Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Sinead O'Connor, "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got"

I have no idea how many times I played this album in 1990, but either this or the Stone Roses' debut were the albums I listened to the most that year.  It's even possible that I haven't listened to any album more times in any year than I did with these two albums in 1990, which is a likely signature of an earlier era when acquiring music was a lot harder (meaning you had fewer albums to listen to in a given year) and the cassette was still a popular format (meaning that you tended to listen to albums straight through more often because fast forwarding to your favourite tracks was such a hassle).

Like with many overplayed albums, I burned out on "I Do Not Want ..." and left it untouched for quite a while.  By chance, I happened to be watching Saturday Night Live on the night that this happened, and the fallout from that incident essentially ended her career as a commercial force.  One might reasonably argue that her breakthrough into the mainstream was a fluke anyway, and that grunge along with MOR rock and country would have bumped her from the charts regardless.

It wasn't until 1995, when I undertook a fun and crazy project to listen to all my CDs and cassettes in alphabetical order, that I rediscovered this album and remembered how great it is.  I only had about 150 albums back then, so this was a realistic undertaking, but I only made it about 2/3rds of the way through before abandoning it for reasons I can't recall.  But it was thanks to that alphabetical listening project (which forced me to revisit music that I hadn't heard in years) that I rediscovered "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got".  And yet, even though I've remained a fan of it ever since, still play it on occasion, and will tell you how underrated it is if you prompt me, I've never written anything about it and didn't rank it among my favourite albums of the 1990's as recently as 2004.  [it may not have been nominated and therefore not eligible in that particular poll, but I wrote up a complete, non-poll related Top 100 around that I can't find right now ... I'm fairly sure Sinead wasn't ranked very high on it]

In short, I've written about that SNL episode before, albeit not very well (re-read at your own risk), and I've underrated "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" even while telling people that it's underrated.

With over twenty years perspective, it stands out as the first true "90's" album. This has been noted by many others I'm sure.  It signifies the turn from the "me" 80's to the confessional, angst-filled 90's, predating grunge and other alternative artists by at least a year.  You could dismiss the epic album opener "So Different" as O'Connor's stab at making a "Troy Part II", but a sample-heavy pop track like "I Am Stretched On Your Grave" could have only been recorded in the early 90's.  O'Connor clearly knew that change was afoot and "Nothing Compares 2 U" made that even more abundantly clear.  The keyboards/strings and muffled drumming could never have been produced in the 80's, and the simplicity and directness of the video was certainly not something that could have been made in the 80's.  I've also always loved how the lack of a bass line (a la "When Doves Cry") and the decisions to leave "mama" and "baby" in the lyrics came across as very subtle tributes to Prince, even though the recording sounds absolutely nothing like him otherwise.  

It's also got Nellee Hooper producing, and Jah Wobble, and ex-Smiths members playing on it ... what could be more 90's than that?

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