I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
Thoughts Before Listening
Here are the things I know about Sinéad O’Connor:
- She had one massive hit, a few lesser singles, and an astoundingly good voice.
- One of my best friends was a big fan “back in the day”.
- She torpedoed her career by angering both Lorne Michaels and the Catholic Church with the tearing of one single picture.
I know some will challenge her OHW status, and while I can respect that point of view, I challenge you to ask someone to name her hits. There’s an extremely good chance they’ll know… one song. FULL DISCLOSURE: I’m a massive Prince fan, so I’m a bit biased towards this hit.
I was not a big Sinéad O’Connor fan, but I know who she is. Or at least maybe I know who I thought she was. I have an image of an angry woman with a shaved head, plus an accent and a great voice. She’s obviously a star and has an amazing career and is absolutely not an OHW.
Except that she is?
I couldn’t name a single other Sinéad O’Connor song. I couldn’t even name the hit album. Like most of my musical history, I got by through knowing her big hit and then changing the subject.
I’m excited going into this project with her as our first subject. I anticipate liking the whole album, she kind of speaks to me… or at least the me of that time.
Fun fact, this album was released the day after my birthday, and the movie that I watched that year was “Joe vs. The Volcano”, which still holds up for me. I believe that this album will too.
Other Songs of Note
The icing on the cake
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” – 10 points
Scott (5 points)
I think I actually remember this one! It comes in strong with a very memorable, punchy opening and coming off of the didn’t-make-my-list Three Babies, this was a nice shift up in tempo. I don’t actually have a lot of notes on this once because I was really enjoying the track.
Weh-Ming (5 points)
Right off, this is a song announcing it’s very different from the previous tracks, and I like it. It has a very upbeat pop quality to it. Also, I can make out the lyrics which is nice – I won’t go so far as to say that I understand the lyrics, but I like it. I feel like this might be the song that I could listen to today on the radio. This is definitely the song that would play in a movie during a montage of a high school reunion as all the main characters are introduced.
“The Last Day of Our Acquaintance” – 6 points
Scott (3 points)
Another one that I think I remember! It’s classic 90’s quiet building to LOUD, and it works. It gives her voice the room to showcase its two modes – quiet/pure/melodic and powerful/emotion packed/breathtaking. Maybe I’m just a sucker for a great voice accompanied by a nice melody played on an acoustic guitar. The rhythm section coming in around 3:25 brings it home nicely.
The acoustics around the voice are wonderful – you can sense the space of the large room around her as she sings.
Weh-Ming (3 points)
I liked this song way more by the end of it. The start of it was just sort of “oh, this again”. At one point I wrote down “This is like the ASMR of songs”. But then I got into it. If I had owned this album, I know exactly which breakups would have had me listening to this track.
“I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” – 4 points
Scott (2 points)
I mention both Sinéad’s voice and the acoustics of the recording in another song, and this one ramps both up to 11. There’s no instrumentation whatsoever, and I don’t miss it for a second. Her voice is measured, powerful and the control demonstrated is something to hear. You won’t find yourself tapping your toes to this one, but you will leave with an increased appreciation for her vocal ability. A potent album closer.
Weh-Ming (2 points)
This is the song that the album is named after and it isn’t the hit? This is absolutely a song I would have listened to back in the day. I would have gotten into a lot of debates over the lyrics with the rest of the Drama Club. It would be on a mixtape of songs to listen to while getting high in a clearing in the woods at night, staring at the stars while your friends are at a party… and you’re wearing Birkenstocks and also you’re going to be a vegan in college for SURE.
Not that I ever did that, Mom.
What we would put on our personal mixtapes
“Black Boys on Mopeds”
Scott (4 points)
The tempo drops back down for Black Boys on Mopeds, but I’m really digging this one. Nice clean acoustic guitar, Sinéad’s gorgeous voice and the occasional ooooooooo’s of a backing vocal track – that’s all it needs. I got serious Sarah MacLaughlin and Alanis Morissette vibes on this one too. I am fully aware of how odd that sounds, but here we are. And yes, I know my Canadian is showing.
This really is a beautiful simple song, that I’m fairly certain belies some ugliness in the content. I didn’t dig too deeply into the lyrics, but it feels like it may (sadly) be as relevant today as it was when it was written.
I have a feeling that I’m going to regret giving this a low rating because it’s a song with a message. I don’t know. I liked it, I just didn’t love it.
On the bright side (if there is a bright side), at 3:52 this is the shortest song on the album and isn’t unnecessarily long.
“You Cause as Much Sorrow”
Weh-Ming (4 points)
This is an upbeat song about being sad and angry, and I like it. Wait, is that the theme of the album? Does this album have a theme? I could hear this being played today, it holds up, but it isn’t a top 10.
I didn’t hate this song. I also didn’t particularly like this song. I can sum up the entirety of my listening notes as follows: it’s ok.
“Jump in the River”
Scott (1 point)
A nice crunchy grunge guitar, and a fun song. Following the bridge and some feedback, we have the song settle into its final form at around 2:33, with melodic elements that had either been missing or way back in the mix coming forward. Enjoyable.
I don’t think I like this song much. Is this a pre-grunge song? This might be my least favorite song.
“I Am Stretched on Your Grave”
Weh-Ming (1 point)
This is very different from the first song. This has kind of an industrial feel to it? Does this pre-date Nine Inch Nails? Also, is that a default drum beat from a Casio keyboard? I think a lot of Goths and Vampire the Masquerade players probably play this. It’s interesting, but I don’t know that I love it. It’s like part of a movie soundtrack for a Crow sequel.
I had hopes for this song, I really did. But it just didn’t change anything up – it was the same from beginning to end. And no, this does not pre-date NIN – Pretty Hate Machine beat it to the shelves by six months. I won’t even get into how much more I enjoy that album than this song. It was in the running for my least favourite track.
Overall, this is a solid album. There was actual competition to make my 5 songs list. There was a welcome amount of variety between the songs themselves. My one knock on the album is that the songs are long and there isn’t enough variety within the songs themselves to merit their length. A lot of the time the sheer quality of her voice carries the songs through, but a few end up sounding like dirges (maybe they are actual dirges?).
This is a great album and I don’t understand why she’s an OHW, but I also kind of do. The album is in my playlist now and I’ve listened to it many times since starting this exercise.
My only complaint is that most of the songs are a little bit too long. Maybe that’s because popular media has told me that music should be catchy and only last 3 minutes. Buying this album, you’re definitely getting value for your money, it’s 10 songs and 50 minutes long. Just when you think you’ve reached the end, there’s still more… and more… and then you realize that Sinéad has you and you’re not going anywhere until she’s ready to go. Then there’s another 20 seconds. Sort of like this paragraph. See what I did there?
Yeah But What Else
Down the Rabbit Hole (Additional Listening brought to you by whatever Spotify served up to me):
- Prince – “Nothing Compares 2 U” – His version. Is it better? Is it worse? I’m biased, but I’d say it’s on par, but with waaaaay more saxophone. Find it on his posthumously released, unoriginally named Originals.
- Sinéad O’Connor – “All Apologies” – Very cool cover of the Nirvana classic. And you can even make out the lyrics! Aqua Seafoam Shame? Who knew? Find it on her ‘94 release – Universal Mother.
- Sinéad O’Connor – “Mandinka” / “Troy” – a pair of songs off of her debut which justifiably got radio play. Great songs both.
- Sinéad O’Connor – “Night Nurse” – Her cover of a Gregory Isaacs reggae classic. I don’t know why her singing reggae works, but it does. It really does. Find this one on the second disc of the 2009 Limited Edition Rerelease of I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got or from your friendly neighbourhood streaming service.
“Weird Al” has never done a Sinéad parody. This is probably because her hit was written by Prince, and he never gave permission to Al to parody anything he wrote. Even though “Weird Al” could have just done it anyway, he is an artist with integrity and only does a parody if he secures the writer’s permission.
We did get a Prince style parody with “Wanna B Ur Lovr” on the 2003 album Poodle Hat, which consider 2 B 1 of his best style parodies.