Lyrically Evocative (16)

There are times when a song sounds so good, and is such a huge hit, it is actually quite easy to overlook the lyrics at first. And when it comes along with an outstanding video to promote it, I can find myself lost in watching, rather than listening properly. This was pretty much the case in 1990, when Sinead O’Connor released her version of Prince’s song, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. Written over six years earlier, Prince had never released the song himself, though he had performed it at some concerts.

Sinead’s version was a powerful and emotional rendition, stripped bare, and accompanied by one of the best pop videos ever made. It was a worldwide hit, and has become so associated with her that many people believe she actually wrote it. But she did something important, she made me listen to the lyrics, and be affected by them. This is a song about love and loss, and one that will endure.
It is so much more than the chart hit that it became.

Here are Prince’s lyrics.

It’s been seven hours and fifteen days
Since you took your love away
I go out every night and sleep all day
Since you took your love away

Since you been gone I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
But nothing
I said nothing can take away these blues
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

It’s been so lonely without you here
Like a bird without a song
Nothing can stop these lonely tears from falling
Tell me baby where did I go wrong

I could put my arms around every boy I see
But they’d only remind me of you
I went to the doctor and guess what he told me?
Guess what he told me?
He said boy you better try to have fun
No matter what you do, but he’s a fool
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

All the flowers that you planted mama
In the back yard
All died when you went away
I know that living with you baby was sometimes hard
But I’m willing to give it another try
‘Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

Nothing compares
Nothing compares to you
Nothing compares
Nothing compares to you

“Nothing Compares 2 U” as written by Prince Rogers Nelson
Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group, BMG Rights Management

And here is Sinead singing them, in that great video.

(If you can’t see the clip, try refreshing the page)

Significant Songs (68)

Nothing Compares 2U

As a rule, I don’t care for cover versions of original songs that I already like. There are some exceptions though, and this is perhaps one of the best examples.

In 1985, Prince, always the innovator, and searching for new ways to express his talent and ideas, released an album titled ‘The Family’. This was the result of one of his many diversions from his normal recording and performing, and something he hoped to run alongside his regular appearances and record releases. This track was included, but the album achieved only moderate success. The song was soon forgotten, and the project abandoned.

Five years later, Irish singer and outspoken advocate of womens’ rights, also known for her many controversial opinions on the Catholic religion, Sinead O’Connor, recorded a cover version. It was included on her best-selling second album, ‘I Do Not Want What I haven’t Got’, in 1990. Crucially, the accompanying video was produced to cinema quality. Almost entirely a close-up of her face, and shot in a muted colour palette, she was able to portray emotions rarely seen in the pop video output of the day. With her stunning looks, cropped hair, and amazing vocals, this combination took the song to the top of the charts in countries all over the world.

Even though I was already a fan of Prince’s original version, I could not deny the superiority of this recording. It took the song to a new level; the power of the vocals, combined with the emotion in the video, was irresistible. It is just sublime, and I invite you to enjoy it.