Counter Culture / October 7, 2022

“Nothing Compares” documents Sinead O’Connor’s rise and fall

Image: Nothing Compares
Counter Culture / October 7, 2022

“Nothing Compares” documents Sinead O’Connor’s rise and fall

Words: Ellen Kenny

The documentary about Sinead O’Connor’s rise to fame and subsequent exile due to her anti-Catholic activism is in cinemas now.

New documentary “Nothing Compares” is casting a fresh eye on Sinead O’Connor’s legacy. Playing in cinemas now, the documentary shows what happens when a pop star “just wants to scream”.

In the wake of Repeal the Eighth and the Mother and Baby Homes investigations, it’s strange to think a person could be universally vilified for criticising the institutionalised abuse within the Catholic Church. But thirty years ago, Sinead O’Connor was exiled from the pop world for tearing up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live in protest. Right as she was set to rise higher and higher, she was punished for her willingness to speak out.

Belfast filmmaker Kathryn Ferguson takes archival footage along with new interviewees, O’Connor among them, to understand the shock waves the singer put out after her appearance on SNL. The documentary also reminds the world of the five years of music O’Connor had already built up before her exile, music that has been largely obscured.

“Nothing Compares” also touches on O’Connor’s reputation for defying pop star stereotypes that she was already building up before SNL. In 1991, she had angered some by boycotting the Grammys in protest against its commercialism. In 1990, she had refused to allow the American national anthem be played before her set at a festival in New Jersey, at a time when the US was involved in the Gulf War.

The title of the documentary comes ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’, a song written and composed by Prince for his 1985 side project, The Family. O’Connor recorded her own version in 1989, which became a global hit. Prince’s estate refused to allow the song’s usage in the documentary, with Prince’s sister announcing “I didn’t feel she deserved to use the song.”

SNL just returned for its 48th season, with Irish actor Brendan Gleeson hosting the show tomorrow, October 7. Thirty years on from airing O’Connor, maybe the show will take a minute to acknowledge how the media let O’Connor down.

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