Sinéad O'Connor's landmark second LP is one of the most lyrically complex heartache albums of all time, a winding narrative of subplots, complications and conflicts worthy of a Pynchon novel. Emotionally bruised and impossibly resilient, O'Connor maps complex aches rarely spoken about in song — how people can still anger us after their death ("You Cause As Much Sorrow"); how fame can complicate pregnancy ("The Emperor's New Clothes"); or how a mother can carry the pain of a miscarriage forever ("Three Babies").
Even with her formidable skills, the two songs she didn't write stand just as tall. Obviously there's the harrowing, Prince-penned "Nothing Compares 2 U" which — often beloved and/or decried as a tearjerker — is as lyrically rich as any O'Connor original, capturing the bittersweet, contradictory emotions of freedom and loss that follow a break-up. "I Am Stretched On Your Grave," taken from an anonymous 17th-century poem, is easily history's saddest use of the "Funky Drummer" break, O'Connor's ethereal voice floating like Enya copping a punker safety pin, drifting between blasts of industrial noise and manic Celtic fiddling.
The rest of the album's musical palette is no less knotty and remarkable, a swirling, ahead-of-its-time, string-heavy woosh that links Madonna's Like A Prayer to an airy trip-hop future — with enough room for one venomous folk song ("Black Boys On Mopeds") that sounds like Dylan gone KRS-One. Teetering on the edge of moshpit and meditation, new wave and new age, it's a perfect place for O'Connor to traverse those rarely documented places where love mixes with bile.