cover image Why Sinéad O’Connor Matters

Why Sinéad O’Connor Matters

Allyson McCabe. Univ. of Texas, $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4773-2570-4

Journalist McCabe debuts with a revealing reappraisal of singer Sinéad O’Connor. Born in 1966 in Glenageary, Ireland, O’Connor endured a traumatic childhood filled with physical and verbal abuse at her mother’s hands, fueling her take-no-prisoners approach to music—“She didn’t just want to sing,” McCabe writes. “She needed to scream”—and determination to champion progressive causes. After the release of her breakout 1987 debut album The Lion and the Cobra, O’Connor harnessed her platform to denounce racism and support Black artists—for example, publicly criticizing MTV for refusing to air rap videos due to verbal “obscenity,” which she viewed as “racism disguised as censorship.” In 1992, she appeared as a musical guest on SNL and tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II to deliver a message about child abuse in the Catholic church—a “scandal” that attracted widespread vitriol, McCabe notes, even though O’Connor was “sound[ing] the alarm about something [that] was actually happening and, in fact, evil.” McCabe skillfully renders the artist’s rise and ahead-of-her-time activism against the sociopolitical landscape of the 1980s and ’90s, persuasively rescuing O’Connor’s reputation from a mainstream media narrative that “all too often dismissed [her] as a slow-motion train wreck.” Fans will be riveted. (May)