20 Years Ago This Week: Sinead O'Connor releases 'I Do Not Want'

Sinead-OConnorImage Credit: Neal Preston/CorbisSinéad O’Connor began the 1990s as a relative newcomer – respected by critics, but still far from world-famous. All that would change with her sophomore effort, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, which came out on March 20, 1990. ”Obviously, ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ was a career-maker,” says the Irish singer, 43, referring to the album’s breakthrough hit. ”It definitely put me on the map.”

Twenty years later, the album still resonates. On each of I Do Not Want‘s 10 songs – including that now-classic Prince-penned breakup ballad – the boldly bald singer fearlessly bared her soul, often with little more than a minimal drum loop or synthesizer part to accompany her raw wailing. ”O’Connor’s voice… is in no way dependable,” EW’s Greg Sandow wrote at the time in his A review. ”It pales and cracks. And through those cracks pours truth, as if O’Connor were strong enough not to be afraid to let herself break.”

After debuting at No. 24, I Do Not Want quickly climbed to the top spot on the Billboard album chart. Within a few months, it was certified double platinum. A year later, it would win the first-ever Grammy for Best Alternative Music Performance. And most famously, in 1992, the singer sparked outrage when she tore up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live. O’Connor was suddenly a major star – something she didn’t always wear comfortably. ”I found that a bit tricky,” she says. ”It hadn’t been part of my ambition necessarily to become a pop star.”

These days, O’Connor has returned to a more modest level of fame. Since I Do Not Want she’s released six studio albums, and she’s looking forward to starting her next one soon. When she tours, though, she’s still happy to perform tunes from the album that briefly made her one of the early ’90s’ most talked-about singers. As she puts it, ”It would be cruel not to, wouldn’t it?’

Comments (11 total) Add your comment
  • S.O.

    Also released on the same day as Sinéad O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got 20 years ago was an album that not only sold more than
    Sinéad O’Connor’s, but also still is relevant today as a true underappreciated classic album (& their best). but probably won’t get a mention cause its EW.
    “Violator” – Depeche Mode.

    • ger

      I love it when people try to turn an article about one thing into some kind of imagined slight over something else they’d rather see.

  • Rusty Shackleford

    20 years? God, I’m old.

  • MultiPass

    Great album. I was also so disappointed she wasn’t able to keep up that level of accomplishment. She didn’t really need to be a popstar, she could have just put out good shite every couple of years and kept our attention. But she kinda let the fame make her even crazier. ah well.

  • Rob

    When I saw ’20 years ago this week’ in the title I thought ‘What happened this week in 1980?’

    • AcaseofGeo

      Rob, I’m constantly reminding myelf that 1980 is THIRTY years ago, NOT twenty. I should’ve realized that all thru the 00’s but I didn’t.

  • e4ia

    When I was younger and she tore up the picture of the pope on live TV, it seemed shocking and disrespectful to me. Now that I am older and understand the Catholic church and their contradictory intolerance and hateful teachings, I tear up a picture of the Pope before I start each day.

    • AcaseofGeo

      “Fight the REAL enemy”. She was a couple years ahead of her time with that. Her career never really recovered even once everyone realized she was right, and I’m not sure anyone has ever apologized to her for castigating her so fiercely.

  • AcaseofGeo

    This is ABSOLUTELY my FAVORITE album of all time. And to think, the day I bought it as a “Get your money back if you don’t like it” special offer, I almost took it back because it I was so disturbed when I first heard it. I’ve played it almost 500 times over the years, quite an accomplishment since I have over 10,000 albums to play. It resonates. deeply. its raw. its angry. it desparate. It is everything I often feel. And its beautiful.

  • Tom

    I agree with some of the posters here – it’s unbelievable that it’s been TWENTY years since the release of this masterpiece. Having said that, Sinead re-released the album last year in a commemorative edition for its 20th anniversary. It’s worthy purchasing for the remastered original edition and bonus tracks.

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