Song of the Day #4: ‘Jealous’ – Sinead O’Connor

I was really into Sinead O’Connor when she first hit it big back in 1990. ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ was on constant MTV rotation — that mesmerizing video where O’Connor stared right at you with those big beautiful eyes and sang her heart out until she teared up — and this bald, lanky Irish woman had put out the best album of the year, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.

I remember my Dad dismising her as a flake and once when I was going on about what a talent she was, he said something like “Just wait, in ten years I bet nobody will even know who she is.” And I said, yeah… I’ll take that bet.

Well, the nineties weren’t kind to Sinead O’Connor. She tore up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live, got booed off the stage for singing an unrelated protest song at a Bob Dylan tribute concert, and she had Frank Sinatra threaten to “kick her ass” when she wouldn’t perform after the ‘Star Spangled Banner.’ Her one album release, Universal Mother, was a flop.

It looked like my Dad had hit the nail right on its little bald head.

But wait… cut to 2000, exactly ten years after Dad made his prediction. O’Connor released Faith and Courage, a bona fide comeback album packed with great songs. It wasn’t a hit on the level of I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got but it made a definite splash, both commercially and artistically, and said to the world ‘Sinead O’Connor is still here, and still vital.’

‘Jealous’ is a lovely, florid song written from the perspective of a woman who’s been dumped and suddenly seems all the more attractive to the man who left her. It’s simultaneously a show of strength and a confession of still painful heartbreak, and O’Connor hits the high notes with an aching crystalline waver. It’s among the best songs on an album that doesn’t have a weak moment.

I don’t know if this album settled the wager one way or the other, because O’Connor promptly dropped off the face of the earth after it came out. But it was really nice while it lasted.

6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4: ‘Jealous’ – Sinead O’Connor

  1. Amy says:

    Not to get in the midst of a family feud, but I think there’s a big difference between an artist continuing to make relevant, powerful music and an artist being remembered for the powerful music she (or he) once made. I had never heard of “Jealous” and only have a passing memory that Sinead put out an album in 2000. I remember better the release of her failed album Universal Mother. Still, I certainly knew who she was, so Clay should be able to collect that bet. If the question is whether people who were not around to pay attention to her music when she made her big splash would know who she was in 2000 I’ll have to survey some students šŸ™‚ I feel she made a significant contribution to the music world with Nothing Compares 2 You, and, yes, with the provocative, ridiculous pop culture event of ripping up the picture of the Pope. One you’ve been a target of satire on SNL, MadTV and the like, I think you’ve earned a spot (even if it’s only a p.s.) in the history books. Sinead O’Connor earned that spot in 1990, even if she were never to have stepped back into the recording studio again. That said, I like this song, and I’m glad you put it on my radar since I actually own the cd, which I just found sitting quietly next to its much more worn counterpart, which I have now taken to play, not for the title song but for my favorite track, “the last day of our acquaintance.” Give it a listen. Powerful stuff.

  2. Amy says:

    She was, and is, a stikingly beautiful woman. By the way, in the video for “Jealous,” what’s going on there? Is she being left for a woman or a man or both?

  3. Clay says:

    I’m not sure what’s going on there. I actually didn’t watch the video until I read your comment. I don’t think Sinead is a player in the “plot” of the video, but rather an invisible observer to a disintegrating relationship between a man and a woman (with a couple kids). Not sure what the last image of the two guys eating an apple is all about, though.

  4. Dana says:

    I think your dad wins the bet if it was whether she would still be relevant to the music scene 10 years later. Perhaps this album was critically well received, but commercially? Not so sure on that one. I too am a fan of Sinead. Her temperment in the day may perhaps be compared a bit to Amy Winehouse, and one might make the same bet as to whether Winehouse will be relevant 10 years from now or will simply implode. Both artists are, of course, tremendous talents. The song you picked is very nice–has a bit of the Nothing Compares to You feel (musically, not the singing), but let’s also remember the hugely talented Prince wrote Nothing Compares…Anyway, a good selection, and it makes me want to hear the rest of the comeback album.

  5. Clay says:

    I did some checking and surprisingly Universal Mother actually did pretty well commercially, going platinum and reaching the top 20 in the U.S. Funny that it’s considered a flop after doing numbers that artists would kill for these days.

    Six years later, Faith and Courage went gold.

  6. Dana says:

    Yeah, platinum in 2000 is much different than platinum today. It probably would have sold 1/2 of that today (more like the next album). And of course, selling about 1/8 as many as “I Do Not Want…” is certainly a letdown. Not that Wikipedia is the last word, but, regarding Universal Mother, it said:

    The more conventional Universal Mother (1994) did not succeed in restoring her mass appeal.

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