Sinead O’Connor

February 17, 2012 by staff 

Sinead O’Connor, Sinead O’Connor and Lil’ Kim might not seem to have much in common, other than a flair for offending churchgoers. Which neither of them has done in awhile; one of the more recent things they share is a certain downward career trajectory.

(You need to be simulating exorcisms on the Grammys to turn the Catholic League’s head – more on Nicki Minaj later.) But both of them built those careers by defying expectations and using the full force of their often idiosyncratic personalities. And this week, they’ve both hinted at comebacks. Lil’ Kim very modestly, with the release of a new, Valentine’s Day-themed song, “If You Love Me”; and O’Connor, boldly, with an NPR stream of her brilliant, gorgeous new album, “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?”

In her spot-on write-up of “How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?” (out next week), Ann Powers borrows some academic thinking to help explain O’Connor’s special power:

Here’s a term that might not seem too musical: “immediacy behavior.” Educators use it to describe the way a teacher acts to gain the trust of his or her students. Open body language, an engaging way of speaking, a warm, direct gaze – these cues, as much as any words uttered, forge the connection that makes learning possible. Immediacy behavior is crucial to making great pop music, too. Artists rely on it to get their points across. For some, it’s an occasional stance, taken when the spotlight narrows and the spectacle falls away, as when Lady Gaga performs at her piano. Others make it the center of their creative process. It doesn’t matter whether they’re genuinely confessional or just good at weaving a story. We trust what they tell us Immediacy behavior is Sinead O’Connor’s métier.

Here we see O’Connor and Lil’ Kim in relief. Kim’s never been about warmth. If we had to name her métier, it would be standoffish sexuality – she is direct and in some ways (absurdly) intimate, but you never anticipate her full embrace. We’re thinking in particular of a song like “Not Tonight,” where she remembers “Jimmy, [who would] lay me on my back, bustin’ nuts all in me,” all as a way of setting up the chorus: “I don’t want dick tonight/Eat my p**sy right.” That’s a rather literal example, but you get the idea.

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