Wednesday, March 12, 2008

No. 406: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got

Band: Sinéad O'Connor
Album: I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Thanks to an infamous incident on SNL, Sinéad O'Connor is probably ostracized more than she should be. Her voice is certainly distinct and beautiful and the span of sounds on the record is amazing.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: About half the record hits and about half of it misses.
Best song: Outside of the obvious, "The Emperor's New Clothes" is a fine, fine song. "Black Boys on Mopeds" is a brave song.
Worst song: "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: I don't really know.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The 1990s were a very, very odd decade. To pull a Bill Simmons and quote myself, "it was perfectly acceptable in 1991 to wear a velvet top hat, a tuxedo jacket, no shirt and parachute pants" during that decade.

"I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" has a sonic similarity to that time. The album has powerful missed-love songs, a few rockers, Celtic balladry, political messages, dance beats and an a cappella album ender.

"Feel So Different" begins the album and it's striking in the power behind O'Connor's voice. In fact, her vitriol in "I should have hatred for you/But I do not have any" and the chorus speaks to a young, vulnerable woman in pain.

"Black Boys On Mopeds" is a stark political song about a police incident. The song's indictment of the racial issues in the U.K. and the hypocrisy of the Thatcher government foreshadowed the later political stances O'Connor would have.

"I Am Stretched on Your Grave" is a dance number of sorts. While a valiant move, it doesn't totally work. Like Portishead after her, O'Connor tries to mesh the melodic and long with the short, quick dance beats of early 90s club music. Portishead does it better.

"Three Babies" has a distinctly Irish sound and O'Connor's natural accent only helps push the song along and "The Emperor's New Clothes" is a song without a chorus. A rocker, the song remains one of the greats on the record and one of O'Connor's best tracks. "I will have my own policies/I will sleep with a clear conscience" is the signature lyric of the song and one that nearly defines O'Connor.


One of the claims critics make of "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" is that it was influential
In fact, says "foreshadowed the rise of deeply introspective female singer/songwriters like Tori Amos and Sarah McLachlan, who were more traditionally feminine and connected with a wider audience."

I guess that's a compelling argument, though, I would give another argument for inclusion on this list:

"Nothing Compares 2 U" is a song written by Prince and perfected by O'Connor. Certainly, the song's arrangement offers a reverential tone as choirs provide backup vocals and an string synth/organ synth combination is almost celestial. Over it all, O'Connor's broken, sad voice lilts around the breakup song's lyrics. Quite simply, it's among the greatest breakup songs ever and the video is a perfect compliment to the song.

If nothing, the album should be on the list if only for that song.

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