track of her album, “Take Me to Church” has set the tone for her entire album, it’s a chart-topper and continues to propel O’Connor’s musical career significantly. The most important aspect of her new album is the balance; it seems to be a more well rounded album. She seems to be using her music to challenge a wide range of emotions, moving beyond solely sorrow and rage. It’s an interesting listen and despite the fact that it’s thirty years since she first emerged on the Irish music scene, she has grown and used her age to greatly shape her album.
Review by Elaine McDonald