Sinéad O’Connor had made inroads with her debut 1988 LP The Lion and the Cobra, which reached No. 36 on the Billboard 200. Two years later, however, second album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got propelled the Irish singer-songwriter, then 23, to pop culture ubiquity. It also offered a clearer picture of a personality unwilling to compromise on political and societal beliefs with which she disagreed.
Led by her sophomore set’s first single, the ethereal Prince-written “Nothing Compares 2 U,” the album topped the Billboard 200 dated April 28 for the first of six weeks and would go on to win a Grammy Award for best alternative music performance in 1991. The track had begun a four-week reign on the Billboard Hot 100 a week earlier. (In 2015, O’Connor announced that she would stop performing “Nothing” in concert, explaining on Facebook that she could no longer “bring some emotion to it.”)
Want also includes such classic stark ballads as “Three Babies” and “Black Boys on Mopeds,” along with its second single, the jangly “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” Both “Compares” and “Clothes” crowned Billboard‘s Alternative Airplay chart.
However, O’Connor quickly found her adoption by the mainstream an ill fit. She refused to perform in concert if the United States national anthem was played beforehand, prompting Frank Sinatra to threaten to “kick her ass,” while, most famously, on the Oct. 3, 1992, episode of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, she ripped up an image of Pope John Paul II.
Still, O’Connor would chart eight more albums on the Billboard 200 through 2014’s I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss.
“I gave being a ‘regular’ woman a good few tries,” O’Connor mused in an August 2014 Billboard cover story. “There is pressure to be a ‘regular’ woman from the minute you’re born, so I was duty-bound to try. But I’m ‘irregular.’ “
In November 2020, O’Connor echoed those sentiments, writing on Twitter, “I grew up with a lot of trauma and abuse. I then went straight into the music business. And never learned really how to make a normal life.” She is set to release her memoir Rememberings on June 1. “This is my story, as I remember it,” she wrote in a statement accompanying the announcement of its release. More positively, she added, “I had great fun writing it over the past few years.”