The now celibate O'Connor's new attitude is
'Get me to a ministry'
BY JIM FARBER
Does Sinead O'Connor still need to apologize?
Eight years have passed since
she ripped up a photograph
of the Pope on "Saturday Night Live." A decade has
vanished since she refused to perform a New Jersey show
after "The Star-Spangled Banner" played as her intro.
Yet here we have Sinead on
her on first album in six
years, "Faith and Courage," singing:
"Words can't express how
sorry I am
If I ever caused pain to anybody
I just hope that you can show compassion
And love me enough to just please listen."
"I'm not saying I'm sorry
for what I did," O'Connor
qualifies, while chain-smoking in her New York hotel
room. "I'm saying I'm sorry if what I did caused you
"I love that girl who was
courageous enough to take so
many risks," she emphasizes. "But I learned that if
I'm going to communicate to people, I need to learn to
communicate in a way that is nonthreatening, that's
Meet the new, user-friendly Sinead O'Connor.
At 33, this mother of two
is softer, wiser, but no
less fueled by conviction. Perched on a couch 31
floors above the city and dressed in a skin-tight blue
pantsuit, O'Connor looks like a fine-boned bird whose
fragility belies a stalwart spirit.
In both her new music and
recent personal life,
O'Connor has taken pains to make herself accessible
and clear. "Faith and Courage," out this week,
contains her most radio-ready material since 1990's "I
Don't Want What I Have Not Got," which housed the hit
"Nothing Compares 2 You." While her last two works,
"Universal Mother," in '92, and the 1997 EP "Gospel
Oak," consisted of prayers, lullabies and nursery
rhymes, "Faith and Courage" fires off more aggressive
rock and pop songs, with contemporary production from
the likes of Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics and Wyclef
Jean of the Fugees.
O'Connor has also become
an ordained minister of the
Roman Catholic-dissident Tridentine Church in Lourdes,
France. She pursued the role, she says, to make clear
her long-held spiritual intentions and to spread the
word about the power of faith. "People like me can be
very useful to the church," O'Connor says serenely,
adding, "they need all the help they can get."Sharing
O'Connor has required plenty
of help herself over the
years. She describes her early albums as "a document
of the recovery of someone from an extreme
circumstance - child abuse" (a charge she has long
leveled at her late mother). "I think it was very
brave of me to show the wounds."
O'Connor's previous two releases,
years of intensive psychoanalysis, found her in a
state of healing. "Those albums allowed me to gain
back a certain strength which had gotten lost through
achieving fame so young," she explains. "This time I
wanted to get outside of myself."
That's not what it sounds
like on the surface. Her new
lyrics seem obsessively autobiographical, appearing to
address romantic disillusionment. O'Connor explains
that she had something very different in mind. Often
she uses the first person to speak for various
characters, for Ireland, even for God. While the song
"What Doesn't Belong to Me" seems to address a bitter
relationship, O'Connor says it's really "God singing
about the ways he has been misrepresented."
The singer describes the
album as "an examination of
the idea of having a relationship with one's soul,
instead of what's on the outside, symbolized by a man
or by romance."
Romance is low on O'Connor's
interest scale these
days. Over the last year she has been celibate, which
she has come to believe may be a calling. "I'm not
entirely sure," she allows. "I'm a highly sexed
But in the first single from
the album, "No Man's
Woman," O'Connor swears off the rougher sex. "A man
can fake you/take your soul and make you/miserable in
so much pain," she sings. "I've got a loving man/but
he's a spirit."
Last week, O'Connor told
one magazine that she is a
lesbian. But the singer stresses that "No Man's Woman"
isn't anti-male. "All my teachers have been men. [The
song is] really about not wanting to follow the rules
made back in history by which women must now
live."CONFUSION AND CUSTODY
Certainly, O'Connor hasn't
had great experiences with
male-female relationships of late. During the last
year she went through a terrible custody battle with
journalist John Waters over their 4-year-old daughter,
Roisin. (O'Connor also has a 13-year-old son, Jake, by
her ex-husband, musician John Reynolds).
"A court order prevents me
from talking about it,"
O'Connor says. "But the child was awarded to me. It
was very hard for [John] because I was living in
London and he was in Ireland.
"I can understand why fathers
would be confused and
frightened. They assume the mother will have all the
control and they'll have no place in the child's life.
I would never do that. And he didn't know me well
enough to know that.
"If you go around having
babies with people you don't
know very well you really should have it down on paper
how you're going to work it out."
While she understands that
people continue to view her
as unstable, she asserts, "When I hear people say
'She's crazy,' they're really saying, 'I'm
So why does O'Connor still
feel the need to explain
herself? Her will to win people over can feel like a
"I want to be able to show
people that I was coming
from a place of love in the first place," she
"I was very young. Perhaps
I wasn't able to
communicate what was going on with me all the time.
"But now I want to communicate
so that together we can
put more love in the world."
"In the end," she asks, "isn't that what we all want?"
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