Sinéad O’Connor How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? Review

Album. Released 2012.  

BBC Review

The Irish songbird's best album in years is full of vim and vigour.

Nick Levine 2012

After seeming to disappear for a few years, Sinéad O'Connor has recently been back in the news for all the wrong reasons. There's been the on-off marriage to a drug counsellor she met on Twitter, two reported suicide attempts, and several bloggy splurges pertaining to her sex life for which the acronym "T.M.I." could have been invented. Her own, somewhat quaint description of this behaviour? "Acting batty".

It would be a shame if How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? got lost in the online gossip. It's the Irish songbird's best album since 2000's Faith and Courage. Probably wisely, long-time producer John Reynolds never tries to make his 45-year-old ex-wife sound hip. The album is bookended by 4th and Vine's Afro shuffle and the hymn-like simplicity of V.I.P., but what stands between tends to work an early 90s pop-rock sound. Current single The Wolf Is Getting Married is O'Connor's catchiest ditty in years; it also bears a passing resemblance to Zoë's hairbrush anthem from that era, Sunshine on a Rainy Day.

However, O'Connor is no relic. She's full of vim and vigour, mixing tender character studies with doe-eyed love songs and impassioned protest pieces. Two decades after she ripped up a picture of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live, she's still bent on berating the papacy. Take Off Your Shoes was apparently written from the standpoint of "the Holy Spirit with an AK rifle on the train on the way to the Vatican". Bearing this in mind, its opening gambit – "I bleed the blood of Jesus over you and over every f***ing thing you do" – feels almost restrained.

Of course, like O'Connor herself, this record can be frustrating and a little embarrassing. A couplet like "Not that he's no wuss / Girls you know his love is serious" really belongs on a Pixie Lott tune. But the old girl is an endlessly compelling presence here, making this a welcome reminder of why the world still cares that Sinead O'Connor may have been "acting batty".

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