Song of the day – 449: Sinéad O’Connor
This is fucking superb. Brooding, self-immolating, angry as fuck. A performance to tear your life and lovers apart to. Revenge really can be sweet.
I wanted to change the world/But I could not even change my underwear
Context: last night I had to drive Daniel to the Children’s Hospital at 4.30am. No big deal, he had an ear infection, but we knew that we wouldn’t be sleeping so we figured we might as well try and get it sorted it out This was going to be my big day, the day I broke the back of my PhD thesis. Instead, my head’s swirling round in non-giddy abandon. I am way stressed. We have to move in a few months time, my scholarship runs out in a few months time, my PhD isn’t even anywhere near completion, I just had to give the advance back for my Daniel Johnston book as it hasn’t happened, I keep forgetting really (really) important stuff, there’s an article someone wants to run on Collapse Board that could possibly lead us to getting sued; I don’t have any affinity with its agenda but if we don’t run it, it could lead to us closing … I am way stressed.
I spent the 11.03 bus ride in to Kelvin Grove listening to the new Sinéad O’Connor album, Sinéad O’Connor being someone I feel affinity with – do you believe in the myth of the west world? – but someone I sadly, rarely, can find music to back up my faith with. We come from different worlds, her and me. There are a couple of great moments on this new album, though.
I don’t know what to want from this world/I really don’t know what to want from this world
I don’t know what it is you want to want from me/You really have no right to want anything from me at all
Why don’t you take it out on somebody else/Why don’t you bore the shit out of somebody else
Why don’t you tell somebody else that they’re selfish/A weakling coward a pathetic little fraud
Authenticity matters. I’m not sure how much it matters or why it matters or whether it should matter, but clearly it matters. Yes, I do buy into the myth of Sinéad O’Connor. Yes, I know she’s a performer. Yes, I know these are songs. Yes, I know all is artifice, that the most glorious moment in this most glorious revenge song comes when suddenly she turns into Amanda fucking Palmer – but Amanda fucking Palmer, as fine as she is, is a cabaret performer, whereas Sinéad O’Connor delights in confusing her life with her art (and of course no one can separate the two: the way we view the world influences the way we react to the world). This album – and the title is an immediate giveaway, How About I Be Me (And You Be You) – is about betrayal and searching for meaning and a home in middle-age when life has constantly shown itself to be indifferent to your feelings, and wanting a man, and wanting a constant, and wanting wanting wanting … and this song is … fuck man.
These next lines are so glorious, as sung by Sinéad fucking O’Connor:
I hope you know that all I want from you is sex/To be with someone who looks smashing in athletic wear
And if your haircut isn’t right you’ll be dismissed/You’ll get your walking papers and you can leave now
Half of this, at least, is aimed at herself.
It’s really fun to look embarrassed all the time/Like you could never cut the mustard with the big boys
I really don’t know who the fuck you think you are/Could I please see your license and your registration
How can’t I relate to and love that?
I’ve just discovered. It’s a cover version. Of course it is. I did think there were a couple of lines that seemed totally out of context, meaningless. Sinéad O’Connor always was an extraordinary interpreter of other people’s songs. Interestingly, I find the John Grant original unbearable to listen to – crass, adult, corny as fuck – and not in a good way. Hmm.
I appreciate I’m projecting my own idea of Sinéad O’Connor on to a mythologised version of Sinéad O’Connor here. It still doesn’t mean I can’t – what did I say? – relate to and love this performance.