Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (2023)

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (1)

Sheila Rock Photography

Amid today’s stan culture, there’s too often a lack of curiosity when it comes to understanding the context around a pop culture phenomenon. Some artists are “canceled” without having the full information around their alleged offense, while others are propped up with little regard for their offenses.

It wasn’t much different years ago. For Sinéad O’Connor, the singer-songwriter who became an icon in the early ’90s, it was a relentless pile-on by media, celebrities and “fans” alike after she had the audacity to criticize the Catholic church and Pope John Paul II on live television.


Some context that people dangerously disregarded at the time was that the church had been enabling and perpetuating the abuse of children across the world, including in O’Connor’s native Ireland. Also: O’Connor herself was a victim.

And as she puts it so matter-of-factly in the stirring new documentary on her life and career, “Nothing Compares,” so was her mother “and her mother and her mother and her mother.” The cycle had thus far been endless.

But many chose to look the other way and bolster a narrative that O’Connor was a traitor to her country, a “she-devil” and a “crazy woman” who was effectively trying to sabotage her own career, one that had catapulted her into the mainstream with the song “Nothing Compares 2 U.”

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (2)

Colm Henry


In other words, she was a woman way ahead of her time who stepped out of line and defied one of the most powerful and cherished male figures in history. And she paid a heavy price for it.

But she did so unapologetically, and as a culmination of many other acts of religious, social and political defiance in efforts to free herself, and many other women, from a patriarchal system.

Kathryn Ferguson, director of the film premiering on Showtime Friday, compellingly pieces together this and other context from O’Connor’s complex and at times devastating story. As a result, she recontextualizes the person who was ultimately condemned for the same thing she had previously been celebrated for: her impassioned rebellion.

For the filmmaker, a Belfast native and self-proclaimed “bonafide Sinéad fan,” O’Connor burst onto the scene at the time when young women and girls throughout the country like her needed her most.

In essence, the Catholic church held a lot of power and, as Ferguson described it during a video call with HuffPost, “women were still being treated like second-class citizens.”


Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (3)

Stacia Timonere via Getty Images

(Video) The Reason Sinéad O'Connor Accepted Islam! ᴴᴰ

“To have somebody like Sinéad seemingly arrive from outer space,” Ferguson continued, “was such a tonic. I think as women, we just really needed her and we needed her right then to appear as she did. And she just gave us all somebody to really look up to.”

And that image, as captured in “Nothing Compares,” was O’Connor often in worn-out jeans and her signature shaved head, speaking plainly about who she was and wasn’t in a soft but firm voice.

Onstage and on her albums, though, she belted out lyrics about systems of racial and social oppression and her own troubled childhood.

And this was in the late ’80s through the early ’90s — throughout her first and second albums, “The Lion and the Cobra” and “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” when she was between ages 21 and 27 years old from 1987 to 1993. Ferguson, who was only a teenager then, focuses on this tumultuous era in the singer’s life in the film in order to contextualize it in extensive detail.

“She said a lot of the things that we didn’t feel like we could say,” the director said. “As soon as I became a fan, it was so quickly after that in 1992 that she just was treated so terribly for speaking rights. The backlash against her was so profound that it just was very demoralizing.”

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (4)

Anton Corbijn

“Nothing Compares” doesn’t spend all its roughly 90-minute runtime rehashing the 1992 moment that simultaneously immortalized her and ended her career — ripping up a photo of John Paul II after a performance on “Saturday Night Live.” Rather, it tells the story of O’Connor’s yearslong experiences that led up to that moment.

“So much of what the film’s about [is] the cause and effect,” Ferguson explained. “Why did she do what she did? To be able to look at what she did, we had to go right back to what the origins were in her childhood and in Ireland. So you really get a clear sense of why that happened.”

That’s where “Nothing Compares” really soars. Culling both archival interviews and footage as well as more recent conversations with O’Connor and those who know her best, Ferguson tells the story of a woman who, despite everything, endured.


She navigated the silly and consistent questions from journalists about her shaved head, an image she maintained so that, ironically, she wouldn’t have to answer inane questions about her looks.

O’Connor sang about experiencing abuse by her mother growing up and talks openly about being put in another abusive home with nuns for disobedience. These revelations make you wonder whether her biggest critics bothered to understand this. It should have come as no surprise when she destroyed a picture of the pope.

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (5)

Courtesy of Independent News and Media

“Going right back into history and speaking to first-hand witnesses, she was political when she was at school,” Ferguson said. “She was always the one to speak out and speak up. And that just began very young.”

“I think she just had something innately in her that just didn’t like authority,” the filmmaker continued, “didn’t like any sense of bullying or oppression or control.”

(Video) Sinéad O'Connor Reveals Why She Accepted Islam - (New 26th Oct)


She was the same person who later sang for audiences in drag clubs in London. As she recalls in the film, drag culture would have been frowned upon in Ireland.

She was also the woman who stood up against her record label when they asked her to terminate her pregnancy because they thought it would give her a negative image on the cusp of a new album. She said no, and to hell with her album then.

O’Connor used her privilege as a white person to call out the injustice of hip-hop not being recognized at the Grammys. In 1989, when Public Enemy boycotted the event, she had the group’s logo stenciled on her head while she performed onstage, a moment frontman Chuck D reflects on in the film.

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (6)

Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

Though many were shocked to see this from O’Connor, anyone like Ferguson who had really been paying attention and didn’t just see her as a pop star with a radio hit wouldn’t have batted an eye.


“I know and knew that she’d always stayed in total solidarity,” Ferguson said. “Well with, I say oppression everywhere, but particularly with Black artists. Her song, which I don’t think is as well known as it should be, ‘Black Boys on Mopeds,’ is calling out police brutality in Britain in 1990.”

During that same Grammys performance, O’Connor had also tied a symbol of her son to her pants to celebrate her motherhood. There’s also a clip of her in the documentary when she rightly corrects a male reporter for comparing her situation to the plight of a 15-year-old mother.

O’Connor was a rich, young white adult who had a partner, John Reynolds. As she said, that’s not the same as a teenager with no resources and support.

All this said, “Nothing Compares” does a superb job of filling in some of the lost context around O’Connor that any longtime fan can appreciate. Additionally, Ferguson intentionally only using interviews on voiceover, including with O’Connor, helps put the focus back where it always should have been: O’Connor’s words.

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (7)

Andrew Catlin


“We wanted you just to hear what she’s saying as somebody that, it has felt like, [has] been so censored in a way,” Ferguson said. “We needed her to be able to project her version of events out through the film.”

As comprehensive as “Nothing Compares” is, though, it’s what’s not included that might also strike viewers. Chiefly, the omission of “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Use of the 1990 song was denied by the estate of Prince, who wrote it.

But the truncated version of the song name is still referenced in the documentary title, which Ferguson said had always been the plan since before she heard the licensing decision in 2018. What is part of the film is the breathtaking footage of the music video, which is still regarded as one of the best of all time.

(Video) Sinead O'Connor, Nothing Compares 2 U (live), San Francisco, February 7, 2020

“We were disappointed during the editing process to find out that the license had been denied for the song, which of course we had really wanted to be in the film,” Ferguson said. “It’s obviously a hugely important part of the story.”

Not only is it O’Connor’s most recognizable song, one that inevitably exposed her voice to people who were more inclined to dull anything that came before it, its lyrics highlight her complicated feelings about her late mother:


All the flowers that you planted mama / In the backyard / All died when you went away / I know that living with you baby was sometimes hard / But I’m willing to give it another try

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (8)

BP Fallon

“So much of [the film’s narrative] was about Sinéad and the relationship with her mother and why that had been a reason behind a lot of what she goes on to do,” Ferguson said. “So, that section of the film had to stay in.”

Needless to say, it became a challenge for the filmmaking team to maintain the essence of the narrative without having clearance for the music.

And for what it’s worth, the sentiment is still prominent in “Nothing Compares.” “It is what it is,” Ferguson added. “It was their prerogative and we did our best to make it work.”


But it does make you wonder why clearance was denied. O’Connor first revealed in 2013 that she and Prince “detested” each other. Her memoir, released just last year, also alleges that the late musician assaulted her at his home.

So, to say the details around “Nothing Compares 2 U” were, and perhaps remain, complicated is an understatement. It’s also another example, though, of O’Connor’s relationship with her own success. Her biggest song is the same one that was written by a man she said was violent toward her.

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (9)

Mirrorpix via Getty Images

And throughout “Nothing Compares,” she expresses to certain journalists that she’d gladly give back the money she earned, because she didn’t become an artist to achieve fame or fortune. It’s also hard not to link this feeling with the fact that one act of unapologetic rage on live television is also what imploded her career.

What’s also easy to forget is the fact that O’Connor was quite young and clearly working through trauma at the time of the intense backlash leading up to and following her appearance on “Saturday Night Live.” And while she said and did a lot of admirable things, some that clearly baffled many, not everything she uttered showed her in the best light.


(Video) Sinéad O'Connor's FOH engineer Stef Jaconelli on using S4 on her Ireland and European tour.

For instance, if you peruse the Internet long enough, you’ll come across a bewildering 1992 interview O’Connor did with Rolling Stone, weeks after her “Saturday Night Live” performance, in which she expresses sympathy for Mike Tyson because he, too, was an abused child. She even called the woman he raped “a bitch.”

“I don’t care if he raped her; he should learn about himself and why it is he behaves like that, et cetera, et cetera,” O’Connor states in the interview. “But equally she should look at herself and look at the disgrace that she is making of women.”

Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due (10)

MARIA BASTONE via Getty Images

Similar to O’Connor’s legacy, her message here was conflated in the worst way possible. Self-sabotaging even, exactly the way the media had always perceived her.

Truthfully, it would be interesting to hear O’Connor reflect on that statement today at 55 years old. The limitations of a film like “Nothing Compares” — not to take away from Ferguson’s impressive work here, especially for her feature debut — are that it doesn’t always feel like it’s presenting its subject as the complicated person she was and is.


But it does keep true to Ferguson’s intention to center O’Connor and only use audio interviews, which precludes print media like the one in Rolling Stone.

“It felt like the media had done such a sterling job of being incredibly reductive of her voice,” Ferguson said of her decision to keep the camera off in her new interviews featured in the film. “So, for us, it was so important to be able to bring the voice out as the key thing that you hear and the key protagonist.”

What “Nothing Compares” hopefully does is start a conversation about O’Connor that should have happened decades ago, one that is as rich and complex as the person.

“Sinéad’s story is amazingly dense and colorful and there’s so much in her life that there could be 10 documentaries about her,” Ferguson said. “And I hope to God there will be one day.”


“Nothing Compares” premieres on Showtime Friday.


prince90s nostalgia90s musiccatholic-church-abuseSinéad O'Connor

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Sinéad O'Connor Is Finally Getting Her Due? ›

Thirty years ago this week, Sinéad O'Connor tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live,” effectively destroying her mainstream career with a single act of protest against the Catholic Church.

Why did Sinead O Connor's career end? ›

Thirty years ago this week, Sinéad O'Connor tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II on “Saturday Night Live,” effectively destroying her mainstream career with a single act of protest against the Catholic Church.

Does Sinéad O Connor have a daughter? ›

Does Sinéad O Connor have a partner? ›

Shuhada' Sadaqat (previously Magda Davitt; born Sinéad Marie Bernadette O'Connor on 8 December 1966) is an Irish singer-songwriter.
Sinéad O'Connor
Partner(s)Peter Gabriel (1992–1993) Richard Heslop (1994–1995) John Waters (1995–1996) Dónal Lunny (2004) Frank Bonadio (2006–2007)
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Why did Prince get mad at Sinead O Connor? ›

In the book, O'Connor writes that Prince chastised her for swearing in interviews and then challenged her to a pillow fight. She claims he had placed something in his pillow to inflict hurt.

What was Sinead O Connor's trauma? ›

She was speaking from the heart of her experience as an abused child. A long statement she reads on this show begins simply: “My name is Sinéad O'Connor and I'm an Irish woman and I'm an abused child.”

What syndrome does Sinead O Connor have? ›

Speaking with Oprah Winfrey in October 2007, Sinead revealed publicly that she had been diagnosed with biopolar disorder four years previously - after attempting to take her own life on her 33rd birthday on December 8 1999.

How much money is Sinead OConnor worth? ›

According to Celebrity Net Worth, Sinead O'Connor is estimated to be worth around $1.5million. Sinead shot to fame in the 1990s, after record labels started to recognize her for the work she did with a band called Ton Ton Macoute. She has gone on to release ten studio albums, and has won a multitude of awards.

Who is Sinead Black father? ›

Sinead's father, Alex Black is a well known and talented singer-songwriter. He has written hits for Daniel O'Donnell , Mick Flavin and Johnny Loughrey to name a few.

What happened to Sinead OConnor's son Jake? ›

Sinead O'Connor's family have been left devastated after news emerged that her son Jake, 17, had died after being reported missing two days ago. The 55-year-old singer-songwriter, confirmed the news on social media as she paid tribute to Shane.

Why did Sinead o connor lose custody of Shane? ›

The real reason Sinead lost custody probably had nothing to do with her mental health. She likely lost custody of Shane for the same reason mothers around the world lose custody every day in family courts: judges choose to maintain men's power over their children, hence, over their exes through the children.

Where does Sinead O Connor love? ›

Sinéad, who lives in the pretty tourist town of Bray on the east coast of Ireland, is wearing her own black leather corset. At the same time, after years of therapy, she found a counsellor who specialised in childhood abuse and trauma, and this, above all, is what she credits with transforming her life.

What did Sinéad O Connor mother do? ›

Who owns Prince's estate? ›

The estate will be divided between three of Prince's oldest siblings and Primary Wave, an independent music publishing and talent management company that purchased the interests of the music icon's younger siblings. Charles F.

Does Sinead O Connor have BPD? ›

Sinead O'Connor

The former Irish singer suffers from borderline personality disorder and complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD).

What did Sinead O Connor say about Ian Bailey? ›

When I ask him how it was he changed his story like socks on the point of where he spent the night of the murder, he repeats his beloved mantra: “Do I need an alibi?” Surely the stupidest question ever asked. I tell him yes, Ian, you do, because everyone thinks you killed someone. He says he doesn't care.

Is Sinead O Connor sober? ›

Proud of self. Wasn't easy…” Sinead has been abusing marijuana for many years. Eventually deciding that enough was enough, she admitted herself to a sober living facility to aid her on her journey to sobriety as well as to have supervision in case of an addiction relapse.

Why did Sinead O Connor have a hysterectomy? ›

Sinéad, who has a diagnosis of bipolar disorder as well as post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder, said that she hit a low in 2015 when she had an emergency hysterectomy to treat endometriosis.

Who had custody of Shane Lunny? ›

She shared custody of Shane with Irish folk singer Donal Lunny, the Sun reports.

Is Sinead O Connor A Vegan? ›

She is best known for her heart-wrenching version of Prince's Nothing Compares 2 U. It is widely reported that Sinead is a vegan, although there doesn't seem to be any first-hand confirmation of this.

How many partners did Sinead O Connor have? ›

John Waters, Donal Lunny, and Frank Bonadio

In addition to being married, O'Connor has had three children by three other men.

Where does Sineas Oconnor live? ›

What ethnicity is Sinead? ›

Born to a Thai mother and an Irish father, Harnett grew up in Finchley, north London. She attended Arts University College Bournemouth, where she studied for a degree in acting and appeared in student productions of plays such as One Thousand and One Nights.

What age is Sinead Black? ›

Sinead Black (22) says that she was singing before she could walk and this is no wonder as she comes from a family steeped in a strong tradition of music.

What did Sinead do? ›

Thirty years ago, a young Sinéad O'Connor shocked America with her political protest on 'Saturday Night Live'. She was promptly banned for life by broadcaster NBC, pelted with eggs in the street and booed during live shows.

What did Sinead O Connor say about her son? ›

What is the latest on Sinead O Connor son? ›

In January 2022, Sinead announced that her 17 year-old son Shane had died. Gardai had previously launched an appeal for assistance in tracing the whereabouts of Shane O'Connor who had vanished from Tallaght Hospital. His body was discovered outside Bray, Co Wicklow, as gardai closed their missing persons investigation.

Why was Sinead booed? ›

Sinead O'Connor was booed off stage at Bob Dylan concert over tearing up Pope's picture.

How was Shane O Connor traumatized? ›

"Beaten With Hockey Sticks and Sweeping Brushes" Sinead O'Connor Opens Up About Her Traumatic Past. Sinead O'Connor has claimed that she suffered abuse at the hands of her late mother. According to the singer, her mother would beat her with sweeping brushes, hockey sticks and even poured hot water over her skin.

What did Prince think of Sinead Oconnor? ›

In an interview with the New York Times, the Irish singer said Prince “chastised her for swearing in interviews, harangued his butler to serve her soup though she repeatedly refused it, and sweetly suggested a pillow fight, only to thump her with something hard he'd slipped into his pillowcase.”

Why did Sinead o connor refused a Grammy? ›

Explaining her decision not to attend, she penned in an open letter: “As artists, I believe our function is to express the feelings of the human race–to always speak the truth and never keep it hidden even though we are operating in a world which does not like the sound of the truth.

What singer tore up a picture of the Pope while appearing on Saturday Night Live? ›

Sinéad O'Connor, famous for her hit song "Nothing Compares 2 U," goes way off script during her Saturday Night Live appearance, declaring "Fight the real enemy" and tearing up a picture of the Pope. Fight the REAL Enemy! Bob:Marley's 'War' performed by Sinéad o'Connor!

Who is the biggest snubs in Grammy 2023? ›

Snubs: Björk and Diana Ross

This year, Thank You was nominated for best traditional pop vocal album, but lost to Michael Buble's Higher (his fifth win in the category). Björk's Fossora was nominated for best alternative music album, but lost to Wet Leg's eponymous debut album.

Who is the only person to refuse a Grammy? ›

Thirty years ago, "Nothing Compares 2 U" singer Sinéad O' Connor said "no" to the Grammys, refusing to accept an award on the U.S. music industry's biggest stage.

Who is the youngest person ever to win a Grammy? ›

On the flip side, the youngest person to win a Grammy was 8-year-old Leah Peasall, who won in 2001.


1. Famous Sinead O'connor Converts To Islam - 25 Oct 2018
(Sense Islam)
2. Fight the REAL Enemy! Bob:Marley's 'War' performed by Sinéad o'Connor!
3. Sinead O'Connor - Three Babies (Official Music Video)
(Sinéad O'Connor)
4. Nothing Compares 2U - Sinead O'Connor, Prince (Alyona cover)
(Alyona Yarushina)
5. i always wanted to "go sinéad o'connor"... i finally did it. this one's for you, middle school me
6. Sinéad O'Connor ‎– Universal Mother - Album Full ★ ★ ★
(Music Box)


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