Outside of The Artist, few pop stars have been as wildly
misunderstood and roundly vilified for following their own mysterious muse as
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."