Sinéad O’Connor — How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? (2012)
Sinéad O’Connor — How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?
Location: Glenageary, County Dublin, Ireland
Birth name: Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor
Instruments: Vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards, percussion, low whistle // Album release: February 21, 2012
Record Label: One Little Indian
Total Length: 45:10
It’s five years since the last Sinead O’Connor album, the idiosyncratically God-bothering collection of modern hymns Theology. Since then, she’s turned more towards bothering God’s alleged representatives on earth, becoming perhaps the church’s most outspoken celebrity critic following the 2009 Murphy Report into the cover-up of institutionalised child abuse in Ireland’s Catholic schools.
¶ That appalling episode furnishes the trigger for “Take Off Your Shoes”, a furious fusillade of disgust in which the church is lambasted for taking Jesus’s name not just in vain, but “into infamy”. “I bleed the blood of Jesus over you, and over every fucking thing you do,” she declaims, with steely determination. Later on, “V.I.P.” closes the album with a quiet excoriation of fellow Irish celebrities too meek to criticise religious hypocrisy alongside her. Recited in almost hymnal manner over a steady string pad, it quietly but firmly mocks their appropriation of the term “very important person”. “My view is, as artists, don’t wave your fucking Grammy around going on about believing in God,” she fulminates in the press release, “if you’re not prepared to stand in the street and fight for the honour of God in your own country when your church has been raping little boys.” Now, who do you suppose she can mean?
¶ But lest it appear that this, her best album in about a decade, should be entirely fuelled by anger, the pleasant surprise is how relatively brimful it is with bonhomie and empathy, some at least prompted by her recent wedding. Set to Justin Adams’ springy, African-flavoured guitar, the opener “4th and Vine” finds her giddily anticipating the big day, and celebrating the warmth and kindness of her husband-to-be. His gifts are further eulogised in the single “The Wolf Is Getting Married”, where even the rolling, cyclical organ and guitar groove seems exultant as she gushes how even terrible events can be overcome with the strength of his smile. Ever since the tearful video for “Nothing Compares 2 U”, she’s been so much pop’s living embodiment of suffering and reproach that it’s quite shocking to hear her in such good cheer.
¶ Elsewhere, her empathic gifts are brilliantly utilised in articulating the diverse emotional quandaries of the thieving junkie in “Reason with Me”, the dead soldier singing to his son in “Back Where You Belong”, and the single mother abandoned by the child’s married father in “I Had a Baby”, who triumphantly discovers that motherhood is “the making of me”. And her natural tendency towards reproach finds fruitful outlet in John Grant’s angry, tragi-comic kiss-off “Queen of Denmark”. ¶ Throughout, the settings have the punch and aptness that sometimes went astray in her Rastafarian period, while her delivery is always perfectly pitched and beautifully poised, from the gentle murmurs of “V.I.P.” and “Queen of Denmark” to the harmonies so delicately layered over the later stages of “Old Lady”. There may be more high-profile comebacks in 2012, but none, I’ll warrant, as feisty, fresh and confident as this.
01. 4th And Vine 3:58
02. Reason With Me 4:02
03. Old Lady 3:44
04. Take Off You Shoes 5:28
05. Back Where You Belong 4:16
06. The Wolf Is Getting Married 4:23
07. Queen Of Denmark 4:37
08. Very Far From Home 3:55
09. I Had A Baby 4:11
10. V.I.P. 6:36 /// Website: http://www.sineadoconnor.com/
Some singers have the innate ability to make you feel as if they’re speaking directly to you, which makes you want to listen even when they’re shouting something accusatory. Sinead O’Connor has deep reserves of that quality, which has made her career alternately compelling and frustrating; there have been times when you want to listen, you want to believe, but the songs haven’t always risen to the level of the singer.
“How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?,” O’Connor’s first album since 2007’s self-indulgent “Theology,” finds the oft-troubled singer in classic 1980s mode, singing rock and pop with subtle shades of Irish and world music. She sounds amazing — huge, vibrant and occasionally scathing. So does the music. Despite recent suicidal Tweets to the contrary, O’Connor hasn’t sounded this warmly exhilarated in years.
The album opens on a roller coaster, alternating rare O’Connor love songs in “4th & Vine” and “Old Lady” with “Reason With Me,” a dark character study of a complicated junkie, and “Take Off Your Shoes,” about abuse and the Catholic church.
But that’s Sinead. You’re not getting out of here without a challenge, and why would you want to?
— Jeffrey Lee Puckett, The Courier-Journal // http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20120224/SCENE04/302240026/-1/7daysarchives/Album-Review-Sinead-O-Connor-How-About-Me-You-You-
Expressions of immediate outrage and raw emotion are rarely polished or articulate, and that in-the-moment, impulsive messiness makes some passages of Sinéad O'Connor's How About I Be Me (And You Be You) an awkward listen. The singer's candor and vulnerability have long been signature elements of her music, and that's certainly true here. But while there's value in the urgency of the emotions O'Connor confronts over the course of the album's brief song cycle, the inconsistencies in the quality of her songwriting keep the set from being as powerful as her earlier work.
O'Connor's best music channels both the power of her inimitable wail and the righteousness of her personal and political convictions into songs that, while uncompromising and confrontational, remain mindful of the conventions of pop music. Unfortunately, O'Connor completely misses at least one component of that formula on tracks like "V.I.P.," which plays as more of a never-ending lecture than a proper song, and a cover of John Grant's laughably over-the-top, juvenile "Queen of Denmark." The songs that show even the slightest bit more attention to craft, such as "Back Where You Belong" and the simply extraordinary "The Wolf Is Getting Married," make the album's missteps all the more glaring.
Particularly jarring are O'Connor's use of dated or downright antiquated phrases and embarrassing rhyme schemes. On the ebullient opener, "4th and Vine," O'Connor and producer John Reynolds perfectly structure the song's hook by having O'Connor sing the final line of the refrain a cappella before Justin Adams's reggae-inspired lead guitar line kicks back in on the downbeat to the next verse. But the hook doesn't work because its lyrics are just distractingly awful: "Not that he's no wuss/Girls, you know his love is serious." That the song also includes a reference to going on a "buggy ride" that doesn't scan as any kind of double entendre is no less inexplicable.
"V.I.P." has a relevant message about modern celebrities who are quick to invoke God when accepting an award, but who are less inclined to take a stand when that same religion is used to support institutionalized child rape. But O'Connor sounds woefully out of touch on the song, making stilted references to "the shallow forms of MTV" and "bling." "Take Off Your Shoes" fares even worse, undermining what is perhaps the album's densest narrative and most damning indictment of religious hypocrisy with a refrain that hinges on an allusion to, of all things, the Energizer bunny.
If her execution is sometimes lacking, though, the intensity of O'Connor's emotions when confronting the difficult issues in these songs is never in doubt. Her voice is as evocative and stunning as it's ever been. Even when she gives a more restrained performance, singing from the point of view of a dead soldier addressing the child he left behind on "Back Where You Belong," or when she embraces full-on pop escapism on the joyful "Old Lady," O'Connor remains a singularly authoritative vocalist.
When the songs are actually worthy of O'Connor's forceful performances, How About I Be Me proves that she's still capable of something vital. The central nature metaphor of "The Wolf Is Getting Married" makes reference to O'Connor's prickly persona while providing context for its optimistic tone. "Your joy brings me joy," she sings with an almost giddy abandon, following it up with "And your hope gives me hope." No matter how grim the past or present, there's always a chance for redemption and fulfillment: That fundamental belief carries How About I Be Me through even its least effective moments. by Jonathan Keefe on February 20, 2012 // http://www.slantmagazine.com/music/review/sinead-oconnor-how-about-i-be-me-and-you-be-you/2729 / You go at: By Gillian G. Gaar February 13th, 2012 at 6:50 pm: Rating: **** // Original page: http://www.americansongwriter.com/2012/02/sinead-o%e2%80%99connor-how-about-i-be-me-and-you-be-you// Also: By Helen Brown; 7:00AM GMT 24 February 2012: Rating: ****; http://www.telegraph.co.uk/
Sinéad O’Connor – How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? (2012)