Sinead O’Connor has always been one to make a statement, regardless of the consequences. Since her career began 25 years ago, she’s fearlessly travelled the stylistic gamut, embracing traditional Irish folk and reggae as well as soul-inflected alternative rock. Her last album Theology was an idiosyncratic collection of songs based on Biblical scriptures. She’s also, famously, shaved her head in defiance of gender stereotypes, torn up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live, and, more recently, threatened to shoot him if he visitedIreland. Occasionally, her tumultuous life has threatened to overshadow her music.
But How About I Be Me (And You Be You), her first solo album since 2007′s Theology, O’Connor has produced something resonant to remind us that she is, first and foremost, a formidable talent. How About I Be Me is an album of original material, save for her cover of John Grant’s “Queen of Denmark.” Some songs find her turning her eye towards religious hypocrisy, namely the cover-up of child abuse in Catholic schools inIreland. “I bleed the blood of Jesus over you,” she sneers in the bitter “Take Off Your Shoes.” Most powerful is the mournful “Reason With Me,” a junkie’s lament that concludes with the lonely “Cos if I love someone, I might lose someone.”
But How About I Be Me also contains some of O’Connor’s most light-hearted, uplifting songs. The bouncy “4th and Vine,” fueled by Justin Adams’s jittery Afro-style guitar, and the punchy, classic rock of “The Wolf is Getting Married” find her ebullient as she looks towards marriage. The music, suffused with optimism and love, is a welcome turn for O’Connor. Hopefully it will result in her making headlines again, this time for the right reasons.