Whenever anyone thinks of or mentions Sinéad O’Connor, chances are pretty good that her music isn’t, necessarily, the first thing that comes to mind. Ever since she arrived on the scene in 1987 with The Lion and the Cobra, her politics and personality have often overshadowed her artistry. Between ripping apart a picture of the “evil” Pope and ripping apart an image of the “prostituted” Miley Cyrus, O’Connor has certainly done her part to force that focus.
But to stop there in a deconstruction of her cultural contributions would miss the point entirely. For O’Connor, the personal and the political are one and the same. She makes no distinction—both talking the talk and walking the walk—and always, always allowing the two to join forces in her music. One listen to I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got should make that point abundantly clear.
With I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, her tenth album, O’Connor doubles down on that form, crafting and inhabiting a variety of female archetypes throughout the set: the waiting lover of “Your Green Jacket”, the uncertain bride in “The Vishnu Room”, the pissed-off mistress behind “The Voice of My Doctor”, the victimized youth from “Harbour”, and the various recalcitrant, but self-redemptive rebels of almost all the others.
Lyrically, this is pure, unadulterated Sinéad O’Connor, alternating betwixt and between vulnerable and vindictive, sometimes within the same song. Throughout I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, those elements and emotions are, perhaps, even more fully realized than on some of O’Connor’s previous efforts, thanks to the unavoidable maturation that is life.
What has always set O’Connor apart in her handling of such themes, though, is the oddly tender ferocity with which she approaches the matters at hand. She steps so fully into each character that the emotion in her voice feels more real than maybe it should. That unique brand of quiet rage is what made “Nothing Compares 2 U” (particularly the video) such a profound artistic statement, and it’s what breathes real, full life into tunes like “8 Good Reasons” and “Take Me to Church”.
O’Connor and long-time producer John Reynolds frame the collection in familiar musical motifs, but carve out plenty of intriguing intricacies along the way. Because of that natural balance, I’m Not Bossy feels almost like the long-awaited response to I Do Not Want‘s still-echoing call.