"I don't know no shame, I feel no pain, I can't see the flame."
-- "Mandinka," Sinead O'Connor
I'll never forget the first time ever I saw her face. University of Florida, 1988, on 120 Minutes, a late-Sunday night MTV program dedicated to airing alternative music videos that the network wouldn't have been caught dead airing any other time. There she was, bald and beautiful, wielding her guitar like a weapon of mass destruction, wailing at the top of her lungs. What she was going on about, I had no idea, but she spoke to me. Tracy Chapman and Toni Childs released equally brilliant debut albums that year, but I found myself rooting for Sinead and The Lion And The Cobra more than the others.
Then something happened on the way to greatness. Sinead went a little bit crazy and lost her focus. Or maybe she was bonkers all along and that's why The Lion And The Cobra was so great and unusual. I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got and its worldwide No. 1 single, "Nothing Compares 2 U," were worthy follow-ups, but by then the magic was starting to fade. Fueding with the Pope, ripping up his photo on Saturday Night Live and releasing a covers album three records into her career were probably not the smartest choices. Neither were the short-lived forays into lesbianism and the priesthood.
She still sporadically produces great music -- such as the 2005 CD of reggae covers, Throw Down Your Arms -- but if she'd continued on the edgy rock & roll musical path she started on, today we'd probably be mentioning her in the same breath as Bjork and PJ Harvey. I think it's time for her to kiss the covers albums and the dull Irish-folkie thing goodbye, record a kick-ass electro-rock CD with Kleerup and Stuart Price, and just shut up and sing.