For Sinéad O’Connor, who rose to fame in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, regret is monumental, and among the things she recounts in her documentary is her dramatic exile from the pop mainstream. “I did suffer through a lot, because everybody felt it was okay to kick the sh** out of me,” she shares as the film opens. “I regret that I was so sad because of it. I regret that I spent so many years very lonely and isolated.”
The trailblazing artist was no stranger to controversy in the early ’90s. With a list of antics that included her bashing of the Vatican, which struck a sour note, to condemning the hypocrisy of then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher for allowing a racist climate to fester in the U.K., this was an artist and activist well ahead of her time. Everybody in music usually has a story in terms of their upbringing and what they went through and for Sinéad, who wasn’t afraid to voice her religious or political views, fame hit her hard, fast and mercilessly.
“There was no therapy while I was growing up, so the reason I got into music was therapy,” she shares in another scene. “I never set out to be a pop star.” In the documentary, she initially emerges as a shy introvert who expressed herself predominantly through music. There are videos, and performances alongside previously unseen footage as she reflects on events from a present-day perspective sharing the pressure, she received from her record company to terminate her first pregnancy, her troubled childhood, and living in a patriarchal society, which didn’t place her as equal to her male peers. Sinéad went through several schools growing up, we learn, as we see glimpses of her life starting in the early ’80s.
Aptly titled “Nothing Compares” after her hit single “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which propelled her to fame, the singer is candid about her life and the choices she made. “I was always made out to be crazy and I don’t blame anybody for thinking that I’m crazy,” she shares in another scene. “I understand that now.’”
Directed by Kathryn Ferguson, there are interviews with her first husband John Reynolds, keyboardist Mike Clowes, childhood friends, her former publicist and rapper Chuck D. Sinéad also straddled many musical genres and was vocal about finding solace in reggae music and the Rastafarian faith and even recorded a reggae album titled “Throw Down Your Arms” with Sly & Robbie.
The film presents a richly cinematic portrait of this controversial icon and brilliantly charts her phenomenal rise to worldwide fame examining how she used her voice at the height of her stardom. In “Nothing Compares” the message is clear: Regret is self-defeating, backward-looking, and as the documentary closes, we see a mature Sinéad, bare feet and belting out her 1994 track “Thank You for Hearing Me.”
“Nothing Compares” is available to stream for SHOWTIME subscribers Friday, September 30 ahead of its on-air premiere Sunday, October 2 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.
Samantha Ofole-Prince is a journalist and movie critic who covers industry-specific news that includes television and film. She serves as the Entertainment Editor for Trendy Africa. Photos Courtesy of Showtime