10 Best Sinead O’Connor Songs
Sinead O’Connor has never shied away from controversy, nor has she feared speaking her mind in song, on television or via the Internet. These days, she’s in the news for her public feud with Miley Cyrus, a back-and-forth that ties in with her advocacy for mental health issues. The spat comes as this longtime human-rights crusader gears up for the the American Kindness Tour, a run of small club shows. While Sinead’s presence in the media often eclipses her singing, she’s a true artist who carries the spirit of the protest music of the ’60s. She’s a troubadour singing about love and injustice, and in honor of her work, we’ve combed through her discography and created this list of the 10 Best Sinead O’Connor Songs.
The sadness in this traditional Irish song — sung a capella by Sinead — about a parent sending a child off to war will break your heart in the best way possible.
‘My Special Child’
Here, Sinead sings an apologetic lullaby to her unborn daughter. She’s thankful the child has chosen her to be her mother, but she’s sad that she and the child’s father were never meant to be. The second half is dedicated to the joy that her young son brings her, and with its somber penny whistle and fiddle, the song has more of a Celtic influence than others in her catalog.
‘I Want Your Hands On Me’
An early delight from ‘The Lion and The Cobra,’ the next entry on our list of the 10 Best Sinead O’Connor songs features a chorus that demands “Put ‘em on, put ‘em on, put ‘em on me.” The song’s bridge is outstanding, as rapper MC Lyte makes a guest appearance, perfectly marrying early-’90s hip-hop and alternative rock. She raps, “Look I’m in the mood for love simply because you’re near me…”
This ode to lost love finds Sinead singing, “I would have stayed if you would have been willing / but I don’t deserve to be lonely just cause you said I do.” It’s gorgeous and haunting — no one deserves to be lonely.
‘No Man’s Woman’
Next on our list of the 10 Best Sinead O’Connor Songs is one inspired by the birth of her daughter. O’Connor sings of not wanting to be locked down or hurt by love anymore, and the video features the singer in a long-haired wig at her own wedding. O’Connor winds up fleeing the event and ripping off the wig before eventually collapsing on a busy street in her wedding gown. Luckily, she’s revived when a few Rastafarians give her a Les Paul guitar painted red, yellow and green — the colors of reggae.
‘Fire On Babylon’
This reggae-inspired groove from Sinead’s 1994 album ‘Universal Mother’ was written about one of her most passionate beliefs – bringing an end to child abuse on a global level. The vocal is haunting, and coupled with the subject matter, it’s chill inducing. Just two years earlier, she protested the Catholic Church’s cover-ups of child abuse by ripping up a photograph of Pope John Paul II on ‘Saturday Night Live.’ That highly controversial act made it one of the most infamous TV appearances of all time.
The second single from Sinead’s 1987 debut, ‘The Lion and The Cobra,’ was nominated for a Grammy, and it introduced the world to 20-year-old singer. She performed the song live at the 1989 Grammys and was introduced by Billy Crystal. It’s a heavier rock song juxtaposed with Sinead’s ethereal, Gaelic-tinged vocal. Her first American television appearance was performing this song on Letterman.
‘Queen of Denmark’
This John Grant cover is a standout track from Sinead’s latest album, ‘How About I Be Me (and You Be You).’ With a sly reference to a plot point in ‘Hamlet’ where the Queen of Denmark marries her dead husband’s brother Claudius while barely mourning the King at all, this breakup anthem starts out soft and sad and erupts into an electrified, pounding rock song.
‘The Emporer’s New Clothes’
Appearing on Sinead’s second album, ‘I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,’ this song was remixed by Public Enemy producer Hank Shocklee. Sinead has said she feels closer to the energy of rap music than she does to folk, even though critics — responding to her protest songs and acoustic guitar — initially classified her as the latter. This song deviates from the vibe of our chart topper (see below) and finds O’Connor delving into the burgeoning alternative rock sonic landscape of the early ’90s.
‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
This Prince-penned ballad shot Sinead’s star into the stratosphere. The sparse, close-up video of her singing was in constant rotation on MTV and VH1, and that helped land her on the cover of Rolling Stone. But it was the song — an international hit that earned her a Grammy for ‘Best Alternative Music Performance — that really resonated. It remains her signature piece, a heartbreaking and beautiful benchmark for breakup songs that holds up 20 years later.