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Feel So Different - Sinéad O'Connor

Sinéad O'Connor, who tragically died on July 26th, earlier this year, first came to the music industry's notice with the release of her first album "The Lion and the Cobra", in 1987, an eclectic mix of post-punk, gothic rock, synth and Irish folk. The record was a big success in her native Ireland, and "bubbled under" just about everywhere else in the pop-consuming world. I've always thought of "The Lion and the Cobra" as the John the Baptist of O'Connor's musical oeuvre.

Excellent though it was, it didn't prepare the world for her majestic second album "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" which, at the time, literarily redefined popular music, resetting the boundaries of what was possible for women artists to infinity. The LP took the world by storm, reaching Number 1 on the album charts nearly everywhere, including America and the UK. The album is still surprising, exhilarating and visionary today, not only in musical terms, but also in the scope and passion of its subject matter.

Right from its first note, "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got" is an announcement and an assertion of who Sinéad O'Connor is, and, extraordinarily, will be. It's simultaneously biblically epic, yet autobiographical, a proclamation of truth and human frailty as well as a prophetic depiction of the world. The first track is all of this, a breathtaking declaration of arrival:

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

I am not like I was before - I thought that nothing would change me - I was not listening anymore, still you continued to affect me.

I was not thinking anymore although I said I still was. I'd said, "I don't want anymore" because of bad experience.

But now I feel so different, feel so different, I feel so different.

I have not seen freedom before and I did not expect to. Don't let me forget, now I'm here. Help me to help you, to behold you.

I started off with many friends and we spent a long time talking. I thought they meant every word they said but like everyone else, they were stalling

and now they seem so different seem so different they seem so different.

I should have hatred for you but I do not have any and I have always loved you. Oh you have taught me plenty.

The whole time I'd never seen all you had spread before me.

The whole time I'd never seen, all I need was inside me.

Now I feel so different feel so different,

I feel so different.........."

The song might be a conversation with God, but whoever she is talking to, O'Connor uncannily recognises her strengths and faults at the outset, vowing to fight for change while asking for the wisdom to recognise the things she can't alter, a dilemma that ensured she courted controversy all her life. The ominous strings suggest the "difference" will be a burden, as it turned out.

While the song clearly articulates her belief that she has had an epiphany, a realisation that has changed her as a person, hence she "feel(s) so different", it's also a messianic moment: she's telling us that she herself is different, different from the rest of us. And then in the next nine tracks she proves it.


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