Reading From The "Gospel" According To Sinead O'Connor

Breathtaking EP from O'Connor.

Outside of The Artist, few pop stars have been as wildly

misunderstood and roundly vilified for following their own mysterious muse as

Sinead O'Connor.

Perhaps that explains her new-found musical maturity. Then

again, maybe not.

Either way, the confessional singer, who has confounded

(1992's cover of "Don't Cry For Me Argentina" on Am I Not Your Girl),

enraged (ripping up a picture of the pope on "Saturday Night Live"), and

further enraged (refusing to let the "Star Spangled Banner" play before a 1991

show in New Jersey, which spurred Frank Sinatra to suggest she deserved a "kick

in the ass") and, well, enraged yet a bit more (by playing the Virgin Mary in

Neil Jordan's new film, The Butcher Boy), seems to have mellowed with

age and motherhood on her new EP, Gospel Oak (June 3).

The six-song effort,

written by O'Connor (with the exception of the live cover of the traditional

Irish song "He Moved Through the Fair"), and produced by longtime collaborator

John Reynolds, is the first new material since her poorly-received fourth

album, Universal Mother (1994) and is her most earnest and accessible

attempt to date at describing her often conflicted view of the need for love in

a loveless, harsh world.

After nearly four years of self-imposed


After nearly four years of self-imposed exile, during

which O'Connor gave birth to a second child, attended intense therapy sessions,

took voice lessons and, in June of 1993, attempted suicide with an overdose of

sleeping pills, the sometimes confusingly committed singer has re-emerged

mellower, stronger and with a new self-assurance that fills songs such as "This

is To Mother You" with as much maturity as earlier songs such as "Mandinka"

were filled with indignant rage.

New songs, including the military beat

approach to "4 My Love" (featuring Jah Wobble on bass), blend the lush

arrangements of the Am I Not Your Girl material with the hip-hop

sensibility of earlier efforts such as "This is the Last Day of Our


and the Irish traditionalism of songs from 1994's Universal Mother,

resulting in a busy arrangement layered with a funky beat, ghostly flutes and

what sounds like an army of ethereal Sinead's singing in harmony.

Several cuts on the EP deal with motherhood and childhood and the need for

love in complicated times, such as the fragile, spare nursery rhyme "Petit

Poulet," a funky drummer beat world music groove written in response to the

intense media coverage of the starving children of Rawanda. O'Connor, whose

confessional lyrics have at times seemed to reveal too much, pens one of the

most straightforward, but poetic ballads of her often blunt career in "This IS

A Rebel Song." The whispered lullaby, full of contradictory emotions and

images, has O'Connor professing her love for "an Englishman," whose rage she

describes as a "fist in my womb," but from whom she wishes forgiveness

nonetheless, and only to "love me, I'm your woman."

The singer, who has

augmented her new mellowness and maturity with a full head of hair and an

expressed desire to be more forgiving and find a way to believe again, told

The Guardian Weekend that she's begun the process of "letting go" of her

years of anger -- toward her abusive mother, the Catholic church and those who

have victimized her in the past -- and concentrated on loving herself and her

daughter, Roisin, who she suspected would be "the first girl in our family

who's going to be loved for being a girl."

O'Connor has also stated that

the songs on Gospel Oak are dedicated to the "idea of God as a feminine

principle... a God which existed before religion came along," such as the

acoustic ballad "I Am Enough for Myself," a self-reliance mantra for a single

mother who says with conviction, "I am enough for myself/I don't need anything

else/I am in your heart/I only can have that part."