Does nothing compare to Sinead O’Connor? On her ninth album, and first since the Irish self-proclaimed “quarter-gay” released Theology in 2007, that could very well be true, and for many reasons. That sterling voice, in full glorious effect on How About I Be Me, has been overshadowed with headline-hogging antics: a suicide attempt, marital trouble and Twitter outbursts. Her latest album—released 25 years after her debut—reaffirms her as a gifted singer with breathtaking abilities, refreshing frankness and a big set of balls. “Queen of Denmark,” swinging from schizophrenic highs and lows, is so self-deprecating and hilariously fuming with bitter rage that, even though it’s a cover of a John Grant song, it mingles seamlessly within a set that confounds with the quirkiness of O’Connor’s own narratives: child abandonment darkens the disturbing “I Had a Baby;” “4th and Vine,” the album-launching hoedown, joyously recalls her wedding day; “Old Lady,” building into a classic rocker, has her holding out for someone who will “make me laugh like an idiot, not be so serious.” But when she’s cold sober, there’s no denying she’s at her most powerful. She sings junkie confessional “Reason With Me” like she’s exhausted every other option, her voice weary and breathless. “Back Where You Belong” is even more heartbreakingly beautiful. So, fine. Be you, Sinead. We wouldn’t want it any other way.
How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?