Album: I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
. . .
It goes to just how great of an album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got actually is that its undeniable, world-conquering single is actually like my fifth or sixth favorite song on the record.
And it’s a tough one to write about: because 30 years later, “Nothing Compares 2U” is a basically a standard, so much of a standard that from the moment that it became a massive hit, Prince — who wrote the song, just in case you didn’t know that — basically tried to steal it back. To no avail, I might add.
Because Sinéad O’Connor owns “Nothing Compares 2U,” in the same way that Jimi Hendrix owns “All Along The Watchtower” or Whitney Houston owns “I Will Always Love You” or Elvis Costello owns “What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Understanding?” No offense to Prince, Bob Dylan, Dolly Parton and Nick Lowe, but that’s just the way it is.
Listening to Sinéad’s version now, completely tainted by overfamiliarity, I’m struck by just how sparse it is. It’s really just some synth strings, the stately drum part and her utterly extraordinary voice. And while there are some occasional background singers to add some flavor, it’s actually a pretty static arrangement.
But it doesn’t matter, because whether it’s doubling up on “guess what he told me / guess what he told me” or letting her voice break on “nothing“, Sinéad totally and utterly compares the hurt and sorrow and sadness of the lyric, so totally emotionally open that she got caught up in it while lip-synching it for the video, letting one of the most famous tears — right up there with Iron Eyes Cody in that 1970s “Keep America Beautiful’ commercial — slide down her face.
“Nothing Compares 2U” was released as a single in January, 1990 — a couple of months before I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got – and topped the Billboard charts in late April, staying there for a month, the first major smash of the 1990s. But it wasn’t just a smash here: “Nothing Compares 2U” also topped the charts in nearly 20 different places, which is utterly insane. And, of course, it brought the album along with it, as it — deservedly, again — was also a worldwide smash.
This all basically horrified Sinéad, and the last 30 years has been kind of a reaction to all of that early success, but this one song endures: the 200 million plays on Spotify, and the video has nearly 285 million plays in just over four years. That’s the sign of a song people will be loving as long as there are people to love songs.
“Nothing Compares 2U”
“Nothing Compares 2U” live
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