Everything about Sinéad O’Connor was striking: her soul-piercing gaze, her siren of a voice, her outspoken politics. And, yes, her shaved head, which upended traditional pop-star models of femininity when the singer, born near Dublin in 1966, stormed alt-rock radio with her equally dreamy and edgy 1987 debut, The Lion and the Cobra. But with 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, O’Connor became a global phenomenon, thanks in large part to a devastating cover of a little-known Prince composition, “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which, with the help of its iconic video, became her calling card.
O’Connor used her stardom as a pulpit to speak out on all manner of injustice, famously responding to the Catholic Church’s sexual-abuse scandals by ripping up a photo of Pope John Paul II during a 1992 Saturday Night Live performance.
But that fiery persona belies the spiritual longing that’s always coursed through her work, whether in her transformation of the Irish standard “He Moved Through the Fair” into ethereal gospel-soul or her elevation of Nirvana’s “All Apologies” into a modern folk hymn. O’Connor remained an artist driven by her passion and convictions, pursuing priesthood in the Irish Orthodox Catholic Church (before converting to Islam in 2018) and using her public struggles with bipolar disorder to encourage open discussions about mental health. O’Connor passed away in 2023 at age 56.