Two years ago, 'How About I Be Me And You Be You' marked a stunning return to form for the irrepressible and iconic Irish artist Sinead O'connor. Its predecessor, 'Theology', whilst by no means a bad album, was not her best work. Having taken a longer gap between that album and her last as she grappled with issues of health and relationships, Sinead appeared in the main to have got her mojo back. Thankfully, on 'I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss', she has not only held onto it but also demonstrated how she has clearly been buoyed by the love and appreciation shown by critics and fans alike by channelling some of that towards making another strong, positive and self-affirmed album.
Once you get past the clunky at best, bumper sticker at worst, well-intentioned but frankly awful album title, the music more than ever stands up to close scrutiny. Sinead's ability to craft and deliver a song with moving emotive passion has rarely been in question and the twelve new songs on this, her tenth album, are no exception. Her voice is still a truly individual and beguiling instrument that is so expressive, she never fails to own each song she performs. Sinead imparts such conviction and gives such an impassioned performance throughout 'I'm Not Bossy...' from the softly sung autobiographical plea of 'How About I Be Me' to the last bars of the aching intimacy of 'Streetcars'.
Sinead's need to love and be loved are more evident than ever on this album ("Always gotta be the lioness, taking care of everyone else"). Her four failed marriages may have taken a toll on her resilience but her belief in the institution of love has seemingly never been stronger. Perhaps it's an age thing or just how comfortable she has become in dealing with herself and her true feelings; whatever the reason, Sinead's motherly instincts and her protective, nurturing nature stretch far further than trying to persuade Miley Cyrus she may not be doing herself, or her gender, any favours in the way she has been promoting herself.
"Don't stop me talking about love" is the lyric Sinead sings out, but also the unwritten strap line to the whole album. From the horn drenched, gospel infused, clapping in the aisles, gentle rocking of the candle she still holds for her man on 'Dense Water Deeper Down', through the funky brass of the overtly sexual and utterly brilliant 'James Brown', to her fragility and tenderness addressing the heart-wrenching ache of desire on 'Streetcars', Sinead more than wears her heart on her sleeve.
Sinead once or twice tries to convince us she's not interested in the past, or even at times, in love. The first single from the album 'Take Me To Church' even gives a partial sermon to profess so: "I don't want to love no more... what have I been writing love songs for... I don't wanna be that girl no more" but even here she's all about forgiveness and acceptance, of others definitely, but of herself undoubtedly. The energy and electricity in this and many of her performances on the album is certainly more powerful and convincing than most of Sinead's output this century. Not since 'The Lion And The Cobra' have we seen such venom as on 'The Voice Of My Doctor'. The honesty of her songs has always been there but on 'I'm Not Bossy...', she seems to be fighting back even harder than ever. The conviction and drive displayed on the desperate tale recounted in 'Harbour' is probably the hardest you've ever heard Sinead to date. The two part song may start as a sombre ballad but it ends as a stirring, whirring rock number.
Sinead O'Connor has never been to everyone's taste, it's true. Some people, however, whilst not necessarily taking to Sinead herself, also dismiss her music; they can't make the disconnection between the two. Far too many would prefer she kept her opinions to herself (I think it's fair to say Tracey Emin may suffer a similar fate when people consider her art) and 'I'm Not Bossy, I'm Not The Boss' is unlikely to change that, unfortunately for them and for her. This is a shame because it's a great piece of work and one of her best in years.
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