Dear Gossips,  

Sinéad O'Connor passed away yesterday at age 56. Generally, we’re not in the obituary business at LaineyGossip, but this is one of those losses—like Prince, David Bowie, Whitney Houston—that cuts deep, not just personally but culturally. Sinéad, who converted to Islam in 2018 and changed her name to Shuhada' Sadaqat but continued to perform as Sinéad O'Connor, went from being one of the most celebrated musical artists of the early 1990s to one of the most reviled people in the world in just a couple years. 


Her 1990 cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” was a monster international hit, launching her from Ireland to global stardom, which was only enhanced by the memorable music video that accompanied the song. Then, on October 3, 1992, Sinéad appeared on Saturday Night Live. During a performance of Bob Marley’s “War”, she tore a photo of Pope John Paul II into pieces, staring boldly into the camera as she declared, “Fight the real enemy.”



Nine years and three months later, The Boston Globe began publishing a series of exposes about systematic coverups of sexual abuse within the Archdiocese of Boston. As the allegations spread around the world and stretched back decades, many people wondered how such a thing could have gone on for so long, but just look at what happened to Sinéad. She tore up the pope’s picture live on TV in protest of sexual abuse coverups in Ireland—Sinéad O'Connor tried to tell us, and no one listened. Rather than ask why she did that, everyone leapt straight to how dare she do that, and it would be another decade before the reality of the situation gained wider recognition. 

Sinéad O'Connor, who had a voice like the brightest bell drifting on the softest breeze of the clearest day, sang songs of devastating truth. “Black Boys on Mopeds” remains as tragically relevant today as it was in 1990, “Drink Before the War” as painfully hopeless. Her music touched millions around the world, but she is most remembered for an act of defiance so stark it shredded her reputation. 


In the recent trend of revisiting the stories of women treated despicably in pop culture, Kathryn Ferguson’s documentary about Sinéad, Nothing Compares, stands out not because the SNL incident or any other moment of her career needed contextualizing, but because WE did. We had to catch up to Sinéad, we had to be ready to hear the truths she wanted to tell. She remains always in my mind the fey woman with the buzzcut, who looked like a feather could knock her over but who took the slings and arrows of the world with fierce determination, with all the conviction of the right and righteous. She sang of things no one wanted to hear in a voice that demanded we listen, and though she may be gone, her words will echo forever.

Fight the real enemy.

Live long and gossip,