Sinéad O’Connor, and That Small Town Song

Recalling Sinéad O’Connor.

It’s a beautiful song in part because it’s sufficiently vague. Is she singing about some particular event? Or just the general attitude of overconfidence, or rather complacency, that nothing bad will ever happen to *me* and therefore I’m not going to lift my hand to do anything. Sound familiar?

You say “Oh, I’m not afraid, it can’t happen to me
I’ve lived my life as a good man
Oh, no you’re out of your mind
It won’t happen to me
‘Cause I’ve carried my weight and I’ve been a strong man”

And, “Why don’t you go out there and do something useful?”

Of course the intonation throughout gives those lines great weight you would not suspect from reading them on the screen.

I’ve listened to this song about 10 times today.

John Scalzi chose her song “Three Babies,” another great song.

I seem to have seven of her full-length albums, plus a couple EPs, but like many of my favorite pop groups and singers, I kept buying the later ones, once becoming a fan with the early albums, without getting to know them as well as the early ones. In O’Connor’s case, I got to know the first two albums very well, but as I glance at the others, I’m not sure how many of them I will recognize when I listen to them again.


Slate, Molly Olmstead, 27 Jul 2023: “A Lot of Us Were Naïve”, subtitled “How many Catholics changed their mind about the moment in 1992 when Sinéad O’Connor shocked the world.”

Kids won’t remember this. It happened before the sex scandals of the Catholic church became common knowledge.

There’s a particularly famous moment from the life of the pop-punk icon Sinéad O’Connor, who died at age 56 on Wednesday. It occurred in 1992 on the set of Saturday Night Live, and it’s possibly the best reflection of how courageous or inflammatory—depending on your view—O’Connor could be.

Staring into the camera, having just performed Bob Marley’s “War,” O’Connor—her head shorn, wearing a conservative white dress—held up a photo of Pope John Paul II. And then she tore it to pieces, shouting “fight the real enemy!” She tossed the mess onto the ground.

The aftermath was brutal. The crowd at a Bob Dylan concert booed O’Connor. Frank Sinatra called her “one stupid broad.” She was banned from ever appearing on NBC again. Madonna—the same Madonna who sang “Like a Prayer”—spoke out against her. The public wanted blood, and the moment came to be cited as the reason O’Connor’s career as a pop star ended.

In retrospect, she was right.


NY Times, David French (subscriber-only newsletter), 27 Jul 2023: Opinion: Try Tolerance in a Small Town

The writer is a former Republican who grew up in a small town Kentucky. He has a better take on that Jason Aldean song “Try That in a Small Town” since he actually listened to it (and I haven’t).

If you haven’t followed the fight, it’s simple enough to explain. Aldean released a song that seems to endorse small-town vigilante violence. If you “carjack an old lady,” for example, or “cuss out a cop” or “stomp on the flag,” Aldean warns, that “might fly in the city,” adding an expletive. But in a small town you’ll face potential consequences from “good ol’ boys, raised up right” to a possible meeting with “a gun that my granddad gave me.”

Just so that that’s clarified.

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