Anguished breakup songs are maybe not super appropriate for lullaby purposes, but our culture has a lot more songs aimed at lovers than babies, so we have to make do with what we’ve got.
We identify Sinead O’Conner so strongly with with this song that you may be surprised to learn, as I was, that it’s a Prince cover. In fact, it might be the only Prince cover in history that improves on the Purple One's original version. Sinead’s version was produced by the amazing Nellee Hooper, who also worked on Björk’s Debut.
Audio production nerds should definitely check out the Sound On Sound article about the recording process of this song. Normally pop vocals require many hours in the studio. The typical strategy is to record every section repeatedly, and then piece together a flawless performance out of the best parts of all the takes. Every once in a while, however, a singer manages to nail the whole thing on the first try. Sinead nailed “Nothing Compares 2U” on her very first try. She managed to do her doubling part in one take too, which is almost unheard of.
The story goes that Sinead was able to inhabit the song so completely because she was in the midst of a painful breakup herself, though sources differ on whether it was with her manager Fachtna O'Ceallaigh, with Peter Gabriel, or possibly even with Prince himself. Who knows the truth? It hardly matters, the main thing is that it’s a gorgeous performance of a gorgeous song.
You can learn more about Sinéad O'Connor here:
About the Curator - Ethan Hein
Ethan Hein is a Doctoral Fellow in Music Education at New York University. He teaches music technology, production and education at NYU and Montclair State University. With the NYU Music Experience Design Lab , Ethan has taken a leadership role in the creation of new technologies for learning and expression, most notably the Groove Pizza . In collaboration with Soundfly, he has developed a series of online music theory courses . He maintains a widely-followed and influential blog , and has written for various publications, including Slate, Quartz, and NewMusicBox.