A no-goodnik Blogcritic name of Jeff Davidson from Earevolution recently sponsored a modest survey of "Best Rock Cover Songs of All-Time."
Hey, all these people and no one mentioned Sinead O'Connor's main hit single, "Nothing Compares 2U"!?! Insert indignant noise here.
I was about ready to jump into the comments thread, when I realized that this isn't even my favorite cover done by Sinead. She's the singingest bitch walking the Earth, and she's done some really outstanding interpretations of other people's songs. Some of them are hidden on obscure benefit albums.
Here then are the top ten best must-hear covers that Sinead O'Connor has done so far, though they're not necessarily in order one over the other:
"Ode to Billie Joe" Her rendition of the Bobbie Gentry classic re-invents the song as an Irish tragedy. She drops that misty mystic Celtic fog around it, and totally makes the song her own. You've got to hear this to believe it.
"Nothing Compares 2U" She made her name with this recording. It's the only reason that most people cared enough about her to notice when she started going off the rails. This certainly rates as the best cover anyone has ever done of a Prince song. Check out Prince's recording from his box set. Even after her version came out for him to use as a model, Prince himself couldn't put the tenth part of meaning into his own song compared to Sinead. That's a pretty fair accomplishment.
"Success Has Made a Failure of Our Home" Sinead took a simple Loretta Lynn country song, and made an epic of abandonment. The big band arrangement on Am I Not Your Girl? rocks harder than some cheap Rage Against the Machine or cheesy metal band. The power and the torque she works up just works. Even slightly better, I just saw again her performance of this song on Saturday Night Live from October 3, 1992 with a probably 50+ piece orchestra. In all my years of watching SNL, this may be the most impressive one musical performance ever.
Unfortunately, this incredible moment got lost in the public eye, overshadowed by her most classic bit of self-destructive foolishness. This was the show where she tore up the picture of the pope. She repented of that act some years later, asking for the pope's forgiveness. Obviously though, that gesture sucked all the air out of her career.
"War" Also from that broadcast comes this Bob Marley cover. It was at the end of this song that she commanded us to "Fight the real enemy" and whipped out the picture of the pope. This a capella rendition of the piece was pretty riveting as a performance. It would be pushing the point to call this a "song," at least as she does it here. It would be perhaps more accurate to say she recited this tone poem. However you want to say it, this was basically a career suicide note, and an incredibly intense performance.
"Just Call Me Joe" I'm actually not 100% sure if this is a "cover," as I've never heard of the song anywhere else, but it's the only song on her awesome debut that does not have her name in the writing credits. It's an unrecognized classic. This recording also underscores her major skills as an arranger and producer, besides her more obvious vocal talent. You've never heard a record that sounds like this.
"I Believe in You" was perhaps Bob Dylan's best ever full-fledged Christian song, and Sinead is just breathtaking. It's mostly actually presented in a fairly quiet manner- no munching of scenery. It's just that somehow it comes through that she really, really means it.
"Someday My Prince Will Come" She contributed this little recording to Stay Awake, a Disney cover album. The whole song runs less than 100 seconds, but it is the complete song, and amazingly effective. One senses that she took things WAY too much to heart in her childhood.
"All Apologies" Kurt Cobain was a pretty good songwriter, but he wasn't a particularly good singer. Sinead certainly is. This quiet rendition from the Universal Mother album certainly makes a better presentation of the actual song than the basic Nirvana version.
"Lord Franklin" The Sean-Nos Nua album consists of renditions of old Irish stuff, most of which I'm otherwise unfamiliar with. The whole album is outstanding, so let's just have this represent for the whole thing.
"Chiquitita" Abba had some fine songwriting, but they were strictly a bunch of Stiffley Stiffersons as arrangers and performers. Their original sounds rather like a mere demo compared to this soulful rendition. She makes it into some kind of freaky Irish/Latin pop song.
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