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3 Albums That Embody Sinéad O’Connor’s Uncompromising Spirit

Sinéad O’Connor died at the age of 56, but her powerful voice lives on through her impactful recordings and activism.

Acclaimed Irish singer-songwriter Sinéad O’Connor died on July 26, 2023, at the age of 56. Known for her dynamic voice, arresting presence, and passionate activism, O’Connor’s impactful career included everything from chart-topping albums to a best-selling memoir published in 2021. 

Born in Dublin in 1966, O’Connor experienced a difficult upbringing and was sent away to a Magdalene asylum when she was 14 years old. The 18 months O’Connor spent there were incredibly traumatic, but her stay also led to her first big break. A teacher asked her to sing at a wedding and her performance caught the attention of the teacher’s brother who drummed for the band In Tua Nua. This chance encounter led to O’Connor contributing lyrics to their song “Take My Hand” and In Tua Nua soon found themselves climbing the Irish charts. 

After being sent away to a boarding school 150 miles south of Dublin, O’Connor plotted her escape, made her way back to the city, and began performing in local pubs. Label executives were not impressed with the band she was fronting, but they quickly recognized her talent as a singer and performer. After sharing some solo recordings, Ensign offered O’Connor a record deal and sent her a plane ticket so she could relocate to London. While processing the loss of her mother and the ups and downs of a tumultuous love affair, O’Connor collaborated with U2’s The Edge and prepared to record her debut album. 

The Lion And The Cobra was released in 1987 and received critical acclaim. In 1990, O’Connor released her second studio album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, and became an international sensation. The album’s biggest single, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” was a worldwide hit. Originally written by Prince, O’Connor’s version was a completely new arrangement with a power and balladry all her own. 

After the monumental success of I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, O’Connor continued to release music, perform, and use her platform to speak out against injustice in the music industry and beyond. In 2021, O’Connor converted to Islam and changed her name to Shuhada’ Sadaqat, but continued to use the name Sinéad O’Connor for her professional endeavors. Whether you’re a first-time listener or a long-time fan, the albums below perfectly encapsulate the passion, intensity, and immense talent of Sinéad O’Connor.

Essential Sinéad O’Connor Albums

The Lion And The Cobra (1987)

The Lion And The Cobra
Sinéad O’Connor
1987
Pop Rock, Alternative Rock
Vinyl, Album
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O’Connor’s debut album was well-received upon its release and continues to be viewed as one of the standout albums of the 1980s. The songs “Troy,” “Mandinka,” and “I Want Your (Hands On Me)” were all released as singles, with the latter being featured in the film A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master. If you’re looking for an entry point into O’Connor’s creative prowess, this is a great place to start.


I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (1990)

I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got is O’Connor’s most popular work and for good reason. Her heart-wrenching rendition of “Nothing Compares 2 U” draws listeners in, but the rest of the album showcases O’Connor’s range as she incorporates different musical textures and vocal techniques. No O’Connor listening session is complete without giving this one a spin.


Universal Mother (1994)

Universal Mother
Sinéad O’Connor
1994
Alternative Rock, Folk Rock, Electro
CD, Album
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Universal Mother was a turning point for O’Connor as she began to openly express and address the anger she showed on her previous albums. The end result was an album that is intimate, cathartic, and unnerving. According to O’Connor, George Michael was a huge fan but he could only listen to the album once because it was so painful.

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