Your smile makes me smile
Your laugh makes me laugh
Your joy gives me joy
Your hope gives me hope
The Voice is back.
Sinead O’Connor is not Prince prolific and she is not quite Kate Bush reticent but she takes her time making her music. Her first album The Lion and The Cobra was delivered in 1987, and next month sees the release of her ninth studio album How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? on the One Little Indian label. And this one was overdue – prior to this an album appeared every couple of years but her last album Theology is now over five years old. I was concerned she may have sworn a vow of silence and covers of John Cage’s Four Minutes Thirty-Three Seconds not withstanding this would certainly have not been good for her music career.
There is much hyperbole about Sinead O’Connor’s voice. I though am not prone to exaggeration so let us just say if the spirit of the universe could discharge itself in song and sing along to the music of the spheres its voice would probably sound like Sinead O’Connor’s and leave it at that.
The Wolf is Getting Married is the song that she is back with. And taken from and thus a preview of the alluded to album How About I Be Me (And You Be You) – well how about it reader?!
And what a song it is. A lot for that album to live up to. I hope it does not eclipse it.
I have listened to a lot of music in my time, probably too much music in my time. I certainly spent far too much of my teenage years listening to music every waking hour, often non-waking hours too, drifting off to sleep with headphones still welded to me – I was a joy to live with! I wasn’t a joy to live with of course, I was as happy as Larry, as Larry David. At this time I was also a genius, a misunderstood one naturally. The world did not understand me, so how could my parents. My poor parents. And keep in mind that my teenage years did not end on my twentieth birthday but continued well into my twenties, and it was only in my early-thirties that I finally became a grown-up. I think. Anyway you get the picture – well try not to think about the picture too much – I spent a lot of my precious time listening to not always precious music.
And in reaction to that I turned away from music. Though only in to the arms of other obsessions such as film and books. Moderation is I realise my only moderation.
I share all of this only by roundabout way of saying that I am not easily impressed let alone overwhelmed by music these days. Being overwhelmed by a song for me now will mean I will buy it and be entranced by it and perhaps listen to it as much as six times
This song on the other hand I have done something I have not done in decades – I have played it back-to-back non-stop a dozen or so times. And I still cannot get enough of it. And yet I would struggle to explain to you why. I struggle to make sense of it myself.
I don’t know what it is about it the song. It is catchy but no more than say a Pink song is catchy. Her voice is as I modestly described it earlier as singularly evocative-as-time as ever, but there is nothing beyond, beyond that perfection. Perhaps there is though and it is her joy – that she usually has a range of feelings and emotions with a matrix of melancholy, anger, bitterness, tenderness but not pleasure.
I referred to her album history earlier and which may have implied that with each of those releases I was eagerly expectant. But not so. My first encounter with Sinead O’Connor was with Troy an early song of hers back in the late 1980’s – the first of my song obsessions of hers – and duly bought the album it came from, The Lion and the Cobra, too. Then shortly after came her extraordinary earth-stopping cover of Prince’s Nothing Compares 2 U – yes Prince, visionary as he was, in the 80’s was using Text-speak before there was even Text messaging to make use of it! Maybe his enigmatic squiggle symbol will come to make sense yet. It is perhaps surprising that Prince did not then pen other songs with her in mind as he wrote many good ones for other artists but perhaps two giant egos were always going to be kept apart by the monsters envy and jealousy.
Yet despite this early impression upon me I was a fair-weather fan only staying with her as far as 1992’s Am I Not Your Girl? A title unintentionally ironic in retrospect.
The Wolf is Getting Married is making me catch up on lost time as I start to devour her catalogue between 1992 and now.
Her voice merits a capital v in the same way that Maria Callas, Van Morrison and Tim Buckley merit a V. Okay I have already done the hyperbole!
Your smile makes me smile, your laugh makes me laugh, your joy gives me joy, your hope gives me hope so verses this song, or is it choruses.
These lyrics are pure poetry. Lucid, beautiful. It is strange the artificial distinctions between the genres song-lyrics and poetry as if like two separate species. Poetry is treated with academic seriousness and reverential respect yet by the public at large if not with outright contempt then yawning indifference whereas song-lyrics are treated as frivolous and unworthy of too much academic effort and critical attention with a few venerable wordy exceptions like Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello (and where even then a passage of creaking time must lapse first), yet they are loved by us the great-unwashed at large. Granted many lyrics that seem profound and moving when sung and heard can read banal on the cool of paper and cold of the computer screen – and I will resist going off on another digression about the written versus the spoken word.
The song itself starts with the lines
I used to have no wolves around me
I was too free if that’s possible to be
The main chorus is
But the sun is peeping ouf of the sky.
Where there used to be only grey
The wolf is getting married, and he’ll never cry again
Such a romantic notion this latter line. Sad too in light of her recent separation from Barry Herridge after only 16 days – though like the ‘are they on, are they off?’ of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor – I am sure there must be a more contemporary reference! – I believe they are now as I type this ‘on’ – as you read it they may be ‘off’ again – or ‘on’. Toss a coin.
Though this is a new release she was performing this at concerts as early as July last year and so before her marriage in December of that year. And I should perhaps add her fourth marriage at that. So the never-crying-again-wolf is either a sign of her eternal optimism or foolishness, both of which are anyway eternally romantic notions!
I referred earlier to the main chorus because the opening quoted lyrics of “Your smile makes me smile’ is refrained twice and a third shorter variant of it also. As in The Wolf is Getting Married it is not clear which lines are the chorus and which are the verses – perhaps it is a song only of choruses.
Inevitably there is a video with this song, which according to MTV’s Buzzworthy, is directed by Breton, a multi-media London-based outfit. It might be described as Arty. Well the images from that video punctuate this post so you can make up your own mind about that! Feedback to it has been less positive that the song itself. Not so much hostile as hostile indifference – you know that it is boring like watching the paint dry, on Sinead O’Connor finger-nails.
It is shot in one spacious room. Sinead O’Connor bound into a wooden-chair by her wedding dress – a wedding dress were it designed by a young Alexander McQueen long before he was an international brand and Sarah Burton was making light Royal commissions for Kate Middleton in his name I should perhaps needlessly add, as her head is bandaged invisible-man style, threads of strings radiating out toward the nether-edges of the room. And to give you an idea of the pace of this unravelling even by the end of the three minutes and fifty-nine seconds of this song we have only progressed as far as revealing Sinead’s eyes and her left shoulder.
I am trying really really hard to resist the obvious metaphor about a marriage unravelling before it has barely returned back down the aisle!
I like the video. It does not distract from the song – it allows me to just listen to it without being distracted by the gee-whiz gizmo tricks pop video directors usually try their hands at with Hollywood in their heart.
l like the fact that it is low-budget too, even a little half-arsed.
Believe it or not I did initally intend a brief uncritical-fan post expressing my love for this song and half-love for the video but here we are – or maybe here I am! – near seventeen hundred-words later still meandering around with no end in sight.
When in-spite of all my words just four of them could instead have expressed it succinctly:
I love you Sinead!