Sinead O’Connor: So Different by Dermott Hayes
In 1990, an Irish singer who had recently moved to London recorded a cover of a little-known Prince song. It was called Nothing Compares to U. The singer was Sinéad O’Connor and her treatment of the song gave it a transcendent and poignant angst, which struck a universal chord. Within months the song had risen to the top of the charts all around the world. The video which accompanied it swept the board at the MTV awards that year. Much of it was shot in close-up of Sinéad, with her shaven head, singing her painful lament straight to camera, her face forlorn and beautiful, the famous single tear rolling down her cheek. It remains an iconic rock performance, with over 155 million views on YouTube.
Her album featuring the song went on to sell over 6 million copies. But Sinéad O’Connor was only 24 when it was released and already a mother. She had suffered a traumatic upbringing in Ireland, with family breakup and the early death of her mother, from whom she was estranged. Irish journalist Dermott Hayes has interviewed Sinéad herself and numerous friends and colleagues in order to examine her early life, her start in the music industry and her troubled relationship with a fame which hit her too young and too quickly.
Sinéad remains an influential figure in the pantheon of female rock artists, with her refusal to conform to music industry pressure to sexualise her image, her difficult relationship with the press and her controversial statements on the Catholic church. The combination of power and fragility in her voice, her intimate confessional lyrics and her uncompromising stance continue to inspire young female singer songwriters to this day.
Dermott Hayes is a writer and poet living in Dublin, Ireland. He spent 25 years as a journalist and published for most Irish newspapers as well as Q, Mojo, Select, NME and Rolling Stone. As well as So Different, his biography of Sinead O’Connor, he has published a novel, Tito’s Dead and a collection of short stories, Postcard from a Pigeon.