Whenever anyone thinks of — or mentions — Sinéad O’Connor, chances are pretty good that her music isn’t, necessarily, the first thing that comes to mind. But O’Connor has never cared very much what people think of her and, now that she’s in her late 40s, she seems to care even less. Pretty much since she stormed onto the scene in 1987 with The Lion and the Cobra, Sinéad O’Connor, the brash personality, has garnered more attention than Sinéad O’Connor, the brave artist. Her politics and personality have often overshadowed her artistry. Between ripping apart a picture of the “evil” Pope and ripping apart an image of the “prostituted” Miley Cyrus, O’Connor has certainly done her part to force that focus.
But to stop there in a deconstruction of her cultural contributions would miss the point entirely. For O’Connor, the personal and the political are one and the same. She makes no distinction — both talking the talk and walking the walk — and always, always allowing the two to join forces in her music, whether in her dismantling of Irish folklore or in her revealing of personal frailties. One listen to I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got should make that point abundantly clear.
And that’s the stance she takes on this new set. But those elements are tempered, at least somewhat, by the maturity and wisdom gained from a life well-lived. With I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, her tenth album, O’Connor doubles down on that form, crafting a variety of female archetypes throughout the set — the waiting lover of “Your Green Jacket”, the uncertain bride in “The Vishnu Room”, the pissed-off mistress behind “The Voice of My Doctor”, the victimized youth from “Harbour”, and the various recalcitrant, but self-redemptive rebels of almost all the others.
Lyrically, this is pure, unadulterated Sinéad O’Connor, alternating betwixt and between vulnerable and vindictive — sometimes within the same song. Throughout I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, those elements and emotions are, perhaps, even more fully realized than on some of O’Connor’s previous efforts, thanks to the unavoidable maturation that is life.
What has always set O’Connor apart in her handling of such themes, though, is the oddly tender ferocity with which she approaches the matters at hand. O’Connor inhabits each character and each song with integrity, authenticity, and power… always power. Even when she quiets her wail down to a whisper, that power is there, potentially more so. She commits so fully to each performance that the emotion in her voice feels more real than maybe it should. That unique brand of quiet rage is what made “Nothing Compares 2 U” (particularly the video) such a profound artistic statement, and it’s what breathes real, full life into tunes like “8 Good Reasons” and “Take Me to Church.”
O’Connor and long-time producer John Reynolds frame the collection in familiar musical motifs, but carve out plenty of intriguing intricacies along the way. After various musical adventures, there’s something about I’m Not Bossy that feels like a return to form for the artist, even though that credit should probably go to the unfortunately overlooked How About I Be Me (and You Be You)? that dropped in 2012. At the very least, I’m Not Bossy feels almost like the long-awaited response to I Do Not Want‘s still-echoing call.
This article is compiled from Curve, PopMatters, and Elmore.