Sinéad O’Connor‘s musical career and obvious talent has, unfortunately, been repeatedly overshadowed by provocative statements, a troubled personal life and attention-grabbing actions. Her willingness to go on prime-time television shows to advertise her desire to meet a new partner, tweet about her suicidal feelings and continually reveal intimate details about her private life may be considered refreshingly honest but the side-effect is that these facets of Sinéad’s life dominate the media over her actual art. She may make great tabloid fodder but can she make decent music?
The answer to this is yes, but consistency is not one of her strong points. There are moments on How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? which stand amongst the best things she has ever done. ‘Take Off Your Shoes’ is haunting, shocking and beautiful in equal amounts – “I bleed the blood of Jesus over you and over every fucking thing you do”. As usual, Sinéad is spilling her guts out to reveal her truth but the audible pain is unnervingly mesmerising. She has always been brave but rather than using Twitter or blogs to vent her spiritual maladies, it’s all here in a musical recording.
‘Reason With Me’ has a similar tortured quality to ‘Take Off Your Shoes’, in this case from the point of view of a drug addict and for this reason, it fails to resonate in the same way. Sinéad is not a songwriter in the style of Ray Davies, where his skill lies in his ability to observe people and explain their lives much better than they or anyone else could. Sinéad O’Connor is clearly so enveloped in her own world that it is only when she explores her personal turmoil that her work triumphs. The Eno-esque ‘I Had A Baby’ exemplifies this, surprising you such with revealing lines as “I had a fling with a man who wasn’t mine to be with”, whereas ‘Reason With Me”s attempt to explain the life of addiction and crime is hampered by what can only be described as massive lyrical clangers. “Oh so long I’ve been a junkie, I ought to wrap it up and mind my monkeys” must stand up there with some of Dolores O’Riordan, Des’ree and Simon Le Bon’s worst crimes against pop lyrics.
Yet the occasionally cringeworthy lyrics are not the only problem here. Songs like ‘Old Lady’ and ‘The Wolf Is Getting Married’ are marred by a mid-90’s sub-Oasis plodding guitar style, with the latter even including a lame Noel-esque guitar ‘lick’. The production too often deals in meat and potatoes, when Sinéad’s vocals deserve something much more fragile and strange and unstable, a sound which actually represents her personality. It is because the singer is such a fascinating character that people are still interested in her. How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? proves that, beyond the distracting media circus that surrounds her, there is still a good reason to be. Maybe next time, she might take a few more musical risks to produce something consistently captivating, something which truly encapsulates the extraordinary world of Sinéad O’Connor.