The Toronto Star September 8, 1992, Tuesday, AM Sinead O'Connor offers softer songs By Robert Hilburn Special to The Star (Los angeles Times) WEST HOLLYWOOD, Calif. - Her head is still shaved. Her tongue is still sharp. And, yes, Sinead O'Connor is back in the pop world that she denounced as too materialistic in January 1991, when she withdrew from the Grammy competition. But it's a very different kind of record that the 25-year-old Irish singer-songwriter will release Sept. 22. Am I Not Your Girl? on Ensign Records isn't a collection of her own deeply introspective songs - the kind that made her 1990 album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got one of the most acclaimed works of recent years. It's basically Sinead, the torch singer, with a zinger on the end that is in keeping with the spitfire tradition of someone who also made headlines in 1991 by refusing to allow the U.S. national anthem to be played before one of her concerts in New Jersey and by canceling a Saturday Night Live appearance to protest what she believed were the misogynistic views of host Andrew Dice Clay. The new album features her interpretations of 11 tunes that have "inspired and comforted" her over the years - songs as varied as "Success (Has Made A Failure Of Our Home)", a '60s country hit for Loretta Lynn, and "Don't Cry For Me Argentina", from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita. Other selections include songs identified with such singers as Billie Holiday, Doris Day and Ella Fitzgerald. She is backed by a 40-piece orchestra. But, after all the tradition, comes the vintage Sinead: In a chilling "poem" at the end, she attacks the Western spiritual values that she feels have corrupted civilization. "I am not a liar and I'm not full of hatred, but I hate lies and so the liars hate me . . ." she begins in the 70- second piece, speaking in a stark monotone that links society's ills to religious institutions. Sitting on a West Hollywood hotel patio, O'Connor, who still lives in London and is hoping to star in the title role of a proposed movie about Joan of Arc, seemed relatively at ease despite the controversies, past and present. "I never said it was a bad industry," she says, sporting a "Pro Choice" T-shirt and puffing on a cigarette during an interview. "I don't have any bad feelings about the music industry. I'm not saying anyone is wrong or right. . . . I just think we (as entertainers) have to be careful. "There is an emphasis (in pop music) on materialism and it's not right to give people the message that they can fill their emptiness with material things. They've got to try to fill it with truth, which we've got to try to show them by being ourselves rather than trying to cover up with loads of makeup or a hairdo or loads of diamond rings." Question: Your outspokenness often reminds me of John Lennon . . . as if you feel you are being false if you don't say exactly what is on your mind at all times - rather than weigh your feelings and hold back some things that might be misunderstood or viewed as naive. Do you feel a compulsion that way? Answer: I'm not sure I would use the word compulsion because it sounds like something unhealthy. The fact is it is unhealthy to do anything other than speak the truth, and I think John Lennon was aware of that. Q: Do you feel any anxiety over how such a radical departure as this album is going to be perceived - both by your fans and by the pop Establishment? A: I can't allow myself to be influenced by how I might be perceived by pop music or by anyone in terms of what I want to do as an artist. I can only go by how I perceive myself. There are so many rules in pop which are based on what people have been doing the last 10 years, which is why most pop music is completely boring. The rules are based on whatever makes the quickest amount of money. Q: What about "Success (Has Made A Failure Of Our Home)"? There must be a degree of commentary in that? A: Of course. That's definitely the most biographical song on the album . . . the one that is the most personal. I didn't see it in terms of being a country song even though Loretta Lynn recorded it . . . but as a song that expressed something important . . . how everyone is concerned with material success and what that can do to people. Success has made a failure of our home . . . my home. Q: Are you talking about your own marriage? A: No, no. I'm talking about child abuse and society . . . the way that desire for material success has been responsible for so much pain in the world. I wouldn't have been abused as a child if it was not for the desire for material success which caused the social conditions in my country . . . the conditions that allowed my mother to become the person she became and do what she did . . . to become a victim of the system. If Ireland had not been invaded by the English, which was done for money, the Irish people wouldn't be in the amount of trouble that they are in at the moment and I wouldn't have been abused as a child . . . and neither would anybody else. So what I am saying is that through my own personal experience, I've learned that success has made a failure of our home. Q: Do you see the song or the album as political? A: To me, it's more spiritual. The thing is we have lost contact with God. If we believed in God, we wouldn't be doing the things we are doing to each other. I think spiritual leaders have encouraged the desire for material success and forced it upon us by not telling us the truth about our history. Q: Is that what you are saying in the "poem" at the end of the album? A: In the last two years I have been accused on numerous occasion of being a liar and a (troublemaker), a madwoman basically. I think (the poem) is a kind of explanation of what I feel. I don't mean to make people think I don't like them or that I'm trying to say that I think everyone else is a bastard, because I don't. In fact, if I think anybody is a bastard, I think I am a bigger bastard than anyone. Q: You seem to be blaming Western religion, or at least the Catholic Church, for causing much of the pain in the world. Is that right? A: Our spiritual leaders have lied to us and deliberately orchestrated it so we will grow in fear. Even if you don't practice Catholicism, all the rules by which we live have been passed down for centuries by them. They've been telling us God is outside of us, that we are powerless. That's why so many people feel lost, why they get so frustrated that they feel there is nothing to live for and they abuse their children. But when you know that God is truth and therefore inside you, you become the one with power over your life and your destiny.
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